Lively, entertaining reviews of, and essays on, old and newer films and everything relating to them, written by professional author William Schoell.

Tuesday, January 8, 2008


BUCK ROGERS (1939). Directors: Ford Beebe and Saul A. Goodkind.

Colonel Buck Rogers (Buster Crabbe) and his young pal, Buddy ( Jackie Moran) wind up frozen in suspended animation after a dirigible crash and wake up five hundred years later in the 24th century. [Neither Buck nor Buddy have any reaction to the fact that everyone they know, including all of their loved ones, have died many decades in the past.] There they learn that organized crime has taken over and the world is run by the nasty – and rather colorless -- “Killer” Kane (Anthony Warden). Earth is trying to form an alliance with the “oriental” people of Saturn, but the Saturnians are afraid Buck and his buddies, including Lt. Wilma Deering (Constance Moore), are their enemies and that Kane is a benevolent leader [you would think that his nickname of “Killer” might have given them a clue!] -- and so on. The good earthlings live in a mountain lair known as Hidden City, which Kane is always trying to find the entrance to, and there are mindless, milling creatures called Zugs. There are some impressive matte paintings in this, but the cliffhangers are generally uninspired and often cheat, and the climax is completely unexceptional. This isn't as much fun as the Flash Gordon chapterplays and Kane is certainly no Ming the Merciless! The plexiglass land car or monorail is an asset, as are the art deco sets and ships. The serial features a transporter that disassembles and reassembles individual atoms to move people from place to place many, many years before Star Trek came up with a more sophisticated version of the same idea. The acting is competent, Crabbe is suitably heroic, Moore, pretty and Jackie Moran is a likable and plucky youngster.

Verdict: Okay, but not exactly a must-see. **.

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