Tuesday, 10 July 2018

The Rocketeer - a love-letter to the Golden Age of serials

Los Angeles, 1938

(Spoilers Throughout; Be Warned!) 
At the grandly-named Bigelow Aeronautical Corporation at Chaplin Field, a beautiful little plane is rolled out, Old Man ‘Peevy’ Peabody giving Pilot Cliff Secord some last minute advice. 

They have hopes for the Nationals with this one. The Gee Bee is a handful, to say the least.

Sticking some lucky gum on the rudder and the picture of his girl on the instrument panel, Cliff takes her up as the crew watches expectantly, unaware Peevy snatched the lucky gum from the rudder. Oh-oh... 
Buzzing the field in a low pass, he continues the test flight as, nearby a Ford V8 flees from the Police and FBI, both sides exchanging gunfire. 

The cops have pistols – the bad guys have a Tommy gun. In back of the Ford is a box marked ‘Authorised Personnel Only’. Cliff flies over the procession as they take to a field and takes some rounds from the Thompson. 

Immediately, the plane loses control and, trailing smoke, he makes for the field skimming past an oddly-rural billboard for the new Neville Sinclair flick. 

Meanwhile the sole surviving crook stashes the contents of the box in the empty hangar, switching them for a Hoover he spots on a workbench. Back outside, he drives off, pursued by the Feds. As luck would have it, the thief is forced to bail as Cliff’s plane comes in to land, the undercarriage smashed away by the impact as it hits the V8. 

The Ford hits a fuel bowser and is incinerated in the explosion. 

Totalled, the Bee Gee catches fire and the ground crew gets Cliff out just in time. There goes the Nationals.
The FBI aren’t sympathetic to the loss of income the crash represents and after slugging it out with one of the agents, a hard-case named Fitch, Cliff’s lucky not to be in jail.
Questioning Wilmer, the injured hoodlum, the G-Men Fitch and Wooly want to know one thing: where’s the package?. Blown to hell… Retrieving the mangled remnants of the Hoover from the wreck, the FBI takes it away, confident they have the right gizmo.
At Hughes Aircraft Corporation, the legendary Aviator and multi-millionaire Howard Hughes takes the call from the Feds personally; there can be no doubt… the X-3 has been destroyed. 

Hughes tells his visitors – an Army General and a Government man, there’s no chance of rebuilding it. Two Test Pilots died flying it and he flatly refuses to make another, tossing the blueprints onto the fire.
Back at the airfield, things have gone from bad to worse; Bigelow wants the money for his bowser and the fuel in it. The only option is for Peevy and Cliff to work the old clown act again, to pay off the debt. That means ‘Miss Mabel’ - the old Standard J-1. Jumping into the cockpit, Cliff discovers the gizmo the crook stashed. The dingus – whatever it is, is streamlined aluminum, beautifully crafted and purposeful. A leather harness invites further inspection. Finding a button, Cliff ignores Peevy’s advice and pushes it. 

A turbine spins up and suddenly, with a colossal roar, flame shoots from the ports beneath the gadget and it hurtles itself into the air, careening around the hangar to come to rest against the office wall. Cautiously, Cliff kills the device by hitting the button with an extended broom. Peevy wonders what the damned thing’s for. And Cliff answers by putting on the harness. It’s a rocket pack.
That night, the sound of sawing can be heard outside ‘Lucky Lindy’s’ Flight School. Cliff and Peevy are hard at work ‘borrowing’ the statue of Lindbergh to use as a Test-Pilot for their mystery find, driving it off in a pick-up.
At the jaw-dropping home of the famous Actor Neville Sinclair, Mobster Eddie Valentine isn’t happy at the loss of two of his boys. They didn’t expect the FBI, but Sinclair thought Snatch and Grab was Eddie’s specialty; it’s what he paid him for. The Swashbuckling star toys with a rapier as Valentine wants to know why the package they stole is so important to the Feds, but a winning smile is all the answer he gets. Taking his goons, he makes to leave, but Sinclair stops them in their tracks by revealing it’s a rocket. So what happened to it?; only Wilmer knows – and he’s in the Hospital, surrounded by cops. When Sinclair proposes a visit, Valentine finds it hilarious – until he finds the point of the Actor’s sword against his throat. 
B&W (Durrr) Production Still of the scene.
He wants the rocket. And he wants it now. He offers double the price, but the quietly furious Gangster demands triple.
Alone, Sinclair makes a call to an associate. Lothar is to make a condolence call.
Tethering the rocket in a nearby field, Cliff and Peevy fire the pack remotely, testing Lindy’s famous luck to new limits as the peg is ripped from the ground, substitute-Pilot and Pack disappearing into the night sky like a gravity-defying comet. Just when they think it’s gone forever, the wooden Lindy and his extraordinary aircraft come hurtling back to Earth, forcing the two to duck as it crashes to Earth, ending up head first in a pile of dirt. As the pair carry the statue back to the truck, Peevy wants nothing more to with the weird contraption; the FBI are involved. Cliff, however, sees an opportunity to make some real money. Seeing Lindy’s head has been worn away by the crash, Cliff reasons they’ll need a helmet.

At the lodging house for young actresses Jenny is putting a stocking on a shapely leg when the sound of a horn announces her date has arrived. The matronly Mrs.Pye warns the young couple she locks up at eleven sharp. Jenny thinks she’s got the part in a Neville Sinclair movie; just one line. Cliff wants to see a Cagney movie tonight, but it’s Jenny’s turn to pick and she’s chosen ‘Wings of Honor’ - the new Neville Sinclair picture.
As they take their seats, the newsreel assures America Herr Hitler has no intention of invading Czechoslovakia – and the latest Zeppelin ‘Luxembourg’ is on a goodwill visit to the United States, culminating in Los Angeles. Cliff isn’t buying the ‘goodwill’ part – cynical, eh?.
While Wilmer recuperates, asleep in his hospital bed, a massive, mis-shapen figure quietly breaks in through the window, while the Nurse and Cop on guard drink coffee and listen to the radio outside the room. This is Lothar – and he wants to know where the rocket is. In a voice of pure gravel, he interrogates the helpless goon, pulling and lifting his battered body to get what he wants. By the time Mr. and Mrs. Vigilant get there, Wilmer has been folded like an unwanted bill.
The Bull Dog cafe is one of those places you used to everywhere in Roadside, America; restaurants shaped like hats, diners shaped like hotdogs or teapots. Programmatic they call it these days. The Bull Dog is, as the name suggests, a giant Bulldog. Outside, an actual bulldog waddles towards the joint, while inside, Skeets, Malcolm and the rest of the usual crowd laughs as Cliff describes the cornball Neville Sinclair movie. At the end of the flick, Sinclair’s character flies over enemy lines to drop a bottle of champagne on them. Jenny insists her hero was just being chivalrous. Malcolm, an old-timer doesn’t recall any liquor stores when he was at the front. Fixing a broken toy plane for little Patsy, his fingers are shaking so much the wheel ends up in Jenny’s soup. Being shot down does that for you.
Dreamily, Jenny hankers after a change of scene; somewhere not the airfield. Where?; the Copa?, the Brown Derby? - how about the South Seas Club?. Undeterred, she offers a deal; they’ll have a real night out on the town after he wins the National. She isn’t best pleased when the regulars tell her about Cliff’s ‘landing’ today. Why is she the last to hear the news?. Cliff points out she’s never there, always chasing a part – like the time she got to stand behind Myrna Loy holding some grapes. When she flounces off, Millie, the cafe owner tells the flyer to go after her, but she’s hopped on a coach.
Arriving at the house he shares with Peevy, Cliff finds the old man working on an old radio. Unburdening himself, the younger man can’t figure the girl out; she hangs around with Hollywood types talking about Movie stars all day. Peevy explains that’s just her job – she doesn’t care about phoneys, she cares about him. Secord wants to make something of himself, but Peevy tells him if she flies to coop, it’s his fault. What does he know anyway?. Cliff leaves him to it, cutting up the old radio with a hacksaw.

