Monday, March 10, 2014

Radar Men from the Moon (1952)


Just when I thought I had a cut-and-dry classic film reference for Digging Star Wars, I've uncovered a rat's nest. Here's the deal: Star Wars: Episode III - Revenge of the Sith introduced a character named "Commander Cody." He was Obi-Wan's clone commander ally and soon-to-be, would-be executioner. Cody is the first clone to kickoff the infamous Order 66 scene.


Commander Cody would later appear in multiple episodes of the animated TV series Star Wars: The Clone Wars. I often heard his name was a reference to one old serial film character of the same name. Wrong!

Sith's Commander Cody name is based on Republic Pictures' COMMANDO Cody character, who was in the 12-chapter movie serical named Radar Men from the Moon in 1952. Fourteen years after its movie theater run, the same serial aired on television as Retick the Moon Menace. Here is the trailer for Radar Men from the Moon...


But there's a slight controversary with the name. In an issue of Comics Scene magazine (Comic Scene #20, pp. 29-30), critics suggest that Republic named the character Commando Cody to confuse younger viewers that they were watching COMMANDER Corry of Space Patrol - a popular ABC TV show in the first half of the 1950s. Republic Pictures has never confirmed nor denied this allegation. Here's just one episode of Space Patrol - complete with Space Patrol commercials!


To make it even more confusing, Republic's COMMANDO Cody featured the same rocket-man suit from the 1949 Republic serial King of the Rocket Men. The suit not only made a prominent appearance in Radar Men from the Moon, but also Zombies of the Stratosphere (1952) and Commando Cody: Sky Marshall of the Universe (1953). And, since we're knee-deep in the confusing mess of borrowing, stealing, and rehashing: Zombies of the Stratosphere - which featured a young actor named Leonard Nimoy - was re-edited into the 1958 feature film called Satan's Satellites.

So, to be fair, we need to consider both Radar Men from the Moon and Space Patrol as the cinematic parents of Obi-Wan's turncoat clone commander Cody. In math terms:

COMMANDER Corry [Space Patrol (1950-1955)] + Commando CODY [Radar Men from the Moon (1952)] = COMMANDER CODY [Star Wars: Episode III - Revenge of the Sith (2005)]

There: clear as mud.

3 comments:

  1. Nice! Forgot about the Order 66 stuff. That was a bold move by Lucas I thought. Anyway, yes, the serials and TV shows from those eras do get cluttered and muddy when it comes to Syndication issues and Networks just being cheap. I'm sure if you picked another character from a serial or early TV show you might run into this problem again. Any word on Buck Rogers inspiring Lucas? Great stuff DSW !!!

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  2. Your research and logic is sound, as always. However, there may be one other inspiration you haven't considered. In the late '60s/early '70s there was a San Francisco-based band called Commander Cody and His Lost Planet Airmen. The band's leader, George Frayne IV, compiled his onstage moniker from the sources you cited. But a young George Lucas might've been drawn to this band because their first and most successful single was a remake of a 1955 song called "Hot Rod Lincoln." And we all know what cars and '50s rock-and-roll mean to ol' George!

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  3. Phil and PBF - Thanks for your comments. In regards to Buck Rogers - yes, I have some notes on that...perhaps for some "future" episode (sorry about the pun). And, in regards to Commander Cody and His Lost Planet Airmen - very cool. Makes sense. Anything's possible, I guess. Thanks again for posting!

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