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    - Chapter Ninety-Four
    - Chapter Ninety-Three
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Chapter One Hundred Fourteen

“Buck Rogers”
by Jim Stringham and Boyd Magers

Title card to "Buck Rogers" starring Larry (Buster) Crabbe.

In Universal’s “Buck Rogers” serial (‘39) with Buster Crabbe we’d like to point out some of the crazier moments.

Buck starts out as Lieutenant Rogers, aboard a doomed dirigible in the year 1938. It carries aboard a tank of Nirvano, a suspended animation gas. The tank has a protruding handle which will open when anybody stumbles by. Buddy (Jackie Moran) does. Revived in 2440, Buck is now Colonel Rogers. Did he get credit for 501 years time in grade?

Buck (Buster Crabbe) (right) and Buddy Wade (Jackie Moran).They don’t have computers yet. Don’t need them. Dr. Huer verifies Buck’s story by picking up a book from his table and reading the complete story of that dirigible. Some book!

Buck and his partner Buddy Wade are somehow fully qualified to fly spaceships to and from the planet Saturn. There is no radar. Navigation, even interplanetary navigation, is strictly by line of sight. Fueled rocketships have not yet been even imagined. Spaceships are powered by individual self-contained rockets loaded aboard in racks. Don’t put them in backward! (Oops! Somebody does.) Buck also seems to immediately know about all future weaponry, gravity belts, etc.

As early as Ch. 2, they are already referring to events which haven’t happened, as when Buddy tells of seeing Prince Tallen shoot down Lt. Laska with a Saturnian ray gun. He saw it; we didn’t. Knew their names, too. They hadn’t been introduced!

Both sides have televisors which can show events anywhere on (or off) earth. Nobody ever thinks to use them to look up where the enemy ships are. Buck and his friends, simply knowingly, fly over Killer Kane’s headquarters city and drop in exactly where they need to be. Buddy is gunned down by Killer Kane there. Next week it never happened.

After Buck and heroine Wilma Deering are presumed dead in a collision between rocketships, Buddy persuades Dr. Huer to “scan” previous events on Saturn to demonstrate that Kane’s men would have saved them after the crash. Wouldn’t it have been easier to go back in time on that scanner and watch more recent happenings here on earth to see whether they did or not?

In Ch. 1 Buck Rogers struggles with Lt. Patten (Wheeler Oakman), one of Killer Kane's legion of soldiers.Wilma does not contribute much to the story until Ch. 10 when she rescues Buck and Buddy from Kane’s city and fights off his guards with gas bombs. The Saturnians, so far, seem unlikely allies in the battle against Kane’s tyranny, they can’t even protect their own Council of the Wise in their forum. Lt. Laska (Henry Brandon), with just one ship and three men, is pretty much terrorizing the planet. Buck left him a prisoner of the Saturnians…but returns to find him running things.

But, after all, it is a serial! Best part of the serial is (to me) a really great cast, favorites like Henry Brandon, Anthony Warde, William Gould, Kenne Duncan, Carleton Young, Reed Howe, Lane Chandler, Karl Hackett, Stanley Price, John Harmon, Al Bridge, Jack Mulhall, Tom Steele, and Dave Sharpe playing both a Saturian and one of Killer Kane’s elite guards.

Cheat Endings

In Ch. 9 of “Buck Rogers” Killer Kane fires a deadly ray gun at Buddy (Jackie Moran) and he falls. In Ch. 10, Moran is not shot, he jumps out the window and Kane never fires a ray gun.

Virginia Lindley.Virginia Lindley

Virginia Lindley, co-star of Republic’s “Black Widow” (‘47), once studied for a career as a violin virtuoso. She gave her first concert at Redondo Beach, CA in 1940. When the USO camp shows began with the outbreak of WWII Virginia toured the Army camps giving concerts. Upon her return, she enrolled at Pasadena Playhouse and studied acting for two years. Modeling by day, she acted in the evening at the Bliss-Hayden Theatre, then made her screen debut in “Dragonwyck” (‘46) at Fox. Next came her role in “The Black Widow”. At this point she changed her name to Virginia Lee and continued to work in films such as “Parole Inc.” (‘49), “The Robe” (‘53) and others. She also was billed as Virginia Ann Lee in “Annie Oakley: Annie and the Texas Sandman”, several “Death Valley Days” episodes, “Get Smart”, “M*A*S*H*” and in films “Hawaiians” (‘70) and “Lost Horizon” (‘73).

Cheat Endings

In Ch. 1 of “The Red Rider” the posses’ horses trample over a fallen Buck Jones. But in Ch. 2 the posse stops well short of the fallen Buck.

 

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