Buck Naked in the 25th Century

I mean BUCK ROGERS, of course.

Backstory 1:

TV sitcom legend Graham Linehan kindly linked to this site, praising my William Friedkin smackdown, and precipitating a giant spike in my stats for the day. (Thanks, Graham!) Then, regular Shadowplayer and all-round good egg Simon Kane linked to the above video in a comment at Graham’s site, mentioning it as a sort-of Shadowplay type thing. (Thanks, Simon!) Then I stole it.

Backstory 2:

Buck Rogers in the 25th Century: An Interplanetary Battle with the Tiger Men of Mars is a preposterous 10 minute short that premiered at the Chicago World’s Fair in 1933/34 – but was never shown theatrically. You can read more about this film phenomenon here: http://matineeatthebijou.blogspot.com…
Buck (Anthony) Rogers began life in 1928 in a Novella published in Amazing Stories magazine and in 1929 became the first science fiction comic strip. In 1932 Buck Rogers was the first sci-fi radio show and endured until 1947. This short was Buck Rogers’ first celluloid manifestation and was followed in 1939 by a Universal 12 chapter cliffhanging serial starring Buster Crabbe as Buck. Buck Rogers was twice produced as a TV series and as a TV movie, and has been optioned by Millennium Films to be developed as a big screen blockbuster for release in 2011. Everything old becomes new again.”
Thanks to MatineeAtTheBijou and Simon for bringing this rare artifact to my attention. It’s one of the great ironies of film preservation that Victor Sjostrom’s THE DIVINE WOMAN, starring Greta Garbo, is lost, apart from one tantalising reel they found in Russia, and this… effort survives in all its profane glory.
My favourite moment, apart from the revolutionary approach to blocking: when Wilma strides blithely in, treading all over the professor’s lines and inventing overlapping dialogue eight years before Orson Welles. Larry “Buster” Crabbe, Olympic swimmer turned FLASH GORDON and BUCK ROGERS star of the ’40s, always said that, as an actor, he worked his way up to a level of complete incompetence. But I think he could give these guys some pointers.

13 Responses to “Buck Naked in the 25th Century”

  1. Excellent! It’s not even overlapping dialogue is it, it’s straight down-the-line interruption. Howard Hawks, eat Dr. Harlan Tarbell’s dust! Yes, I’m glad you liked this. (Buck’s voice also amuses me. It’s pure Mike Judge.)
    On a non-godawful low-budget sci-fi note, did you know that all of Cushing’s 1984 is up there now as well if you’re interested: http://uk.youtube.com/watch?v=HPy0GGXYLRY.
    I don’t know where else one might see it. Cheers again.

  2. Well, one might see it round my place, I recorded it off TV a few years ago. I think I’ve got the ultra-rare CIA-backed happy-ending movie version directed by Guy “Goldfinger” Hamilton in the ’50s. (The CIA seemed to specialise in upbeat Orwell bowdlerisations, they also had a hand in Animal Farm’s production).

    Mind you, we should give credit to the Buck R for its genuinely funky special effects. Admittedly, it’s not a good sign when your space battle needs a Benshi Film Describer to make sense of it (George Lucas, take note), but the movements of the models are great! More advanced than the stuff in the serial, which I also love.

    (Supposedly, when the model rocketships circle down to earth in Flash Gordon, the camera and miniature set were both rotating together while the ricket descened straight down on a wire., but I’m not certain this is true.)

  3. I find michael Radford’s 1984 (1984) however to be quite good. Still nothing in Orwell (page or screen) is patch on Brazil. At the end of the day Eric Blair was just a recalcitrant submissive. Terry Gilliam (being an ararchist) didn’t play the game at all.

  4. Mike Radford once taught alongside my dad, so I’m always favourably inclined towards him. His 1984 is maybe a little too respectful and stately — what the Orwell needs is energy and ANGER (I’d like to have seen Losey do it) — but it has fine things, including great work from Richard Burton and whoever was puppeteering his arms (I’ve mentioned this before, right?) and John Hurt, the perfect Winston Smith.

    Brazil then came along and blew all 1984s out the water, although Gilliam claims Kafka as his main inspiration (but I think Welles’ The Trial is a bigger influence than the original book).

    Still to see Radford’s acclaimed Scottish film, Another Time, Another Place.

  5. Welles’ film must have been an influence, yes, not just for the look, or for jokes like the synchronized desk-leaving, but for the inspired use of found locations. I actually saw Welles’ version long before I read Kafka’s book and was astonished to find out retrospectively how many jokes he’d inserted (the whole “ovular” argument, it’s almost more Pinter than Pinter’s own). In fact the first hour at least is a fantastic comedy of embarrassment, and really the first evidence I can see of, well, a comic sublety from Welles since he worked with Herman Manciewicz (I’m very sympathetic to Pauline Kael’s defense of Mank’s contribution to “Kane”, and think it’s quite misunderstood as an attack on Welles.)

  6. Well, this of course throws up ALL KINDS of issues.

    First, I think Lady from Shanghai is very funny indeed, but I don’t know if I’d say subtle. But then, I don’t know if I’d say that about The Trial either. Apparently, Welles didn’t find Kafka funny, and added the humour to try and lighten things, but it has the effect of making the comedy that’s already there come out more.

    I’d say the Welles is so Pinteresque it obviates the need for the Pinter version to exist at all.

    Probably most of Kael’s book is about trying to give Mankiewicz his due, which he certainly deserves. I expect he wrote the bulk of Kane. In the radio shows, it’s well-attested that a script would be written and Welles would just breeze in at the end and infuse it with genius: making the War of the Worlds broadcast a fake newscast was his contribution.
    This means that under modern Writers’ Guild arbitration, Welles would not have received a writing credit (a director has to contribute more than 50%, as I understand it, before being allowed shared credit with the originating writer). But i think his contribution is still essential.

    But Kael does stray into other areas of Welles-bashing, weakening her general point, and the piece reads quite differently in the contexts of Europe, where Welles is universally respected, and the USA where he is not and never was. If Welles’ rep was secure in the US then Kael’s piece would be thought-provoking, easily challenged and dismissed in some areas and useful and insightful in others. In the context of widespread Welles-bashing, it’s a pretty unfortunate take on his best-known work.

    For evidence of Kael’s fallibility, look no further than the para where she states that a scene of Kane eating in the office obviously shows Welles taken by surprise, and he kept it in the film for a laugh. This is a shot over a minute long with several camera moves and elaborate blocking and overlapping dialogue…

  7. “This sheeyip has the new flash ray.”
    “faster than lightning”

  8. Still, this may be the cinema’s first use of a TRACTOR BEAM!

  9. Radford’s b monkey has been scandalously overlooked and is quite teriffic. It’s about a criminal menage a trois composed of an uncharacteristically calm Asia Argento, an ever-luscious Jonathan Rhys-Myers and in what I feel is his very best performance to date, Rupert Everett. Why it works is that Radford allowed Everett to play his part of a drugg-addled ex-“mastermind” as Denham Fouts.

    Years before he had optioned the rights to the “Ambrose” section of Isherwood’s Down There On a Visit (a very funny and touching portrait of “Denny”) to script and star in. Tony Richardson was going to direct. Then he had a fight with Richardson, Richardson died (of AIDS) and the whole thing evaporated. When b. monkey came along Everett saw it as his chance to do sme of what he’d planned and he really ran with it. Miramax, however, didn’t like the film and just let it go. A cursory release here and there and then a quite unheralded video.

    Of all the Portraits of Denny (and there have been many over the years)
    my fave is Gavin Lambert’s Norman’s Letter. I think it’s Gavin’s best novel and it cries out to be filmed.

  10. Well, my copy of Lambert’s Another Sky arrived…

    To me, the weak link of B.Monkey was Jared Harris, whom I couldn’t get interested in at all. The others are a fun trio though.

  11. Jared Harris is the best of all possible Andy’s in I Shot Andy Warhol. He got EVERYTHING about Andy’s physical as well as vocal manner, especially in the key scene where he suddenly notices Valerie sitting next to him on the Factory couch and starts up a conversation with her.

    He’s also teriffic in the woefully unappreciated Igby Goes Down as a friend of Amanda Peet’s Edie-like demi-modaine, who says of another friend who just lost a drag competition ” I TOLD him Lorna Luft was too obscure! They all thought he was doing a bad Liza!”

  12. Agree about Harris’ fine work in the Warhol film. The best of all movie Warhols. I wish Mary Harron would make another film as good as that. American Psycho had nice stuff but was too watered-down, and The Notorious Betty Page played like a TCM original documentary with added dramatisations.

    Must see Igby, it looked good, but somehow I let it slip by.

  13. It was written and directed by Gore Vidal’s nephew. Susan Sarandon is especially good in it as is Ryan Phillippe (whose beauty threatens to devour everything on the screen) playing the best snotty rich boy I’ve ever seen. He reminded me of an old high school boyfriend.

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