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The Phantom Empire (1935)

Approved  |   |  Musical, Sci-Fi, Western  |  23 February 1935 (USA)
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Ratings: 6.3/10 from 327 users  
Reviews: 22 user | 12 critic

When the ancient continent of Mu sank beneath the ocean, some of its inhabitant survived in caverns beneath the sea. Cowboy singer Gene Autry stumbles upon the civilization, now buried ... See full summary »


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Complete credited cast:
Betsy King Ross ...
Betsy Baxter
Dorothy Christy ...
Wheeler Oakman ...
Lord Argo
Charles K. French ...
Warner Richmond ...
J. Frank Glendon ...
Professor Beetson (as Frank Glendon)
Oscar (as Lester 'Smiley' Burnett)
Peter Potter ...
Pete (as William Moore)
Edward Peil Sr. ...
Cooper (as Edward Piel Sr.)
Jack Carlyle ...


When the ancient continent of Mu sank beneath the ocean, some of its inhabitant survived in caverns beneath the sea. Cowboy singer Gene Autry stumbles upon the civilization, now buried beneath his own Radio Ranch. The Muranians have developed technology and weaponry such as television and ray guns. Their rich supply of radium draws unscrupulous speculators from the surface. The peaceful civilization of the Muranians is corrupted by the greed from above, and it becomes Autry's task to prevent all-out war, ideally without disrupting his regular radio show. Written by Jim Beaver <>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


A Nation 20,000 Feet Underground


Approved | See all certifications »




Release Date:

23 February 1935 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Gene Autry and the Phantom Empire  »

Box Office


$70,000 (estimated)

Company Credits

Production Co:

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


(12 episodes)

Sound Mix:

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
See  »

Did You Know?


Screenwriter Wallace MacDonald said in an interview that he dreamed up the film, complete with character names, plot ideas, costumes, etc., after he was sedated by nitrous oxide while undergoing dental work. When he awoke he went directly home, put everything down on paper, and brought it to producer Nat Levine at Mascot Pictures, who loved the idea and approved the production. See more »


Queen Tika: Gene Autry! How do you like our world?
Gene Autry: I think the dampness and dead air of your land is more suited for rats and moles.
See more »


Referenced in Manhattan: Tangier (2014) See more »


Uncle Noah's Ark
Written by Gene Autry, Smiley Burnette and Nick Manoloff
Performed by Gene Autry and band
See more »

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User Reviews

Radio Ranch Is On the Air!
3 February 2004 | by See all my reviews

This stuff is too horrible for words. It makes Plan 9 From Outer Space look like a masterpiece. The only way to watch this as an adult is with your hand over closed eyes, looking sideways through your fingers, carefully out of one eye once in awhile to follow the action. Even then, you spend most of your time cringing, shuddering, giggling, or gasping in amazement.

But, you *love* it anyway, either in spite of its uncountable flaws, or because of them. This serial has had a hold on me for almost fifty years since I first saw it in the early '50's. Every recollection of it brings a smile. It is a serial with everything, and combines elements of every movie genre one can imagine: western, musical, comedy, science fiction, crime, and dashes of horror and child adventure.

It has cowboys, evil scientists, lost cities, robots, radio and television, death rays, machines that resurrect the dead, and radium. Radium everywhere. This wonder element is the fuel that powers every futuristic machine in the hidden, underground city, and the desire of the evil scientists who scheme to get rich from it, and will kill to further their schemes. As adults, of course, we are obliged to ignore the reality that radium couldn't possibly do what it does here, but that's a trivial detail, irrelevant to the fun at hand.

The robots are a hoot: garbage cans that walk, but they are the only part of this movie I never came to accept. You watch each chapter for a little while, and it begins to take you in. It isn't long before you're thinking, "This is *terrible*, but with just a little work here and there .. it could be pretty good." Then, you're hooked, and it's time to apply for membership in the Thunder Riders.

There is no way this serial could be remade today. For one thing, the notion of Radio Ranch, a radio variety program broadcast from a remote location, doesn't fly in a world of HDTV and personal computers. But, so help me, I can't help wishing someone would try!

5 of 6 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

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