July 1, 2022 · 12:15 am
COMMANDO CODY: SKY MARSHAL OF THE UNIVERSE (1953) – This will be a comprehensive look at the winding saga of Commando Cody, the character’s changing names and his status as the inspiration for the much later Rocketeer figure. As a quick preface to this look at the short-lived half-hour television series Commando Cody: Sky Marshal of the Universe I will recap the three Republic serials that preceded it.
King of the Rocket Men (1949) – This 12-episode serial was directed by Fred C. Brannon and written by Royal K. Cole, William Lively & Sol Shor. An organization called Science Associates finds its major scientists being killed off one by one through the efforts of a mysterious villain calling himself Dr. Vulcan.
One intended victim, Dr. Millard, secretly survives the attempt on his life but lets the villain and his underlings believe him to be dead. He covertly joins forces with fellow S.A. scientist Jeffrey King (Tristram Coffin) to fight back and flush out Dr. Vulcan and his organization.
With Dr. Millard playing dead, Jeffrey King dons the experimental rocket pack invented by Millard and takes to the air. King, the title “King” of course, also arms himself with a ray-gun pistol that he and Millard developed together. To keep his identity a secret, Jeffrey wears a helmet that conceals his face in addition to providing protection.
Through 12 chapters the hero thwarts Dr. Vulcan’s schemes for world conquest and brings him to justice after he destroys New York City in the rollicking finale. (It’s just recycled footage from the 1933 movie Deluge.) King of the Rocket Men was edited down to become the 1951 feature film Lost Planet Airmen and became the inspiration for the band Commander (sic) Cody and The Lost Planet Airmen. Continue reading →
August 17, 2014 · 8:04 pm
This article is dedicated to my sister Rosemary, who is a huge fan of this overlooked show.
WAR OF THE WORLDS (Television Series) – This short-lived series proceeded from a fun premise. In this program’s world the Martian invasions depicted occurring in 1901 ( 1897 novel), 1938 (Orson Welles radio version) and 1953 (first film version) were really three separate real-world attempts by extra-terrestrials (NOT Martians, however) to conquer the Earth. In an “X-Files before The X-Files existed” sort of way the world’s governments collaborated in an extensive – and successful – coverup to pass those invasions off as fiction.
The faux-Martian craft were presented as the explanation behind the first UFO sightings and their damaged spaceships and presumably dead bodies were being kept in hiding at various bases around the world for reverse-engineering and other studies. The leftover bodies from the 1953 invasion were really just dormant, thanks to the aliens’ latest attempts at immunizing themselves against the Earthly illnesses that were always their undoing in the past.
Those dormant aliens are now emerging from their sleep and attempting once again to conquer the Earth, this time by taking over the bodies of human beings thereby giving themselves full immunity. Human scientists, military and governmental forces battle the aliens.
Though all of that sounds derivative War of the Worlds actually managed to make it all seem fresh through quality scripting, fleshed-out characters and a capable cast led by Jared “Fantastic Voyage” Martin, Ann Robinson, Ilse Von Glatz and Richard Chaves. An added element of suspense lay in the fact that the aliens sometimes WON so viewers felt genuine tension. Pacing was a problem, however, and I would say the show’s episodes would have benefited from a half-hour run time instead of an hour-long format. Continue reading →