Friday, April 16, 2010

Retro View: Buck Rogers in the 25th Century

With little recent news (John Carter of Mars is reportedly finished filming now in England and is heading to Utah-wonder how many snoopers will be out there?) I decided to every once and a while take a look back at classic and not so classic films. And with two Bucks heading our way...

The year is 1987 and NASA has launched the last of its deep space probes. Launched on Ranger 3 is Captain William "Buck" Rogers (Gil Gerard). But a malfunction causes his ship to spin out of control and puts Buck in a form of suspended animation. Eventually he wakes up to discover that is the year 2491, that Earth had been nearly destroyed by a nuclear war and the Earth Defense Directorate, headed up by scientist Elias Huer (Tim O'Conner) is attempting to make peace with the human-like Draconians. Eventually Buck discovers that the Draconians have other plans-and along with Colonel Wilma Deering (Erin Gray) and the robot duo of Dr. Themopolous and Twiki tries to avert disaster. That and the sexy Draconian Princess Ardala (Pamela Hensley) who has other plans for Buck...

I have to admit-I like Buck Rogers in the 25th Century. This pilot film (which Universal did release to theaters before it aired) is a hoot and then some. The major issue I'm sure for the audiences of today (the post Dark Knight-crowds as I call 'em) is that the show is campy and I have a feeling that was the point. Unlike the previous Battlestar Galactica (which despite its Chariots of the Gods influence did attempt to take itself seriously) Buck Rogers was meant to be nothing more than entertainment. Of course I'm sure spandex, disco dancing and some of Ardala's headgear will probably cause much eye-rolling and head shaking but almost every sci-fi movie or show had those elements that tell you when it was made.

Once you move past though everything else works surprisingly well. Gerard brought a good sense of humor and the required dash and physicality to Buck without making him stereotypical or a buffoon. Gray also brings Wilma to life, again with a sense of humor. Of course there is Twiki (voiced by legend Mel Blanc) and while he is pretty much a R2-D2 clone, he isn't that bad. Of course for many the real highlight will be Hensley's Ardala-the ultimate princess hottie whose skimpy outfits and sex appeal I'm sure caused many to achieve puberty. (And I'm sure I'm alone but Hensley would have been my number one choice for Dejah Thoris. Take one look and you'll see why Lynn Collins has her work cut out.)

I'm not saying its some underrated masterpiece or that the series that followed was a classic (even though I've watched most of the first season and several episodes-especially the creepy "Space Vampire" and the fun "Planet of the Slave Girls" with a scenery chewing Jack Palance and the original Buck, Buster Crabbe as "Gordon"-are pretty good) but this Buck is a fun throwback that viewed in the right frame of mind will leave you entertained. My rating: ***

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