Monday, April 9, 2018

Dojo Classics - King Of The Rocket Men!

This 1949 serial is a pretty entertaining movie. Much has been written about the more mature characters in King of the Rocket Men, from Tristam Coffin a regular movie heavy who gets the nod as Jeff King, the hero and titular "Rocket Man" of the movie to Mae Clarke who at forty seemed a bit old for the classic damsel-in-distress role. But while Clarke seemed a bit subdued throughout, I found Coffin quite good in his role as both scientist and action hero.

The plot is pretty standard serial, in that Science Associates is losing members to violent death left and right. One scientist named Dr.Millard is seemingly killed but instead hooks up with fellow egghead Jeff King and they relocate to a cool cave lab where he pretends to be dead while King as himself and as Rocket Man (using the Millard invention of an atomic backpack rocket) tries to solve the mystery. There's a young sidekick and the usual gal reporter. All the other scientists are suspects but as they themselves continue to be killed the list gets shorter and shorter.

(Title of feature version of the serial)
The flying stuff is outstanding as Republic really knew how to do this as ably demonstrated years before in Captain Marvel. This is a pretty decent whodunnit and an above average actioner. The climax involves nothing less than the near total destruction of New York City and that actually tends to undermine the tone of the previous chapters, but taken as a whole I really like this serial. I've seen it twice this year and I don't think it will be all that long before I screen it again.

UPDATE: As it turns out it was nearly nine years before I got around to watching it again. The movie still holds up extremely well, with a brisk pace to the chapters which are filled with vintage Republic serial fisticuffs. I'm always amazed that no matter how often someone gets the drop on someone else in these little adventures, they always lose the advantage and fist fight breaks out. I still don't like the ending -- the destruction is way off the scale to way folks respond to it, but overall this one is a winner.

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  1. The big tidal wave finale was stock footage from the long-lost science fiction feature film Deluge (1933).
    Additional footage from it also appeared in Dick Tracy vs Crime Inc.!

    1. Thanks for the information. I knew the movie, but I don't think I realized it was a lost film. I tried to find some years ago when I first learned where this footage was from.

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