Buck Rogers (serial)

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Buck Rogers
Directed byFord Beebe
Saul A. Goodkind
Produced byBarney A. Sarecky
Written byNorman S. Hall
Ray Trampe
Dick Calkins
Based on Buck Rogers created by Philip Francis Nowlan
StarringBuster Crabbe
Constance Moore
Jackie Moran
Anthony Warde
C. Montague Shaw
Jack Mulhall
CinematographyJerome Ash
Edited byJoseph Gluck
Louis Sackin
Alvin Todd
Distributed byUniversal Pictures
Release date
  • February 2, 1939 (1939-02-02)
Running time
12 chapters (237 min)
CountryUnited States

Buck Rogers is a 1939 science fiction film serial, produced by Universal Pictures. It stars 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.


In 1938, Lieutenant Buck Rogers (Buster Crabbe) and Buddy Wade (Jackie Moran) are part of the crew of a dirigible flying over the North Pole. They are caught in a savage storm and crash. They are ordered to release the experimental Nirvano Gas, which (unbeknownst to them) will put them in suspended animation until they are rescued. 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 in the year 2440 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. They volunteer to go to Saturn, where they hope that they can find help in their fight against Kane. Wilma Deering (Constance Moore) is assigned to accompany them. 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.

Production notes[edit]

This 12-part Buck Rogers movie serial was launched in 1939. It starred Buster Crabbe, who had played the role of Flash Gordon in the serials Flash Gordon and Flash Gordon's Trip to Mars 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.

Feature versions of the serial[edit]

In 1953, the 1939 movie serial was edited into a feature film entitled Planet Outlaws, by Sherman Krellberg for release via Goodwill Pictures Inc..[1] 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 which was later 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). The original "Planet Outlaws" and also "Destination Saturn" have both been available in video format since the early 1980s, and as early as 1970 were both available for user-purchase in 16mm film format from Thunderbird Pictures. 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 "Laughing Gravy" Weimer, a photo gallery and the 1935 Buck Rogers short feature originally shown at the 1933-34 Worlds Fair.


Chapter titles[edit]

  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
  7. Primitive Urge
  8. Revolt of the Zuggs
  9. Bodies Without Minds
  10. Broken Barriers
  11. A Prince in Bondage
  12. War of the Planets


See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Planet Outlaws (1953)". IMDB. Retrieved 7 January 2019.
  2. ^ Cline, William C. (1984). "Filmography". In the Nick of Time. McFarland & Company, Inc. pp. 223–224. ISBN 0-7864-0471-X.

External links[edit]

Preceded by
Scouts to the Rescue (1939)
Universal Serial
Buck Rogers (1939)
Succeeded by
The Oregon Trail (1939)