Buck Rogers Week 2017: "Awakening"
Buck Rogers in the 25th Century -- though designed as a TV series -- actually had its premiere in American movie theaters on March 30th, 1979.
The film, originally a pilot called "Awakening" quickly provided a remarkable return on Universal’s investment. It was produced for a little over three million dollars (or one-third of Star Wars’ budget, essentially, in 1977) and the movie grossed over twenty-one million dollars in American theaters alone.
|The Women of |
|The women of Buck Rogers #2|
|The Women of Buck Rogers #3|
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Other moments are more clumsily folded into the narrative than the enjoyable Bondian-opening.
Late in the film, aboard the Draconia, for instance, Ardala declares she wants Buck to take her father’s “seat” on the throne. Suddenly, the film cuts to a shot of Buck -- obviously shot at some later date, on a different set -- declaring that her father’s “seat” is the furthest thing from his mind (implying it’s her seat – her buttocks – that interests him).
There’s nothing wrong with the climactic physical confrontation between Buck and Tigerman, except that Buck faces a different Tigerman here, not the one seen throughout the film. This discontinuity is left unexplained, but Derek Butler plays the character throughout the film, and H.B. Haggerty (who returned to the role in “Escape from Wedded Bliss” and “Ardala Returns”) plays him for the fight sequence.
The two men are both imposing, but boast very different looks in terms of muscle-mass and body-type. Honestly, I didn’t notice the substitution as a kid, but the switch is impossible to miss now.
|Tigerman #1 (Derek Butler)|
|Tigerman #2 (H.B. Haggerty)|
These benevolent robots, acting dispassionately but helpfully, instead rely on logic and rationality. As Dr. Huer notes, they saved the Earth from "certain doom" and have been "taking care of areas where we made mistakes, like the environment."
It’s all a little bit…incoherent. Yet the film gets away with it because, again, of the James Bond comparison. We all know that James Bond is irresistible to all women, best in a fight or shoot-out, and supreme exemplar of style and taste. Nobody does it better, right?
Here, Buck Rogers seems to have the same magic touch. We accept the premise, in short, because we recognize it from that other franchise. But in context, the story doesn't make sense.
Here, Buck Rogers harks back to a 1970's movie tradition earlier than Star Wars: the dystopia or post-apocalyptic setting of such efforts as The Omega Man, Logan's Run or Beneath the Planet of the Apes. I’ve always wished that the ensuing TV series had followed up on this plot-line a little more sincerely. There were many stories to be vetted in Anarchia, but in its two-year run, Buck never returned there (that we know of).
|Pamela Hensley as Princess Ardala|