Next day, bright and early, Cliff comes down to find the old man asleep. Curious, he examines his work, to find the old radio has now become an Art Deco helmet, like something from a science-fiction serial. In place of goggles, two smoked visors for protection, a grille over the mouth and a prominent fin.
In the Castle, the Laughing Bandit is fighting the Villanous, well, Villain to the death, swords flashing, buckles swashing. All around them, their men fight, a melee of chaos. 

Gallantly, the hero flips his blade to send the flower pinned to the villain’s chest into the hands of the fair maiden, engaging in witty repartee as he does battle with the dastard. But who is the mysterious and elusive Bandit?. Removing his mask, he reveals himself to be both Neville Sinclair and ‘Sir. Reginald.’ Zounds!. 

Despatching the foe and swinging on a chandelier rope, the Bandit quaffs from a tankard and the Fair Maiden delivers her line…Oh, my prince, would that you drink of my lips as deeply...’. More Ham than Walmart. Sinclair’s features twist into a grimace at the insult and the Director yells to cut.

As the harassed Director takes his leading lady off for 
impromptu acting lessons, the extras relax between takes, 
among them Jenny. Her audition was better – but what does 
that matter when the Producer’s niece wants the part?. As 
they go for take 28, Cliff Secord shows up backstage. This 
time, all goes well and Cheesey delivers her line adequately. 
Did I say ‘all goes well?’ - well, up to the part when Cliff 
accidentally knocks the scenery over, the flat almost 
flattening the Star, who escapes impending flatness by 
ducking under a table. 
Embarrassed, Secord explains he just came by to see Jenny. Laughing it 
off with a quip, Sinclair’s mood changes when it’s realised the villain 
has been stabbed. For real. Taking charge, Sinclair calls for his driver 
to take the stricken Actor to the Hospital, before rounding 
angrily on the Director. This is meant to be a closed set. He 
demands that Jenny be banned from the lot. 
Cliff’s apology isn’t going down well, but he wants to 
explain; he’s found something, something really big. He 
explains it’s an engine which you strap to your back. 
Overhearing the conversation, Sinclair cannot believe his 
luck. The Rocket. When Jenny gets her papers Cliff is left 
stranded, removed from the set. Suddenly all charm, Sinclair 
intercepts the heartbroken young actress and offers the 
tearful girl the role of the Saxon Princess. They could discuss 
it over dinner?; he has a table at the South Seas Club… her 
star truly struck, Jenny agrees.
The Air Races and Malcolm is selling programs to the 
bleachers as the places race neck and neck, wing-tip to wing-
tip. Signing off for a brand-new bowser, (And ordering the 
driver to leave this one in a safe place) Bigelow demands to 
know where Secord is; the kid’s late.If he’s a no-show, they’ll 
need to find a new hangar. Hearing this, Malcolm heads 
towards ‘Miss Mabel.’ He’ll give them a show… 
Eddie Valentine and his thugs are among the crowd; they’ve 
searched everywhere for the rocket, to no avail. All they 
found in the old plane was Jenny’s picture; so maybe she 
knows something. Rumbling up on his Harley, Cliff sees 
Malcolm take the old plane out, the announcer mistaking 
the veteran for Secord. Horrified, Cliff and Peevy can only 
watch as the old J-1 starts misfiring, smoke pouring from the 
worn-out old plane. Cliff runs for the rocket…
Unawares, Malcolm is drifting towards the race lane; a 
terrible tragedy is seconds away, the racers scattering to 
avoid the stricken biplane. In the Hangar, Peevy has caught 
up with Cliff to find him donning the rocket-pack. They 
haven’t tested it properly!. Relenting, Peevy runs him 
through the improvements he’s made and, for luck, hooks the 
gum out of the pilot’s mouth and slaps it onto the tank. With 
the helmet on, Cliff looks like a hood ornament. Looking up, 
he presses the button and Peevy is blasted off his feet as 
Secord is thrown upwards into the sky. 
To the amazement of spectators, pilots and gangsters all, 
Cliff whooshes over the stands, passing the racers to smash 
through Mabel’s bottom, startling the hapless Malcolm, 
who’s knocked cold by the joystick in the process. Clambering 
up onto the lower wing, Cliff desperately tried to revive the 
old-timer, but is thrown clear, falling into thin air. 
Powering up, he zooms back to the plane and accidentally 
kicks the joystick in the co-pilot’s seat behind, sending the 
plane rearing into a climb and him back into freefall. If at 
first, you don’t succeed… the plane is now diving, luckily
towards a safe place. The same safe place the shiny new 
bowser happens to be parked. Desperate, Cliff unclips 
Malcolm’s harness and blasts the pair of them from the 
doomed aircraft. Dropping Malcolm off*, Cliff zooms away 
into the sky – leaving the assembled Press-men – and 
Mobsters to scramble for their phones and cars. A Rocket-
Man!; what a scoop!. 
*On what looks suspiciously like a disguised stuntman’s air-
bag, but is meant to be a partially-inflated balloon from the 
The rocket sears through the sky, propelling Cliff Secord 
through the clouds. 
Coming across a Ford Trimotor, he gives 
the passengers something to tell their grandchildren with 
his fly-past. Until, with a cheeky salute, he accidentally kills 
the throttle. Plummeting to Earth, he’s spotted by Peevy in 
the pick-up as he manages to re-ignite the rocket and collects 
a sheet from a woman’s laundry as he flashes past. 
Hurtling through orange grove and wheat field alike, he 
skims like a stone across a pond to come to an undignified 
halt. Peevy catches up with him and finds his steaming 
protégé sat in the water. Cliff liked the ride, but Peevy 
reminds him he doesn’t know little details like fuel 
endurance, plus he has a rudder; the vane on the helmet 
steers the whole contraption.  
Spotting cars approaching, they decide to beat a hasty 
retreat – but the old Ford won’t start. Peevy puts it in neutral 
as Cliff climbs in back and gives the old jalopy a rocket-
assisted getaway. Valentine and co. can only watch in 
disbelief as their prize escapes them once more.
At the airfield, Bigelow is assailed by a legion of newshounds, 
all eager for more about the rocket. One problem; he doesn’t 
have a clue about any of it – another, what to call the rocket-
flier?. Rocket-Boy?. Missile Man?. Looking out of his office 
window, Bigelow spots a Pioneer Petroleum sign. Wait… 
Pioneer - Rocketeer. 
Next day, Cliff joins the crowds jostling to buy the papers, but 
at the studio, Neville Sinclair is less happy about the 
headlines. However, the last word on the news falls to 
Howard Hughes, who assures the two red-faced FBI men that 
the vacuum cleaner they recovered won’t fall into the wrong 
That night, the two unlucky Feds call at Bigelow’s office, to 
find it trashed, papers scattered all over the place. Neater, 
perhaps, is Bigelow’s corpse. It’s been folded in half. A 
notepad bears the imprint of the last words he ever wrote; 
1635 Palm Terrace and we see the original note held in 
Luthor’s vast paw. 
The giant lumbers towards the house as, 
inside, Peevy pores over diagrams and schematics. Hearing a 
sound, he grabs a hammer. Cliff pulls up on his Harley just as 
the back door gives way with a tinkle of glass. Cliff throws 
the hammer and somehow misses, scoring a hit with a 
trophy. It doesn’t even slow the monstrous assassin. Barging 
the front door, Cliff tries to bust in, until Lothar unlocks it to 
send the airman sprawling. The FBI come screaming up and 
swarm over the front of the house as Cliff is rammed through 
the ceiling as if he were a child’s doll. The creature speaks!;  
‘Where is it?.’ The answer is: hastily concealed beneath a 
lampshade in plain sight. As Cliff tries to act dumb, the light 
from six headlamps floods the room and Fitch, one of the FBI 
men calls for Secord and Peabody to open up. 
Tossing Cliff through a table, the mis-shapen killer draws a 
pair of toy guns. Well, they’re 1911 Colt .45’s, but they look  
like toys in those mammoth fists. Opening fire, he’s met with 
a fusilade from the G-Men, Tommy guns and pistols blazing 
into the wooden house and blowing Lothar’s hat off. Bending 
to retrieve it, he spots Peevy’s diagram and steals it, crashing 
through a side door to make good his escape. While the 
going’s good, Peevy and Cliff follow, the latter grabbing the 
rocket and helmet. 
The South Seas Club and the band is playing Begin the 
Beguine. As Melora Hardin (Exquisite, herself) steps out from 
a giant clam behind the soloist, Neville Sinclair brings Jenny 
down the steps where they rub shoulder with Clark Gable. 
Jenny wears a silk number and looks fabulous. Right at home. 
Charm set to overdrive, Sinclair turns on the charm and this 
time, it’s W.C. Fields who arrives to greet the matinee idol. 
Before Sinclair can get to work, however a ‘telephone call’ 
beckons and he leaves Jenny to the dubious care of Fields. 
Production Still of Jenny
The ‘phone call’ is actually an invite to Eddie Valentine’s 
office in back of the club, a mermaid in a tank forming part 
of one wall. One of Valentine’s men gets off the phone to tell 
him ‘Spanish Johnny’ is checking out the Bull Dog cafe. When 
Sinclair informs the Hoodlum that the girl he’s with is Cliff’s, 
Valentine is all for interrogating her, but the actor won’t 
hear of it. They’ll do it his way. If this means folding any 
more of his men in half, Eddie warns – he’ll kill Sinclair. As a 
parting shot, Valentine threatens the star that if he goes 
down, he’s spilling everything, taking Sinclair down with 

Malcom enters the Bull Dog as, upstairs, in the dog’s head so 
to speak, an anxious Secord and Peevy are hiding out, 
listening to the news bulletin. The helmeted mystery man 
disappeared into the Baldwin hills moments after the daring  
rescue and has yet to step forward and identify himself. But 
air circus owner, Otis Bigelow, promises his bird man will 
return. Until then, Los Angeles is buzzing. Who is the 
Rocketeer?. And now, back to our programme of dance band 
favourites… switching off the radio, Peevy outlines his idea. 
They’ll call the FBI, get rid of the damn thing. 
Cliff reasons the FBI will just lock them up; they think they were 
shooting at them at the house. Knocking up, Malcolm tells the two 
that Bigelow’s office is crawling with cops. And he’s been killed. 
Cliff has had enough; he climbs down to make the call.

Two cars full of hoods rumble to a halt outside and as Cliff is 
making his call, they breeze in. Spotting the danger, he 
pranks the FBI man answering the call and sits down at the 
counter, next to Peevy. The goons tell Millie they are looking 
for a Pilot, Cliff Secord by name. They offer money as a 
finder’s fee, but no-one’s biting. 
Gamely, Millie tells them to order or leave and Spanish Johnny 
sends a pie display crashing to the floor. Guns are drawn as the mask 
of politeness slips. Two bullets silence the radio and throwing 
old man Peevy aside, ‘Spanish’ grabs hold of Cliff. 
Peevy is held over the griddle and a cocked pistol tells Cliff 
not to try anything. Spotting Jenny’s number on the wall, 
 Johnny Español pulls out her photograph. As Luck would 
have it, Lady Luck left her phone number… 
Jenny’s room-mate takes the call, Johnny pretending to be a 
florist with flowers from Cliff. Cleverly, the dope tells him 
she’s at the South Seas. Cliff listens intently as the goon tells 
his subordinates. She’s with the Limey. Leaving two 
meatheads to guard the diner’s captive patrons, Johnny 
blows. One of the knuckle-draggers starts perusing the 
photos on the wall, spotting a picture of… Cliff with Jenny. 
Slowly, the penny drops – as does the moron when he gets a 
face-full of Cliff’s fists. Skeets jumps the other dope and Peevy 
leaps the counter to subdue him, a shot going through the 
ceiling. Millie puts the full-stop on things with a well-placed  
(And rubber, if you look closely enough) frying pan to the 
skull. Never upset the chef. 
Scrambling up the ladder, Cliff buckles up, a furious Peevy 
protesting the only place the rocket is going is back to the 
Feds. He loves her. Cliff loves the girl – he has to go, but 
promises when he’s through the thing goes back. Finally, 
Peevy spots where the punk’s bullet went, a ricochet hole in 
the back of the rocket-pack testament to bad luck. It’ll take 
hours to fix, but there aren’t any hours to fix with… 
improvising, the old man patches the leak with the lucky 
Stepping outside onto the roof, the Rocketeer sends 
himself – and Peevy, flying once more. As he regains his 
senses, the old man finds himself staring down the barrel of 
a Colt Official Police. 
Back at the South Seas, Neville Sinclair is busy charming the 
knicker elastic from Jenny, who is naturally smitten with her 
elegant new surroundings. He wants to dance – but there’s no 
music. He hears music anyway… don’t you just want a 
bucket?. As the Rocketeer zips past Grauman’s Chinese 
Theatre, the patrons of the club watch as Sinclair leads Jenny  
onto the deserted dance floor. Sine musica. 
Arriving outside, Cliff stows his gear in a bag he didn't have when
he took off and which looks too small for the pack and helmet anyway. 
Sorry. Sinclair is working the girl hard now, giving her the 
full treatment; One day, Jenny a man’ll look into those eyes 
and drown. (To be fair, every man watching this film is 
halfway under; she is stunning...) Luckily for Sinclair, the 
band that wasn’t there a second ago are now all waiting in 
position and they strike up a tune. I really should stop nit-
picking. Everyone in the place has partnered up and the floor 
is filled with couples who didn’t need the loo or a drink. Ok; 
I’ll stop!. 
Smashing a window, Cliff breaks in and, with his thankfully 
now big-enough sack, stows it in the laundry, emerging into 
the Club proper in a waiter’s tunic. He isn’t best pleased to see 
his girl in the arms of the actor, her figure showcased 
beautifully by her dress, her tight, firm but... luckily (But not 
for my blood pressure) the sumptuous Melora is back to rub it 
in with her rendition of ‘When Your Lover Has Gone.’  
Seeing the song is making Jenny sad, Sinclair probes her for more 
about Cliff and she reminisces, unwittingly giving Sinclair – 
let’s not forget he’s a total shit – background to use. The 
waiter puts a bowl down with a message written on a scrap of 
paper. Meet me by the big fish now. The Rockewaiter tells an 
impatient Sinclair a fan of his sent some soup over. So where 
is Cliff now?. She’s about to tell the cad Secord has an engine 
when he ‘accidentally’ knocks her drink into her lap. Angrily, 
