"MY CHILDHOOD HERO"


A brief overview of the Commando Cody a.k.a. Rocketman Character.


"The Nostalgic Fifties"


Saturday morning television has certainly changed from the time that I was a young kid back in the mid to late 50's. Back then the 3 channels that were available on our black and white TV sets provided us with plenty of thrills, chills & most of all "heroes" who were characters played by "real actors", not bizarre, outlandish or weirdo cartoon characters suffering from some psychological disorder. We knew who the "good guys" were & they were courageous, quick-witted & committed to justice & a code of honor. These shows provided us youngsters with characters who were good role models. Saturday Morning TV brought us the likes of "Sky King", "Jet Jackson", "Roy Rogers" & "Fury". Other favorite shows of the time were "The Lone Ranger", "Captain Gallant", "Ramar of the Jungle", "The Adventures of Superman" & "Rocky Jones, Space Ranger".


Radar Men from the Moon

"The Sky Marshall of the Universe"

One Saturday morning in the late 50's I stumbled on to a show quite by accident that caught my attention & imagination. It was "Commando Cody, Sky Marshall of the Universe". Commando Cody was a hero designated by the interplanetary council to thwart the plans of aliens from outer space in taking over the earth. To me, Cody was exciting & special. He possessed equipment that provided the means for him to do things that other heroes could not do, with the exception of Superman. He had an aero-dynamic metallic bullet-shaped helmet & a flight suit with a jet-pack strapped to his back that enabled him to fly & swoop down on villains or escape from deadly close calls in the nick of time. He also had a bullet-shaped rocketship that could travel to other planets in the solar system to foil the aliens' fiendish plots. In some episodes he even had a ray gun. He also wore a uniform with a black mask much like that of the Lone Ranger's. However, I do recall seeing some episodes where he didn't wear this mask which confused me to some degree. Being so young at the time I can not recollect how many of the 12 episodes that I actually saw, but it was one of my main objectives every Saturday morning not to miss this show. I drew numerous pictures of Cody & his deeds. When we kids played outside some kids played Sky King, some were Jet Jackson but I was Commando Cody. Never-the-less, Cody & his flight suit were only on television for a brief time & when he no longer appeared on Saturday mornings I would wait patiently for more of his adventures but Commando Cody never returned. As I grew older Commando Cody became a blurred memory to me.


Radar Men from the Moon

"30 Years Later: The Return of Commando Cody"

Some 30 or so odd years passed from the time that I was a young child when one night with my older son in a "BlockBusters Video" rental store I stumbled across the 12-chapter serial "King of the Rocketmen". On the front cover of this video box was a picture of none other than Commando Cody. Needless to say, all that excitement 30 years ago that I had forgotten about came rushing back to me. But wait a minute- the character in this video was called Rocketman, not Commando Cody. As I read the information on the back of the video box I was thrilled to find out that there were not only 3 separate films made with a character who used this flight suit but also the TV show "Commando Cody, Sky Marshall of the Universe". Within a year I obtained all 4 of these videos. They are:

King of the Rocketmen

"Summary"

Despite the many drawbacks to these Rocketman/Commando Cody films, in addition to the fact that they were made on a shoe-string budget, they were produced by Republic Pictures, the top producers of cliffhanger serials & "B" cowboy movies which included Gene Autry & Roy Rogers. Republic had earned the reputation for being the best at creating action scenes in their films even when compared to the big name studios of the time.
There are 2 reasons why the Rocketman/Commando Cody films are fascinating. One reason is because of the realistic special effects used to create the flying scenes. Republic's notable special effects technicians Howard & Theodore Lydecker strung a "life-size" dummie dressed in the rocket-suit on to invisible wires with pulleys. One end of the wire was connected to a high hilltop while the other end was connected far below to the bottom of a valley. When the dummy was released gravity would pull it downwards smoothly along the wires. The film was sped up & it appeared as if the rocketman dummy was actually flying on it's own accord. Take-off scenes were filmed with the dummy going backwards down the wires & then the film would be printed in reverse resulting in an authentic take-off effect. Because these scenes were shot outside in natural daylight there is no false lighting or tone mismatches as we often see today in movies that utilize many of the new computer-generated special effects. The rocketship scenes were filmed in a similar manner.

Radar Men from the Moon

The second reason why these films still have followers today is because of the excellent stunt work provided by some of the top stuntmen of that time. David Sharpe, one of the top names in the history of movie stuntwork did the Rocketman take-off & landing scenes in the first serial, "King of the Rocketmen" and many of these scenes were used in the later films. Furthermore, Republic known for excelling in the creation of choreographed fight scenes had notable stuntmen Tom Steele & Dale Van Sickel staging the fight sequences for all of the 3 serials & the 12 episodes of "Commando Cody, Sky Marshall of the Universe".


Cast, credits & chapter titles for: "King of the Rocketmen", "Radar Men from the Moon",
"Zombies of the Stratosphere", "Commando Cody, Sky Marshall of the Universe",

Zombies of the Stratosphere

-To comment on the "Commando Cody" webpages just e-mail me at dhzippi@verizon.net

"Rocketman/Commando Cody Image Gallery"


-For more information and links on the subjects of Commando Cody, Rocketman, Republic Pictures and cliffhanger serials in general checkout the "Serial Squadron" website, Gary Hughes' "The Rocketpage" & "SCI-FI STEVE's WEBSITE".
-For information & links on heroes of the silverscreen from the 1930's to the 1950's try "The Old Corral".

Main Sources:

Books:
  • "Days of Thrills and Adventure" by Alan G. Barbour / Published 1970
  • "The Great Movie Serials: Their Sound and Fury" by Jim Harmon & Donald F. Glut / Published 1972
  • "In the Nick of Time: Motion Picture Sound Serials" by William C. Cline / Published 1984

Videos:
  • "King of the Rocketmen" by Republic Pictures
  • "Radar Men from the Moon" by Republic Pictures
  • "Zombies of the Stratosphere" by Republic Pictures
  • "Commando Cody, Sky Marshall of the Universe" by Republic Pictures
  • "The Republic Pictures Story" by American Movie Classics
  • "Cliffhangers: Adventures from the Thrill Factory" by Leonard Maltin


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Last Update: April 2009DZDeZigns TM

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