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The Phantom Empire

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Musical, Sci-Fi, Western

Music director
Hugo Riesenfeld


United States


100,000 USD

Wallace MacDonald


The Phantom Empire movie poster

Otto Brower B. Reeves Eason

Wallace MacDonald
Maurice Geraghty

Release date
February 23, 1935 (1935-02-23) (USA)

B. Reeves Eason, Otto Brower

Gene Autry
(Gene Autry),
Frankie Darro
(Frankie Baxter),
Betsy King Ross
(Betsy Baxter),
Dorothy Christy
(Queen Tika)

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The Phantom Empire is a 1935 American Western serial film directed by Otto Brower and B. Reeves Eason and starring Gene Autry, Frankie Darro, and Betsy King Ross. This 12-chapter Mascot Pictures serial combined the western, musical, and science fiction 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. 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.


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The Phantom Empire The Phantom Empire 1935 Movie Posters Pinterest Movie Lp

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).

The Phantom Empire The Phantom Empire Scifist

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, 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 Phantom Empire GeneAutrycom Film Info The Phantom Empire

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.


The Phantom Empire Movie posters from The Phantom Empire Otto Brower B Reeves Eason

  • Gene Autry as Gene Autry, singing cowboy at the Radio Ranch
  • Frankie Darro as Frankie Baxter, one of Gene's sidekicks
  • Betsy King Ross as Betsy Baxter, one of Gene's sidekicks
  • Dorothy Christy as Queen Tika, the evil queen of Murania
  • Wheeler Oakman as Lord Argo, the Muranian High Chancellor and leader of the rebels
  • Charles K. French as Mal
  • Warner Richmond as Rab
  • J. Frank Glendon as Professor Beetson, the villainous scientist after the land's radium deposits
  • Smiley Burnette as Oscar, comic relief
  • Peter Potter as Pete, comic relief
  • Edward Peil Sr. as Cooper
  • Jack Carlyle as Saunders The budget was originally reported to have been "no more than" $100,000.
  • Story

    The Phantom Empire Short Film Saturday The Phantom Empire Chapters 79 The Movie Rat

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

    Filming and budget

    The Phantom Empire was filmed in late 1934. The film had an operating budget of $75,000 (equal to $1,342,724 today).

    Filming locations

  • Agoura Ranch, Agoura, California, USA
  • Bronson Canyon, Griffith Park, 4730 Crystal Springs Drive, Los Angeles, California, USA
  • Griffith Observatory, Griffith Park, 4730 Crystal Springs Drive, Los Angeles, California, USA
  • Iverson Ranch, 1 Iverson Lane, Chatsworth, Los Angeles, California, USA
  • Keystone Studios, 1712 Glendale Blvd., Silver Lake, Los Angeles, California, USA
  • Stuntwork

  • Ken Cooper
  • Richard Talmadge
  • Jack Jones
  • George Magrill
  • Wally West
  • Frankie Darro and Betsy King Ross did their own stunt riding in this serial. Ross was an experienced rodeo performer and was billed as the "World's Champion Trick Rider".


  • "Uncle Noah's Ark" (Gene Autry, Smiley Burnette, Nick Manoloff) by Gene Autry and band (chapter 1)
  • "That Silver-Haired Daddy of Mine" (Gene Autry, Jimmy Long) by Gene Autry and band (chapter 1)
  • "I'm Oscar, I'm Pete" (Gene Autry, Smiley Burnette) by Gene Autry, Smiley Burnette, and William Moore (chapter 2)
  • "No Need to Worry" (Gene Autry, Smiley Burnette) by the Radio Rangers (chapter 4)
  • "Uncle Henry" (Gene Autry, Smiley Burnette) by Gene Autry (chapter 4)
  • "I'm Getting a Moon's Eye View of the World" (Gene Autry, Smiley Burnette) by Gene Autry (chapter 8)
  • "My Cross Eyed Gal" (Gene Autry, Jimmy Long) by the Radio Rangers (chapter 8)
  • "Just Come On Back" (Gene Autry, Smiley Burnette) by the Radio Rangers (chapter 8)
  • Chapter titles

    1. The Singing Cowboy
    2. The Thunder Riders
    3. The Lighting Chamber
    4. Phantom Broadcast
    5. Beneath the Earth
    6. Disaster from the Skies
    7. From Death to Life
    8. Jaws of Jeopardy
    9. Prisoner of the Ray
    10. The Rebellion
    11. A Queen in Chains
    12. The End of Murania


    The Phantom Empire was released in theaters on February 23, 1935. The serial was a "marked box office success."


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