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The Phantom Empire [3 Discs] [DVD]

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Overview

Special Features

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Synopsis

The Phantom Empire: Chapter 01 - The Singing Cowboy
In the opening chapter of the Mascot serial The Phantom Empire, a stagecoach is held up for its content -- musical instruments. One of the "outlaws," a bashful young man, removes a fake mustache to address his radio audience: "Yes folks, it's Gene Autry making another raid on your time with his 'Radio Riders,' broadcasting from Radio Ranch." After a rendition of Smiley Burnette's "Uncle Noah's Ark", the airwaves are given over to teenagers Frankie (Frankie Darro) and Betsy Baxter (Betsy Ross King), who relay the story of how they founded the "Thunder Riders' Club" for kids. Out riding in the desert one day, Frankie and Betsy spotted a group of strangely garbed horsemen who seemingly disappeared without a trace. Using old buckets as headgear, the kids' reenact the encounter and invite boys and girls to form their own groups and come visit a real radio show being produced. Unbeknownst to Gene and his radio performers, however, there is radium in them thar hills, and not only that; the ranch may also be situated on top of a secret treasure trove, the underground world of Murania, a "Scientific City" inhabited 100,000 years ago by people fleeing an ice age glacier. Professors Beetson (J. Frank Glendon) and Cooper (Edward Peil, Sr.) are after both the radium and the treasure and the former make a couple of unsuccessful attempts at Autry's life. The villains trace the radium to a place known as The Garden of Life, a development that greatly endangers the lives of the Muranian people 25,000 feet below. Their ruler, Queen Tika (Dorothy Christy), decrees the entrance to the Garden of Life be destroyed for good and the capture of Gene Autry, less the area be overrun by radio fans. Alerted to danger by the sound of the Thunder Riders, Frankie and Betsy discover a lost Gene in the desert. "Say, we have a broadcast at 2 o'clock," the rustic crooner exclaims. "If we miss it, we'll lose our contract!" Climbing down from the Garden of Life plateau, Gene, Frankie and Betsy can only watch as their rope is torn asunder by the Riders. ~ Hans J. Wollstein, Rovi

The Phantom Empire: Chapter 06 - Disaster from the Skies
Saved from electrocution by the sudden appearance of a trap door operated by the traitorous Lord Argo (Wheeler Oakman), Gene Autry overhears the Muranian conspirators plan to destroy the universe by means of several hideous weapons invented by Rab (Warner P. Richmond). After subduing both Rab and Gaspar (Stanley Blystone), Gene is able to contact Frankie (Frankie Darro) at the Radio Ranch. Believing that Gaspar has betrayed her, Queen Tika (Dorothy Christy) orders the Junior Riders to be destroyed by a guided radium bomb. Gene bravely fights his way to the surface armament tower and manages to change the bomb's trajectory away from the kids. Unfortunately, the device makes a u-turn instead and explodes the armament tower. ~ Hans J. Wollstein, Rovi

The Phantom Empire: Chapter 07 - From Death to Life
On Queen Tika's orders, a lifeless Gene Autry) is brought to Murania's Radium Reviving Room, the queen (Dorothy Christy) hoping that the crooner may disclose the identity of the traitor among her officers. But before the reconstituted Autry can spill the beans, Lord Argo (Wheeler Oakman) destroys Murania's main power line and the entire city is thrust into darkness. Escaping Argo's henchmen in the ensuing confusion, our hero battles his way to the surface elevator -- playfully getting slapped on the butt by one of the top-hatted worker robots along the way -- but as chapter seven reaches its conclusion, Autry finds himself cornered once again by Queen Tika's Thunder Guard. ~ Hans J. Wollstein, Rovi

The Phantom Empire: Chapter 03 - The Lightning Chamber
Both Frankie (Frankie Darro) and Betsy (Betsy Ross King) manage to parachute to safety. Meanwhile, 25,000 feet below the surface, in Murania, Queen Tika (Dorothy Christy) sentences the captain of the Thunder Riders (Ray Bernard, later known as Ray "Crash" Corrigan) to death in The Lightning Chamber for failing to catch Gene Autry and thus prevent the continuation of the Radio Ranch, whose popularity threatens to expose the secret underground empire. But the captain, Ord, is spared by Argo (Wheeler Oakman), Murania's Lord High Chancellor, who is secretly planning to overthrow the queen. Back at the ranch, an incognito Gene comes across the rifle that killed his partner, Baxter, but Professor Beetson (J. Frank Glendon) and his thugs are right behind. Discovering too late that his getaway car is missing the brakes, Gene crashes over a steep cliff. ~ Hans J. Wollstein, Rovi

The Phantom Empire: Chapter 09 - Prisoners of the Ray
Both Frankie (Frankie Darro) and Betsy (Betsy Ross King) survive the airplane crash no worse for wear but are quickly picked up by the Muranian Thunder Riders. Brought before Queen Tika (Dorothy Christy), the kids ridicule Murania in general and the queen in particular and are condemned to spend the remainder of their lives in "the lower dungeons." Happily, the Muranian guards are easily fooled and our young friends manage to evade their captors. An increasingly desperate Queen Tika orders the removal of the electric eye that operates the entrance to Murania, thus preventing Gene Autry) from reaching Frankie and Betsy. Henceforth, the entrance can only be opened from inside the control room, which is guarded by a dangerous radium beam. In order to escape Murania, Frankie breaks the beam and all hell breaks lose. ~ Hans J. Wollstein, Rovi

