Strategic targets on Earth are being destroyed by an unknown weapon. Government security head Henderson suspects it's an "atomic ray" originating from the moon! He assigns Commando Cody, ... See full summary »
Prof. Millard pretends to be dead and helps Jeff King ferret out Vulcan, the evil traitor at the science academy. Donning his Rocket Man costume King goes from one hair raising rescue to the next in order to keep the newly invented Decimator out of the clutches of Vulcan and his minions.Written by
Randy Spencer <email@example.com>
Jeff King's atomic-powered rocket suit was so advanced that it required only three operational controls: on/off, up/down and slow/fast. See more »
In the concluding chapter the civic official orders a squadron of bombers to wipe Fisherman's Island off the face of the earth, giving no thought that there might be other inhabitants on the island, not to say any wildlife or domestic animals, nor fish in the ocean. See more »
Despite the title, this serial has nothing to do with either Leonardo DiCaprio or Elton John. Nonetheless, 'King of the Rocketmen' is a good piece of fun, with good special effects and stunt shots used to create a realistic illusion of actual flight. It moves fast, there are plenty of good fight scenes, and the acting is good. The casting of Tristam Coffin as the hero, Rocketman, is a little strange, since Coffin appeared to be clearly over 45, thin, with a small jaw and a pencil thin mustache: not the classic vision of a matinée hero, he usually played villains. But Coffin was a decent actor and pulled it off. The script is pretty straightforward, moving quick enough that the audience doesn't have too much extra time to think about how ludicrous the whole thing is.
This serial was released on June 8, 1949, three weeks prior to the premiere of Captain Video on TV. It is known that the creators of Captain Video looked to movie serials for inspiration, and Rocket Man was the first serial hero whose very name indicated both science fiction and heroics. Beginning with Captain Video, who became one of the first superstars of early TV, and continuing with Tom Corbett (Space Cadet), Commander Cory of Space Patrol, and Rocky Jones (Space Ranger)there was a bona fide craze from 1949 to 1955 for science fiction heroes with super-heroic or militaristic names. Rocket Man was the 1st of these, yet is seldom given credit for starting the trend.
The villain of this serial, Dr. Vulcan, is an international thug and dealer in stolen weapons and technology. There is a sequence where Rocketman has to stop a stolen ballistic missile (called an 'air torpedo') from hitting and blowing up LA. We know from recent history, however, that when a flying menace is approaching a city, that the correct thing to do is stand down and let 3,000 people be killed so that Your Party will be able to seize total control of the government and be able to implement a quasi-fascist state. Why Rocketman didn't understand this is a mystery.
The other unrealistic thing about this serial is that Rocketman pursues the actual terrorists, as opposed to doing the logical thing: use the terrorists as an excuse to invade an oil-rich nation. But then, serials were never supposed to be very logical.
A year after this serial was completed, a Superman serial featured a run away atomic missile. Serials, although ostensibly the province of youngsters, were reflecting some of the collective anxieties of society. This was the era when WMD's (though the word wasn't yet coined) entered mass consciousness.
Presciently, a major plot point is Dr. Vulcan's plan for a large scale terror attack on NYC. I don't want to spoil anything for you, so I won't describe how that resolves.
Flaws aside, this is one of the last serials where any attempt was made at an illusion of verisimilitude. You can have fun and smile to yourself at how absurd it gets, but it isn't laugh out loud ludicrous or painfully bad like an Ed Wood movie. You can see in later Republic serials, such as 'Commando Cody' and 'Flying Disc Man from Mars', that things went downhill pretty fast after this. If you are a fan of serials or a fan of fast-moving old school cheeze, you should enjoy King of the Rocketmen. Obviously, I did.
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