Sunday, September 4, 2011

Forgotten Gems: "The Rocketeer"

The Gorgeous Art Deco Teaser Poster for "The Rocketeer"

I almost titled this post "The Moment I Fell for Billy Campbell." 

20 years ago, director Joe Johnston actually made a good movie. The Rocketeer was produced by Disney and starred Billy (Bill) Campbell; Jennifer Connelly; Alan Arkin; Timothy Dalton and a still relatively unknown Terry O'Quinn as Howard Hughes.

Campbell is Cliff, a young wannabe pilot in the late 30's who stumbles upon a lost military jetpack. After he and his mentor Peevy (Arkin) tinker with it, Cliff makes his airshow debut as The Rocketeer. Connelly is the girl he wants to impress and Dalton is the Hollywood Heartthrob who is a secret Nazi and wants to steal the jetpack for Der Fuhrer.

An homage to the Flash Gordon and Buck Rogers serials of the 1930's, The Rocketeer is a fun and exciting bit of nostalgia, featuring Campbell at the height of his boyish gorgeousness (though he's nothing to sneeze at these days, either). Of course, the big summer blockbuster that year was T2 and there was no way any movie was able to compete with it. Still, Campbell should have been a bigger star than he became. 

The following year he appeared as the usually forgotten American character Quincy Morris in Francis Ford Coppola's Dracula (and is one of the few well-cast actors in it). He would go on to more success on TV, appearing in the family drama "Once and Again;" the aborted-too-soon Sci-Fi series "The 4400" and most recently on A&E's adaptation of "The Killing."  

I've caught bits and pieces of The Rocketeer on TV a lot in the last few weeks, probably because of it's 20th Anniversary. I think it's time to sit down and watch it again from beginning to end. 

Director Johnston (The Wolfman; Jurassic Park 3) has had a truly hit-or-miss career, but managed to hit the ball out of the park with another WWII era superhero movie with this year's Captain America: The First Avenger. Connelly (who first caught our attention in the cult classic Labyrinth) won an Oscar for A Beautiful Mind and appeared one of my favorite Sci-Fi movies, Dark City. Dalton would go on to play James Bond in several less-than-well-received films and Arkin recently made waves with his hilarious performance in Little Miss Sunshine.

If for no other reason (and there are plenty), The Rocketeer is worth seeing just to drool over Campbell. Just in case you doubt it, have a look:

More, anon.

No comments: