BSP 2014 Advent Calendar: Day 3

Welcome to Day 3 of Bam Smack Pow’s 2014 Advent Calendar!  Only twenty-two more days left until Christmas, and that means twenty-two more superhero films will be mined for trivia.  For Day 3, we give you …

The Rocketeer (1991)

For Day 3, we fly past the 1980s and land in 1991 where we find the pulpy Disney-produced The Rocketeer.  Based on the Dave Stevens-created comic book character of the same name, which was an homage to the serial heroes of the 1930s, 1940s, and 1950s, The Rocketeer was a fun movie and had lots of heart.  Although it didn’t do well at the box office, it still garnered some high praise for director Joe Johnston’s vision and the way the actors and actresses embraced their roles.

The Rocketeer starred Billy Campbell as Cliff Secord / The Rocketeer, Jennifer Connelly as Jenny Blake, Alan Arkin as A. “Peevy” Peabody, Timothy Dalton as Neville Sinclair, Terry O’Quinn as Howard Hughes, Ed Lauter as Fitch, James Handy as Wooly, and Paul Sorvino as Eddie Valentine.


  • Frank Darabont, future producer of The Walking Dead, did some work on the original screenplay.
  • Singer Richard Marx was originally offered the role of Cliff Secord / The Rocketeer, but turned it down.
  • Johnny Depp almost won the role of Cliff Secord / The Rocketeer.
  • Billy Campbell won the lead part of Cliff Secord / The Rocketeer when he showed up to the audition with the same haircut and look as the Rocketeer from the graphic novel.
  • Dave Stevens, creator of the Rocketeer, makes a cameo as a man in a test flight film who tests out a rocket pack.
  • Lothar, played by Tiny Ron, was inspired by Rondo Hatton, an actor who played similar roles in old B-films of which The Rocketeer pays homage to.
  • If you thought J.J. Abrams and Paul Greengrass were the pioneers of shaky cam footage, think again.  Disney created a special rig actually called the Shaky-cam to produce vibrations in the film.  They used this contraption when filming the inside of the Zeppelin, so as to give the audience a feeling of power from the engines.  The effect was “steadied” when The Rocketeer was released on VHS because it presented badly on television sets.
  • The Rocketeer’s rocket pack was originally invented by pulp novel hero Doc Savage.  But due to licensing issues, Disney decided to use a fictionalized version of Howard Hughes in place of Doc Savage.
  • The brand of gum chewed by the character of Cliff Secord / The Rocketeer is Beemans.  This is the lucky gum of choice for pilots.  This fact is evident when watching The Right Stuff (1983).
  • The mobsters’ characterizations in the film were actually very true to life.  Eddie Valentine (Paul Sorvino) turns on Neville Sinclair (Timothy Dalton) and starts working with the FBI when Valentine finds out that Sinclair is a Nazi.  During that era, Sicilian mobsters and gangsters hated fascism because Benito Mussolini went after Sicilian families, and Jewish mobsters and gangsters hated Adolf Hitler.  While not widely known, the FBI’s biggest allies during World War II were actually the people that ran organized crime in America.  Mobsters and gangsters would help the US government root out Nazi spies and sympathizers.
  • Cliff Secord’s plane at the beginning of the movie is the Gee Bee Model Z.  Built by the Granville Brothers Aircraft Company, it would later be known as The Widowmaker and The Flying Coffin due to its propensity to crash from difficult handling.  The Model Z would later be refined, producing the R-1 and its sister plane, the R-2.  The Model Z used in The Rocketeer is now exhibited at the Museum of Flight in Seattle, Washington.

Make sure to come back each day because we still have twenty-two more days worth of superhero film trivia for you!

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A special thanks to Eric Dufresne for his amazing geometric superhero art that’s being used as the background for the advent calendar.