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TOP 1000 REVIEWERon 21 March 2008
VCI Entertainment presents "PHANTOM EMPIRE" (23 February 1935) (240 mins/B&W) (Fully Restored/Dolby Digitally Remastered) --- relive those thrilling days when the "First Singing Cowboy" Gene Autry took us down the dusty trails with hard riding and straight shooting hitting the bull's eye with excitement every time --- the Gene Autry series of B-Westerns were a staple of Saturday matinees in the 1930s and 1940s --- A classic by anybody's standard --- Combination of Western, Musical, Sci-Fi, Comedy and Adventure --- Truly imaginative --- Gene Autry's first starring vehicle -- It predates Flash Gordon, Buck Rogers and all the other sci-fi Serials of the '30s and '40s --- Republic Pictures stuck to the sci-fi theme in most of their cliffhangers through to the end of their existence --- An inside joke appeared in Gene Autry's 1941 feature "Sierra Sue" wherein character actress Dorothy Christy, who plays Queen Tika in this serial, says to Autry "I have the feeling we have met somewhere before, maybe in another world" --- A true must see for film historians and fans of all ages.

Under the production staff of:
Otto Brower - Director
B. Reeves "Breezy" Eason - Director
Nat Levine - Producer
H. Freedman - Screenwriter
Gerald Geraghty - Screen Story / Screenwriter
Maurice Geraghty - Screen Story
Wallace MacDonald - Screen Story / Screenwriter
John Rathmell - Screenwriter / Continuity
Armand Schaefer - Supervisor/Manager / Screenwriter
William Bradford - Cinematographer
Ernest W. Miller - Cinematographer
William Noble - Cinematographer
William Nobles - Cinematographer
Gene Autry - Songwriter
Smiley Burnette - Songwriter
Jimmy Long - Songwriter
Lee Zahler - Composer (Music Score)
Earl Turner - Editor
Armand Shaeffer - Supervising Producer / Continuity
Jack Coyle - Special Effects / Set Designer
Mark D'Agostino - Set Designer
Ralph M. DeLacey - Set Designer
Iris Burns - Costume Designer
Terry Kellum - Sound/Sound Designer
Howard Lydecker - Special Effects
Theodore Lydecker - Special Effects
William Witney - First Assistant Director

Our story line and plot, The Phantom Empire, starring Gene Autry the Singing Cowboy, was a 12 chapter 1935 Mascot serial that combined the western, musical, and science fiction genres --- This was Gene Autry's first starring role, playing himself as a singing cowboy --- Gene Autry plays a singing cowboy named Gene Autry, who runs Radio Ranch, a dude ranch from which he makes a daily live radio broadcast --- Gene has two kid sidekicks, Frankie Darro and Betsy King Ross, who lead a club, the "Junior Thunder Riders," in which the kids play at being armored knights of an unknown civilization, the mysterious Thunder Riders. The kids, dressing up in capes and water bucket helmets, play at riding "to the rescue!" --- A chance to be real heroes occurs when Betsy, Frankie and Gene are kidnapped by the real Thunder Riders, from the super scientific underground empire of Murania, complete with towering skyscrapers, robots, ray guns, elevators that extend miles from the surface, and an icy, evil blonde Queen, Tika. On the surface, a group of crooks plan to invade Murania and seize its mineral wealth, while in Murania, a group of revolutionaries plot to overthrow Queen Tika ----- some wonderful tunes, UNCLE NOAH'S ARK (Gene Autry) (Chapter 1), THAT SILVER HAIRED DADDY OF MINE (Gene Autry) (Chapter 1), I'M OSCAR, I'M PETE (Gene Autry) (Chapter 2), UNCLE HENRY'S VACATION (Gene Autry) (Chapter 4), I'M GETTING A MOON'S EYE VIEW OF THE WORLD (Gene Autry) (Chapter 8), UNCLE NOAH'S ARK (Gene Autry) (Chapter 12) - - - - - - some Autry fun facts, Gene always preferred his sponsor's product, Wrigley's Doublemint Gum, to smoking.

the cast includes
Gene Autry ... Gene Autry
Frankie Darro ... Frankie Baxter
Betsy King Ross ... Betsy Baxter
Smiley Burnette ... Oscar (as Lester 'Smiley' Burnett)
Dorothy Christy ... Queen Tika
Wheeler Oakman ... Argo (Muranian High Chancellor)
Charles K. French ... Mal
Warner Richmond ... Rab
J. Frank Glendon ... Professor Beetson (as Frank Glendon)
Peter Potter ... Pete (as William Moore)
Edward Peil Sr. ... Cooper (as Edward Piel, Sr.)
Jack Carlyle ... Saunders
Chuck Baldra ... Deputy
Harry Blaeholder ... Fiddle Player, Radio Ranch Band
Stanley Blystone ... Gaspar (television operator)
Don Brodie ... Radio Technician
Bob Burns ... Muranian citizen
Fred Burns ... Muranian priest
Lane Chandler ... Muranian guard
Jim Corey ... Muranian
Ray Corrigan ... Thunder Rider
Jad Dees ... Guitar Player, Radio Ranch Band
Frank Ellis ... Guard leader
Henry Hall ... High Priest
Aleth Hansen ... Mandolin Player, Radio Ranch Band
The Beverly Hillbillies ... Radio Ranch Band
Frankie Marvin ... Musician
Wally Wales ... Thunder guard
Wally West ... Muranian soldier

