Thursday, June 25, 2009

The Phantom Empire

I watched it again the other night, this time with friends.

It was as wonderfully silly as I remembered.

Note: it is possible to watch it all in one night by fast-forwarding through the songs and plot summaries. I don't really recommend doing so, however. Something is lost when the songs are gone, and it's still quite a marathon.

If possible, give yourself at least two nights, preferably more. It is a serial, after all (On the other hand, something is gained by watching it with other people; compromises are sometimes necessary).

There is a lovely article about it here. I particularly enjoyed the history of the robots--I had already fallen in love with them & decided that I simply must have one. Now, I may have to go find the other two movies they "star" in:

Despite all the time and effort that went into creating Murania, the filmmakers chose not to construct their own robots. In fact, the robots were purchased from the Western Costume Company, a Hollywood institution that began supplying wardrobes to the film industry as early as 1912. The robots, which were primarily made out of cardboard, had been used previously in the Joan Crawford and Clarke Gable musical Dancing Lady (1933), where they were shown infringing upon Crawford’s personal freedoms.

Unlike other films that used robots as menacing villains or easy cannon fodder, the robots in The Phantom Empire were shown helping the citizens of Murania: they operated machinery, forged iron, opened doors, stood guard, and did other manual labor. As Queen Tika asks in the film, “Is that not better than living on the surface; mechanical men doing all the labor?” (The robots survived The Phantom Empire shoot and made a third screen appearance years later in the Columbia serial Captain Video: Master of the Stratosphere (1951).)

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