The Phantom Empire (1935)

Gene Autry gets into heavy metal

Gene Autry gets into heavy metal

If you’re looking for a SF western musical…here you go. This is a compilation of a twelve chapter serial. The “acting” is some of the worst ever and loaded with unintentional laughs. If you don’t have the patience to sit through the serial (and who could blame you) you may want to spent a little over an hour being amazed at how bad a movie can be. This has to be seen to be believed.

The bad guys are after the stage. Hold on. It’s just the opening of Gene Autry’s Radio Ranch show. After Gene sings, Frankie (Frankie Darro) and Betsy Baxter (Betsy King Ross) tell the story of the Thunder Riders Club. One day when they were out riding they heard a sound like thunder. It was a group of strange looking riders. Frankie and Betsy get away and the name of the club is born.

A lot of people are starting to visit the ranch and business is good. A plane of scientists arrive. They’re really bad guys looking for uranium and radium. They’re led by Professor Beetson.

That night in Frankie’s secret lab he shows Betsy his new direction finder. It’s picking up signals from underground. There’s somebody down there. As things move along the entrance to Murania is discovered. It’s inside a cave with a robot doorman.

Twenty-five thousand feet down is where the riders came from. They have to wear oxygen masks when they reach the surface. The joint is ruled by Queen Tika and her cohort Lord Argo (Wheeler Oakman). The Queen communicates with her guards via television and something called a wireless phone.

Since this is a compilation there’s lots of fast action with little wasted time between capture, quick escapes and some singing from Gene. One time Gene is tossed in the death chamber by the Queen. She doesn’t know it but Argo leads a group of rebels out to overthrow her. He allows Gene to escape. He’s not out of the woods yet.

When Gene gets out of Murania he’s captured by Beetson while Frankie and Betsy are nabbed by the Queen’s guard. It looks like Oscar (Smiley Burnette) will have to step up and try and rescue Gene while the Thunder Riders look for the Baxters.

Gene still has to find out who killed his partner Tom Baxter during a bit for the show where he’s driving the stage being chased by a gang. There’s a big shootout when he’s killed by a real bullet. Everyone has blanks…except Gene.

Wheeler Oakman usually played gangsters and other assorted bad guys and was always good. Here he doesn’t even try and sounds like he’s actually just reading his lines with no expression or any effort put into it.

Betsy King Ross was an expert horse trainer and didn’t do much acting.


About vintage45

I'm a big fan of vintage books,movies,TV shows and music. I encourage everyone to patronize your local used book/record store and pick up some of the good stuff. My posts are capsule reviews of some favorites that you may want to investigate. The albums posted aren't really reviews but items from my collection that are still available. I try and point out highlights of each one and let the music speak for itself. Thanks to all for checking out the blog.
This entry was posted in Science Fiction, vintage movies, vintage music, Western and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

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