Buck Rogers in the 25th Century - The Complete Epic Series (1979)

Actors: Gil Gerard, Erin Gray, Felix Silla, Mel Blanc, Tim O'Connor
Directors: Daniel Haller
Writers: Glen A. Larson, Leslie Stevens, Philip Francis Nowlan
Producers: Andrew Mirisch, David G. Phinney, Glen A. Larson, Leslie Stevens
Format: Box set, Color, DVD, Full Screen, NTSC
Language: English (Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono)
Subtitles: Spanish, French
Region: 1 (U.S. and Canada only)
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
Number of discs: 5
Studio: Universal Studios
DVD Release Date: November 16, 2004
Run Time: 1799 minutes



That sound you hear is fanboys having apoplectic fits at hearing the news that Paul WS Anderson, of Resident Evil and Death Race infamy, is going to direct the upcoming Buck Rogers reboot . . .

Plans for a Buck Rogers reboot has been floating around for ages now. At one point graphic novelist and sometimes director Frank Miller (300, The Spirit) and the workman-like Joe Johnston (Jumanji, Jurassic Park III, The Wolfman) were said to be working on the new full-length movie version of Buck Rogers.

Now comes the news that Paul WS Anderson is going to direct the new Buck Rogers.

To be honest one can’t think of a director more ill-suited to the task: Anderson’s brand of violent action just seems, well, wrong for the more light-hearted Buck Rogers universe!

The question remains though whether Anderson will do a worse job than producer Glen A. Larson (Knight Rider) did with the 1979-1981 Buck Rogers in the 25th Century TV series . . .

Blasphemy we know, yeah. But the point is that the late-1970s Buck Rogers television series that lasted two seasons and starred former soap star Gil Gerard as Buck and former model Erin Gray as the foxy Col. Wilma Deering isn’t particularly good (trust us, we’ve recently rewatched it on DVD again).

Gen X-ers may remember Buck Rogers as the hero of a television series made to cash in on the Star Wars sci-fi fad of back then, but the character itself is much older than that. Buck Rogers began life as a cartoon strip in 1929 – actually predating Flash Gordon who made his first appearance only in 1934!

Ageing baby boomers may recall the B&W serials (George Lucas watched them as a kid), but most people will probably go “bidi-bidi” when you mention Buck Rogers to them, imitating the “cute” robot sidekick voiced by Mel Blanc, who also supplied most of the voices to the various Looney Tunes characters such as Bugs Bunny and Porky Pig.

It is unclear what director Anderson’s plans are for the franchise is.

Word has it that Miller wanted to take the character back to its roots as dashing retro 1930s hero. Maybe Anderson wants to remake the 1970s TV series instead in which Rogers was a womanizing Han Solo wannabe. (“Buck Rogers is a slut,” I thought aloud watching one episode.)

The plot is a sci-fi retelling of Mark Twain’s Connecticut Yankee in which a 20th century man wakes up 500 years in the future. Needless to say he becomes involved in various adventures, gets outfitted with a ‘Seventies-style bachelor pad and a midget-sized robot sidekick – wouldn’t we all?

THE DISC: No special features whatsoever. Nothing. Image and sound quality aren’t too consistent either.

WORTH IT? It isn’t particularly good even though nostalgic Gen X-ers who watched it as kids back then will probably be more forgiving. The plots are rather superficial and usually involve Buck deposing some tin pot dictator lording it over his or her unfortunate underlings on some distant planet. (If only it was this easy in real life!) Not particularly deep.

The special effects and sets may have dated, but were pretty decent for their time (Larson recycled them from his Battlestar Galactica show). The show’s biggest problem – or its best attribute if you have a highly developed sense of MST3K-type irony – is the costumes! The spaceships and laser guns may have been, ahem, “inspired” by Star Wars, but the costume department’s job seems to have consisted of trips to the nearest S&M store! That and dusting off designs from old Flash Gordon serials – you just gotta love that cape Jack Palance is made to wear in one episode! (Palance joyously hams it up all the way of course.) Gerard also looks like a ‘Seventies leisure suit lounge lizard and is made to wear such tight pants that one is amazed that he doesn’t speak with a permanent Barry Gibb falsetto.

Logan’s Run zipper suits aside, the production designers also labored under the illusion that the 1970s will last forever and that Disco Will Never Die.

Yup, Buck Rogers in the 25th Century is pretty cheesy all right and some of the scenes are 100% guaranteed to make you cringe like hell. (One scene in which a regular villain dubs her new bodyguard “pantherman” because he is so “black and beautiful” will make you feel so dirty that you’d want to take a shower afterwards!)

Things also aren’t helped by the reuse of stock footage (check out that spaceship in the exterior establishing shot now flying in reverse!) and a very dull Gerard who famously went on to famously struggle with his weight. (Beware: this will happen to you too one day.) Check out the scene in which he dully reacts to a tearful Col Deering who tells him that he is “more than a friend” and makes her feel like a woman for the first time – that is, despite his incessant womanizing, which she takes with the good humor of an indulgent asexual TV sidekick.

RECOMMENDATION: This is one nostalgia trip that isn’t particularly worth taking unless you’re the type who regularly page through your parents’ photo albums to poke fun at their dated fashions. (Beware: your kids will do this to you one day.)



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