|Copyright 1979 Universal Pictures
| Reviewed by Andrew Borntreger on 23 December 2006
- Buck Rogers - Gil Gerard! I know his major claim to fame was this series, but there you go.
- Wilma - Erin Gray! Colonel in charge of the Earth Defense Forces. Who did not have a crush on her as a teenager?
- Dr. Huer - I swear that this guy is Peter Cushing's long lost twin.
- Dr. Theophilis - Kids, with an old canteen, some LEDs, and a 9V battery, you too can have a computer counselor.
- Twiki - Does anyone have a reasonable explanation why he says, "Beda-beda-beda-beda." at the beginning of every sentence?
- Princess Ardala - She has a serious hot spot for men from the 20th Century. I bet she would like TV dinners, too.
- Kane - Human, but a loyal servant of the Draconian empire.
- Tigerman - This would be Ardala's pet bodyguard, one of the strong, silent, feline types.
|Captain Buck Rogers is launched into space aboard a shuttle-like craft. Due to a freak accident, his ship is thrown into an irregular orbit that will not bring him near Earth for five hundred years. Lucky for Buck, the accident also perfectly freezes him. Instead of a crumbling mummy, he will drift back near Earth's orbit as a freezer-burned corpsicle.
So begins the pilot episode of "Buck Rogers." The basis is a little silly, though the Narrator's serious tone and demeanor try to convince us otherwise. It is also incredibly unlikely. Even if someone could be cryogenically frozen by a freak cosmic occurrence, very few astronauts have ventured into outer space. One possibility is that Buck distorts probability around himself. Previously in life, he could well have been struck by lightning, minutes after buying a winning lottery ticket, following a miraculous recovery from rabies. Maybe the guy is just that good.
Anyway, what happens next is one of the most gratifying b-movie scenes ever. Our hero lies on the floor, apparently asleep, atop a huge, lit version of the Buck Rogers logo. Meanwhile, various women crawl across the logo, tossing their hair and challenging the camera with serious "come hither" looks. A few of the girls grab Buck's limp body and roll him around, evidently intent on instigating a little comatose romance. Best of all, and I cannot believe I did not mention this earlier, is the song! The song is...well, there are not many songs like it in the world. Good grief and gravy! Who thought up this stuff? I still giggle like a schoolgirl when I watch this movie; all because of that loony sequence.
Earth in the 25th Century is facing extreme peril. Most of civilization was destroyed by nuclear war. The survivors have recovered and continued to push out the boundaries of technology. Unfortunately, humanity relies heavily on trade with other galactic civilizations. That lifeline is being threatened by pirate ships attacking cargo vessels. The Draconian Empire has offered a protection and trade agreement, but the Emperor's true motivation is to conquer the Earth. The pirate ships are even Draconian craft, sent to precipitate the crisis. Ardala and Kane have been dispatched to ostensibly cement the trade agreement. Their true purpose is to attack the Earth's defenses from within, providing a clear path for the invasion force.
Into this tangled web of intrigue drifts a frozen NASA shuttle. At first, Buck's ship is identified as a hostile by the Draconians and is fired upon. The lightly damaged shuttle is then brought aboard for further investigation. Utilizing their exceptional science, the Draconians thaw out our hero. Do a pretty good job, too; he doesn't even stutter. Ardala is intrigued by the male artifact, but Kane distrusts the situation. In compromise, they agree to return Buck to his ship.
For his part, Captain Rogers believes that his experience aboard the Draconian ship is a hallucination. He proceeds back to Earth, singing happily. Unfortunately, this means he will run smack into the defense shield (which is invisible) and turn into a ball of plasma. Colonel Deering intercepts the wayward shuttle. Buck finds himself, once again, detained by people who are rather suspicious of his origins and motives.
One facet of technology that advanced in functionality, but not design, is robotics. Buck is interviewed by Dr. Theophilis, who is not a man, but an artificial intelligence. He is also not a robot. What he looks like is either a funky digital wall clock or something a bored prop manager might create from a spare canteen. Mobility for the electronic counselor is provided by Twiki.
The special effects are impressive at times. I always thought that the Earth fighters were a cool design, though the Draconian ship design is bland. Some of the matte shots are really good (for the time and production).
Unable to believe that everyone and everything he loved is gone, Buck leaves the safety of the city and explores the ruins of Chicago; Twiki, with Theophilis, tags along. Oblivious of the mutant horde trailing him, the time-traveling astronaut enters a decrepit graveyard and actually locates the headstone for some of his family members. I am telling you, this guy twists reality by his very presence. Anyway, the mutants attack. Buck keeps them at bay for a time with precision judo chops and leg sweeps, until there are too many. Wilma picks that very moment to arrive. The jumpsuit-uniformed members of Earth's defense forces drive up in a laser machinegun-armed vehicle, guns blazing (literally).
A short plot detour happens when Earth technicians discover the tracking device that Kane had attached to the guidance system on Buck's ship. He is tried and sentenced to death for treason. It does not matter, because Colonel Deering stops by and asks, "Do you want to fly out and meet the Draconians with me?" Funny way to get off of death row.
