When it comes to Mill Creek box sets, I have a feeling there are flicks that are hard passes; ones that even the awesome guest writing staff of B&S About Movies will skip over, assuming Beyond the Moon is just an old, craggy cardboardian TV knockoff (as it usually is in public domaindom) of the more popular Flash Gordon and Buck Rogers theatrical serials.
Me? I see beyond the corrugated knockoff as I gravitate to the blackholian fact that Beyond the Moon is a “John” Hollingsworth Morse production. Now that name may not mean anything to the younger, average n’ casual Mill Creek consumer, but to grill scrapers and grease pit scrubbers like myself, and Chief Cook, Bottlewasher, and Masters of Vodka Ceremonies like Sam, Beyond the Moon is a “Facebook Care” moment.
Hollingsworth Morse is one of those old Hollywood guys, like Stanley Donen (who went from 1954’s Singin’ in the Rain with Gene Kelly . . . to Saturn 3 with Kirk Douglas!) that ended up working in then “hot” space opera realm after kickin’ out the TV westerns Sky King and, more importantly, The Lone Ranger. Morse would eventually become a prolific film and television director responsible for an eclectic variety of U.S. television series from the 1950s through 1980s, with the still-in-reruns favorites of Adam-12 and McHale’s Navy, as well as your childhood favs of The Dukes of Hazzard and The Fall Guy.
Oh, and Morse helmed Lassie. Now, come on, youngin’. You must have heard about the show with Timmy and his collie? It’s Seinfeldian (sorry, Samuel) friggin’ iconic and led to the now lost, ’70s pop culture lexicon of “What’s wrong boy, Timmy fell down a well?” anytime anyone had a “dumb” moment.
Oh, and did you know that Morse did a crazed Filipino horror flick — his only foray into feature films — with Tom Selleck (yes, youngins: that old, craggy guy with a mustache on TV’s Blue Bloods that you now watch in reruns on ION and WGN) known as Daughters of Satan. Yeah. That’s right. Only in the B&S About Movies Universe: from border collies rescuing boys in wells to three Filipino witches cursed by a medieval-era Spanish oil painting.
So, to set up who TV’s Rocky Jones is: Remember when Glen Larson produced his television Star Wars knockoff of Battlestar Galactica? Well, it’s like that: this was Roland Reed Productions’ TV response to Buzz and Flash, and Republic’s movie serial knockoff of Buzz and Flash: Commander Cody: Sky Marshall of the Universe.
The fifteen episodes of Rocky Jones, Space Ranger ran from February to November 1954 for two television seasons. Much in the same fashion that the later, and somewhat similar, Space: 1999 and Battlestar Galactica were cut into domestic television and foreign theatricals films, Rocky Jones was cut into eleven, one hour eighteen minute-long movies that aired as domestic first runs up through 1956. Those films are:
Beyond the Moon
Silver Needle in the Sky
Crash of the Moons
Robot of Regalio
The Magnetic Moon
The Cold Sun
Menace in Space
The then groundbreaking film-recording of the show — as opposed to airing live as did most television shows of the era — not only allowed for these films to be cut (and preserved on DVDs in the digital age), but also permitted the production of then “superior” special effects and sets that, if the viewer considers the “time” and just rolls with the adventures of The Space Rangers — Earth-based space policemen patrolling the United Worlds of the Solar System in their Orbit Jet XV-2s and Silver Moon XV-3s — you’ll have a lot of fun watching what a young George Lucas watched — then referenced when he created his own, iconic space opera.
These Rocky Jones telefilms continued to air in U.S. UHF-TV syndication until the late ’60s — until Gene Roddenberry’s Star Trek (and his failed TV movie pilot for Genesis II) rendered the Space Rangers’ adventures obsolete.
Hopefully, you won’t think of Rocky Jones as “obsolete” and you won’t skip over the inclusion of Beyond the Moon on this Mill Creek box set (since Beyond the Moon was the first of the Rocky Jones films, it’s the one that most-oft appears on public domain sets) and you’ll “pop an emoji” for the ’50s sci-fi insights of John Hollingsworth Morse.
Last December, we had a month-long Star Wars blow out to commemorate the release of Solo: A Star Wars Story, with reviews of a pre-and-post Star Warsian films. You can catch up on those reviews with our “Exploring: Before Star Wars” and “Exploring: After Star Wars” featurettes that feature a links library. And the exploration goes deeper with R.D Francis’s retrospective of Italy’s Star Wars-inspired film industry and the inspirations of George Lucas with the Medium article: “In Space No One Can Hear the Pasta Over-Boiling: Alfonso Brescia and the ’80s Italian Spacesploitation Invasion.”