Reviews written by registered user
|8 reviews in total|
CBS had Tom Corbett, Space Cadet for only a couple of months before it moved to ABC, then later DuMont, then later NBC. With space adventure shows at their peak of popularity in 1953, CBS hired Tom Corbett's original director and commissioned him to create a clone. He did so, and the result was Rod Brown (Cliff Robertson) of the Rocket Rangers. With the same director, same special effects gizmo, and many of the same writers, this was a somewhat livelier version of Space Cadet. Aliens were very rarely seen on Space Cadet, so Rod Brown gave us virtually a new alien every week. It was an interesting program and it is a shame that no kinescopes seem to be available these days.
We watched Atom Squad faithfully, and it always promised a lot, and sometimes even delivered. But usually it was saddled by all the production limitations of a live, daily 15-minute childrens' program from the Golden Age of TV--- little action, only two or three cramped sets, limited camera coverage, blown lines, and lots of talking heads. The concept was good--- special agents looking for menaces to society that involved radiation (and usually Commie sabotage or generic Mad Scientists). I'd love to see some episodes again, despite it all, and hope against hope some kinescopes survive somewhere.
This was it... the lowest point reached by space adventure TV series in the 1950s. Filmed in 1952 as a 12-part short subject (not formatted as a serial... no cliffhangers), COMMANDO CODY bombed in the theaters, and then was sold as a summer replacement series to TV in 1955. Judd Holdren is stiff and unconvincing as Cody, and is invariably outshown by the reliable Republic stock company of character actors all around him. Each of the 12 episodes is built around stock footage of some mass destruction; as a result, each episode has exactly the same plot: the Ruler tries to destroy earth, and Cody thwarts his plans. It's a space adventure show without space travel or any kind of adventure!
If it were not for COMMANDO CODY, SKY MARSHAL OF THE UNIVERSE, we would consider ROCKY JONES, SPACE RANGER to be the low point of 1950s space adventure series. Unlike the other shows of the day it was filmed and syndicated; that meant far better sets, props and special effects. But the writers seemed never to have understood what science fiction, or space adventure, was all about. The actors are good and deserve better material. They also deserve better directors. The art direction is quite good, but there are very few "practical effects," far fewer than even on the live space adventure shows. (When a ray gun fired on CAPTAIN VIDEO, we saw flame and smoke... when a ray gun fires on ROCKY JONES we hear a kind of farting sound.)
Who would have thought that a space adventure show could be done with (1) no special effects budget, (2) no prop department, (3) no wardrobe department, (4) sets that generally consisted of blank walls, (5) no space suits or space ships, and (6) a minimum of action? Well, Captain Video for its first year fit these conditions precisely! Yet it became wildly popular. It was more like radio than television, with the active imaginations of the young viewers having to fill in the many blanks. It would have probably continued to be broadcast indefinitely, 30 to 15 min per day, 3 to 5 days per week, if the always underfunded DuMont network had not gone bankrupt in 1955.
Of the three classic 1950s space adventure TV programs, TOM CORBETT SPACE CADET was the most realistic, and SPACE PATROL the most fantastic, with CAPTAIN VIDEO AND HIS VIDEO RANGERS somewhere in the middle. The great appeal of the TCSC series to teenagers and pre-teenagers was that the main characters were students, just like us! Tom, Roger and Astro had problems we could all identify with. And when they weren't sweating out grades or exams, they could take off for a jaunt through the solar system, even hyperdrive voyages to nearby stars, in the mighty rocket cruiser Polaris, as long as academic advisor Captain Steve Strong was along!
If you craved thrills and action with not much science fiction underpinning, and an unabashedly total lack of realism, this was the early 1950s space adventure program for you. Square-jawed, intelligent and courageous Commander Buzz Corry and his comical sidekick Cadet Happy faced certain death in nearly every once-a-week Saturday morning broadcast. Done live, with very impressive sets, and a wide variety of Hollywood character actors as villains, this was almost always worth tuning in to. Almost all the programs survived on 16 mm and 35 mm kinescopes, and are readily available today from video retail sources.
By 1953 Captain Video and his cohorts had been doing a live 5-a-week 30 minute show for 4 years. This new Saturday morning 30 minute series offered a look at the "back-story" of the characters; it took place supposedly several years in the past of the earliest adventures of 1949. Since each of these 20-odd shows is self-contained and complete, it is a double tragedy that none of the "electronocam" 16-mm films of the broadcasts survive.