Sunday, November 26, 2006

Space Rangers Of The World, Unite!

The Fifties were great years to get introduced to Science Fiction. Numerous studioes were turning out some good movies and television also did its part. The first Sci Fi television I saw was Tom Corbett: Space Cadet. It was probably the last season for that series. Another I watched regularly was Science Fiction Theater with host Truman Bradley. But the series that hooked me was Rocky Jones, Space Ranger. It had uniforms a kid could copy; tee shirts with a patch, and baseball caps. The rocket was the epitome of the sleek deep space ship of the era, familiar from many a magazine, and the settings were (for want of a better term) out of this world.

Richard Crane was the stalwart hero and Sally Mansfield was the lovely blonde crewmember Vena Ray. There was also an elderly, absent-minded genius, Professor Newton portrayed by Maurice Cass, Winky the co-pilot played by Scotty Beckett (former Our Gang member) and Robert Lydon as Bobby, the youngest regular cast member. Biff was played by James Lydon, the movie's Henry Aldrich (no relation to Robert). Guest performers included Ian Keith, Henry Brandon (Barnaby in Laurel & Hardy's March Of The Wooden Soldiers) and John Banner (later Sgt. Schultz on Hogan's Heroes).

Stories were relatively simple but featured some interesting concepts. The bad guys resembled the Soviets; no surprise since this was the Cold War and that Nazis were old hat. The cast members and guest cast were all established professionals and the acting was pretty decent for a kid's show.

Several feature films were cobbled together from related episodes. Crash Of Moons involved a gypsy moon zipping through space, threatening to collide with an occupied planet. The special effects were pretty good and looked better than in some low-budget flicks of the Fifties.

Rocky Jones was the direct descendent of the pulps, but not quite Space Opera. It's worth giving it a look and drifting back to a time when things were simpler and the bad guys were the same baddies you saw in a Western on Saturday afternoon. Orbit Jet, away!


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