“If we could capture Gene Autry, Radio Ranch would soon become deserted, and the entrance to our underground kingdom would remain forever undiscovered.”
When singing cowboy Gene Autry is kidnapped by inhabitants of a uranium-rich kingdom in the middle of the earth, it’s up to two of his devoted young radio fans — Frankie (Frankie Darro) and Betsy (Betsy King Ross) — to rescue him.
Genres, Themes, Actors, and Directors:
- Science Fiction
Response to Peary’s Review:
As Peary notes, “lovers of ‘B’ westerns and sci-fi serials will get a kick out of this feature, which was condensed from the popular 12-part Mascot serial, The Phantom Empire” (now available in its original episodic form on DVD). Radio Ranch offers a truly heady mix of genres and elements (horses! songs! robots! revolutionaries! uranium thieves! an underground death chamber!), and seems squarely designed to appeal to adventure-seeking youngsters of the day. Playing himself, Gene Autry stars as “a radio singing star who discovers that crooks are trying to get uranium on his land”, and, “while running for his life… happens upon the cave entrance to a futuristic city… 20,000 feet below his Radio Ranch”, where he’s promptly captured and must be rescued by his brave young friends. As you’d expect, the acting is at the level of grammar school children putting on an after-school performance — and the costumes and sets aren’t much more sophisticated (the silly robot costumes were actually re-purposed in a Joan Crawford flick!). Meanwhile, the dialogue is about as basic as can be:
“Autry has escaped! You must find him at once and bring him to our rebel headquarters!”
It’s not exactly scintillating stuff — but it remains fascinating simply from a historical perspective.
Redeeming Qualities and Moments:
- A representative look at 1930s serial films
Yes, as a classic example of the serial “kiddie flick”. Check out Moria’s review for a nice overview of the genre. As a public domain title, Radio Ranch is available for free viewing on www.archive.org.
One thought on “Radio Ranch (1935)”
First viewing. Not must-see.
One from the vault! Thrills and spills – in a decidedly primitive manner! And villains on parade! Will Gene Autry save the day?!
In all honesty, the assessment given makes this curio seem like a lot more fun than it actually is. Sure, it’s all silly-as-heck; good for a few genuine giggles – and one can even appreciate the half-heartedness of the acting (it does come off like ‘game’ but low-level community theater stuff) – but a little of its repetitiveness goes a long way… and the novelty wears thin.
For those who are curious about very old-fashioned ‘adventure’ serials, here’s 70 minutes of it; have at it!