Small House of Everything

Small House of Everything

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

OVERLOOKED MOVIE: PLANET OUTLAWS (1953 -- but not really)

Planet Outlaws is a 1953 69-minute edit of the 1939 Buster Crabbe serial Buck Rogers.  For reasons I cannot understand, the 1939 12-part serial is still under copyright while this 1953 assemblage is not.

By now, we all know the story:  a 20th Century soldier, felled by a strange gas, wakes up in the 25th Century and finds himself pitted against "Killer" Kane, the ruthless dictator of the world.  Buck Rogers started life as Anthony Rogers in a pair of novellas by Philip Francis Nowlan in Amazing Stories.  Nowlan changed his name to Buck when his character moved to the comic strips in 1939.  (Buck would undergo another name change with the Gil Gerard television series; he became William {again, for reasons I cannot understand].)  Soon buck was everywhere:  on the radio, in a Big Little Book, in a pop-up book, in numerous comic books, on television with two television series 28 years apart, in video games, on a pinball machine, in numerous tie-in novels and short stories, and with a gazillion toys.  Buck Rogers had found his way into the national consciousness, gaining a dubious sort of immortality with the phrase "that Buck Rogers stuff."

Anyway, back to Planet Outlaws.  Buster Crabbe (billed as Larry Crabbe in the original serial) played Buck Rogers.  Crabbe had previously played Tarzan and Flash Gordon and in a plethora of Zane Gray westerns; the former Olympian gold medal swimmer went to many more movies and television shows, including starring as Captain Gallant of the Foreign Legion in the mid 50s.

The part of Wilma Deering went to Constance Moore.  A former big band vocalist, Moore co-starred with many of the notable personalities from the years 1937-1947, including W. C. Fields, Edgar Bergan, Fred McMurray, Eddie Albert, and Eddie Cantor.

Anthony Ward played "Killer" Kane, which was probably his most noted role.  Ward's career went from 1937 to 1964 (his last role was in The Carpetbaggers), often in minor or uncredited appearances.

A child actor in the 30s and 40s, Jackie Moran was cast as Buddy Wade, the young pal of Buck Rogers who was gassed with Buck Rogers and woke up in the future with him.  Moran stopped making films in 1946 when he was 23.  He reemerged in the 60s to act (?) in a couple of skin flicks, two of which were directed by Russ Meyers. (The two Russ Meyers skin flicks were written by Jack Moran, presumably Jackie Moran's son.)

Jack Muhall's career spanned almost fifty years and he has 444 credits on IMDb.  Here he was cast as Captain Rankin of the Rebel Hidden City forces.  Korean American actor Philip Ahn played Prince Tallan of Saturn and is probably best-known for his portrayal of Master Kan in the television series Kung Fu.  Also having major roles in Planet Outlaws were character B-movie actors C. Montague Shaw, Guy Usher, William Gould, and Henry Brandon.

It all adds up to mindless fun.  Enjoy.

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