BUCK ROGERS (1939)
Article #47 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing date: 5-2-2001
Posting date: 9-15-2001
Due to an accident, Buck Rogers goes into suspended animation. When he awakes in the twenty-fifth century, he joins forces with a resistance movement fighting the world’s dictator, Killer Kane.
I’m afraid I have to confess that serials aren’t real favorites of mine. I was too young to see them in theaters, but I’d heard about them and thought I would enjoy them. I knew I enjoyed TV shows like “Doctor Who” that had several episodes to a story, but I was years into adulthood before I really saw my first serial. I can’t even begin to express my disappointment.
My problem with serials is that they are basically action-adventure movies drawn out over several episodes. Whole episodes will sometimes pass without any plot development or new discoveries, but will contain nothing more than a series of “thrilling” action sequences, ending with a cliffhanger that all too often will be resolved in the next episode by editing a scene in where there was none before, usually showing how the hero escaped the disaster before it even happened. This, to my sensibilities, is cheating.
I’ve figured out the best way to watch serials is one episode at a time over a given period. Don’t try to watch them all at one sitting; they weren’t designed or structured to be enjoyed in that way. You also have to be patient with plot points being repeated ad infinitum. You also have to be patient with seeing the same footage repeated again and again in various episodes so they can pad out the running time.
In the case of BUCK ROGERS, you will get plenty of shots of spaceships entering the secret entrance to the resistance movement’s hideout by flying through the hidden door in the side of a mountain. All in all, this one isn’t too bad for one of these things; at least there’s a decent variety to the episodes to hold the interest throughout the whole series.