Phantom Empire

Phantom Empire

Director: Otto Brower, B. Reeves "Breezy" Eason

Cast: Gene Autry, Smiley Burnette

     
 

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In his first starring role, Gene Autry must perform daily on Radio Ranch or forfeit his contract. Meanwhile, local kids Frankie (Frankie Darro) and Betsy Baxter (Betsy Ross King) establish a group of Junior Thunder Riders to emulate a mysterious band of horsemen that seems to vanish into thin air. In reality, the real Thunder Riders disappear 25,000 ft. below the…  See more details below

Overview

In his first starring role, Gene Autry must perform daily on Radio Ranch or forfeit his contract. Meanwhile, local kids Frankie (Frankie Darro) and Betsy Baxter (Betsy Ross King) establish a group of Junior Thunder Riders to emulate a mysterious band of horsemen that seems to vanish into thin air. In reality, the real Thunder Riders disappear 25,000 ft. below the earth's surface to the "Scientific City of Murania," an underground empire lorded over by Queen Tika (Dorothy Christy), a blonde Amazonian who constantly compares her superior society with that of the pitiful world above. But Gene's broadcasts draw too many curious onlookers, among them Professor Beetson (J. Frank Glendon) and a group of crooked scientists who will stop at nothing, including murder, to get their hands on Murania's wealth of radium. While Queen Tika is busy preventing an insurrection lead by the evil Lord High Chancellor (Wheeler Oakman), the scientists do their level best to keep Gene from performing his daily broadcast, which includes such favorite Autry tunes as "That Silver-Haired Daddy of Mine" and "I'm Getting a Moon's Eye View of the World." Comic sidekicks Smiley Burnette and William Moore add to the overall fun with their rendition of I'm Oscar, I'm Pete and other comical selections. The Phantom Empire has been credited with inspiring not only Republic Pictures' similar Undersea Kingdom (1936) but also Universal's superior Flash Gordon and Buck Rogers serials and was remade as part of the short-lived 1979 television series Cliffhangers. No less than two reedited feature versions of The Phantom Empire were released in 1940, Men With Steel Faces, distributed by Times Pictures, and Radio Ranch, distributed by Nat Levine and carrying the now defunct Mascot label.

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Editorial Reviews

All Movie Guide - Hans J. Wollstein
According to Hollywood lore, screenwriter Wallace MacDonald conjured up the incredible plot for Gene Autry's starring debut while undergoing dental work. The results, truth be told, reflect the certain giddiness typical of nitrous oxide and never before or since was a serial this hilariously surreal. The idea of a radio show actually recreating entire stagecoach holdups for its listening audience, complete with real bullets fired from real guns, is loony enough and once you'd accepted a cliffhanger ending depending solely on whether Gene Autry will make it back to the ranch in time to perform the day's broadcast you will readily believe a vast, and vastly superior, underground empire, whose main concern is to prevent inferior surface people from discovering its existence. Said underground world comes complete with military officers sporting headgear resembling Catholic cardinals and amusingly top-hatted robots (courtesy of a deleted production number from M-G-M's 1933 musical Dancing Lady) who do not shy away from helpfully patting the serial's leading man on his not inconsiderable backside. In other words, the makers of Mascot's The Phantom Empire kept their tongues firmly in cheeks at all time. The mix of ordinary B-Western entertainment and science fiction melodrama is uneasy at best, however, and Queen Tika's (Dorothy Christy) droning on and on about the superiority of Murania to the surface world -- complete with newsreel footage of earthly disasters -- quickly becomes grating. But everyone involved, including youngsters Frankie Darro and champion rider Betsy Ross King, appears to be having the time of their lives and Gene Autry is not nearly as wooden and inept as legend tells us.

Product Details

Release Date:
11/24/2009
UPC:
0089218593894
Original Release:
1935
Source:
Alpha Video
Region Code:
0
Presentation:
[B&W]
Time:
1:00:00
Sales rank:
16,928

Related Subjects

Cast & Crew

Performance Credits
Gene Autry Gene Autry
Smiley Burnette Oscar
Jack Carlyle Professor Saunders
Dorothy Christy Queen Tika
Frankie Darro Frankie Baxter
J. Frank Glendon Professor Beetson
Betsy King Ross Betsy Baxter
William Moore Pete
Wheeler Oakman Argo
Edward Peil Prof. Cooper
Warner P. Richmond Muranian Ray Inventor (Rab)
Bobby Burns Muranian
Wally Wales Thunder guard
Buffalo Bill Actor
Fred Burns Muranian
Stanley Blystone Gaspar
Richard Talmadge stunt double
Frank Ellis Guard leader
Bob Card cowboy
Bruce Mitchell Muranian
Charles French mal
George Magrill Lieut. Paul
Ray "Crash" Corrigan Captain Ord
Frankie Marvin Frankie Marvin
Henry Hall High Priest
Tracy Layne Muranian
Charles "Slim" Whitaker Muranian
Don Brodie radio technician

Technical Credits
Otto Brower Director
B. Reeves "Breezy" Eason Director
Gene Autry Songwriter
William Bradford Cinematographer
Smiley Burnette Songwriter
Iris Burns Costumes/Costume Designer
Jack Coyle Set Decoration/Design,Special Effects
Mark D'Agostino Set Decoration/Design
Ralph M. DeLacey Set Decoration/Design
H. Freedman Screenwriter
Gerald Geraghty Original Story,Screenwriter
Maurice Geraghty Original Story
Terry Kellum Sound/Sound Designer
Nat Levine Producer
Jimmy Long Songwriter
Theodore Lydecker Special Effects
Howard Lydecker Special Effects
Wallace MacDonald Original Story,Screenwriter
Ernest W. Miller Cinematographer
William Nobles Cinematographer
John Rathmell Screenwriter
Armand Schaefer Screenwriter
Earl Turner Editor
William Witney Asst. Director
Lee Zahler Score Composer

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Scene Index

Disc #1 -- Radio Ranch
2. Chapter 1 [9:13]
3. Chapter 2 [8:47]
4. Chapter 3 [12:11]
5. Chapter 4 [9:50]
6. Chapter 5 [11:34]
7. Chapter 6 [6:55]

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