Sinclair orders the World’s clumsiest flying waiter to fetch 
something to clean it up, but before he can get more about 
the rocket, she makes an excuse to duck out for a second. 
Pulling Jenny into some shrubbery, (Why not?) Secord tells 
her about Bigelow’s murder. They’re trying to get to him 
through her. Prepare for a shock – he’s the Rocketeer. The 
Rocke-who?. She’s the only person in LA who hasn’t read the 
papers. Before he can explain, Spanish Johnny and goons 
appear and he tells her to get to her Mom’s place. She asks for 
one good reason to believe a word of this... he’ll go out of his 
mind if anything happened to her. They kiss. Irritably, 
Sinclair waits alone at the table, where the note has surfaced 
in Jenny’s soup. The girl herself makes to leave as Cliff spots 
something that confirms his suspicions; Sinclair giving 
orders to the hoodlums. 
The heat intensifies as Lothar unwinds his enormous frame from 
a taxi outside. And Secord bumps right into him. With Lothar, Spanish 
Johnny and henchman in pursuit, Cliff makes a break for the rocket 
Ducking into the laundry, he scrabbles among several dozen 
identical laundry bags, desperate to find the right one as 
Lothar batters the handy reinforced steel door. A Maximum 
Security Laundry?. Finally breaking in, the goons spot Cliff’s 
booted legs in the chute just as a furnace blast propels them 
from sight. (From below, if you watch the sequence frame-by-
frame, but you don't have to, Dear friends - I, the Volcano-Cat)
am here to do it all for you.) 

A maid is tossing away some laundry in the Ladies’ Powder 
Room above when a giant hood ornament erupts from the 
chute onto a trolley and roars out into the club, causing 
mayhem. Eddie Valentine leaves his office to find the 
Rocketeer zipping around causing panic and generally 
setting table cloths alight. Jenny has just managed to find a 
cab when the patronage emerges screaming in terror. 
Sinclair orders a flunky to lock the doors; they’ve got him 
trapped!. Seeing something’s amiss, Jenny runs back, but is 
locked out. 
Landing on an ice sculpture, the Rocketeer sends 
it crashing through the doors and she enters. Before the 
flying man can escape, Sinclair grabs a tommy gun and 
blasts away to send a hanging ‘fisherman’s net’ down, 
catching the flying fish. So to speak. 

Spotting Luthor’s advance, the Rocketeer hits the switch and 
butts him to the floor, but the big man is up in no time, 
drawing a pistol to finish Cliff off. Jenny k.o.’s the lummox 
with an ornamental seahorse. Looking up, Cliff sees a way 
out; a stained-glass skylight and blasts off through it, 
narrowly escaping the hail of tommy gun fire that follows. 
Not so lucky is Jenny, whose own exit is halted by a less than 
charming Sinclair and a napkin. Is it me, or does it smell of 
Jenny slowly comes to to find herself on a bed in the home of 
Neville Sinclair. The door’s locked, but through a window she 
gets a glimpse of Sinclair himself closing a secret panel in 
the library. She’s back on the bed feigning sleep as he enters 
with brandy and smelling salts. Does he have to drug all his 
women to seduce them?. Jenny confronts him, but ever the 
actor he tells her he was forced to kidnap her. He’s a victim 
too. They’re blackmailing him. He gives her a line, but being 
a fan she recalls he said the same words to Garbo. Trying 
again, he gives her the ‘I can make you a star’ bit, but she’s 
not buying; he said the same to Lombard. Moonlight on 
Broadway... giving up the schmaltz (thankfully), he tells her 
she can’t be comfortable in that gown. Disappointingly, he 
means to offer her another outfit, revealing he keeps a 
wardrobe full of women’s clothes. Judge not lest ye shall be 
judged, I say. Offering her a sheer back number, he starts 
with the old favourite, ear-nibbling...
Trying to come to her senses, Jenny is confused. Does he want 
her to try the dress on?. Desperately, he replies. In the 
changing room, she calls to him to help her out of her dress 
and he’s there like a dog at a Butcher’s. Am I being too 
slushy?. As he reaches for the zipper, she gives it to him with a 
vase. Out like a light. She goes through the house, but knocks 
over a candelabra and rouses the suspicions of Luthor, who is 
sat downstairs getting around some chicken drumsticks. 
Backing into a room, she finds herself in the library. 
Searching for the book that activates the secret panel, she 
sees The Conquests of Casanova. Wish she’d kicked Sinclair 
when he was down, don’t you?. 
The book opens the panel and she finds that unlike Errol Flynn’s 
house, Sinclair doesn’t have a sex dungeon, but a radio and Peevy’s 
diagram of the rocket. Quickly, she tucks the drawing into her dress, 
next to her firm and burgeoning resolve. Flipping on the transmitter,
she calls for help, but gets a german speaker. Maybe a radio 
ham from Hamburg?. The Nazi book she finds next to the 
radio tells a different story. Sinclair is a spy!. Said spy opens 
the bookcase panel and Jenny screams as Lothar bears down 
on her. 

