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The Phantom Empire

39 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

*The Complete Mascot Serial in 12 Chapters *Authorized by the Gene Autry Estate *Gene Autry's first starring role on film in this Science Fiction Western *A Fantastic adventure with music, comedy, and action *12 Serial Chapters Complete *1935


Special Features

None.

Product Details

  • Actors: Gene Autry, Frankie Darro, Betsy King Ross, Smiley Burnett, Dorothy Christy
  • Directors: n, a
  • Format: Multiple Formats, Box set, Color, Dolby, Full Screen, NTSC
  • Language: English
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Number of discs: 3
  • Rated: NR (Not Rated)
  • Studio: Shout! Factory / Timeless Media
  • DVD Release Date: June 7, 2011
  • Run Time: 241 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (39 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B004WD1J6K
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #150,593 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

81 of 84 people found the following review helpful By Peter S. Lunde on April 11, 2000
Format: VHS Tape
Face it. No serial has ever become more than an 11 year-old boy's greatest fantasy. From buried treasures, to evil cloaked villains, men on Mars, Emperor Ming on the planet Mongo, or an empire beneath the earth's surface, serials engaged pre-teen boys with endless Saturday afternoon escapist fare.
When viewed today, production standards of most serials are ludicrous. And in general, the actors are just as ridiculous and rather painful to listen to. In short, serials are corny, unbelievable, and very very cheap.
But when I saw Gene Autry's 15-episode Phantom Empire in 1949 every Saturday following my swimming session at the Plainfield New Jersey YMCA while eating an egg salad sandwich that crumbled down my shirt, I was transported into another world that has never left me. The sheer idea of a huge city deep under the earth's surface, the beautiful Queen Tika lording over Murania as her evil counselors wreak havoc among the earthlings, Frankie Darro and his Thunder Riders (pail bucket on their heads and all), and hero Gene Autry singing through it all with his wonderful bouncy Oklahoma cowboy singing style, was a feast for my unformed mind and heart.
Each week for 15 weeks I breathlessly waited for another chapter in the unfolding epic. And when the final (so tragic to me then) episode ended it all, I floated home in a reverie that no amount of play could reproduce.
The only other serials that came close were the Flash Gordon series with Buster Crabbe, FG Conquers the Universe being the best. Others included Don Winslow of the Navy, the Bat Man series (Dr. Daka and his hungy crocodile in the Tunnel of Love), Tom Mix, and Rocket Man. There were so many.
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26 of 26 people found the following review helpful By jrc on June 8, 2011
Format: DVD Verified Purchase
This is a review of the Timeless Media Group release of the 1935 Mascot Serial, "The Phantom Empire." Empire is one of my all time favorite serials. Given that, I fell hook, line, and sinker for this new overpriced 3 disc set from Timeless "Authorized By The Gene Autry Estate."

Gene Autry did not produce or own exclusive rights to this public domain serial. This set claims to use as a source his own personal print. For $35, I expected it to shoot the moon. Not so fast, though. Gene's "personal copy" was evidently a 16mm print, because that's what this looks to be sourced from. No cleanup to image or sound has been done. Dirt, scratches, and other trash are apparent throughout. Timeless, not one of my favorite distributors (remember those great old Universal TV shows they licensed, and used horrible 16mm syndication prints as sources, e.g. Checkmate)?

I'm sure that Autry's agents forced Timeless to spread this 12-chapter serial over 3 platters to avoid over-compression, with the best possible intentions. No restoration or cleanup has been done. Sad.

The Serial Squadron sells a version of EMPIRE through their site, which is superior to this. Also, VCI has their own version out that looks pretty good. Nothing will ever be perfect for this title unless a first generation source can be found, and that's unlikely to happen. The folks at Serial Squadron did clean up their version digitally and certainly looks the best.

So, if you have either the VCI or Serial Squadron versions, you can't do much better by them. Timeless' price is ridiculous for what you get. The only supplement to amount to anything is a brief intro done for Autry's Melody Ranch Theater syndicated TV show that ran his films. It's actually an intro for an edited feature version of the serial.
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25 of 27 people found the following review helpful By Daniel Matz on September 24, 2005
Format: DVD
For the record, please note that I am reviewing a specific version of "Phantom Empire", not the serial itself. The version I am talking about is by Digiview. Digiview makes those cheap DVDs you find at Walmart. You know, the ones that cost a dollar, and are packaged in slim cases. Like many companies of this type, Digiview specializes in public domain titles. This release is no exception. What you will get is a poor quality print with muffled sound, and no extras. Please ignore the cover which says "Digitally Remastered"; it is not. But I knew that when I bought this DVD used. What I didn't know was that this is an edited print which takes the 12 chapters of the serial and combines them into a bizarre 90 minute "movie".

So be advised, if you spot this DVD somewhere.

Maybe someday Image Entertainment will release a complete version, as they have done with the Flash Gordon serials. There is another company which has it in two volumes (six chapters per DVD), but from the reviews posted here, it appears as if that print isn't too hot either. Oh well, someday.
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15 of 16 people found the following review helpful By PATRICIA T. ALMDALE on December 31, 2001
Format: VHS Tape
This is the first film that Gene Autry made after his guest star role in Old Santa Fe with Ken Maynard. By all accounts his guest appearance wound up taking star billing over Maynard. He was then offered the role playing himself in this first western science fiction serial cliffhanger. You will see a young radio singer who he himself felt that he could not act, make a movie that set his career on fire. He is a radio star on Radio Ranch, which is a dude ranch as well. Evil scientist visit there and Gene find there is an entire world beneath the surface of the earth, called the City Of Murania. Great action and great cliff hangers. I can imagine the suspense theater goers experienced years ago as they waited from week to week to see how Gene got out of each and every dangerous ending. Autry was just learning how to act but did a terrific job of wowing the audience inspite of it all!!! He was on the way to the Top of the B western ratings and once he got there he stayed there!!! What a cowboy!!!
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