Thursday, April 3, 2008

THE PHANTOM EMPIRE

VCI Entertainment steps up with another classic serial, the 1935 oddity, THE PHANTOM EMPIRE.

This unique and offbeat chapterplay features singing cowboy star Gene Autry playing a fictionalized version of himself – a western music radio star who broadcasts daily from a dude ranch. Unfortunately, gangsters want the land the ranch is built on for its rich radium deposits, and know that if Autry misses a broadcast, he’ll lose his contract and the ranch. Oh, and there’s also the super-scientific lost city of Murania built in the caverns below the ranch, filled with ray guns-wielding Thunder Riders, robots with aluminum cowboy hats, and a sexy queen with a TV set that can allow her to see anyone and anywhere she wants (does the NSA know about that?). Both the gangsters and Muranians want Autry off the property, and will do whatever they can to stop him from making his broadcasts.

This famous Mascot cliffhanger features lots of exciting western action mixed with FLASH GORDON-styled sci-fi thrills, and plenty of country crooning. VCI’s DVD – like THE PHANTOM CREEPS, below – shows lots of age-related damage and debris, and plenty of random missing frames. Still, it looks better than most of the budget DVD versions of the serial that are commercially available.

The set also includes a bonus Gene Autry western, BOOTS & SADDLES, a couple of informative text features, a retrospective featurette, various cliffhanger trailers, and a still gallery.

This is the best version of THE PHANTOM EMPIRE I’ve seen on commercial DVD. If you’re a serial fan, you might want to pick it up.

BUY: Phantom Empire