Sunday, January 25, 2009

Defenders of the Weak Episode 1

Yesterday morning, while having coffee, I turned on the TV to a movie channel, TBS I think. They were showing an old 1936 serial called, "Zorro Rides Again." It was a 12 episode serial and they showed chapters 10 and 11. I have no idea what the deuce they were thinking not including the 12th and final chapter...because now I don't know if the "new" Zorro caught the mustached bad guy, or not. I pulled the trailer below off YouTube, and as you can see, it's definitely campy. To a kid, at the time, I am sure it was high entertainment.

The fact that they choose not to air the final chapter of Zorro Lives..., brought to mind an event in my childhood that traumatized me for years.

When I was about 7 years old, my neighborhood theater was still showing serials in between movies, which most other theaters had quit doing a few years previous, if my memory serves me well. In this instance, the serial was titled, "The Phantom Empire" starring Gene Autry. It was made in 1933..old even in 1955. I hook, lined and fell for this serial that had not only horses and cowboys, but robots too!

I lived for every Saturday when my mom dropped me off at that theater. Some Saturdays she would let me sit through two presentations...I couldn't get enough. At about Chapter 8 or 9 (8 or 9 perfect Saturdays in my young life) the theater shut down to remodel, because it was changing it's family oriented films to ones with adult themes (I found out later). That is to say, in the vernacular of the era...a girlie show theater. Abruptly, my vicarious life with the "underground men" came to a halt. I was crushed. I would never know the conclusion. It haunted me for years. However I finally forgot about it in the ensuing years. That is until about ten years ago when I saw an old Gene Autry movie on TV. It reminded me of my shattered entertainment dream and I told my wife about it. The next Christmas, under the tree was a present to me in a flat box. I opened it and behold, two complete DVD's of Gene Autry and the "underground men" (The Phantom Empire).

The premise of Phantom is as follows, taken from an old serial website (which I neglected to note):

When the ancient continent of Mu sank beneath the ocean, some of its inhabitants survived in caverns beneath the sea. Cowboy singer Gene Autry stumbles upon the civilization, now buried beneath his own Radio Ranch. The Muranians have developed technology and weaponry such as television and ray guns. Their rich supply of radium draws unscrupulous speculators from the surface. The peaceful civilization of the Muranians is corrupted by the greed from above, and it becomes Autry's task to prevent all-out war, ideally without disrupting his regular radio show.

Here then is the trailer:

More Saturday fantasies in the next "dazzling" installment...chapter...episode.


Fitzgerald said...

Cool post, my step dad and I used to watch old westerns during the sixities on TV. We loved "the hair trigger gun play" LOL. And I too loved going to the movies as a boy, my cousin and I would walk down town to see movies.

jadedj said...

Fitz---I hope this gave you a smile then :)

Mary Kitt-Neel said...

My brother and I used to watch "Shock Theatre" every Saturday after the cartoons had finished. As I recall, they showed some good movies, like "The Day the Earth Stood Still," and some really awful ones, like "The Blob."

Doug said...

So, you're the defender of the weak episode, then, all twelve of them :-)

Chimpplanet said...

Talking about "Zorro Rides Again.", when I was a child I was in a boarding vocational school (Don Bosco) and every weekend they showed two chapters of this serial. You always had to wait a whole week to find out if Zorro made it as the horse-drawn wagon fell off the cliff. It was a "cliff hanger". LOL

jadedj said...

Doug---"Dazzling" defender.

Chimp---After reading your comment, it took me a minute to connect the two...Zorro...and the school. Zorro was Catholic and that's a Catholic school, right?

That was the had to wait a week to find out if the hero or heroine survived. You had to come back the next week and PAY again to see the results. I'm thinking YOU should have gotten to see the entire thing in one sitting. Sorry, man.

jadedj said...

Mary-Kitt---The Day The Earth Stood Still and the Thing From Outer Space are my two all-time favorite sci-fi movies

Did you realize The Blob starred Steve McQueen? I'm sure after he became a major star, that one made him cringe when mentioned.

Judy said...

JJ : Wow, I had all but forgotten about these!

I watched the video and see how funny the people look moving so fast,lol.

Me too. I loved to go "downtown" on Saturday to the matinee to see usually cowboy movies! It was $.25 back then. :)

Then I remember watching the cowboy shows on our tiny TV that us kids had to sit quite near in a circle on the floor to see it!

jadedj said...

Judy---I think children had lower entertainment expectations in those days...obviously, looking at these. Hot stuff then.

intelliwench said...

I think real life should come with breaks for songs.

jadedj said...

intell---and donning capes...and bucket head gear.