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Saturday Cinema: Gene Autry Does Science Fiction

We all know Gene Autry as ‘The Signing Cowboy’. but did you know that his first starring role on film was in the Mascot Serial The Phantom Empire. The really interesting thing about this serial is the plot is very science fictional. From Wikipedia:

A chance to be 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 skyscrapers, robots, rayguns, elevators that extend miles from the surface, and an icy, evil blonde Queen, Tika.

Super scientific undeground cities with Ice Queens as leaders? What’s not to like? And in a Western no less! Who knew Autry was such a visionary? Thanks to the magic of YouTube, I was able to find the first two reels of Chapter 2 of The Phantom Empire. Enjoy!

About JP Frantz (2323 Articles)
Has nothing interesting to say so in the interest of time, will get on with not saying it.

6 Comments on Saturday Cinema: Gene Autry Does Science Fiction

  1. “We all know Gene Autry as ‘The Signing Cowboy’…”

    More likely we all know him as the SINGING Cowboy…


  2. Perfect pick for Saturday morning (or afternoon). I love corny old serials. Too bad they don’t still make them. If you want to finish this one, all 12 chapters are available (streaming and in mpeg) the Internet Archive.

  3. LOL! Point Fred. πŸ˜€

  4. This was remade in a fashion for the short lived NBC series Cliffhangers in the late 70’s.

  5. Well, when I first read it, I had this picture of Autry doing American Sign Language with two hands while playing the guitar with his other two hands…


  6. Sci Fi trivia time!

    John Crowley uses a quote from PHANTOM EMPIRE in his book AEGYPT.

    The main character in AEGYPT is convinced there is a secret history behind human history, that the alchemy and magic and strange miracles of the ancient world actually did exist, but that some psychic disaster wiped out the hard evidence of them, changing the laws of nature to make what was once commonplace now impossible.

    But clues are littered across the landscape of the forgotten things, and will show up in the most unlikely places: In the Western serial is a scene where Gene Autry is restored by subterranean superscience to life, he speaks for a moment in the language of the dead, which no living men understand.

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