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The Phantom Empire

Phantom Empire


TV on DVD: Westerns
3 DVD Set
Running Time: Over 4 Hours
B & W



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Gene Autry's first starring role on film was in the Science Fiction Western 12-part serial The Phantom Empire in 1935. A serial is a continuing story with a cliffhanger ending that is resolved the next week and typically played at a Saturday Matinee along with a Western feature, a newsreel, a 10 or 20 minute musical or a comedy short, and a cartoon. The Phantom Empire is a fantastic adventure with music, comedy and action on the land, in the air and underground in the super scientific kingdom of Murania. This Timeless Media Group collection is sourced from Gene Autry's personal film archive.

Radio Ranch is a dude ranch resort owned by Tom Baxter and popular radio entertainer Gene Autry. Twenty-five thousand feet beneath the ranch lies the super-scientific, highly advanced kingdom of Murania which is rich in radium deposits and ruled by the beautiful Queen Tika. Gene's radio contract states that he must broadcast daily from the ranch or he will lose it to a discredited scientist trying to steal the ranch for its radium. The Queen tries to protect her kingdom from the outside world by getting rid of Gene Autry and the Junior Thunder Riders.

Gene Autry, America's Favorite Singing Cowboy
Frankie Darro as Frankie Baxter
Betsy King Ross, World Champion Trick Rider, as Betsy Baxter
Smiley Burnett as Oscar
Dorothy Christy as Queen Tika
and Champion, The Wonder Horse
Featuring the Secret Underground City of Murania


Disc 1

The first four chapters of the Science Fiction Western serial introduce the main characters of The Phantom Empire with plenty of music from Gene and his Radio Ranch, comedy from his sidekick and the kids, and action both on the ground and in the air! Will Gene make it back to the ranch in time for the broadcast? Will the Junior Thunder Riders come to the rescue in time? And who can survive Queen Tika's Death Chamber yielding 200,000 volts of energy? Each chapter ends with a suspenseful cliffhanger, in fact Gene and the kids find themselves literally hanging off a cliff at the end of Chapter One!


Chapter One: The Singing Cowboy — Introduces the story and all of the major characters, including Gene Autry, Frankie and Betsy Baxter, Professor Beetson, and Queen Tika. It offers a glimpse of the Muranian world where Queen Tika watches the action above the ground from her special viewing room. It ends with Gene and the kids falling from a cliff after being chased by Argo, a Muranian. Gene sings Uncle Noah's Ark and That Silver-Haired Daddy of Mine.
Chapter Two: The Thunder Riders — Gene, Frankie and Betsy are saved from certain death by the junior Thunder Riders. During an exciting, staged stagecoach chase at the ranch, Tom Baxter is killed. Gene is arrested, escapes, but falls of his horse as Murania's Royal Guard closes in. Frankie and Betsy stowed away on an airplane in pursuit of Gene, but the airplane explodes when a Muranian torpedo hits it. Gene sings I'm Oscar, I'm Pete.
Chapter Three: The Lightning Chamber — The Baxter kids escape from the plane by putting on parachutes, while Gene has managed to join the mysterious Thunder Riders. Queen Tika is angry that Gene has not been captured, so she condemns the Captain of the Guard to death in the "Lightning Chamber." Gene switches clothes with the unconscious pilot of the plane and hides, overhearing a conversation where Prof. Beetson confesses to Baxter's murder. Beetson finds out and chases after Gene, whose car plunges over the side of a cliff, crashing below.
Chapter Four: The Phantom Broadcast — Gene is saved when he transfers to the rear of Frankie's horse a split second before his car crashes. Queen Tika searches for Argo, who is secretly powering an aerial torpedo to destroy Radio Ranch. She stops him, telling him that she alone will determine when the destruction takes place. Meanwhile, Gene makes his radio broadcast from Frankie's laboratory, and is trailed by beetson. He and the kids try to escape the lab, but are caught in a terrific explosion. Gene sings Uncle Henry's Vacation.


Disc 2

Chapters Five through Eight of The Phantom Empire continue the thrills at Radio Ranch and the scientific city of Murania with hard riding, thundering riders on horseback, scheming greedy scientists, and deadly Muranian robots. Will disguises protect the heroes from execution in Queen Tika's Death Chamber? Explosions from a Muranian radium bomb and dynamite from the Professor Beetson's party threaten lives above and below the earth. Will Gene survive his perilous swordfight with the Muranian Guard? And will Gene make the broadcast at Radio Ranch in time?


