The Phantom Express
The Phantom Express is a 1932 American pre-Code mystery crime-drama directed by Emory Johnson and based on the Emory Johnson story. The film stars William Collier, Jr. as Bruce Harrington, Sally Blane as Carolyn Nolan and Hobart Bosworth as Mr. Harrington. It was commercially released on August 15, 1932 by Majestic Pictures.
|The Phantom Express|
Movie Lobby Card
|Directed by||Emory Johnson|
|Edited by||S. Roy Luby|
Emory Johnson Productions
|Distributed by||Majestic Pictures|
|6 reels 70 minutes|
This story starts with engineer D.J. 'Smokey' Nolan played by J. Farrell MacDonald speeding down the tracks at full throttle when he spies an oncoming train directly in his path. He quickly applies the emergency brakes, the train starts screeching to a halt but then derails. Several passengers are killed. An investigation cannot find any trace of the oncoming train that caused the derailment. Smoky is fired for negligence.
We come to find out Smoky has a beautiful daughter, Carolyn Nolan played by Sally Blane. We also learn the CEO of the Southwest Pacific Railroad, Mr. Harrington played by Hobart Bosworth has a playboy son - Bruce Harrington played by William Collier, Jr..
Because of the derailment and other ill fortunes, Mr. Harrington has decided to sell the railroad for a fraction of its worth. He will sign the papers at midnight. In the meantime, Bruce meets Carolyn and finds out she is the daughter of the fired engineer. They instantly bond, then decide to set out together and solve the mystery of the phantom express.
During their investigation, they uncover a diabolical scheme concocted by a network of bad guys. They find out the President of a rival railroad company played by Huntley Gordon has intentionally caused all of the accidents on the Southwest Pacific Railroad in order to drive the stock price down. The rival president figures after the stock plummets, he can buy all of the railroad's rolling stock at a reduced price.
Bruce discovers the plot just hours before his father, Mr. Harrington, is going to sign the railroad over to the bad guys. He tried to telegraph his father but a storm has caused the telegraph to fail. In fact, the storm has knocked out all forms of communication.
In a twist of fate, the only way Bruce can advise his father not to sign the papers is to fire-up have train number 101, bring Smoky Nolan and his fireman out of retirement and somehow try to highball back to the central office to prevent his father from signing. The train travels through the storm-savaged countryside encountering floods, landslides, and other hazards. Bruce arrives just in the nick of time, advising his father to nix the deal. He exposes the plot by the rival railroad including how the bad guys constructed a piece of equipment and disguised it as an engine with headlights. They placed it on a nearby track causing Smoky to think he was heading towards a collision with an oncoming train. Hence, the name - the phantom express.
During their investigation, Bruce and Carolyn fell in love. They decide to get married. After they tie-the-knot, they honeymoon on the train.
Actor Role William Collier, Jr. Bruce Harrington Sally Blane Carolyn Nolan J. Farrell MacDonald D.J. 'Smokey' Nolan Hobart Bosworth Mr. Harrington Axel Axelson Axel, the fireman Lina Basquette Betty Eddie Phillips Dick Walsh (posing as Bruce) Robert Ellis Reynolds Claire McDowell Ma Nolan David Rollins Jackie Nolan Tom O'Brien Red Connelly Telegraph Operator Huntley Gordon President of a rival railroad company Brady Kline Slim - a henchman Jack Pennick Bubba - a henchman Jack Mower a gang leader Allan Forrest a henchman
The main theme of the plot bears close similarity to The Ghost Train (play), a movie version of which was produced in England the previous year, viz. The Ghost Train, but that source is not acknowledged in the credits. There was a prior silent American film also entitled The Phantom Express (1925), which may also have been influenced although uncredited by the original play. The film is sometimes confused with the earlier film with the same name. The earlier version, released in November 1925 starred Ethel Shannon and George Periolat.
- The Phantom Express on IMDb
- The Phantom Express is available for free download at the Internet Archive