Arriving back at the Bull Dog, the Rocketeer sneaks round 
back and dumps the helmet and rocket-pack in the garbage. 
Tomorrow’s not Thursday, right?. It’s late and the place is 
deserted, so he climbs to the loft to find that is too. Little 
Patsy calls up; startling him. He comes down as the phone 
rings. It’s Valentine, offering an exchange; at Griffith 
observatory, 4 a.m. by some statues. He comes alone or Jenny 
gets it. Frightened, Patsy asks what will happen to Jenny 
and a distracted Cliff rebukes her before apologising. But, 
before he can explain how the Rocketeer will save Jenny, the 
FBI bursts in. He’s surrounded. 

Meanwhile, Peevy explains to Howard Hughes how he 
improved the Rocket-pack by simply bypassing the pressure 
valve. As ever only truly relaxed in the company of fellow 
engineers, Hughes comments that the helmet-rudder 
addition was a work of genius. Praise from the Master, 
indeed. Just then, the Feds burst in with a handcuffed Cliff. 
There’s no sign of the rocket – or, for that matter of FBI search 
procedures. Fortunately, Howard Hughes has a brain and 
orders* Wooly to remove the cuffs. He asks if Secord knows 
who he is; what pilot doesn’t?. He designed the Cirrus X-3 
himself, and informs him the pack was stolen from his 
factory.  And he wants it back. Cliff can’t do that – not with 
Jenny in peril!. Hughes tries another tack; showing Secord a 
*Yes, ordered; when Howard Hughes gave an order, it was 
obeyed, not matter who you were. 
Rocketeer Creator Dave Stevens gets a cameo here as the Nazi test-pilot.
As a black and white movie flickers, Hughes narrates 
personally. Hitler and his cronies with a test-pilot, a rocket 
strapped to his back. Their prototype suffered with the same 
design flaw as Hughes’; overheating of the combustion 
chamber. Kaboom. He solved the problem, leaving the 
German threat irrelevant... until America got their hands on 
the next film... 
A propaganda cartoon, this short is entirely more chilling; 
and it cost a man’s life to get this film out of Nazi Germany.  
A New Beginning... A dreaming sky is filled with a swarm of 
animated Nazi Rocket-troopers, the Nazi dominion extended 
across Europe. Peevy’s thoughts are clear as he watches the 
mad dream unfold. And to America, the Stars and Stripes 
falling in flames – Washington helpless to prevent the 
airborne invaders. The American Eagle melts to become the 
Nazi ‘chicken’. Now Cliff can see the terrible implications for 
America and the Free World if the Rocket falls into enemy 
hands. Today Europe, tomorrow the World!. 
Once more, Hughes asks where his rocket is; but Cliff needs it 
one more time. Tired of the kid gloves, Fitch threatens Secord 
with the entire book; everything from Grand Theft to Treason.
With the cuffs about to re-appear, Cliff spills; they’ve got his 
girl. Hughes is understanding, but says the FBI can handle it. 
Cliff has to go alone or else... he can handle Valentine. 
At the mention of the Mobster, Hughes informs the pilot that 
the gang is merely muscle for a Nazi agent; somone believed 
to be highly-placed in Hollywood society, but as yet 
unidentified. Putting the last piece together, Secord realises 
it’s Neville Sinclair. The G-Men don’t believe a word of it. The 
Swashbuckler?. No way!. Frantic, Cliff decks Fitch and breaks 
away to leap onto a hanging scale model of a giant  
seaplane. Is that Sprucewood?. The model reaches the end of 
its rail and Cliff drops to the ground outside the hanger, 
leaving the model to sail off into the night. Delighted, 
Hughes observes ‘The sonovabitch will fly...’. 
Griffith Observatory, oh-Dear o’clock and a 1931 Phantom II 
(See?; I’ve got IMCDB too!) Rolls up to the waiting Valentine 
and assorted thuggery. The beauty looks like a child’s pedal 
car to Lothar, who gets out to bring Jenny to the Gangster. 
Neville Sinclair tells Valentine to cheer up; he’s about to make 
himself a fortune. More than enough to repair his Club and 
plug his ulcer. Jenny watches in disbelief as The Rocketeer 
comes in to land, removing his helmet to walk purposefully 
through the parting goons to face Valentine and Sinclair – 
who tells him to take the Rocket off. First, says Cliff, let Jenny 
go, emphasising his point by lowering a thumb over the 
launch button. The steel in his eyes can’t be denied, so 
Sinclair makes to hand her over, drawing a Walther and 
pressing it to her temple. 
Bluff called, the Rocketeer asks the Racketeer what it’s like 
working for a Nazi. Does he get paid in Dollars or 
Deutschmarks?. This is news to the Mobster, but Sinclair 
laughs it off; the kid’s been flying too high, all that thin air’s 
got to him. Jenny tells valentine to ask about the secret radio 
room and, wising up, one of the wise guys trains his 
Thompson onto Lothar. Sinclair says what does it matter who 
the Gangster is working for – it matters to him. He might be a 
crook, but he’s a Patriotic one damnit!. He don’t work for no 
two-bit Nazi – and pulls his piece. Let the girl go. Laughing 
sinisterly – well, how else should a Nazi laugh? - the actor 
calls out; ‘Sturmabteiling angrieffen!’ At which the storm 
detachment does indeed attack, the well-hidden Stormtroops 
surrounding Eddie’s* men. Left with little choice, Eddie and 
his men drop their guns. 
*Now he’s on our side, he’s Eddie. 
The thrumming noise in the air heralds the arrival of the 
monumental Luxembourg, the Zeppelin filling the night sky 
above the observatory. Get the rocket, quickly!, orders 
Sinclair. As the pack is removed, Sinclair turns to leave, 
wishing Eddie a Happy Valentine’s day as a parting shot. 
Before the Germans can mow down the Mob, however, 
powerful searchlights are trained on the party and the FBI 
calls for the Nazis to put down their guns. Sinclair orders 
Lothar to shoot Secord, but he dives to one side and hits the 
button, propelling him and an unwary Nazi through a fence 
into the safety of the undergrowth. 
 Grabbing a Tommy gun, Eddie lets the stormtroopers have a 
taste of lead and the FBI join in, Fitch warning not to hit the 
looming Zeppelin: it’s full of hydrogen. 

