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Preserved in a state of suspended animation for 500 years by the Nirvano gas in the gondola of their dirigible wrecked in the arctic ice wastes, Buck Rogers (Buster Crabbe) and Buddy (Jackie Moran) are rescued by scientists in the year 2500 to find the world under the despotic rule of Killer Kane (Anthony Warde) and his super gangsters. Using an arsenal of fantastic weapons created in Dr. Huer's (C. Montague Shaw) clandestine laboratory, the group attempts to seek aid from the planet Saturn to oust the tyrannical ruler only to find that his henchmen have already taken over control of the Prince of Saturn. After several harrowing adventures with the Zugg men, Buck and Buddy return to Earth only to be shot down, imprisoned and finally rescued to participate in a spectacular air battle to wrest control of the Universe from the sinister intergalactic despot.Approximately Released by Universal Pictures. Bonus Features: Animated Menu| Scene Selection| Photo Gallery| Bonus Serial Trailers. Specs: DVD9; Dolby Digital Mono; 241 minutes; B&W; 1.33:1 Aspect Ratio; MPAA - NR; Year - 1939; SRP - $19.99.
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While it lacks the baroque, fantastical quality of the previous Flash Gordon serials (which also starred Buster Crabbe), the Buck Rogers serial still exemplifies the freewheeling spirit of pulp-magazine space opera of the 1930s. Crash-landing in the Arctic in the 20th century, Buck Rogers and his sidekick Buddy Wade (Jackie Moran) use a special gas to induce suspended animation, only to be awakened 500 years later when the world is ruled by the evil Killer Kane. We are told that Kane's ascendancy is a direct result of the 20th century's failure to solve the problem of crime. But luckily, Buck Rogers is here to fight Kane's evil domination of mankind, which involves making obedient robots out of folks by strapping an "amnesia helmet" on their heads. (The helmet looks like the sawed-off end of a cheesy rocket ship, complete with fins.) Most of the episodes deal with invasion forces from the planet Saturn and whose side they're going to take, Killer Kane's or Buck's, affording plenty of opportunity for spaceships to zip back and forth, propelled by sparks and rising smoke. All the trappings and tropes of space opera abound: ray guns, space travel, villainous political figures, alien civilizations. In a way, the flaws seem quaint--the wooden acting, the cheesy costumes and sets, the flimsy space crafts, the similarity between the surface of Saturn and certain California deserts, and the way Buck needs no learning curve after traveling 500 years into the future. It's great adolescent fun. --Jim Gay
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