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Rocketeer, The

Entry updated 27 February 2023. Tagged: Film.

Film (1991; vt The Adventures of the Rocketeer). Walt Disney (see The Walt Disney Company). Directed by Joe Johnston. Written by Danny Bilson, Paul DeMeo. Cast includes Alan Arkin, Bill Campbell, Jennifer Connelly, Timothy Dalton and Paul Sorvino. 108 minutes. Colour. Based on The Rocketeer (1982-1995), a Comic created by Dave Stevens (1955-2008).

This enjoyable big-budget re-creation of the thrills of 1930s and 1940s B-serials – more accurate but less popular than Steven Spielberg's Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981) (see Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull) – features gangsters, G-men, Nazis, pilots, movie stars, a dirigible Airship, Howard Hughes (1905-1976) and (in thin disguise) Errol Flynn (1909-1959) and Rondo Hatton (1894-1946), all of these Icons and characters neatly evocative of the Los Angeles venue of the film (see California). The Flynn character, played with relish by Dalton, is the villain; the gangster boss (Sorvino) discovers his true loyalties ("I'm a hundred per cent American") when he realizes he has been helping Nazis steal an experimental rocket pack; there is an excellent re-creation of a Nazi propaganda cartoon. Unlike the greedy, cynical, individualistic Indiana Jones, the old-fashioned Rocketeer, the uncharismatic Campbell, is law-abiding and patriotic – and outshone by the scheming Dalton.

The specific inspiration from past Cinema would seem to be the Serial Film King of the Rocket Men (1949), abridged as Lost Planet Airmen (1951) (which see). [MK]


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