Chapter Five: Beneath the Earth — Gene and the kids are able to exit the lab just in time due to the Junior Thunder Riders. Concerned about the next day's broadcast, Gene decides to use the Riders' clubhouse in Thunder Canyon. Oscar disguises himself as a woman to move the equipment. The Thunder Riders close in the clubhouse and the Lieutenant is knocked unconscious. Gene switches clothes with him and is picked up by the other Riders and taken back to Murania. He is unmasked and ordered to the "Death Chamber" by Queen Tika.
Chapter Six: Disaster from the Skies — Argo saves Gene by opening a trapdoor at the bottom of the chamber before he throws the switch to execute him. Gene lands in a room where he overhears Muranian rebels lusting for action. They capture him, but Gene breaks free. He makes contact with Frankie and Betsy who decide to ride to the rescue with the other Junior Riders. Two of the Queen's guards activate two deadly robots to find Gene. The aerial torpedo is unleashed, but Gene is able to enter the control room and send it back towards Murania, where it explodes.
Chapter Seven: From Death to Life — The torpedo explodes just outside the control room, and Gene's unconscious body is pulled from the wreckage. Queen Tika realizes she has a traitor in her midst, and orders gene to be brought "back from the dead" so that she may learn who it is. The power goes off right after, due to Argo and the rebels, and Gene breaks free once again. Frankie and Betsy climb down to an old mine entrance they believe is the way to Murania, but are trapped by Beetson. Gene is involved in a swordfight with guards and is forced over the side of a metal walkway.
Chapter Eight: Jaws of Jeopardy — Gene grabs the underside of the walkway and swings to safety. After battling guards, he makes it back to the surface. The Baxter kids start a fire to get help, which Gene sees. He helps them, but not before beetson arrives with his plane. To make his broadcast, Gene forces Beetson's pilot to fly him to the ranch. Frankie rigs up a transmitter in the plane and Gene performs. The pilot escapes and the plane crashes onto the top of a cliff. Gene sings I'm Getting a Moon's Eye View of the World.


Disc 3

The concluding chapters of The Phantom Empire keep the thrill-a-minute pace with Frankie and Betsy captured and brought before the Queen who is determined to protect her kingdom from the surface men at any cost. Will Oscar and Pete be discovered in their Muranian Robot disguises? Will the revolution keep Gene underground or will it be evil Professor Beetson, who seeks Murania's radium, who keeps Gene in Murania forever? And of course the question remains, will Gene Autry make it back to Radio Ranch in time for the broadcast?


Chapter Nine: Prisoners of the Ray — Frankie and Betsy leap to safety, but Gene goes down with the plane. The Royal Guards then capture them, and they are brought to Murania. Gene, who is alive, goes to rescue the kids, joined by Oscar, Pete and the Junior Thunder Riders. They are unable to enter Murania as Argo has disabled the electric eye that controls the door. Frankie and Betsy enter the control room and race to the door control, but when they throw the switch they are bombarded by deadly radium rays.
Chapter Ten: The Rebellion — Frankie and Betsy are killed by the ray, but not before Frankie pulls the switch to open the door. Queen Tika orders the kid to be brought to the "Radium Reviving Room." Oscar and Pete put on robot disguises. The Queen orders Gene to tell her who saved his life, but he refuses unless Frankie and Betsy are saved. Gene sees the kids and tells the Queen that it was Argo. She is shocked, but forms an alliance with Gene, promising his, Frankie's and Betsy's safety. She orders death to Argo, who begins the rebellion. A battle ensues and Gene falls on a conveyor belt that moves him towards a flaming torch.
Chapter Eleven: A Queen in Chains — Frankie and Betsy find Gene just in time to save his life. Argo informs the men that the Queen is now "in chains" and orders the destruction of all surface people. The Queen is forced to watch executions of her trusted friends, while Gene battles his way towards her. He arrives at the room where the Queen is about to be executed, but is knocked into the path of death-dealing rays.
Chapter Twelve: The End of Murania — Oscar and Pete arrive in time to pull Gene from the path of the ray. They also rescue Queen Tika They rush to regain the control room while Argo is temporarily trapped. The ray is turned up, goes wild and starts to destroy Murania. Argo and his men are killed. The Queen orders Gene and everyone up to the surface, refusing to go herself because it would be a "living death." She dies in the destruction, while Gene and friends make it to the surface. Gene returns to the ranch and is able to get Beetson to confess to Baxter's murder. The ranch is safe as Gene sings his last song, Uncle Noah's Ark,for the final broadcast of the season.
Bonus: Photo Gallery



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