On the roof, Sinclair fires away at the advancing Feds as 
Lothar drags Jenny to the rope-ladder the Luxembourg has 
thoughtfully lowered. Aboard, the traitor orders the Captain 
to take the ship out of range. A waiting Gestapo man angrily 
asks where’s the rocket?, Sinclair countering they have the 
girl: the rocket will come to them. 
Snatching the unconscious Nazi’s pistol (A Mauser C96 
‘broomhandle’ for the cosplayers out there), Cliff dashes 
back into the fray as the combined forces of America and Her 
Gangsters push the Nazis back, the irony of the situation 
clearly not lost on Eddie Valentine. The Zeppelin is making a 
getaway, but then the assemblage spots The Rocketeer 
preparing to give chase from the roof. 
(It’s the Rocketeer!)  
Blasting up onto the horizontal stabiliser, The Rocketeer 
grabs a cable, falling down to rip a large section of fabric 
from its vertical counterpart, aka the rudder, before making 
his way beneath the World’s Biggest Swastika for’ard. That’s 
forward to those in the cheap seats. The rudder is jammed,  
much to the Teutonic constertaion of the crew. Meantime, The 
Rocketeer has found a maintenance hatch atop the gigantic 
airship and readies his Mauser for it’s knocking-overboard  
when Luthor bangs the hatch open. Oops. Snapping on a 
safety-belt, the giant hefts a hefty wrench and menaces our 
hero, who tries a kick to the pills when the big guy is 
distracted by his favourite hat being blown off. Balls of steel. 
Knocking Cliff over the side, Luthor is caught by surprise as a 
second later The Rocketeer powers around from beneath the 
airship to return the favor. 
In the cockpit, the Captain reassures Sinclair his is the finest 
pilot in Germany. But they’re not in Germany, as the out-cold 
Luthor demonstrates by swinging through the windscreen at 
the end of his tether (Well, it’s been hard for everyone), 
sending Deutschland’s finest flyer, well, flying through a 
window to make Germany’s worst landing on Los Angeles. Is 
there a pilot in the house?. Appalled at the damage to his 
oversized assassin, the Gestapo man screams that it’s all 
Sinclair’s fault, but Herr Kapitän says they must shed ballast: 
they are too heavy. Eager to comply, Sinclair shoots the 
Gestapo man when he berates him as a mere Actor, the 
German G-Man falling out of the window. Summoning a 
Luftwaffe man, the actor - sorry, Spy tells him the girl’s friend 
is up there and, touchingly stupid, up goes Fritz just in time to 
meet American fist. His ‘English’ accent has notably slipped, 
revealing the true German beneath. Ach so!. 
Cliff follows the German down into the cabin, to find Sinclair 
holding Jenny at gunpoint. The traitor has had a bellyful of 
his ‘cheap’ heroics. Hand over the rocket or her brains go all 
over the cabin. Valiantly, Jenny tells him not to, but he has no 
choice. Sliding it to the Nazi, Cliff cunningly thumbs aside the 
gum patching the leak, and a trickle of fuel emerges from the
bullet-hole. Handing the Captain his Walther, Sinclair leaves 
him to cover the girl while he himself grasps the rocket. 
Pluckily, Jenny stamps on the Captain’s foot and kicks him 
through the window. Decking the actor, Cliff asks where’s his 
stuntman – but gets a haymaker in return. He does his own 
stunts, it seems. The two grapple, in a life or death fight. In 
the process, Sinclair tries to stab Cliff with a navigator’s 
compass and a locker bursts open, a flare gun spilling onto 
the deck. Sinclair is battering the seventh bell out of Secord 
when he spots the all-important rocket sliding towards the 
abyss; Himmel!. As the treacherous saboteur dives for the 
prize, a desperate Jenny levels the flare gun, sending a flare 
whanging around the cabin and destroying a fair part of it to 
The fire spreads and Cliff appeals to Sinclair to help put it out, 
but he’s donned the rocket and prepares to leave, expressing 
regret he couldn’t take Jenny vit him. Hatred on her pretty 
face, Jenny tells him everything about him is a lie. It vasn’t 
lies – it vas acting. Raising his hand in a Nazi salute, he 
prepares to blast off, but hasn’t noticed he’s dripping pure 
alcohol. He’ll miss Hollywood... 
Blasting off into the sky, Sinclair cackles manically, until the 
pack begins to misfire, sheets of flame as leaking fuel meets 
rocket exhaust.
His parting words become eerily prophetic as, 
in a ball of flame, the traitor descends in flames to hit the 
‘LAND’ part of the HOLLYWOODLAND sign. He did, indeed,  
miss ‘Hollywood’. 
Atop the stricken Luxembourg, Cliff tells Jenny what will 
happen when the fire meets the hydrogen, but she grabs him, 
telling him she loves him. The two kiss, but Luthor has 
regained consciousness – climbing the tether to produce a 
vicious-looking knife. It’s like putting a spike on a tank. Just 
in the very nick, though, the hydrogen envelopes of the 
Zeppelin erupt into flame, one after the other the cells 
explode, from the front back and the trio runs for the ‘safety’ 
of aft. 
Help is at hand, from the Hughes Autogyro flown by 
the man himself, with Peevy observing. 
Swooping low over the dying airship, they fly to the rescue 
as Lothar runs out of line, turning to face the inevitable as 
he’s consumed in the fire. Dropping a caving ladder, the 
autogyro plucks the young couple to safety as the leviathan 
crashes to Earth in flames. Oh!; the humanity!. Fittingly, the 
last thing to be devoured by the fire is the Nazi Swastika. 
Across from the Bull Dog, Millie is picking oranges straight 
from the grove as a cheerful Skeets and Malcolm wave her 
good morning. 
Inside, an amused Peevy reads the line the 
Government spun the papers; Neville Sinclair killed by 
flaming debris falling onto his touring car. Jenny remarks 
Cliff he looks awful blue for a guy who saved the World: he’s 
got the cracked ribs to prove it, but he has her... and, maybe
The unmistakable sound of a Gee Bee engine alerts 
everyone to the arrival of a brand-new racer, which taxis 
around to a stop in front. Piloted by none other than 
America’s most famous recluse. Exiting the tiny plane, 
Hughes asks for a moment alone with Cliff. He’s been 
meaning to ask; what was it like?, strapping that thing to his 
back?. It was the closest he’ll ever to get to Heaven is his 
reply. Looking over at Jenny... maybe not... 
Hughes takes his leave, leaving Cliff to process the gift he’s 
left, but pauses to toss him something...
A pack of Beeman’s gum. Don’t ever fly her without it. Climbing into his 
Pierce-Arrow, Hughes leaves his men to tear off the tape covering 
Cliff’s name, painted on the racer. 
He never even got the chance to thank the man who gave him two of 
the most incredible flying machines ever built. Jenny has something 
too, for Peevy, handing him his schematic diagram that she 
took from Sinclair’s house.
 Cheekily, Cliff asks Jenny to give him her line Oh, my prince, 
would that you drink of my lips..’ and he does. Engrossed in 
his diagram, Peevy is already working out how to build a 
new rocket. If they increase the manifold pressure and switch 
the fuel-to-air ratio... but neither of the youngsters are 
listening, lost in each other as they embrace. (As the locals 
admire Cliff’s new plane, a kid chases around the crowd,
pursued by little Patsy, in a homemade tin-can Rocketeer 
get-up. The first of many, many more cosplayers to come...)
The End.

