Archive for Buck Rogers

The Sunday Intertitle: Not Even Eternity

Posted in FILM, Mythology with tags , , , , , , , , , , on May 17, 2015 by dcairns

vlcsnap-2015-05-17-11h45m12s40

Harry Houdini co-wrote and produced and starred in THE MAN FROM BEYOND in 1922. It uses the same frozen-alive plot idea as CAPTAIN AMERICA and BUCK ROGERS, with Houdini frozen at sea after being abandoned by unsympathetic skipper Luis Alberni (Louis Louis of the Hotel Louis from EASY LIVING). Fortunately for him, the first woman he meets strongly resembles his lost love, and may in fact be her reincarnation. HH drops in a bit of product placement for his sparring partner at the time, Arthur Conan Doyle ~

vlcsnap-2015-05-17-11h44m27s114

This exploration of mystical hooey is played straight-faced by Houdini, though he never really credited the supernatural and would set up shop as a professional debunker. Elsewhere in the plot he gets to perform some escapes, though not particularly gripping ones to look at (serial THE MASTER MYSTERY has his best screen getaway). Still, it’s exciting to be able to see the escapologist in action, even if he’s just squirming free from wet bedsheets via a display of scientific wriggling, or stopping a boat going over Niagara by the simple expedient of climbing out and keeping one foot on the bottom.

vlcsnap-2015-05-17-11h49m05s63

Oddly, Houdini’s acting seems to have regressed slightly since THE MASTER MYSTERY, in which he’s quite credible. Maybe because the plot this time requires him to display instability, uncertainty and pathos, a certain self-consciousness has set in. Disappointingly too, Nita “tits out” Naldi as the film’s resident femme fatale, doesn’t get to vamp him — that might have shaken him loose. I guess Naldi is the only woman to have worked opposite both Houdini and Barrymore, and under Hitchcock (twice). It’s always fun to see her, and to think of her getting them out at parties, as was her custom.

BEYOND has been described as “generally intact”, and it’s certainly in better shape than THE MASTER MYSTERY (missing whole episodes), TERROR ISLAND (minus two vital reels) and THE GRIM GAME (completely lost apart from one tantalising fragment). Houdini’s film oeuvre was not treated kindly by time. In fact, despite his movie activities being all washed up years before his death, Houdini’s brother and fellow magician Theodore Hardeen had preserved prints and negatives faithfully. But a fire inspection alerted him to the dangers of keeping nitrate stick in his home and he was forced to surrender everything to the garbage collectors. So we’re lucky anything has survived — what’s left of THE MAN FROM BEYOND comes from 16mm reduction prints, which make the night scenes impenetrably dark, and the story jumps around owing to what appear to be at least a few lost scenes.

vlcsnap-2015-05-17-11h44m54s134

So this seemed a fitting film to close out Shadowplay’s participation in the Film Preservation Blogathon — a naive early science fiction fantasy, and a film which has survived the ravages of time (just barely), like Houdini’s protagonist, to stand shakily before us in a new century.

Buck Naked in the 25th Century

Posted in FILM with tags , , , , on July 15, 2008 by dcairns

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.

Stardust

Posted in FILM, Politics with tags , , , , , , , , on April 11, 2008 by dcairns

Like THE SILENT STAR, IN THE DUST OF THE STARS is another swinging sci-fi epic from East Germany, this time from 1976.

A Chorus Line

It plays like a sexed-up Star Trek, with decadent orgies and full frontal shower scenes. Location filming in Romania allows this sculpture park to stand in for an alien planet.

Girly

With the wild colours and “debauched” parties, there’s a hint of the Glenn Larson Buck Rogers TV show too, though this is more fun and more interesting.

The Wild Party

Say what you like about the Evil Empire, their vision of the future was at least as campy as that of Hollywood. SOLARIS might be pretty po-faced, but this stuff is delirious and dizzy. Pour yourself some Tang and kick back.

I’d like to feel optimistic about Robert Rodriguez’ proposed BARBARELLA remake, but I don’t think he has the sensibility for it. Plus, I find all his films a shadow of what they could be, assuming there’s even a worthwhile idea at play, which isn’t the case most of the time. He strikes me as the leading exponent of the “will this do?” school of film-making. I got upset — ridiculously so — at some smokestacks in the background of SIN CITY, where the smoke wasn’t moving, just hanging there like a photograph.

The I thought that a still image of smoke might be quite a nice stylisation. Then I thought that this wasn’t a nice stylisation, just cheapness and laziness, and a nice stylisation would have to feature the smoke more, rather than just flashing it by in the hopes we’d miss it.

Compare this to Roger Vadim and the original BARBARELLA — he showers largesseon the screen, in hopes some will stick. He is rightly more interested in the costumes than in the performances and dialogue. He has an army of writers involved, any one of whom could have done a better job than the team. This is how a ’60s sci-fi epic should be made! What Terry Southern (one of the six credited writers) called “a very special combination of non-talents and anti-talents,” plus of course a lot of actual talents, especially in the design department.

Is Robert Rodriguez going to hire Fenella Fielding to dub one of his major characters? No, I don’t think he is! To hell with him then.

The Incredibles

Eyes left!

No way should anybody but a European trash-hound be allowed to make BARBARELLA! Jesus Franco is still basically alive — give him a shot at a budget of millions and a green-screened CGI universe!

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 617 other followers