THE PHANTOM CITY (1928)
Article 4650 by Dave Sindelar
Directed by Albert S. Rogell
Featuring Ken Maynard, Eugenia Gilbert, Jim Mason
What it is: Weird Western
Several owners of a gold mine are drawn to a ghost town by a mysterious letter. There, a struggle for the gold in the mine takes place, with a phantom taking part in the proceedings.
The original negative for this silent weird western was destroyed in 1932 when it was cannibalized for stock footage to be used in a scene-by-scene remake called HAUNTED GOLD. All that remains is about ten minutes of fragmentary footage that by itself wouldn’t tell a coherent story. However, a friend of mine who possessed the footage managed to construct a digest version of the movie using the remaining footage, the footage borrowed by HAUNTED GOLD, and, by incorporating stock music, sound fragments, and title cards; the result is coherent and quite enjoyable. Granted, I still can’t really judge the quality of the original movie, but it does look like some of the most striking footage from HAUNTED GOLD (namely, a fight scene in an aerial cable car and some wonderful acting from Ken Maynard’s horse Tarzan) came from the original silent movie. Still, a good deal of the surviving footage involves one of the most problematic things about the movie, which is Blue Washington’s stereotyped turn as the scared black man; he appeared in the same role in both versions of the movie. For the most part, the plots between the two movies are the same. I consider myself quite fortunate to have had a chance to see this version of a movie which otherwise would have ended up on my “ones that got away” list.