Ardala feigns innocence when she meets Buck again. Despite that, she is obviously calculating just how much fun she could have by seducing the astronaut. She has her chance during a ritzy party given in honor of the Draconians. Disgusted by the formal dancing (Who exactly classifies ballroom steps and handing a Christmas ornament around as "dancing?"), our hero coaxes the band into making funky synthesizer music. He and the princess then get down on the dance floor.
I have to admit that Ardala looks inviting as she prowls around the dance floor. Funny headdress and all, she is still something to desire. To drive home the point that life is unfair to us mere mortals, Wilma comes on to Buck like there will not be a tomorrow as well. Evenings like I just described only happen to thieves of fate, like Buck (or Hugh Hefner).
Before moving on, I should not fail to mention that the Draconian Emperor has twenty-nine other daughters. Twenty-nine! If Draconian physiology is anything like our own, I would not want to live in that house. For five days out of the month, the royal palace must resemble something out of Dante's Inferno. Maybe that is why kings and emperors need large houses?
Knowing that something scandalous is afoot, Buck accepts Ardala's offer to join her aboard her flagship. Once there, he drugs her and leaves her alone in bed. The curious earthman waylays a guard to obtain a Draconian uniform, then goes snooping around. He discovers dozens of "pirate" ships in the hanger bays, being prepped and armed for the surprise attack. Quickly settling on a plan of action, Buck begins stuffing bombs into the exhaust ports of the fighters' engines. Twiki and Theophilis also stole aboard, to see what Buck was up to. The pair helps by contacting Earth and warning them of the impending attack.
What, you never heard of the old, "Bomb in the tailpipe trick?" Apparently, neither did the Draconians. What struck me as funny was that nobody even noticed Buck shoving ordnance into the engines. I guess that he could have played stupid.
Draconian Crew Chief: "Hey, did you just put a bomb into the main thruster exhaust?"
Buck: "Uh, yeah, just loading the bombs."
Draconian Crew Chief: "You idiot! Who taught you how to load bombs?" (Is suddenly knocked out cold by a blow from behind.)
Twiki: "Beda-beda-beda-beda-beda-beda! Are you all right, Buck?"
So I watched way too much television as a child. Specifically, this show.
|Things I Learned From This Movie:|| |
- Gravity is luminescent green in color.
- It is possible to conquer 3/4 of infinity. Unfortunately, the remaining 1/4 is really big.
- In the future, empty Sweet Factory stores will be used as prisoner detention centers.
- NASA ensures that all astronauts are masters of unarmed combat.
- Digital clocks are terrible lawyers.
- Spaceflight is full of sexual innuendo.
- Tigers do not have a solar plexus, but they do have 'nads.
- Men love women with nice racks. (I mean horns; like a bighorn sheep. What else could you think I mean?)
- Fighters should always have two seats. Not on account of requiring a two person crew - just in case.
- 3 mins - Hahahahaha! I cannot breathe! I am going to pass out.
- 13 mins - Stop waving at the evil henchman.
- 19 mins - Buck is wondering if Wilma looks as good as she sounds. Yes, yes she does.
- 40 mins - He is being tried by a jury of digital wall clocks?
- 48 mins - The Draconians have an awful early warning system.
- 61 mins - How many other daughters does the Emperor have?
- 71 mins - Talk about role reversal. If her plan had worked, Buck would have been fast asleep.
- 80 mins - The reason the Emperor is unable to conquer the other 1/4 of the universe is that they are too busy laughing at him.
- Kane: "His instrumentation was stopped, frozen solid, in the year 1987."
Ardala: "Are you telling me..."
Kane: "That the man may be five hundred years old!"
- Buck: "Matter of fact, I kind of like it out here. It's a bit primitive, but then it is the south side of Chicago."
Wilma: "Captain, we're wasting time. Let's go."
| ||Audio clips in wav format||SOUNDS||Starving actors speak out|| |
||Twiki: "Beda-beda-beda-beda." |
Buck: "What is that?"
Dr. Huer: "This is Twiki. He's your drone."
||Wilma: "For a man whose expertise is allegedly five centuries old, you seem quite opinionated." |
Buck: "You're right. It's none of my business how you blow up your world. My generation didn't know what they were doing either."
||Ardala: "You're quite a man, Captain Rogers. I have the feeling the Earth people believed your incredible story about being frozen for five hundred years."
||Wilma: "I confess, I thought the princess had you beguiled." |
Buck: "Well, I will say she had the nicest set of...horns at the ball."
Dr. Theophilis: "Yes, it was an attractive hat."
|Theme Song|| Listen to a clip from the soundtrack. |
| ||Click for a larger image||IMAGES||Scenes from the movie|| |
| ||Watch a scene||VIDEO||MPEG video files|| |
|Buck tries dancing to a futuristic waltz, but cannot get down to new age music. He decides to see how Ardala likes old fashion groovin'. She appears to be intrigued.
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