'Buck Rogers in the 25th Century': THR's 1979 Review
On March 30, 1979, Universal unveiled Buck Rogers in the 25th Century in theaters. The 89-minute, PG-rated campy sci-fi adventure film, an attempt to capitalize on George Lucas and 20th Century Fox's Star Wars, ended up grossing $21.6 million ($77 million, adjusted for inflation) stateside. A TV series was then launched in August of the same year on NBC. The Hollywood Reporter's original review is below.
Of all the recent films inspired by the success of Star Wars, the Glen A. Larson production of Buck Rogers in the 25th Century is one of the most entertaining. The Universal release is strictly for the popcorn trade, but it's fun.
Written by Larson and Leslie Stevens (who also served as executive producer and supervising producer, respectively), the film relates the adventures of Buck Rogers, who manned NASA's last deep space probe in 1987, but was unexpectedly frozen in a state of suspended animation and is returned to Earth 504 years later. The plot involves a scheme by Draco the Conquerer, through the efforts of his daughter Princess Ardala, to penetrate the Earth's defense shield and take over the world.
It's comic-book material, but it has been brought to the screen with imagination and a delightful sense of tongue-in-cheek humor. Daniel Haller's direction is perfectly in tune with the lighthearted script and he progresses the action with an infectious spirit. The dialogue is built with outrageous puns and double entendres, and Haller guides his attractive cast through appropriate performances.
Gil Gerard invests the title role with commanding personality and an affecting sense of sly humor, and Pamela Hensley is revealed (by Jean-Pierre Dorleac's imaginative and eye-filling costumes) to be one of the most beguiling creatures yet to be discovered in outer space. Erin Gray is warmly appealing as the Colonel who doubts Rogers' story but who is attracted to him just the same, and Tim O'Connor is fine as an Earth doctor.
Aiding Hensley in the alien plot are Henry Silva as her ruthless advisor and Duke Butler as her hulking bodyguard. Joseph Wiseman appears briefly as Draco. One of the most engaging characters is a small robot named Twiki who is assigned to orientate and guard Rogers. Mel Blanc provided the voice for this role, which is enacted by Felix Silla.
The special effects and overall design, which includes space battles and fanciful futuristic settings, serve and support the camp elements. Stu Phillips' musical score heightens the effect. Frank Beascoechea's Technicolor photography is perfectly slick and glossy, and the film has been edited to an ideal 89 minutes by John J. Dumas. — Ron Pennington, originally published on March 30, 1979