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 »
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 <firstname.lastname@example.org>
"The Phantom Empire" (1935) is unique in the entire history if cinema. It's "Melody Ranch" meets "Flash Gordon" - and it's a kick.
In the olden days (the'70s), it was the perfect entertainment for dropping a hit, taking a hit with a sip (or two...or three) and whoosh, off to the unknown, mysterious Murania, located 20,000 feet beneath Radio Ranch.
Radio Ranch's owner, the often bland Gene Autry (who also owned the more famous Melody Ranch...same place) stars with his pal Smiley Burnette (not playing his normal Frog Milhouse role, but nonetheless playing Frog Milhouse)/ Gene also gets some help from teenagers Frankie Darro & Betsy King Ross. It's up to them to stop the evil Muranians from world domination and destruction (what do they care, they're 20,000 feet below the carnage).
This gem was directed by reliable silent film and "B" movie journeyman master B. Reeves Eason, who also directed the "Flash Gordon"-inspired serial classics, "The Undersea Kingdom" (1936) which starred the always wonderful Ray "Crash" (named for "Flash") Corrigan (who has a small role here) and "Batmen of Africa" (also in 1936) with real-life wild game catcher Clyde Beatty. Eason helmed a slew of two-reel Oaters starring Gene Autry & Dick Foran before directing a series of rah-rah war films in the early '40s to compliment his turnout of westerns, mysteries & serials.
Note: As second unit director of the classic 1925 silent film version of "Ben Hur" with Francis X. Bushman & Ramon Navarro, Eason used 42 cameras to shoot that epic's legendary chariot race; as well as directing the massive burning of Atlanta scene in "Gone With The Wind" (1939).
"The Phantom Empire" is virtually never shown. Too bad because it's a fun curio. Perhaps they think it'll start a whole new psychedelic drug epidemic?
BTW, there's a new DVD release by VCI that is terrific: crisp picture and sound, no blips, and as far as I can tell, it's complete.
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