This weekend, a movie about a flying man, based on a comic book, smashed up the box office. Nineteen years ago, a movie about a flying man, based on a graphic novel, did not fare so well. The Rocketeer, based on the book by Dave Stevens, met with only tepid general interest, as noted by our own Jessica Barnes, but I am an unabashed fan of the 1991 flick.
Bill Campbell stars as Cliff Secord, a young pilot who discovers a mechanical device of mysterious origin in 1938 Los Angeles. With the help of his buddy, ace mechanic Peevy (Alan Arkin), Cliff straps the contraption to his back and takes off on the adventure of his life. Campbell is a bit uncertain in the title role, but the rest of the cast shines: gorgeous 21-year-old Jennifer Connelly as Cliff's girlfriend Jenny, an aspiring actress; Paul Sorvino as Eddie Valentine, a gangster; and Timothy Dalton as Neville Sinclair, a dashing Hollywood star.
I love a number of individual scenes in the movie: the first flight of The Rocketeer; Cliff's wide-eyed reaction to his first flight ("I like it!"); every appearance of the lovely Ms. Connelly -- but especially when she repels an attack from a lecherous admirer and zips up her dress with righteous indignation; the showdown at the Griffith Park Observatory; the fight on the zeppelin; and so on. Just as good, though, is a scene featuring Terry O'Quinn, now known as John Locke in TV's Lost.
Four years after delivering a stellar performance in the lead role in The Stepfather, O'Quinn pops up as the inventor of the jet pack. It's a very brief scene, but I love the economy of the exposition, and O'Quinn's command of the role, however brief.
Since that scene is so brief, here's another quick one: the Nazi propaganda cartoon that is played for Cliff and Peevy so they can better understand the importance of the jet pack in the days leading up to World War II.