Flash Gordon (1936, Frederick Stephani), Chapter 4: Battling the Sea Beast

Battling the Sea Beast opens with Buster Crabbe fighting an octopus. Mostly it’s Crabbe–quite enthusiastically–feigning a struggle against one or two legs of the octopus, which shows no life once they’re battling. Before it was stock footage; with the fight, it’s a passive prop Crabbe has to get going.

And it’s the only fight scene in Sea Beast, with the exception of an off screen one between Crabbe and a guard while Priscilla Lawson stands by and plots her next move.

It’s a suspenseful chapter; Lawson’s duplicity leads to a catastrophic event, one Crabbe can’t fix. But he still tries to save the day, much to Lawson’s chagrin (and confusion).

There’s some plot development involving Frank Shannon trying to get in touch with Earth. Charles Middleton comes in and cuts it short. Middleton’s not really any better than usual, but for whatever reason he’s more tolerable. Maybe he just wears you down.

Jean Rogers gets nothing to do. She stands by while James Pierce and Duke York argue. They’re fine at it.

It’s a good Flash Gordon. Director Stephani does quite well with the tension.


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), Duke York (King Kala), and Frank Shannon (Dr. Alexis Zarkov).


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