In 1982, the Artist Dave Stevens created a comic-book hero called The Rocketeer, selling the film rights to Disney in 1985. After languishing in development hell, the movie was finally made and released in 1991. And bombed. From a budget of $40,000,000 The Rocketeer made just $46,000,000 and the suits cancelled planned sequels. Now, in 2018, Disney are planning a remake, plus a children’s animated series is in production. 
Rocketeer creator Dave Stevens with Billy Campbell on set
The movie is a cult classic, beloved of fans worldwide, who now wait with bated breath to see if Disney wrecks or revives the character they love… Stevens himself succumbed to Leukaemia in 2008 at the young age of 52, but he lives on through his work – and a cameo as the German test pilot who is killed when his jetpack explodes. When I say that after a year’s break from posting, this was the only choice of film for me to review, you might get an idea of the impression The Rocketeer made on me…
Dave Stevens' comic-book inspired a great film
Disney did everything they could to get in the way of the film-makers; from Michael Eisner’s interference with helmet designs to Dave Steven’s recollection of how unwelcome they made him feel on set. Having said that, Disney went all-out to market the film, spending $19,000,000 on TV adverts alone, along with a long list of licensed products, including video games and novelizations. The Premiere was held at the newly-refurbished El Capitan theater on June 19th, 1991, after an Art-Deco overhaul Disney conducted. With a stirring soundtrack from James Horner (48hrs, Commando, Aliens, Titanic, Braveheart, etc etc) and Production Design from Jim Bissell (E.T., Jumanji) the film is a gem. 
Director Joe Johnston on set with Billy Campbell
Director Joe Johnston started his career as a Stormtrooper in Star Wars (1977) and went on to Art Direction for films such as the first two Indiana Jones films, before helming Honey I Shrunk the Kids, Jumanji, The Iron Giant, Captain America: The First Avenger amongst others. His work on The Rocketeer is, for my money, close to flawless. A breathless love-letter to the
Golden Age of serials, Rocketeer is perhaps Disney's best film since Walt Disney ran the show. Make sure you see it. 

No reviews here; the whole ensemble shines on this one.

Unusually-tense image of the two stars; rumour has it they shared an on-set romance, though it's hard to see it here.

Billy Campbell of Dynasty fame is Cliff Secord/The Rocketeer.
The exquisite Jennifer Connelly is Jennifer. She starred in films such as Labyrinth and A Beautiful Mind.
Alan Arkin plays Peevy. Check him out as Yossarian in Catch-22, or as Freud in the fabulous Sherlock Holmes film The Seven-Per-Cent-Solution.
Jennifer Connelly with Billy Campbell

Timothy Dalton is Neville Sinclair (Booo!). Among his oeuvre are such films as Flash Gordon, Hot Fuzz and The Living Daylights – the latter being one of the finer James Bond outings.
(Above) Lobby Card featuring Timothy Dalton
Paul Sorvino (Goodfellas) appears as Eddie Valentine
Terry O’Quinn (Lost) portrays Howard Hughes; probably the best screen incarnation of the legendary Aviator.
Interesting Production Still, showing an unused shot featuring Terry O'Quinn as Howard Hughes
Tiny’ Ron Taylor plays Lothar, a clear tribute to Rondo Hatton, a character actor in vintage movies such as the 1944 Sherlock Holmes film, The Pearl of Death.
Hollywood Legend Rick Baker sculpted this prosthetic for 'Tiny Ron Taylor to become the sinister Lothar
Look out for William Sanderson as Skeets; he played J.F. Sebastian in Blade Runner.
Cast at the 1991 Premiere.

The Neville Sinclair character is clearly based on swashbuckling womaniser and hell-raiser Errol Flynn; possibly due to an unreliable and badly-sourced hagiography accusing him of being a Nazi spy.
(Above) Errol Flynn with Basil Rathbone in The Adventures of Robin Hood (1939)
For some unique Rocketeer imagery and content, you could do worse than visit here; https://thehobbitholeplusme.wordpress.com/2017/10/13/the-rocketeer-the-history-jet-packing-around-disney-world/
Screen-Used Hughes jetpack schematic
The real Bulldog cafe was situated at 1153 West Washington Boulevard. Built in 1928, it was demolished sometime after 1966.
(Above)The original Bulldog cafe
(Above) production-used model of the Bull Dog
In the original comic, Doc Savage the Man of Bronze invents the rocket-pack. Rather than become entangled in a copyright wrangle, Disney opted to replace him with Howard Hughes.
This screen-used miniature was sold at auction for $5,000
For a look at an incredible collection of props from the film (Albeit with copyright notice all over the pictures) look here; https://www.therpf.com/showthread.php?t=80659

Production used 'Hero' Helmet, sold at auction for $25,000

The ‘I do my own stunts’ line is probably a reference to the fact Timothy Dalton was famous for doing much of his own stuntwork.
Costume display of Secord and Jenny's outfits
The German radio transceiver Jenny discovers in Sinclair’s secret lair is a Torn.Fu.b1 (Transmitter 3.0 MHz – 5.0 MHz Receiver 3.0 MHz – 6.66 MHz in case you couldn’t sleep for wondering). The model was a portable field radio used by the German military in the mid to late Thirties. Quite why he couldn’t just have gone to RadioShack evades me…
(Above) Two of the most sought-after ILM Crew items are these brass helmet and the Zippo lighter. I'll have the lighter, should you be feeling generous...
Remember the hopeless actress Neville Sinclair expresses his frustration with?; that’s Lisa Pedersen, Director Joe Johnston’s wife.
Timothy Dalton exploding; the effects team blew him up for real, but weren't happy with the effect, so they cloned him for this effort. I really must apologise...

I hope you all enjoyed the Zeppelin explosion; that effect alone cost $400,000 to make.
ILM Production models made by the late, great Michael Fulmer (1944-2016)
For a look at a (Low Definition copy of) an original Documentary, ‘Excitement in the Air’ featuring behind the scenes glimpses and presented by Bill Campbell, click here; https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nAHJH7nGn2E
(Above, Below) Edward Eyth's original production designs for the Rocket-Pack.

In the graphic novel, Secord’s girlfriend is ‘Betty Page’, a dead-ringer for Bettie Page, the pin-up, glamour and bondage model. After learning Ms. Page was retired and living near to him, Dave Stevens befriended her and helped her secure royalties she was due for the use of her image. Apparently, she was bewildered to discover how famous she had become. Naturally, Disney got cold-feet about a sexy character, so substituted her for an aspiring actress. Inspired, eh?.

Although Disney raised the budget during production, some economies still had to be made; including the scene set at Grauman’s Chinese Theatre. The replica at Disney-MGM Studios Theme Park was to stand in for the original, with a two-day shoot planned. The idea was, Bette Davis would be making imprints of her hands in the concrete when the passing Cliff spots a man falling from the top of the building, swoops to save him and ends up leaving an impression of both his boots and rocket blast in the wet cement. Interestingly – or not – at Disney’s replica theatre, the boots and blast imprint is clearly visible along with 6-21-91 - the release date for the film. Part of the scene survives, as Cliff flies past Grauman’s you can see the Premiere of a Davis film being held.

