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The Phantom Empire (1935): Another one of those bizarre '30s hybrids;  the science fiction western.  No, that's not right.  The science fiction singing cowboy western.  Gene Autry the singing cowboy plays... "Gene Autry" the singing cowboy (Coincidence?  You decide!) who broadcasts a daily radio programme from his Radio Ranch.  Unfortunately, his radio career is being constantly upset by gangsters wanting to get their hands on his ranch and its rich radium deposits.  If that wasn't enough, his ranch is also the entry point of the very advanced and very hostile Lost City of Murania, which lies 20,000 feet beneath the Earth's surface.  Each week, Autry has to deal with murder attempts, sabotage, frame-ups, and execution as he fights to make his daily radio singing gig or lose the ranch.

The robots of the Muranians are interesting in that they are one of the few serial robots not to be used exclusively as cannon fodder or underemployed henchmen.  The scenes in Murania often show the robots operating machinery, forging iron, opening doors, standing guard, running errands, taking some of the strain off the royal torturer, and running about with cricket bats for no readily apparent reason.

Here's an obscure little fact: The robots from The Phantom Empire were actually a leftover from the Clark Gable/Joan Crawford musical  Dancing Lady (1933), which had a number featuring a group of robots infringing on Miss Crawford's personal freedoms.  If you've ever seen the film, you'll recall that there were a heck of a lot of robots dancing around in that one.  True, but in an economy move, only one of the robots was made out of metal.  The others, which were only seen in long shot, were made out of cardboard.

Another obscure fact: Frankie Darro, who played "Frankie" (How do they come up with these names?), was also the actor inside Robby the Robot in Forbidden Planet.

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