The Phantom of the jungle library

… and his servant Guran, in a scene from early in the 1996 movie The Phantom:


Secure in the Chronicle Chamber within his jungle stronghold, The Phantom (Billy Zane) and his servant Guran (Radmar Agana Jao) discover the secret of the Skulls of Touganda.

The Phantom of course works shirtless in his jungle library (amidst his collection of manuscripts and books) — I mean it’s in the steamy goddam jungle (and anyway we all need to appreciate his pecs). Outside of the jungle (where he’s the 21st Phantom), he’s Kit Walker, raised in the U.S., college-educated, and NYC-savvy. Then there’s his servant Guran, who’s obviously not a member of the African tribe the Phantom works with; instead, he looks Filipino and is dressed in Indian garb. The movie is packed with cultural mixtures, and this is just one of them.

I’ll write some about these, but first a bit about the fascinating life story of Radmar Agana Jao.

Radmar Agana Jao. The actor’s p.r. photo for the movie:


(In the comics, the character Guran is a member of the Bandar tribe in Bengalla and is older than Kit; in the movie, he’s Asian, and much younger.)

From Wikipedia:

Originally from Valparaiso, Indiana, … from a family of nine children. He was born in Gary, Indiana on 7 November 1966 to Tessie Agana, a Filipina actress from the 1950s. He received his bachelor’s degree in Communications from Indiana University, then moved to Los Angeles and became an actor, working in film (The Phantom, Minority Report, Diplomatic Siege), television (Seinfeld, Will and Grace, Dharma and Greg, ER), and stage (Sweeney Todd, A Language of their Own, Heading East – The Musical). He also volunteered for an after school arts intervention program called inside Out, working with at-risk youth in some of the roughest neighborhoods of Los Angeles.

Jao entered the California Province of the Society of Jesus in 2001, and since earned a master’s degree in Applied Philosophy from Loyola University of Chicago. During his two-year regency assignment at the University of San Francisco he taught acting and theatre appreciation, and worked with the University Ministry team leading CLC [Christian Life Community, a Catholic organization supported by the Jesuits] groups and coordinating retreats. Jao completed a master’s of Divinity degree from the Jesuit School of Theology of Santa Clara University in Berkeley, where alongside his studies he served as a campus minister at the Cal Berkeley Newman Center, as chaplain for the Children’s Hospital of Oakland, and as deacon at St. Agnes Parish in San Francisco.

… Jao was ordained a Roman Catholic priest on June 11, 2011.

Fr. Radmar A. Jao, S.J., in a recent photo:


Jao and Agana are Filipino family names, Radmar apparently a German personal name.

Cultural mixtures and cross-overs. The Phantom movie belongs to the superhero genre mostly by virtue of the hero’s costume (since the Phantom has no superpowers), but it also belongs to the jungle hero genre, because of its setting (during parts of the movie) and its hero’s inclination to swing through trees; that makes it kin to, above all others, the many incarnations of Tarzan (for some Tarzan survey, see my 12/10/15  posting), and also to the George of the Jungle parody, starring Brendan Fraser.

Fraser’s actorial persona is similar to Zane’s: boyish, playful, amiable, sexy. Fraser’s roles have tended towards fantasy action/adventure heroes, with comic touches (the Mummy films, Journey to the Center of the Earth; see my 12/25/15 posting on Fraser). Notable exemplars of the genre: the Indiana Jones movies and tv series,  The Adventures of Brisco County, Jr.  tv seriesThe Librarians tv series,   And this is the third genre that contributes to the Phantom movie, in both its African portions and its long (beautifully shot) NYC sections. All this genre cross-fertlization in The Phantom makes for a somewhat muddled movie. (There’s also a mercenary soldier theme, a pirate theme, and a gangster theme.)

Bonus: yet another, more recent, Phantom. Plus Ryan Carnes shirtless, also naked (though not R-rated), also kissing men. From Wikipedia on Carnes:

Ryan Gregg Carnes (born November 21, 1982) … first started acting in 2004 when he became the ninth actor to portray Lucas Jones on the ABC soap opera General Hospital from July 2004 until September 2005… From 2004 to 2006, Carnes had a recurring role on Desperate Housewives as Justin, the love interest of Andrew Van de Kamp, played by Shawn Pyfrom. Carnes starred in the 2004 film Eating Out and the 2006 film Surf School.

… Carnes appeared in two episodes of the British science-fiction drama series Doctor Who — “Daleks in Manhattan” and “Evolution of the Daleks”, in which he played Laszlo, who was turned into a half-human, half-pig slave. In the 2008 horror film Trailer Park of Terror, based on the Imperium comic series of the same name, Carnes plays an arrogant teenager called Alex.


Cute-boy Carnes


Bare-boy Carnes


Kissy-boy Carnes: with Scott Lunsford (Eating Out), Shawn Pyfrom (Desperate Housewives)

On The Phantom on tv, from Wikipedia:

The Phantom is a 2009 miniseries inspired by Lee Falk’s comic strip of the same name, and directed by Paolo Barzman. It first aired on The Movie Network and then on Syfy in June 2010. It stars Ryan Carnes as Kit Walker, the 22nd Phantom


Finally, Carnes in costume for the series:


A shame to cover it all up.

One Response to “The Phantom of the jungle library”

  1. arnold zwicky Says:

    An odd association: #1 struck me as like a weird shirtless Vermeer (with Billy Zane as the jug of milk).

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