Buck Rogers, a somewhat unsung hero in science fiction. I remember watching the TV show years ago and thought it was pretty cool, though I also remember wanting to rip Twiki’s head off to keep him from talking. Anyways, The TV show was not the first appearance of Buck Rogers in film as there was an old movie serial that came out in 1939. Then someone decided to re-edit the serial into a movie in the 50’s, so they condensed an almost 4 hour long serial into a 69 minute movie. Man, I hope they didn’t cut out anything important, like the plot, when the made those edits to form today’s movie, Planet Outlaws.
The plot: Lieutenant Buck Rogers and his co-pilot George “Buddy” Wade are flying a dirigible over the North Pole when the weather causes them to crash. Centuries later, two men find the wreckage of the dirigible and discover the bodies of the two men perfectly preserved in suspended animation. Buck and Buddy are taken to the hidden city to see Dr. Huer, the scientific leader of the city, who informs the two men that due to the gas that they were carrying in the dirigible, they have managed to stay alive for over 500 years. Lt. Wilma Deerling informs Huer that Killer Kane has captured one of their pilots and Huer turns on a video screen, where they are able to observe the pilot being interrogated by Kane. Buck asks who Kane is and Huer explains that due to the world’s inability to stamp out lawlessness in the 20th century, the criminals ended up ruling the Earth. Learning about their plans to seek aid from Saturn, Buck speaks with Air Marshall Kragg, Huer’s military counterpart, and comes up with the idea to send a radio controlled ship out to act as a decoy so that Buck can slip through Kane’s blockade. Kragg agrees to the idea and orders Wilma to go with Buck and Buddy to Saturn. When the enter Saturn’s atmosphere, they come under attack by two of Kane’s ships and are forced to bail out before their ship crashes. The make contact with Earth and set out towards a nearby city but are soon captured by Kane’s men. Kane’s men take them to their ship but they all end up captured by some Saturn soldiers. They are all taken to see Aldar, leader of the Council of Wise, and Buck pleads his case but Kane’s emissary says that Kane is a benevolent ruler and that Buck and his companions are part of a revolutionary force. Aldar believes Kane’s men and orders Buck, Buddy, and Wilma to be put in jail, saying that Saturn wants no part of a revolution, but Buck overpowers a guard and the three escape, then steal one of Kane’s rockets to head back to Earth. As they approach Hidden City, they don’t radio ahead and Kragg, believing it to be an attack by Kane, has the ship destroyed but Buck and the others survive and are taken back to the city. Back on Saturn, Aldar sends Prince Tallen to Earth to verify the story of Kane’s emissary and if it is true, to have Kane sign a treaty which gives Saturn’s pledge of support. When they see the ship approaching, Buck decides to disguise himself and Buddy as Kane’s soldiers to spy on Kane. They make their way to Kane’s conference room, where he and his council are about to sign Tallen’s treaty but Buck stops Kane from signing it and has Kane show Tallen how he treats his prisoners. Tallen agrees to go with Buck to speak with Huer and Kragg and joins Buck and Buddy as they escape from the city. Flying back to Hidden City in Kane’s personal ship, they encounter a squad of ships from Hidden City, and are fired upon by Deerling but they land and after she realizes who they are, they all head back to the city. Tallen pledges his support to Huer and Kragg’s cause and they attempt to make contact with Saturn but are unable to. Buck, Wilma, and Tallen make plans to fly back to Saturn, and Huer uses an invisibility ray to cloak their ship long enough to make it through the blockade. The three make it to Saturn and after the treaty is signed, Buck and Wilma return to Earth. Unknown to them, an emissary of Kane’s had gone to Saturn and managed to stow away on their ship when it heads back to Earth. The spy opens the gates to Hidden City and radios Kane to inform him of where it is. Buck and Kragg show up and try to stop the spy and Buck is shot in the arm during the scuffle before Kragg is able to knock out the spy and close the gates. While most of the ships are destroyed, two manage to sneak in and are captured. Buck decides to use one of the ships to fly to Saturn and get them to help attack Kane’s forces, then heads back to Kane’s city, where he and Bucky start removing the robotic helmets from the prisoners. As Saturn’s forces destroy the air blockade, Buck and the freed prisoners manage to capture Kane and his council, then place a robotic helmet on Kane, ending his reign of terror.
As short as this was, this was a pretty decent movie but it could have been better. The acting was good, with Buster Crabbe doing a great job playing Buck Rogers. The story was ok but the pacing felt weird and incredibly sped up due to all the cuts. Granted, I know a lot of stuff was cut out to make this into a movie but it just felt like you were missing stuff throughout the entire movie. The action and special effects were probably pretty decent in 1939, but look pretty laughable now. I will be honest, it is worth a watch but it really made me want to watch the serial more than anything else.
Rating: 2 out of 5