|The Phantom of the Air|
|Directed by||Ray Taylor|
|Written by||Basil Dickey|
George H. Plympton
|Produced by||Henry MacRae|
|Edited by||Alvin Todd|
|Distributed by||Universal Pictures|
|12 chapters (240 minutes)|
The Phantom of the Air is a 12-episode 1933 Pre-Code Universal film serial directed by Ray Taylor. The film stars Tom Tyler, who was cast most often in Westerns. Other actors include Gloria Shea, LeRoy Mason, Craig Reynolds and William Desmond.[N 1]
Scientist Thomas Edmunds (William Desmond) and his daughter (Gloria Shea) attend the National Air Races in Cleveland, Ohio to find a pilot. They select pilot Bob Raymond (Tom Tyler) from the U.S. Border Patrol, to demonstrate an anti-gravity device called the "Contragrav". At the air meet, Mortimer Crome (LeRoy Mason), a friend of Gloria, is his main rival and has his henchman "Skip" (Walter Brennan) sabotage Raymond's aircraft prior to the air race. Raymond crashes but survives.
Edmunds' invention is sought after by a gang of smugglers led by Crome who owns the International Import & Export Company, who wants the invention. The inventor has a secret airfield in a desert region. Raymond comes to the inventor's aid, using another of Edwards' inventions, the superplane, the "Phantom." Able to control the aircraft remotely from an underground headquarters, Bob foils Crome's plans. Gloria has become Bob's love interest.
A last attempt to get at the inventor's work leads to an explosion at his workshop that kills the criminals. Edmunds escapes and is reunited with Gloria and Bob.
The numerous aircraft in The Phantom of the Air include:
The race at the beginning of Chapter 1 in The Phantom of the Air was the 1932 Cleveland Air Race where Bob Raymond's Wedell-Williams Model 44 racer competed with Crome's Travel Air R Mystery Ship. The Edmunds "Phantom" was an Emsco B7-C, fitted with radio control.
Both Roscoe Turner and "Pancho" Barnes flew in the 1930 National Air Races in Chicago, and their aircraft appear in The Phantom of the Air.
Aviation historian Christian Santoir in Aeromovies described the impact of The Phantom of the Air as embodying the spirit of the early barnstorming era in Hollywood. "... several sequences of aerial stunts, realized, among others, by Art Goebel, Frank Clarke and Ivan Unger in the twenties. We thus witness the passage from one plane to another, the change of a wheel in full flight. We also go from an airplane to a car, from a fast boat to a plane, in the best tradition of 'stuntmen' in Hollywood."