The Scoop: 1979 PG, directed by Daniel Haller and starring Gil Gerard, Erin Gray, Henry Silva, and Pamela Hensley
Tagline: The original space man! The ultimate trip! Buck Rogers swings back to earth and lays it on the 25th century!
Summary Capsule: Backdoor pilot turned theatrical feature about a groovy astronaut who wakes up in the future.
Eunice’s Rating: “That’s pretty freaky, Bowie I hear that space is a pretty freaky place Isn’t it cold out in the Depths of space, Bowie?”
Eunice’s Review: In the far off future of 1987, Captain Buck Rogers went into space in a single manned deep space probe, Ranger III. Some techno babble happens resulting in Buck being perfectly preserved by being flash frozen. While his ship does return to his re-entry point, instead of five months it’s been five hundred years!
Buck’s spaceship eventually comes into contact with a, much larger, Draconian flagship carrying Princess Ardala, oldest daughter of Emperor Draco, and her greasy traitor-to-Earth henchman Kane. Kane reanimates Buck thinking he’s some sort of spy from Earth, Ardala meanwhile finds his hirsute chest and twentieth century manner of speaking attractive. Kane decides to use Buck as a decoy/unwitting spy to get the secret codes to Earth’s defense systems.
On the ship Buck thinks he’s still dreaming (the futuristic version of Aspirin is awesome), so when he approaches Earth he thinks he’s just coming in for his scheduled landing. Instead he gets escorted in by a fighter craft squad led by Col. Wilma Deering so he doesn’t get vaporized. Buck ends up in the middle of a political hotbed on a burned out brink of extinction Earth and now the Earthlings think Buck is a spy for the pirates that have been attacking the trade routes.
It’s about here Buck gets informed with some exposition. We find out that the United States collapsed almost five hundred years ago during an event called “The Great Holocaust.” Probably nuclear war, but it’s not ever detailed. Now the world capital is a domed city just outside what used to be Chicago that, because humans messed it up the first time, has robots making all the important decisions. Outside the climate controlled sanctuary is a wasteland peopled with mutant outcasts. Earth teeters on the brink depending on trade with other planets to survive.
On the surface, the Draconians are on their way to talk a peace treaty, they’ll protect the routes if Earth will let them use them as a landing point, but Ardala has plans of her own. She wants to take over Earth overshadowing her twenty-nine sisters and be free of her father’s control.
Along with movies like The Villain, Condorman, and The Black Hole, Buck Rogers was one of my most rewatched movies. Two, count ’em TWO, VHS copies, I wore out the first one. Looking back now I find myself going ‘Really, young me?’ but I’d be lying if I said I didn’t still find it entertaining.
It all starts with the opening credits. The narrator tells us that while sleeping Buck hasn’t been able to tell what’s real and what’s fantasy. You might think this would make for someone going insane, but the credits show what Buck’s been dreaming about: A James Bond-esque girl fest with Buck getting some make out action. For over five hundred years. [There’s no way I’m not linking this]
Basically Buck Rogers is a space adventure romp. As you can guess, Buck saves the day several times making you wonder how Earth has managed to survive for five hundred years without him. The ladies and the robots love him. And there are a few space battles with that classic *pew* *pew* laser noise. Think Flash Gordon, only not quite so over the top because it started life as a TV movie/backdoor pilot [see Intermission! below].
Because of this we’re introduced to a slew of characters: Wilma the tough as nails but good hearted military woman, Ardala the femme fatale wannabe, Dr. Theopolis the “sensitive” robot (and, yes, the movie is pretty clear that those quotation marks belong there), and Twiki the most annoying robot drone ever.
Buck is a mouthy sure of himself time traveling space cowboy (not a cowboy cowboy, I mean the cowboy attitude). He confounds the futuristic people with strange language (’70s slang), disgusting dance moves (disco), aerial dogfight abilities (being able to manually fly a fighter space jet), and his manly barbaric ways (his manly hairy chest). I’ve always liked that Buck’s response when no one will believe him about the Draconians is pretty much ‘You guys are morons. I’ll be here safe in my cell while you get taken over.’
I’m not going to call it the best space adventure movie ever, but it is a lot of fun. While it is so cheesy in execution, it’s not that badly written and had an okay budget (…comparatively speaking), and that cheese is what makes it so appealing. I mean the tagline says, “lays it on the 25th century!” and check out one of Ardala’s costumes further down.
If you’re interested in seeing it, I would suggest finding the movie over just watching the pilot episodes of the show as there are several differences and the pilot just lacks some of the cheeky humor of the movie version, and just kinda sputters out at the end.
Hey, Buck! *debadebadeba*
- Originally appearing in Amazing Stories as Anthony Rogers in Philip Francis Nowlan’s novella Armageddon 2419 A.D. and its sequel The Airlords of Han in 1928 and ’29, respectively. Also in 1929, National Newspaper Service bought the rights to turn the stories into a comic strip adapted by Nowlan and illustrated by Dick Calkins, changing “Anthony” to “Buck”. It became a radio show in 1932, and Universal Pictures Company released a 12 part serial in 1939. The first TV series ran on ABC from 1950-1951.
- Riding the wave from Star Wars, Universal and Glen A. Larson developed Battlestar Galatica and Buck Rogers in the 25th Century. The plan for Buck Rogers began as a series of TV movies, but after the success of the pilot for Battlestar Galatica in theaters, the first movie was instead released to theaters. It did well enough NBC commissioned a series, with the movie being broken into two part episode The Awakening, and re-edited for censorship (like “I’m freezing my ball-bearings off!” changing to “My micro disks are turning blue!”) and new scenes, including a different ending. The second season was delayed by the 1980 writer’s strike, returning with a lot of changes to dying ratings. NBC cancelled the show after the second season without a proper ending.
- Twiki is voiced by the amazing Mel Blanc. At the time Mel was also the voice of Daffy Duck, and therefore the voice of Duck Dodgers in Looney Toons’ Buck Rodgers spoof Duck Dodgers in the 24½th Century. That being said, there is no other robot in science fiction that I hate as much as Twiki. Gahhh!
- The song is ‘Suspension,’ written by Glen Larson and sang by Christopher Lennon.
- Holy bovines, my VHS still works! Booyah!
- Those five hundred year old tombstones are really well preserved…
- Poor Tiger Man! He’s just trying to do his Tiger Man job.
Buck: Very ballsy.
Wilma: Very what?
Buck: Never mind.
Buck: Well, I’m scheduled for termination and if I miss it I could be in a lot of trouble.
Buck: I don’t think so, I never forget a knuckle.
Wilma: Now, Captain, let’s go home.
Buck: My place or yours?
Wilma: What was that?
Buck: Nothing, just joking.
Ardala: Tomorrow I conquer Earth!
Kane: Tomorrow WE conquer Earth, your highness.
Ardala: What are you doing?
Buck: It’s called gettin’ down. It’s a little before your time, if it frightens you.
Ardala: Nothing frightens me.
Twiki: I’m freezing my ball-bearings off!
Wilma: I thought the Princess had you beguiled.
Buck: Well, she did have the nicest set of horns at the ball.
Dr. Theopolis: Yes – it was an attractive hat!
If you liked this movie, try these:
- The TV show
- ’70s Battlestar Galactica
- Flash Gordon
- The Ice Pirates