Being born in the mid-1960's and spending the first few years on a Midwestern farm, I was very limited on what was available on television. We didn't have cable, and back in the day our tall outdoor TV antenna only provided a handful of small stations. As I've mentioned before, much of what I was able to watch regularly was syndicated fare -- a lot of Japanese imports -- and this pretty much continued once we moved to a nearby town. Oh, we did get the major networks once we threw off rural life for urban, but it was the early 1970's, and the landscape for TV was vastly different than what it is today.
But a popular morning children's program out of Chicago actually used episodes of the original SciFi serial Flash Gordon as part of its downtime for the host to prepare for his next segment. If I remember correctly, these clips were wildly edited -- the usual 25 minute chapter was probably cut down to 10-15 minutes -- so there was occasionally a bit of confusion about what happened here and there. Still, all of the good bits -- spaceships, lasers, aliens, etc. -- were preserved ... and this was my first introduction to the work of Buster Crabbe.
Thankfully, that Chicago station obviously had the Flash Gordon serials in their paid collection, and they'd occasionally run the movie-length edited versions on either Friday night or -- even better -- Saturday morning. Crabbe was a natural lead, exuding the kind of machismo that our society seems to want to leave behind these days; but back then it was pitch perfect for the guy facing down the nefarious Ming the Merciless who wanted to destroy our world. Sorry, kids, you can think what you like, but you don't defeat that level of villainy by using hashtags. Sometimes, you gotta get your hands dirty, and Crabbe performed admirably.
Though I don't recall where I read it, I do remember stumbling across a quote attributed to Crabbe regarding the 1980 version of Flash Gordon: it stated that he had seen the film and wasn't impressed. Seeing as to how much I love that film as well, I'd still never take the man to task over his opinion. After all, he was there back in the day of Flash's true theatrical beginnings, so if there's anyone who's entitled to his take on All Things Flash it's him. Respect your elders, kids. Truer words were never spoken.
Crabbe was born on this day in 1908, and he left us back in 1983, only a few short years after playing a 'Brigadier Gordon' aboard one of the earlier episodes of TV's Buck Rogers In The 25th Century. Insiders know how fitting an appearance that was (fictional name included) given the fact that the actor played not only Gordon but also he starred as Buck Rogers in the 1939 SciFi serial. I've read his casting was meant to bring his fans along for the ride as another space hero ... and again I say "Who can blame him?" It was a genius move.
If you've never seen the entire run of any of the Flash Gordon or Buck Rogers serials, then I encourage you to do so. Of course, they're a bit dated by today's standards, but I've always found them a bit of genius storytelling from the earlier days of Hollywood.
That's today's SciFi Moment.
As always, thank for you reading ... and live long and prosper!