Friday, September 3, 2010
Rocky Jones, Space Ranger : Crash of the Moons (1954)
The show was based on the exploits of clean-cut, square-jawed Rocky Jones, the best known of the Space Rangers. These were Earth-based space policemen who patrolled the United Worlds of the Solar System in the not-too-distant future. Rocky and his crew would routinely blast-off in a V-2-like chemically-fueled, upright rocketship, the Orbit Jet XV-2, or later the nearly identical Silver Moon XV-3, on missions to moons and planetoids where the odds of success seemed remote yet they would always prevail. Although they might destroy a rocketship full of unseen bad guys, their space pistols were never fired at people, and conflicts were always resolved with fist fights, as was typical of family fare at the time. Although many strange worlds were visited, the alien characters usually spoke English and always appeared as normal humans, albeit in bizarre costumes and environments. The script-writers did not appear to know the difference between planets, moons, stars and constellations, so that the specific locations Rocky and his sidekicks visited are generally unknown to astronomers. Half hour episodes were usually grouped into stories that consisted of three 'chapters' that were broadcast on successive weeks. A few of the stories were complete in one episode
Rocky Jones was the creation of Roland D. Reed, a Hollywood producer best known for his successful My Little Margie series. Roland Reed Productions was founded in 1950 and in 1951 Warren Wilson penned the screenplay for the Rocky Jones pilot. By the end of 1951 a cast had been selected, headed by square-jawed leading man Richard Crane as Rocky Jones and one time Our Gang member Scotty Beckett as Rocky’s co-pilot and comic relief, Winky. The pilot was shot between January and April 1952 with the titles and effects shots being prepared in March of that year. Post-production was completed in May. The pilot was screened on September 29, 1952. Although the premise showed potential, several characters were recast, including Vena Ray and Secretary Drake. With the new cast finally in place and screenplays prepared for the first 26 episodes, filming began in October 1953 and continued until April 1954. An all out merchandising blitz began during this time. Wrist watches, wallets complete with space dollars, badges, buttons, records and clothing were produced to promote the show. A Rocky Jones, Space Ranger comic book was issued by Charlton. Issues 15, 16, 17 and 18 of the ongoing title Space Adventures are devoted to Rocky's adventures. Rocky, Winky, Vena, Bobby and Cleolanthe appear prominently. The largest sponsor was the Gordon Baking Company, makers of Silvercup Bread, the original sponsor of the Lone Ranger radio and television series.
The series finally premiered the week of Monday, February 22, 1954 at various days and times on stations across the United States. Unfortunately, off screen issues began almost immediately. In February 1954 Scotty Beckett was arrested for possessing a weapon after being implicated in an armed robbery at the Cavalier Hotel in Hollywood, CA. After posting bail he fled to Mexico where he encountered more problems for writing bad checks and more weapons charges. After a gun battle with local police he was incarcerated for four months and did not return to the United States until September 1954. By then the character of Winky was written out of the show, replaced by Biffen Cardoza (James Lydon). After filming of the initial 26 episodes ended, Maurice Cass died of a heart attack on June 8, 1954. An additional 13 episodes were ordered, and filming took place between August and October 1954. Lydon continued to play Biffen Cardoza, and Professor Newton was replaced by Professor Marberry (Reginald Sheffield), while regular villainess Cleolanthe, Suzerain of Ophiuchius (Patsy Parsons) was replaced by Juliandra, Suzerain of Herculon (Ann Robinson). No further episodes were ordered, and the series ended after 39 episodes. Thirty-nine 30 minute episodes were filmed and shown over the period starting in February, 1954 into January, 1955, depending on the local market schedule. Thirty six of these were grouped into 12 three-chapter 30 minute stories, and three were complete in one 30 minute episode each. Most of the three-chapter stories were edited into feature length films for television. This is one of those films,
Crash of the Moons
ROCKY JONES SPACE RANGER : CRASH OF THE MOONS
HOLLINGSWORTH MORSE (1954)