Thursday, January 28, 2016

Planet Outlaws - 1953

In 1939, my grandfather Lee Ellsworth Titus was 18 years old.  It was also the year that Buck Rogers became a serial in local theaters.  See, it was a pretty genius idea actually.  People were still going to the theater as just "something to do".  Tickets were dirt cheap, and it was a common practice to just show up whenever, see part of the movie that was playing, and then stick around to catch the next showing.  Once you were all caught up, you'd presumably leave.

One way to attract more audiences was the pre-show that went on before a movie would begin.  Usually there would be a cartoon, a newsreel, or a short film.  There were also serials, like this one, Flash Gordon, Commander Cody, Undersea Kingdom, and plenty more.  Buck Rogers was originally a 12 segment series, each segment was about 5-10 minutes or so.  In each segment, there'd be a quick recap of what happened last time, there would be the feature, then the ending which was normally a cliffhanger.  That would make people want to come back next week to see what happened with that cliffhanger.

However, what you could also do with these segments, was edit out the recaps and the cliffhangers, string them all along together, and make it into a feature length movie!  Right?  RIGHT?!  Well, no,  I think.  In my opinion.  But that is what happened, and thus we come to the film Planet Outlaws, which to me sounds like improper English.

Planet Outlaws takes place in the future.  The whole idea behind the Buck Rogers series was that Buck gets transported to the year 2500.  Buck was a airplane pilot in the past where he came from, and basically he uses his skill and his knowledge to help out in the future.  You see, evil overlord Killer Kane has imposed a cruel dictatorship over the world, and it's up to Buck and a small band of rebels to overthrow him.  Buck quickly accepts all this without batting an eye, and before you know it, him and his friend Buddy Wade are the leaders of the resistance.

The action is mild to put it lightly.  In fact, there is not really direct action so much as dialogue and people pretending like they might insinuate action.  The thing about this show, and about all the other serials I've seen, is that they are actually about nothing happening.  Sure, every once in a while, the stars might be evading laser beams or hot lava, but usually its the villains making plots which the heroes evade because they're "smart".  AKA they somehow know what the villain is up to and foil the plan.

The plot to this was incredibly hard to follow as well.  Characters are in one or two "episodes" then disappear.  Plots come up, are dropped, etc, quite randomly.  It's obvious that this wasn't meant to be a movie in other words.  Without the cliffhangers, there is very little to make the action interesting.  Also, there was probably at least opening narration in the show (I'm not sure) and that has been taken out.  Without any explanation of what's going on, it was very hard to follow this movie.

Given that information, and the info that this was filmed in 1939, it's hard to be too critical on this as a movie.  I know that it's not exactly the kind of entertainment most people are going to casually turn on.  I do wonder why, 14 years after it premiered in theaters, they decided to cut all the shorts together and make a movie of it.  Because surely even in 1953, when War of the Worlds, Roman Holiday, From Here to Eternity, Shane, and Peter Pan were all coming out, this had to look really dated.

For lack of any other way to rate it, I guess I give it 2 stars for being classic.

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