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A pilot and his young passenger crash-land on a mountaintop and are put into suspended animation by a strange gas. They awake 500 years later to discover that the Earth is now ruled by a tyrannical despot called Killer Kane, and they lead a fight to overthrow him. Written by
It strikes me that "Buck Rogers" is almost like a male fantasy come to life. Think about it: Buck gets to take a nice, long five-hundred-year nap! I'm ecstatic if I can get a fifteen-minute nap on a weekend! When he wakes up, Buck is the smartest, most dynamic guy around. Never mind that in real life you would treat someone five centuries behind the times like something that escaped from the zoo. Everyone needs Buck to go on exciting missions, fight the bad guys, test exotic equipment and fly rocketships (and crash them -- I think out of five or six flights Buck makes in the serial, he only lands successfully once).
Now that that's out of the way...
"Buck Rogers," the serial, is merely average: better than some serials, not as good as others. It's inevitable to compare it to the "Flash Gordon" serials, and in that contest, "Buck Rogers" comes in second. Buster Crabbe essentially plays the same character as Buck and Flash, but he had more style and dash (okay, more "flash") in "Flash Gordon." Constance Moore's Wilma tries to be a more proactive character than Jean Rogers' Dale, but Rogers just seems to inhabit her character more (and those belly-baring costumes from the first "Flash" serial weren't hard on the eyes, either). You can't even begin to compare Anthony Warde's Killer Kane to Charles Middleton's Ming: Warde could have been any gangster from any generic crime movie, but Ming was an archetype of evil right up there with Fu Manchu.
"Buck Rogers" does provide the requisite thrills and generates its share of excitement, although the rocketship crashes get repetitive after a while (as I said before, almost every time Buck goes near a rocket, he crashes it). It's a decent enough story on its own merits, I suppose, but it does pale in comparison to the "Flash Gordon" trilogy.
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