If you just can't get enough of the notion of a cowboy mixed-genre movie, then you'll be delighted to know about S'more Entertainment's funky boxed set of eight public domain titles including the oddly named RADIO RANCH feature version of the Gene Autry's 1935, 12 episode movie serial THE PHANTOM EMPIRE.
This would have been an interesting film to sample or remake with modern FX technology. Although I have a feeling that Spielberg and Favreau certainly referenced this goofy serial in the construction (it wasn't really "written") of COWBOYS & ALIENS. The movie was originally conceived to compete with the popular BUCK ROGERS series. The feature version and serial both center on the discovery of an advanced underground civilization by a singing cowboy. Doesn't this just scream for a redo? Or maybe it's more an off-Broadway musical?
Autry - as revered as he is here in the desert with his titular "trail" and statue, never really did it for me when I was a kid. He always seemed fake, somehow. But Roy Rogers could ride, shoot and sing - I think all at the same time. He seemed more "real." Maybe it was his wardrobe, dog, horse, sidekick Gabby and sweetie Dale. Gene had Pat Buttrum. Need I say more?
Other titles in the DVD set include: GHOST PATROL, SKY BANDITS (1940), GUN PACKER (1938), TOMBSTONE CANYON (1932), RIDERS OF THE WHISTLING SKULL (1937), SADDLE MOUNTAIN ROUNDUP (1941) and VANISHING RIDER (1935).
I especially liked the western horror TOMBSTONE CANYON with the always stalwart and reliable Ken Maynard (what a great vintage poster!) and the semi-scary RIDERS OF THE WHISTLING SKULL (excellent title!) with Ray "Crash" Corrigan.