Saturday 31 May 2008

Gotta rocket in my pocket!

The Rocketeer, released in 1991, by Walt Disney Pictures, was Joe Johnston's herioc adaptation of Dave Stevens' graphic novel of the same name. Chock full of cool iconic imagery, The Rocketeer followed the exploits of stunt pilot Cliff Secord, who discovers a stolen experimental rocket pack, and in the guise of The Rocketeer foils a dastardly Nazi plan led by a swashbuckling movie star.

The Rocketeer, like Indiana Jones recalled the Saturday morning serials of way back when. It starred Bill Campbell as square jawed Cliff Secord / the rocket man; Jennifer Connelly as girlfriend Jenny; Alan Arkin as "Peevy" Peabody, Cliff's mechanic cum compadre, and Timothy Dalton acting up a storm as Neville Sinclair, the Errol Flynn like movie star with Nazi sympathies. There is also some great support from Paul Sorvino playing a mob boss - after this movie, The Firm and Goodfellas, can anyone imagine Paul Sorvino playing anything BUT a mobster?

The mega talented director Joe Johnston, who designed The Iron Giant, doesn't miss a trick on the look and feel of the Rocketeer. The attention to detail is meticulous from the Amos 'n' Andy radio broadcast to the convincing Nazi propaganda cartoon of a rocket-powered invasion force. As mentioned previously, the movie contains some wonderful iconic images. Apart from Cliff's art deco helmet, there is the GeeBee Racer, the Zeppelin, the Autogyro and the Griffith Observatory. Not to mention Howard Hughes and the 'Spruce Goose', and Lothar, the seven foot terminator who bears more than a passing resemblance to B-movie bad guy Rondo Hatton.

Before becoming forever associated with the weep-fest that was Titanic, James Horner was considered the 'poor man's John Williams'. That didn't stop him from creating a stirring and exciting score for the Rocketeer. The Rocketeer theme is particularly memorable as is the four note leit motif for the Nazis. The official soundtrack also contains some well executed covers of Begin The Beguine and When your Lover Has Gone, performed by Melora Hardin.

I personally love the movie but, sad to say The Rocketeer was not deemed a success in terms of box office returns. It only just recouped its estimated $40 million budget and as a result hopes for a sequel never materialised. It is hardly surprising The Rocketeer did not perform especially well. Apart from a rather muddled marketing campaign and the Disney tag, The Rocketeer had some stiff competition that year: Terminator 2 - Judgement Day, Point Break, Reservoir Dogs, Robin Hood - Prince of Thieves, Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country, The Last Boy Scout and er...Rambo III being several notable competitors vying for cinema-goers' hard earned cash.

But that was then and this is now, so don't let historical opinion cloud your judgement and prevent you from enjoying this delightful movie and its equally entertaining soundtrack.


THXjay said...

A great score indeed!

I also love this movie, it's a good old fashioned "Boy's Own" rip-roaring adventure and is nestled amongst my similar favourites:

The Shadow
The Phantom
Sky Captain
King Solomon's Mines (Richard Chamberlain version)
League of Extraordinary Gentlemen

well the list goes on (and on) but I love films set around the turn of the century and into the 30's.
I guess we really have Lucas/Speilberg to thanks for kickstarting the genre with Indy back in '81.

Crispy32 said...

Blimey and I must be the only two people in the universe who liked Sky Captain. (Edward Sheamur's score is particularly good too)

I'm very much a sucker for that 1930's retro vibe in movies.

Once again, thanks for dropping by to leave a comment

Anonymous said...

Three great movies. It's a wonder how great fun movies and TV shows ever get done considering all the garbage that has been served up for so long. Thanks Vince