Classic Science Fiction Channel: Buck Rogers Republic Serial

Growing up in a Philadelphia suburb, I was lucky that local UHF stations often aired a lot of the old Republic serials and similar fare.  The three  Flash Gordon serials were favorites (and owing to local programming, Flash and the Three Stooges are inexorably linked in my memories);  The Adventures of Superman and a host of B&W “Classic” SF films rounded out the roster.

One serial that intrigued me, largely because of its scarcity, was the original Buck Rogers serial.  I think the thing that fascinated me the most, largely because the scarcity of the episodes offered only glimpses without substantial explanation, were Killer Kane’s prisoners turned into fleshy robots owing to a mind-control helmet.  (I have since often wondered if Killer Kane might not be an inspiration for Commodore John Grimes’ arch-nemesis Drongo Kane…brothers, perhaps?.  But I digress.  Seek out A. Bertram Chandler for more about Drongo Kane.)

I’d constantly looked for the full serial on Youtube over the years – even a poor copy would help me learn more than I’d previously seen), but for some reason the serial episodes, as serial episodes, were unavailable.  Planet Outlaws, a film made by cutting the serial episodes together was perpetually on there, but not the serial episodes.

Now, a slight excursion into film history, actual facts that are slowly being elided and buried, probably because they do not fit the director’s own preferred narrative.

Star Wars, when originally announced in the press, back in 1975 or thereabouts, was referenced by Lucas as being the results of trying to make an updated version of Buck Rogers, but having the rights owner – King Features – refusing to grant him a license.  So he did what any good creator does in such circumstances, filed the serial numbers off of that novel written by Philip Francis Nowlan and originally published in Amazing Stories – Armageddon: 2419 AD – changed Buck’s name to “Luke” and released Star Wars.

The serial would be edited into a feature film length show two more times, once in the 1960s titled Destination Saturn and again in the 1970s titled Buck Rogers. Interestingly, that film was accompanied by promotion that acknowledged the origins of Star Wars –

But then, just a few years ago, the entire original serial, once again became available on Youtube, which lets anyone who wants to find out about Killer Kane’s “fleshbots” do so at their leisure.

Here then is a link to the first episode of the serial with links to the other 12 episodes), as well as links to some other Buck Rogers fare:

Planet Outlaws

Destination Saturn

Buck Rogers and the Tiger Men of Mars (originally shown at the 1939 World’s Fair)

and, never to be overlooked in the Buck Rogers’ canon – Donald Duck in Duck Dodgers in the 24 1/2th Century


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