The Phantom Empire: Chapter 11 - A Queen in Chains
Gene Autry is saved in the nick of time by Frankie Frankie Darro, who smartly pulls him off the conveyor belt. Murania is now under the evil regency of the former chancellor, Argo (Wheeler Oakman), and Gene's attempt to rescue the dethroned Queen Tika (Dorothy Christy) causes him once again to be knocked unconscious, this time right in the path of Murania's newest weapon, a disintegrating atom-smashing machine. ~ Hans J. Wollstein, Rovi

The Phantom Empire: Chapter 04 - Phantom Broadcast
Seconds before his automobile crashes over a cliff, Gene Autry is saved by Frankie (Frankie Darro), Betsy (Betsy Ross King) and the Junior Thunder Riders. Still wanted for the murder of his Radio Ranch partner, Gene is forced to broadcast from Frankie's secret laboratory in the barn. Meanwhile, down below in Murania Queen Tika (Dorothy Christy) is troubled by the rebellious Lord Argo (Wheeler Oakman), who is eager to blow up Radio Ranch once and for all. Finishing his broadcast with a rendition of "Uncle Henry", Gene manages to escape before Professor Beetson (J. Frank Glendon) and his men break down the door to the laboratory but spilled gunpowder creates an explosion in the getaway tunnel. ~ Hans J. Wollstein, Rovi

The Phantom Empire: Chapter 12 - The End of Murania
In the final chapter of The Phantom Empire, Gene Autry is saved by Oscar (Smiley Burnette) and Pete (William Moore), who manage to drag him away from Murania's feared disintegrating atom-smashing machine. In the control room, Queen Tika (Dorothy Christy) can only watch as a bumbling Lord Argo (Wheeler Oakman) turns the out-of-control atom-smasher on himself and Murania. Deciding to die with her people in the melting Murania rather than live in the undesirable surface world, Tika allows Gene and his friends to escape the underground kingdom. Back in his own domain, Gene tricks Professor Beetson (J. Frank Gledon) into revealing that he, and not Gene, killed Frankie's (Frankie Darro) and Betsy's Betsy Ross King) father. With Radio Ranch safe from usurpers, Autry and his friends perform "Uncle Noah" to end a rather eventful broadcast season. ~ Hans J. Wollstein, Rovi

The Phantom Empire: Chapter 10 - The Rebellion
Despite the deadly radium beam, Frankie Baxter (Frankie Darro) manages to pull the lever that opens the surface entrance to Murania, allowing Gene Autry and sidekicks Oscar (Smiley Burnette) and Pete (William Moore) entry to the underground empire. Queen Tika (Dorothy Christy) finally learns of Count Argo's treachery from Gene but the warning comes too late: Argo (Wheeler Oakman) is about to assume control over the entire palace and most of the empire. Knocked unconscious in the ensuing mayhem, Gene lands on a moving conveyor belt and is in grave danger of being incinerated by one of the Muranian worker robots. ~ Hans J. Wollstein, Rovi

The Phantom Empire: Chapter 02 - The Thunder Riders
Although the Thunder Riders sever his rope, Gene Autry manages to grab hold of a tree limb, climb to safety and return to Radio Ranch in time to join Oscar (Smiley Burnette) and Pete (William Moore) for a hearty rendition of Burnette's "I'm Oscar; I'm Pete". The Ranch performers then reenact a stage robbery for the listening audience but nasty Professor Beetson (J. Frank Glendon) has tampered with Gene's rifle and the crooner's partner, Baxter, is killed. Accused by Beetson of murder, Gene manages to escape but is followed from the air by the sheriff. Queen Tika of Murania (Dorothy Christy) watches everything on her surface television and orders the Thunder Riders to capture Autry and shoot down the plane carrying the sheriff and stowaways Frankie (Frankie Darro) and Betsy (Betsy Ross King). ~ Hans J. Wollstein, Rovi

The Phantom Empire: Chapter 08 - Jaws of Jeopardy
Gene Autry manages to extricate himself from his latest peril, Douglas Fairbanks style, and fights his way to the surface and freedom. Reunited with Frankie (Frankie Darro) and Betsy (Betsy Ross King), Gene realizes that he will never manage to get back to Radio Ranch in time for his daily broadcast. Unless, that is, he hijacks Professor Beetson's (J. Frank Glendon) airplane at gunpoint. But even an airplane isn't fast enough and with Frankie's help, Gene is connected to the radio broadcast via wireless to perform "I'm Getting a Moon's Eye View of the World" for a presumably enraptured listening audience. Our hero finishes the song just as Queen Tika's (Dorothy Christy) interference ray destroys the plane's instruments. The pilot bails out and the rudderless aircraft plummets to earth. ~ Hans J. Wollstein, Rovi

The Phantom Empire: Chapter 05 - Beneath the Earth
Gene Autry, Frankie (Frankie Darro) and Betsy (Betsy Ross King) all escape the tunnel explosion courtesy of the Junior Thunder Riders, who manage to unlock the secret exit. Planning to broadcast from a shack in the desert, the fugitive Autry is surprised by a Muranian lieutenant (George Magrill), whom he manages to subdue. Impersonating his captive, Gene is brought down to Murania to face Queen Tika (Dorothy Christy), who is displeased that her emissary let Autry slip away. Unmasked, a bemused Gene opines that Murania's dead air "is more suitable to rats and moles" than surface people. Taking great umbrage to such heresy, the Queen sentences the intruder to the electrical death chamber, where he is to be executed by a charge of 200,000 volts. ~ Hans J. Wollstein, Rovi

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