In 1987, Captain William "Buck" Rogers pilots his space shuttle on a mission but a meteor storm freezes him into an orbit that returns him to Earth 500 years later. In the year 2491, his shuttle is found and captured by the Draconian flagship, under the command of Princess Ardala and her henchman Kane. Reviving him, they return him to Earth after planting a homing beacon aboard his shuttle to track a path through Earth's defense barrier. Now, Buck Rogers must adjust to the 25th century, and convince the Terrans that the Draconians are planning to conquer Earth.
Directed by: Daniel Haller
. Starring: Gil Gerard
, Pamela Hensley
, Erin Gray
, Henry Silva
, Tim O'Connor
, Joseph Wiseman
, Duke Butler
, Felix Silla
, Caroline Smith
, John Dewey Carter
, Kevin Coates
, David Cadiente
, Gil Serna
. Music by: Stu Phillips
THE ADAPTATION of a character from the print media to motion pictures is always a tricky proposition. Be the original print be that of strictly prose narrative or one of those illustrated narrations born of the drawing board and published in the Daily & Sunday Newspaper Comics Pages or in the much less legitimate Comic Books; there would always have to be some form or other of an adaptation process. No matter what the adapted work turned out, it was certain that there would be legions of dissatisfied. (And that goes double for me and Schultz!)
WITH this picture of BUCK ROGERS IN THE 25th CENTURY (Bruce Lansbury ProductionsGlen A. Larson ProductionUniversal Pictures, 1979) a new incarnation of the Buck Rogers legend came forth into the spotlight. We knew the storyline, but could only imagine just how it would be rendered. We did have some sneaking suspicions about just was in store, at least in part.
BEING mindful about what had been done prior with Comic BookComic Strip properties, no one expected a straight page to screen adaptation. Remember, this was the late 1970's and our pop culture had been inundated by the old "Camp Craze" for some time; for it was a full "Baker's Dozen" Years earlier that BATMAN had hit the airwaves. After that, no "Funny Paper" or "Joke Book" properties would ever be the same in their celluloid counterparts.
THE original Buck Rogers appeared in a pair of novels published in AMAZING STORIES Magazine in 1929. Titled "Armageddon: 2419 A.D.", the story had spelunker, Anthony Rogers getting caught unawares in a cave filling up with a sleep-inducing gas; kind of like having a cavern full of ferrous oxide (that's Laughing Gas, Schultz!) He slept in that next night for a record 500 years; only to awaken to a future Planet Earth dominated by a pack of outlaw gangs.
NEWS about this Sci-fi pulp magazine unqualified success of the appearance in the Amazing Stories lineup soon spread far and wide.BEfore long the John Dille Company had negotiated a pact with the author, Phillip F. Nowlan, to bring the adventurer to the "funny papers". Passing up the formal sounding given name of Anthony, the strip version gave him a nickname of "Buck", which was and remains popular to this day.
SO the world of the 25th Century Earth was filled with both scientific miracles and political strife. Regular characters in the comic strip included Wilma Deering, her little brother, Buddy Deering, combination NASA Scientist, President and U.N. Secretary General in Dr. Huer and Space Pirate turned Dictator, Killer Kane. The strip did well for itself and a BUCK ROGERS RADIO Show soon popped up; remaining a staple on the networks for years, which didn't assure success on TV as a Buck Rogers TV show in the early 1950's never got up much steam and fizzled out muy pronto.
WE should mention the Universal Pictures BUCK ROGERS Serial (Universal, 1939); which starred Buster Crabbe as Buck, Constance Moore as Wilma and Jackie Moran as Buddy WADE! As he was written in as Buck's 20th Century partner in not Cave Exploration, but rather in piloting a Dirigible. The adaptation changed Buddy's name, century of birth, occupation and relationship to Miss Deering.
FINALLY in getting down to today's special guest dissectee in this BUCK ROGER movie.
FIRST of all, Buck (Gil Gerard) was now a wise cracking NASA Astronaut, who was held in an orbit around Earth in a Space Capsule filled with that old laughing gas stuff. He is rescued by 25th Century Earthlings in what had been the USA. There he meets up with Wilma (Erin Gray-Woo,woo,woo,woo!), Dr. Huer (Tim O'Connor), one Princess Ardala (Pamela Hensley-Woo,woo,woo,woo!) and Killer Kane (Henry Silva). Buddy is neither Wilma's brother nor Buck's 29th Century juvenile assistant. Buddy was out, kaput, persona non gratis.
IN place of Buddy the production team gave us a short, little, cherubic robot named Twiki (voiced by the late Mel Blanc). That he has a remote resemblance to R2D2 of STAR WARS fame is not a coincidence; as the combo of R2D2 and C3PO caused such a stir.
AS for the movie, it seems as if the creative team wasn't quite sure as to which direction they should go with it. Much in the same way that the BATMAN Series made use of "Camp" humor and super serious, overly melodramatic situations, this movie accomplished the balance by using innuendo and double entendre coming by way of a wise cracking, but obviously testosterone laden Anthony "Buck" Rogers." IN many respects, it is somewhat remarkable that this BUCK ROGERS turned out as well as it did; for much like the middle of the road attitude that was maintained in regards to the mood of the project; the film itself was shackled with a sort of split-personality. You see, the movie is classified as being 'Made for TV', it did have an extensive theatrical release early in the year; only to be shown on NBC as the premiere, special length episode of the BUCK ROGERS TV Series. It is the same way that National ComicsDC introduced the SUPERMAN Series some 27 years earlier. (The feature, SUPERMAN AND THE MOLE MEN (National ComicsLippert Pictures, 1951) was put on Television as a 2 Part adventure.
VERY much a positive is the excellent job that was done in designing and mounting the project. There were excellent choices made in the area of costuming. Buck, Wilma and company looked very much in 1970's style; but most of the others were done in a style that was very much in keeping with the look of the Buck Rogers Comic Strip, For that matter, so did most of the gadgetry, spaceships and the studio created sets on far-off, alien worlds.
Review by John T. Ryan from the Internet Movie Database.