1. The Singing Cowboy
2. The Thunder Riders
3. The Lightning Chamber
4. Phantom Broadcast
5. Beneath the Earth
6. Disaster From the Skies
7. From Death to Life
8. Jaws of Jeopardy
9. Prisoners of the Ray
10.The Rebellion
11.A Queen in Chains
12.The End of Murania

1. Gene Autry
Date of Birth: 29 September 1907 - Near Tioga, Texas
Date of Death: 2 October 1998 - Studio City, Los Angeles, California

2. Frankie Darro
Date of Birth: 22 December 1917 - Chicago, Illinois
Date of Death: 25 December 1976 - Huntington Beach, California

3. Betsy King Ross
Date of Birth: 14 March 1921 - St. Paul, Minnesota
Date of Death: 4 October 1989 - Los Angeles, California

4. Smiley Burnette (aka: Lester Alvin Burnette)
Date of Birth: 18 March 1911 - Summum, Illinois
Date of Death: 16 February 1967 - Encino, California

Special footnote, Orvon Gene Autry was an American performer who gained fame as The Singing Cowboy on the radio, in movies and on television --- Discovered by film producer Nat Levine in 1934, he and Burnette made their film debut for Mascot Pictures Corp. "In Old Santa Fe" as part of a singing cowboy quartet; he was then given the starring role by Levine in 1935 in the 12-part serial "The Phantom Empire" --- Shortly thereafter, Mascot was absorbed by the formation of Republic Pictures Corp. and Autry went along to make a further 44 films up to 1940, all B westerns in which he played under his own name, rode his horse Champion, had Burnette as his regular sidekick and had many opportunities to sing in each film --- Autry became the top Western star at the box-office by 1937, reaching his national peak of popularity from 1940 to 1942. His Gene Autry Flying "A" Ranch Rodeo show debuted in 1940 --- Gene Autry is the only celebrity to have five stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, one in each of the five categories maintained by the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce --- Radio, Films, Recordings, Television and Live Theater.

1.Gene Autry Movie: "Boots and Saddles"
2. Photo Gallery
3. Gene Autry Doe C Doe's "In Old Santa Fe"
4. "To the Rescue: The Story of the Phantom Empire" featurette by Clifford Weimer and narrated by Jonathan Webb
5. The Phantom Empire Trailer
6. VCI Serials Promo
7. Gene Autry Bio By Clifford Weimer

Check out a new book from Empire Publishing - "GENE AUTRY WESTERNS" (Hardcover) - by author Boyd Magers, like no other book on Gene Autry --- all of Gene's Mascot, Republic and Columbia westerns included, as well as his half-hour TV Episodes --- each segment contains the release date on each film ... major production credits ... complete cast (including character played) ... all songs included, songwriter and who performed them in the film ... running time of each film ... dates of the filming ... bios on the cast and major players (Smiley, Pat Buttram, Cass County Boys, Herbert J. Yates, directors, leading ladies, songwriters and various heavies, etc.) ... locations that were used ... budgets and negative cost ... stunt people involved ... analysis and synopsis on each film ... notes and comments (including film and cast background info, salaries paid, working titles, etc) ... comments from Gene and many other cast members on each film ... theater exhibitors comments at the time of the films release ...this tribute was written from the heart and it shows.

Hats off and thanks to Robert Blair and his staff at VCI Entertainment --- VCI was named in Variety and Hollywood Reporter as the first company to produce and release motion pictures directly to the home marketplace --- order your copy now from Amazon or VCI Entertainment where there are plenty of copies available on DVD, stay tuned once again for top notch releases --- VCI are experts in releasing long forgotten films and treasures to the collector -- looking forward to more Nostalgic Collections --- all my heroes have been cowboys!

Total Time: 240 min on DVD ~ VCI Entertainment ~ (2/05/2008)
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on 4 October 2009
Amazingly good for the year vintage 1935 black & white serial combining 'modern' cowboys with art deco era science fiction. Good family viewing with young characters included who should appeal to the younger generation & every episode ending in a cliff hanger. Gripping stuff.
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on 14 March 2012
I was a kid of 8 when The Phantom Empire appeared as a weekly serial at the children's matinee at the Princess Cinema in Peterborough. I used to sit in the front row to watch it and it was the highlight of my week.
Now I am 65 and this that it's great that we can re-live these happy times by watching the DVD.
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on 24 April 2015
Remembered this film from my Odeon Cinema Club days in the 1950s. Queueing with all the other children, come rain or shine, for our Saturday Morning treat at the local Odeon Cinema. Tracked it down and am now enjoying a fun piece of nostalgia. I'll be interested to see what my grandchildren. make of it.
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