Combustible Celluloid
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With: Gil Gerard, Erin Gray, Tim O'Connor, Pamela Hensley, Henry Silva, Howard F. Flynn, Felix Silla, Mel Blanc, Duke Butler, Joseph Wiseman
Written by: Glen A. Larson, Leslie Stevens, based on characters created by Philip Francis Nowlan
Directed by: Daniel Haller
MPAA Rating: PG
Running Time: 89
Date: 03/30/1979

Buck Rogers in the 25th Century (1979)

2 1/2 Stars (out of 4)


By Jeffrey M. Anderson

After the massive success of Star Wars in 1977, studios were deliriously scrambling to make imitations, sci-fi movies of all stripes, and if they had cute robots, all the better. It worked on me. Based on a character created in 1928, Buck Rogers in the 25th Century was a TV pilot that Universal decided to release in theaters ahead of its TV debut, and it became a decent-sized hit. As a kid, I thoroughly enjoyed this movie, as well as The Black Hole, both released the same year (and both with cute robots).

Gil Gerard stars as Buck, who takes off in a space shuttle in the year 1987 and becomes frozen for 504 years. He re-appears just as the sneaky Draconians are trying to take over the Earth. (Who are they trying to fool with a name like that?) Tough, pretty Wilma Deering (Erin Gray) becomes Buck's love interest, even though she has to rescue him once or twice. Buck finds companions in the wise, small, disc-like robot Dr. Theo (voiced by Howard F. Flynn), who hangs around the neck of the silly robot Twiki (voiced by Mel Blanc, prefacing every electronic comment with "Bidi-bidi-bidi"). Pamela Hensley plays the evil, sexy Princess Ardala, who wants Buck for herself. Henry Silva is her nasty cohort, Kane.

Definitely do not miss the embarrassing cheesecake title sequence, with women lounging around and pouting at the camera, perhaps meant to echo a James Bond film. And dig that theme song! "What am I, who am I, what will I be? / Where am I going and what will I see? / Searching my mind for some truths to reveal / What thoughts are fantasy, what memories real?" And how about a dance sequence in which Buck tells Princess Ardala to "get out and boogie"? Must be seen to be believed.

Later that year, the pilot aired on TV in a slightly altered version, and the series took off, running until 1981 with 37 episodes in all. Kino Lorber has released the movie on DVD and Blu-ray as well as the complete collection (movie and series) on Blu-ray. The movie features a commentary track by film historians Steve Mitchel and Nathaniel Thompson. Other bonuses include a trailer, a radio spot, and a 9-minute preview. Weirdly, seemingly no one has attempted to bring Buck Rogers to the screen, neither big nor small, since this.

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