The Phantom Empire

Share with:


The Phantom Empire

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Jump to navigationJump to search

For the 1988 film, see The Phantom Empire (1988 film).

The Phantom Empire
Theatrical release poster
Directed byOtto BrowerB. Reeves Eason
Written byWallace MacDonaldGerald GeraghtyHy FreedmanMaurice Geraghty
Produced byNat Levine
StarringGene AutryFrankie DarroBetsy King RossDorothy ChristyWheeler Oakman
CinematographyErnest MillerWilliam Nobles
Edited byEarl TurnerWalter Thompson
Music byHugo Riesenfeld
Distributed byMascot Pictures
Release dateFebruary 23, 1935 (USA)
Running time245 minutes (12 chapters)[Note 1]
CountryUnited States


The Phantom Empire, Chapter 1: Singing Cowboy.


The Phantom Empire, a 70-minute feature film edited from the serial

The Phantom Empire is a 1935 American Western serial film directed by Otto Brower and B. Reeves Eason and starring Gene AutryFrankie Darro, and Betsy King Ross.[1] This 12-chapter Mascot Pictures serial combined the Western, musical and fantasy genres. The first episode is 30 minutes, the rest about 20 minutes. The serial film is about a singing cowboy who stumbles upon an ancient subterranean civilization living beneath his own ranch that becomes corrupted by unscrupulous greedy speculators from the surface.[3] In 1940, a 70-minute feature film edited from the serial was released under the titles Radio Ranch or Men with Steel Faces. This was Gene Autry’s first starring role, playing himself as a singing cowboy.[4]



Gene Autry (Gene Autry) is a singing cowboy who runs Radio Ranch, a dude ranch from which he makes a daily live radio broadcast at 2:00 pm. Gene has two kid sidekicks, Frankie Baxter (Frankie Darro) and Betsy Baxter (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 who make a sound like thunder when they ride. The kids, dressing up in capes and water-bucket helmets, play at riding “To the rescue!” (their motto).

A chance to become 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 buildings, robots, ray-guns, advanced television, elevator tubes that extend miles from the surface, and the icy, blonde, evil Queen Tika. On the surface, criminals led by Professor Beetson plan to invade Murania and seize its radium wealth, while in Murania, a group of revolutionaries plots to overthrow Queen Tika.

The inhabitants of Murania are the lost tribe of Mu, who went underground in the last glacial period 100,000 years ago, and now live in a fantastically advanced city 25,000 feet below the surface. They cannot now breathe the air at ground level and must wear oxygen masks. (Surface dwellers have no trouble breathing Muranian air.) The Thunder Guard emerges to the surface world from a cave with a huge rock door that swings up like a garage door. Both Muranians and Professor Beetson want to get rid of Autry, so he loses his radio contract and Radio Ranch is vacated.[5]




The idea for the plot came to writer Wallace MacDonald when he was under gas having a tooth extracted.[7]

Filming and budget[edit]

The Phantom Empire was filmed in late 1934. The film had an operating budget of $75,000 (equal to $1,519,216 today).[1] The budget was originally reported to have been “no more than” $100,000.[2]

Filming locations[edit]

Share with:

Verified by MonsterInsights