Buck Rogers (serial)
|Directed by||Ford Beebe
Saul A. Goodkind
|Produced by||Barney A. Sarecky|
|Written by||Norman S. Hall
Based on Buck Rogers created by Philip Francis Nowlan
C. Montague Shaw
|Edited by||Joseph Gluck
|Distributed by||Universal Pictures|
|Release date(s)||February 2, 1939|
|Running time||12 chapters (237 min)|
Buck Rogers is a 1939 Universal serial film starring Buster Crabbe (who had previously played the title character in two Flash Gordon serials and would return for a third in 1940) as the eponymous hero, Constance Moore, Jackie Moran and Anthony Warde. It was based on the Buck Rogers character created by Philip Francis Nowlan, which had appeared in magazines and comic strips since 1928.
The story begins with Buck Rogers (Buster Crabbe) and Buddy Wade (Jackie Moran) in the midst of a dirigible flight over the North Pole. They are caught in a savage storm and crash - but not before they release an experimental substance called Nirvano Gas that they hope will preserve them until rescue can arrive. The Nirvano Gas works, but the dirigible is buried in an avalanche and is not found until 500 years have passed. When Buck and Buddy are found, they awaken to a world ruled by the ruthless dictator, Killer Kane (Anthony Warde), and his army of "super-racketeers". Only those who live in the "Hidden City", run by the benevolent scientist Dr. Huer (C. Montague Shaw) and his military counterpart, Air Marshal Kragg (William Gould), resist the criminal rulers of Earth.
Buck and Buddy join the resistance, and they set out for Saturn, where they hope that they can find help in their fight against Kane. Saturn is run by Aldar (Guy Usher) and the Council of the Wise and Prince Tallen. To the dismay of Buck and Buddy, they also discover that Kane has dispatched ambassadors of his own, headed by his loyal henchman, Captain Laska (Henry Brandon). The serial then becomes a back-and-forth struggle between Buck and Kane to secure the military support of Saturn for the struggles on Earth.
This 12-part Buck Rogers movie serial was launched in 1939. It starred Buster Crabbe, who had previously played the role of Flash Gordon in two movie serials prior to Buck Rogers. Constance Moore played Lieutenant Wilma Deering, the only woman in the film, and Jackie Moran was Buddy Wade, a character who did not appear in other versions of the Buck Rogers franchise, but who was clearly modeled on the Sunday strip character Buddy Deering. Anthony Warde played "Killer Kane", Buck Rogers' enemy; this was the only time that Warde, who usually portrayed evil underlings in serials, played a lead villain. Korean-American actor Philson Ahn, younger brother of noted actor Philip Ahn, played Prince Tallen, a Saturnian native who befriends Buck Rogers.
The noted actor and "crown prince of stuntmen" David Sharpe, who appeared in over 4,500 films over the course of a seven-decade career, also appeared in the Buck Rogers serial in several roles: as one of Kane's pilots, a Hidden City sentry, and a Saturnian lieutenant.
The serial had a small budget and saved money on special effects by re-using material from other stories: background shots from the futuristic musical Just Imagine (1930), as the city of the future, the garishly stenciled walls from the Azura palace set in Flash Gordon's Trip to Mars, and even the studded leather belt that Crabbe wore in Flash Gordon's Trip to Mars, turned up as part of Buck's uniform.
In 1953, the 1939 movie serial was edited into a feature film entitled Planet Outlaws. Then it was edited again to feature length and titled Destination Saturn for syndication to television, in 1965. Finally, the serial was edited once again into a feature film format in the late 1970s, this version simply entitled Buck Rogers with the theatrical poster advertising, "Star Wars owes it all to Buck Rogers", and later was sold on videotape in the early 1990s by VCI Entertainment under the catalogue title of Planet Outlaws (which title, to make it appear legitimate, was also superimposed onto the first shot of film following the main titles). VCI released all twelve installments on DVD in September 2000. In November 2009, VCI released a special 70th anniversary edition on DVD, with extras including "The History of Buck Rogers" by Clifford Weimer, a photo gallery and the 1935 Buck Rogers short feature originally shown at the 1933-34 Worlds Fair.
- Buster Crabbe as Buck Rogers
- Constance Moore as Wilma Deering. This was the only serial appearance for Moore, a singer on radio and the New York stage.
- Jackie Moran as George "Buddy" Wade
- Anthony Warde as "Killer" Kane
- C. Montague Shaw as Doctor Huer
- Jack Mulhall as Captain Rankin
- Guy Usher as Aldar
- William Gould as Air Marshal Kragg
- Philson Ahn as Prince Tallen
- Henry Brandon as Captain Laska
- Tomorrow's World
- Tragedy on Saturn
- The Enemy's Stronghold
- The Sky Patrol
- The Phantom Plane
- The Unknown Command
- Primitive Urge
- Revolt of the Zuggs
- Bodies Without Minds
- Broken Barriers
- A Prince in Bondage
- War of the Planets
- "Buck Rogers" OFFICIAL WEBSITE(c) The Dille Family Trust[dead link]
- Buck Rogers at the Internet Movie Database
- Planet Outlaws (1953 film, 68 minutes) is available for free download at the Internet Archive [more]
- Buck Rogers at AllMovie
- Buck Rogers.com
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