For one year (1991) there was a real-life Rocketeer display at Disney's HollyWood Studios, Walt Disney World. Below is a photograph of the stuntman, flying with what looks like a Bell Jet-Belt, as seen in the 1966 James Bond film Thunderball.

 Speaking of Disney, the following shots show the Rocketeer prop display from the early nineties. Intriguingly, some props are still on show at various Disney attractions.

When The Rocketeer falls from Malcolm’s borrowed plane, frame-by-frame examination shows a hint of the parachute rig installed beneath the mock-up rocket-pack. Stuntmen take extraordinary risks for their trade – and this is one example.
The Rocketeer is, in part, a homage to the Movie Serials of the Golden Age, such as King of the Rocket Men (Republic, 1949)
Not sure about this one, but when the clapperboard is used for ‘The Laughing Bandit’, the names Berg and Carlson are seen for Director and Cameraman. The Set Designer for The Rocketeer was John Berger, so this might be an in-joke. As for Carlson?; you tell me.
The air-show scenes were shot at Santa Maria Airport, California; the Bigelow hangar is still on display there, albeit in a new location and heavily-restored (Termite damage, no less)

Want to see some of the movie props?; me too – this video is from a 1991 tour of the Disney/MGM Studios.

The Gee Bee racer seen in the film is a replica of a real aircraft from 1931; notorious for being hard to handle, it killed it’s pilot in a crash.
(Above) Mark Sullivan created the Matte Paintings for the film, one of the last great shouts for a dying art. Below is one example of his photo-realistic work. Have fun spotting the rest!.

Johnny Depp was Disney’s first choice for the role of Cliff Secord.
Sheet from the Press Pack
When Secord grabs the model aircraft to glide down to safety, Howard Hughes comments that it will fly. This is a reference to Hughes’ legendary aircraft the Hughes H-4 Hercules, popularly known as the ‘Spruce Goose’. The largest aircraft made at the time (Made after the film’s 1938 setting), the H-4 only ever flew once, in 1947. There had been increasing speculation in the press that it would not be able to fly, but Hughes himself flew the aircraft for about a mile, reaching a height of just 70 feet during a taxi run.
The ‘Spruce Goose’
The ‘Lucky gum’ Cliff chews is Beemans, known as the brand favoured by Aviators of the time.
Neville Sinclair’s house is a recreation of the famous Ennis house, built in 1924 by Frank Lloyd Wright. If the house seems familiar, it’s because it featured briefly as the exterior of Deckard’s apartment in Blade Runner and the distinctive tiles were replicated for Predator 2 and Mulholland Drive.
Above, Below; the Ennis House.
Hit ‘pause’ as the Gee Bee brushes by the billboard for ‘Wings of Honor’ just after Cliff’s plane is shot by the mobster; the movie stars Neville Sinclair (You wouldn’t know it from the illustration) and is produced by Lawrence Franco while Vilmar Fidgge directs. Larry Franco is an Executive Producer on The Rocketeer, while his son Matt – more famous as a Professional Baseball player, did some stunt-work on the picture. Vilmar Fidgge?; not a Scooby, but some anagrams (Hey, we all get bored) are; Grave Dig Film, Gag Driver Film and Film Gig Raved. Yeah, I was hoping for ‘Neville Sinclair’s the Baddie!’, but it didn’t turn out that way...
To get the shots of Cliff in the air, a replica cockpit was built in the rear seat of a biplane, plus part of the Gee Bee mockup was suspended beneath a helicopter. So I’m told.
Behind the scenes shot of the scene at Sinclair's house
When The Rocketeer flies for the first time, just after he tears away the sheet from the washing-line, two ‘Good Old Boys’ are seen marvelling at the ‘Big gopher’. The one on the right is ‘Tiny’ Ron Taylor, Lothar out of make-up.
When Sinclair wishes Eddie Valentine a ‘Happy Valentine’s Day’. This is a tongue-in-zer-cheek reference to the notorious Valentine’s Day Massacre in which seven Gangsters were killed in Chicago in 1929. It is suspected a gang working under Al Capone lined up the mobsters and murdered them with Tommy gun fire.
Above, below; Merchandise and tie-ins are relatively sparse, video games, flying glider toys among the few.
Neville Sinclair comments that he’ll miss Hollywood; he’s right - as he then crashes into the ‘LAND’ part that was then part of the Hollywood sign. (In real-life it was originally a promotion for a real-estate company, but the ‘LAND’ section was removed in 1949 to reflect the growing status of Hollywood as an icon of the movie industry.)

Deutschmarks’ weren’t introduced until the late forties.

Even though it’s made clear the Rocket-pack is steered by the rudder on the Pilot’s helmet, we see Cliff turn his head with no effect on flight.

When Cliff first dons the iconic helmet to become The Rocketeer, his chin-strap does itself up between shots. This isn’t actually a goof – rather testament to Peevy’s incredible 1938-era engineering skills. 2018 now and I still have do buckle my own car seat.

Watch the Gee Bee crash closely; you can see the cable towing it in one or two frames. Just about. During filming, this snapped and narrowly missed removing a leg from Alan Arkin, who felt it hit the back of his knee.

More noticeable, perhaps, is the joystick of the original yellow Gee Bee, which changes color from red to yellow for some reason.

Not really a goof, more visible equipment - but as Cliff presses the button just after he and Peevy discover the rocket, the cable used to pull the pack upwards is clearly visible for an instant.
The Zeppelin seen in the news-reel is clearly a real one and not the fictional ‘Luxembourg’; both the Olympic rings visible on the skin and the designation D-L Z-129 clearly show this to be the ‘Hindenburg.’

After the Gee Bee crashes, a furious Peevy tells the G-men they spent three years of their lives building that plane. Perhaps they developed and modified it, because it clearly shows on the aircraft itself it was made by the Granville Brothers of Massachusetts.

When Cliff is blinded by oil on the windshield of the Gee Bee, he punches a hole to aid his vision; for a second or so, the pattern is visible where the windshield was scored or cut to help it break.
The gum travels around the back of the rocket in some scenes.

Watch the Ice Sculpture scene; the wheels on which it travels can be – just - glimpsed briefly.

The Nazi Storm-troops have MP-40’s – but at the time, they would have had the MP-38. A small detail, as the MP-38 is less readily-available these days. Blame the Allies.

Various people have pointed out that the placement of the rocket-pack nozzles are wrong; the flier would simply be smashed into the ground face-first every time. Nor could Cliff have escaped serious injury by pushing the pick-up; the force required to move a 2 ton vehicle that quickly would snap the strongest arms. Who cares?.
Finally, apologies for the formatting errors; these belong to Blogger, not me. If you found it frustrating, imagine a week's work ruined by crappy software.