Flash Gordon (1936, Frederick Stephani), Chapter 2: The Tunnel of Terror

The Tunnel of Terror opens with Buster Crabbe and Priscilla Lawson quickly escaping from the previous chapter’s cliffhanger. The unfortunate lizard monsters (real lizards standing in for giant monsters) make a brief return, but soon Crabbe and Lawson are just on the run from the guards.

Pretty soon, Crabbe is on his own and piloting a rocket ship to take out a force flying against Charles Middleton’s evil Ming. The sky battle is admirably executed; director Stephani, composer Clifford Vaughan, and the four editors work up some excitement, which makes up for the lacking special effects.

Meanwhile, damsel Jean Rogers is being held captive until she’s brainwashed into marrying Middleton and scientist Frank Shannon is goofing off in the futuristic palace lab.

Everyone’s appealing except Middleton. He’s really not getting any better. His costuming is great, his performance is all sorts of dreadful.

The cliffhanger involves another giant lizard, only this one is an actual practical special effect, not a real lizard ostensibly shot forced perspective. The resulting action scene is far more exciting. Even if Crabbe’s stand-in looks suspiciously like a little kid.

CREDITS

Directed by Frederick Stephani; screenplay by Ella O’Neill, George H. Plympton, Basil Dickey, and Stephani, based on the comic strip by Alex Raymond; directors of photography, Jerome Ash and Richard Fryer; edited by Saul A. Goodkind, Louis Sackin, Alvin Todd, and Edward Todd; produced by Henry MacRae; released by Universal Pictures.

Starring Buster Crabbe (Flash Gordon), Charles Middleton (Ming the Merciless), Jean Rogers (Dale Arden), Priscilla Lawson (Princess Aura), James Pierce (Prince Thun), and Frank Shannon (Dr. Alexis Zarkov).


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