It is a bit ironic that the demolition of the MGM back-lots inspired a movie that
was made during demolition.
The Phantom of Hollywood (1974) (TV)
The internationally famous Worldwide Studios (really MGM) has hit hard times
and is forced to sell it's back lot to Hollywood property developers. The trouble is
someone keeps killing off the site surveyors. The studio chiefs then learn of the
legend of a masked man who lives on the lot and is sworn to protect it from harm.
Unfortunately, they were permanently dismantling the old back lot on the MGM
studio property when this was being filmed, since the land had been sold to
developers, so you watch as a grand old Hollywood institution is methodically
destroyed and forever lost. If not for that, this movie would be only an interesting
oddity. You see many Hollywood film sets from the old days of the cinema,
juxtaposed against their present-day condition, and then you see them
demolished. Today, it makes for sad viewing when you realize what history is
being thrown away.
The movie itself is fairly good; the premise being that there is a legend of a
phantom who protects the studio when it's in danger. The workmen begin
disappearing, and a studio exec starts to delve into the history of the studio to try
and find out who's doing the killing.
This screams 70's TV movie while you're watching it, but it's a decent film despite
that. Jack Cassidy is good, as usual, in the part of the aging film star; he has ego
to spare and fits the part extremely well. There are many old Hollywood stars in
it, like Broderick Crawford, Jackie Coogan, Peter Lawford, John Ireland, Elisah
Cook, Jr., and Billy Halop. All in all, it's a film that is more important than it
would have been otherwise, just because of the historic film sets in it that can't
be seen anymore. I enjoy this movie immensely, and everyone I talk with about
it remembers it fondly. It's worth a look if you can find it.
The character of "Skye Aubrey" is an obvious reference to James T. Aubrey, the
recently departed head of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (the film was made by M.G.M.
Television for CBS, which Aubrey had headed before his stint at the studio).
Aubrey had taken over the studio in 1969, when Las Vegas businessman Kirk
Kerkorian took control of the Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer studio for the first time
THE PHANTOM OF HOLLYWOOD
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