Buck Rogers [Serial]

Buck Rogers [Serial]

Director: Ford I. Beebe, Saul A. Goodkind

Cast: Ford I. Beebe, Saul A. Goodkind, Larry "Buster" Crabbe, Jackie Moran

     
 

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Buck Rogers was never considered as good a serial as Buster Crabbe's three Flash Gordon serials for Universal, but it was as fine a chapterplay as was ever made. The story is true to its comic strip origins -- Lt. Buck Rogers, leader of a polar expedition by the dirigible Shenandoah, and young Buddy Wade (Jackie Moran) are left in suspended animation when the…  See more details below

Overview

Buck Rogers was never considered as good a serial as Buster Crabbe's three Flash Gordon serials for Universal, but it was as fine a chapterplay as was ever made. The story is true to its comic strip origins -- Lt. Buck Rogers, leader of a polar expedition by the dirigible Shenandoah, and young Buddy Wade (Jackie Moran) are left in suspended animation when the ship crashes. They awaken 500 years later to find the Earth riven by the tail end of a war between the forces of the ruthless totalitarian ruler Killer Kane (Anthony Warde) (whose city bears an unpleasant resemblance to New York City) and the Hidden City of America, the planet's last bastion of freedom and democracy. Rogers and Wade quickly adapt to their new surroundings and prove invaluable to the forces of the Hidden City. A daring and impetuous pilot and fighter, with a two-fisted 1930s sensibility about right and wrong, Rogers leads an expedition to Saturn to enlist the aid of its inhabitants in battling Kane's forces, and ultimately mounts the final assault on Kane and his city in the course of 12 action-filled and special effects-packed chapters. There is something compelling, not only in the beautifully designed (for the time) special effects and the sincere acting in this serial, but in its story as well. The notion of a modest, self-effacing American hero taking charge of a deteriorating international situation and reaching out to other allies for assistance is so, well, American, and such an expansive, liberal, 1930s vision of what we were about that Buck Rogers could easily be the most covertly "political" of all serials. Beyond that subtext, the cliffhangers are spaced beautifully, at least three to each chapter. Buster Crabbe, whatever his technical limitations as an actor, seems born to play Rogers, and among the other unusual elements of casting is Philip Ahn, an actor of Korean descent who spent most of his life playing Japanese spies and soldiers, playing a Saturnian, and Carleton Young, a future member of John Ford's stock company, in a key supporting role. The source material isn't in close to perfect shape, and some scenes are too dark, but it is clean enough to pass muster, especially at the price being asked. The DVD opens with one of the most elaborate introductory sequences to be issued by an independent manufacturer, running all of two minutes and leading to a clever menu based on images and sounds from the film itself. The menu is fairly easy to manipulate and opens on bonus materials that include handy capsule bios and filmographies of the lead players and director Ford Beebe. The two-sided disc repeats the same bonus materials on the second side, with one extra feature -- trailers for The Adventures of Red Ryder and The Great Alaskan Mystery (a pair of serials that VCI already offers). Less handy is the fact that the disc doesn't show a time read-out on when it is in play mode, but considering that Buck Rogers never showed up on videocassette or laserdisc, it's difficult to complain too loudly about the details of this release. Yes, the image could be cleaner and sharper and have deeper contrasts, but it looks no worse than television showings of the serial in the early '60s, and the action is so engaging and presented so breezily that one can overlook these defects, just enjoying what is here.

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Product Details

Release Date:
08/29/2000
UPC:
0089859824821
Original Release:
1939
Rating:
NR
Source:
Vci Video
Presentation:
[B&W]
Sound:
[Dolby Digital]
Time:
4:01:00

Cast & Crew

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Scene Index

Side #1 -- SIDE A
0. Chapters 1-6
1. Tomorrow's World
2. Tragedy on Saturn
3. The Enemy's Stronghold
4. The Sky Patrol
5. The Phantom Plane
6. The Unknown Command
Side #2 -- SIDE B
0. Chapters 7-12
7. Primitive Urge
8. Revolt of the Zuggs
9. Bodies Without Minds
10. Broken Barriers
11. A Price in Bondage
12. War of the Planets

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