Tuesday, March 25, 2008

‘Singing-cowboy sci-fi’


Dave Kehr in today’s Times on the DVD release of “The Phantom Empire,” a 12-part serial from 1935 that sounds like a mad attempt to capitalize on every comic book genre then in print:

Life is sweet at Radio Ranch until a band of “renegade scientists” arrives, looking for the massive radium deposits of the secret underground nation Murania, the gateway to which happens to be located in a canyon behind Gene’s ranch. Before too long, Gene and his two l’il pardners (the child actors Frankie Darro and Betsy King Ross) find themselves caught between the rampaging savants and the legions of Wagnerian Thunder Riders (accompanied by appropriate sound effects) and lumbering mechanical men (whimsical robots built for a production number in MGM’s “Dancing Lady” but cut from the final film) sent forth by Murania’s “She”-like Queen Tika (Dorothy Christy) to prevent her land of peace and plenty from being invaded by rapacious “surface men.” It’s a lot for Gene to handle, particularly since he has to get back to Radio Ranch by 2 p.m. every day for his broadcast, which he carries on as if nothing out of the ordinary had happened. (Link.)

Can’t wait to see it. Gene Autry’s first starring role!

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