Rocket Man: Up and at them!
July 14, 2011 9:49 AM   Subscribe

King of the Rocket Men was the first appearance of the "atomic powered rocket flying suit" from Republic Pictures. The characters changed but the suit remained for four action-packed serials. In 1949, King of the Rocket Men starts out with a bang, or rather a series of bangs (YT playlist), as scientists die in accidents, but science and fists save the day. Civilian researcher Commando Cody is the next hero to don the rocket pack in 1952, for 12 chapters of Radar Men from the Moon. But when Zombies of the Stratosphere attack that same year, Commando Cody is out sick (or something), so Larry Martin steps up to duke it out in the rocket suit (though thin on the "zombies", the serial starred Leonard Nemoy as a Martian). Commando Cody returned in 1953 to face the evil alien "Ruler" in Commando Cody: Sky Marshal of the Universe (vid 1, vid 2).

The serials were re-packaged in various ways, with King of the Rocket Men edited down to 65 minutes to become the movie Lost Planet Airmen, and Radar Men from the Moon was cut to 100 minutes and became Retik, the Moon Menace. Zombies of the Stratosphere was colorized, poorly edited and rebroadcast in the 1990s. Commando Cody: Sky Marshal of the Universe was first shown as a theatrical serial with roughly 30 minute chapters in 1953. The show was edited and re-scored for TV, cut down to 25 minutes per episode.

Bonus: MST3k featured a number of Radar Men from Mars shorts (some linked previously)
* Chapter 1: Moon Rocket (before The Robot vs the Aztec Mummy)
* Chapter 2: Molten Terror (before The Mad Monster)
* Chapter 3: Bridge of Death (YT playlist) (before The Corpse Vanishes)
* Chapter 4: Flight of Destruction and Ch. 5: Murder Car (YT Playlist) (before Robot Monster)
* Chapter 6: Hills of Death (before The Slime People)
* Chapter 7: Camouflaged Destruction and Ch. 8: The Enemy Planet (before Project Moon Base)
* Chapter 9: Battle in the Stratosphere (before Robot Holocaust)

Bonus bonus: Rocketman was spoofed on the sketch comedy show Almost Live! as Jet Guy
* Jet Guy - The Early Years
* Jet Guy's invisible shield
* Jet Guy Meets Zeldar Seven
posted by filthy light thief (17 comments total) 18 users marked this as a favorite
Great post, but no mention of Leonard Nimoy's role in Zombies of the Stratosphere?

posted by Smart Dalek at 10:09 AM on July 14, 2011

Oh wait, you did - I meant the interview session where he briefly discusses his role.
posted by Smart Dalek at 10:11 AM on July 14, 2011

The "thin on the zombies" link says they are "just people in suits without even a trace of a Martian accent" but that Marex guy looks like he's black.

Also, I've spent enough time attempting to find video footage of Nimoy playing a martian invader.
posted by DU at 10:11 AM on July 14, 2011

Marex is played by Lane Bradford, who is not black, but his skin is a lot darker in this clip than either his costar or Lane's pictures on the internet. Blackface?

Also, I accidentally spelled "Marex" as "Marx" at one point, which gives another interesting interpretation of this show...
posted by DU at 10:18 AM on July 14, 2011

I only liked to one of the 5 Zombies of the Stratosphere episodes on; here are the other 4 episodes. Also, Zombies of the Stratosphere was edited into a movie with a rather imposing name: Satan's Satellites.
posted by filthy light thief at 10:37 AM on July 14, 2011

These were brilliant! I used to watch them during my summer holidays, on a tiny black and white TV in our caravan in Dorset. Now I want a jam tart and custard to eat while I watch them.
posted by dowcrag at 10:37 AM on July 14, 2011

King of the Rocket Men was the first serial I ever saw and started me on retro-nostalgia. Glad I was able to see it when I was young before it would occur to me that anyone would make fun of it.
posted by gregoryg at 10:44 AM on July 14, 2011

What a coincidence, we watched Radar Men from the Moon just the other day!
posted by Vindaloo at 10:47 AM on July 14, 2011

Excellent post. More serials stuff previously.
posted by cog_nate at 11:24 AM on July 14, 2011

His main power comes from the atomic powered rocket pack he wears. Designed by Professor Millard, it allows him to fly at great speed (estimated to be around 50mph). It is controlled by dials on his vest, deceptively simple controls including one which switches between "Up" and "Down", and one which controls his speed, labelled "Fast".

Professor Cortex? Who knew?
posted by Splunge at 12:14 PM on July 14, 2011

Oooh, added this to my Netflix queue. I love campy old serials. Thanks for the pointer!
posted by immlass at 12:23 PM on July 14, 2011

I loved watching these as a kid. My favorite part was the suit controls. As if, up/down and slow/fast could get you anywhere you wanted to go.
posted by DaddyNewt at 12:32 PM on July 14, 2011

I loved these as a kid- to me the rocket pack and helmet were the perfect superhero uniform. I'm just lucky I didn't kill myself attempting to emulate Commander Cody.
posted by happyroach at 1:07 PM on July 14, 2011

Yeah then he became the leader of a rockin' boogie woogie band.
posted by cogneuro at 2:47 PM on July 14, 2011

I saw an episode of Radar Men from the Moon and loved it. Using a rocket pack to tell a pilot where to drop bombs? Great! A 15 minute episode had no tedious mysterious, no heavy handed symbolism - just a rocket pack and a gun.

I wish Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow had been more successful. It could have brought this sort of fun pulp back.
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 4:23 PM on July 14, 2011

Wasn't there a "Commando Cody and the Lost Planet Airmen?"
Listen to Liszt, "Les Preludes" and tell me what serial it was the music for.
posted by eggtooth at 7:55 PM on July 14, 2011

Nipple nipple tweak tweak FLY!
posted by charred husk at 6:34 AM on July 15, 2011

« Older Twitter/Flickr usage maps of the world   |   Welcome...welcome. Newer »

This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments