Flash Gordon's Trip to Mars (1938, Ford Beebe and Robert F. Hill), Chapter 2: The Living Dead

If only The Living Dead had some better stock music choices, because the actual content of the chapter is fantastic. Unfortunately, it’s got this passive, tranquil score without any energy or excitement. Meanwhile the onscreen action is all energy, all excitement.

While Buster Crabbe, Frank Shannon, and Jean Rogers are crashing on Mars, their ship has enough time to shed parts so Charles Middleton can recognize their rocket ship as the one they stole from him last serial. For some reason the shed parts fall to Mars faster than their space ship otherwise crashes. Something with that Martian gravity no doubt.

Middleton and evil Martian Queen Beatrice Roberts go to intercept the Earthlings, who manage to outsmart Middleton–which doesn’t seem hard this time around–and steal Roberts’s own ship. The hijacking is a strong sequence, though the music does it no favors; Crabbe’s comfortably back in action hero mode.

Then there’s a sky battle between space ships. Some good miniature effects–though Crabbe having to shoot at ships through with a porthole with a revolver is decidedly lacking–even if some of the miniature ground sets are wanting.

But there’s even more action, with Crabbe and company encountering the dreaded clay people–who Roberts wants to annihilate. They come to life out of cave walls, which is conceptually cooler than visually, but still a rather successful sequence. Except, of course, for the stock music choices.

Crabbe’s great in Living Dead, Shannon and Rogers is good, Middleton’s annoying for a bit but then a good buffoon. Roberts seems like she’s going to be a decent villain. Donald Kerr, as Crabbe and company’s reporter sidekick–who seemed fine last chapter–doesn’t do so hot in Living Dead.

But it doesn’t matter because everything else is so good. Except that dang music.

CREDITS

Directed by Ford Beebe and Robert F. Hill; screenplay by Ray Trampe, Norman S. Hall, Wyndham Gittens, and Herbert Dalmas, based the comic strip by Alex Raymond; director of photography, Jerome Ash; edited by Joseph Gluck, Saul A. Goodkind, Louis Sackin, and Alvin Todd; released by Universal Pictures.

Starring Buster Crabbe (Flash Gordon), Jean Rogers (Dale Arden), Frank Shannon (Dr. Alexis Zarkov), Charles Middleton (Emperor Ming), Beatrice Roberts (Queen Azura), Donald Kerr (Happy Hapgood), Richard Alexander (Prince Barin), and C. Montague Shaw (Clay King).


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