Flash Gordon's Trip to Mars (1938, Ford Beebe and Robert F. Hill), Chapter 5: The Boomerang

It’s unclear what the chapter title, The Boomerang, has to do with any of the content. Unless it’s something about Buster Crabbe and Frank Shannon continually returning to Beatrice Roberts’s palace from the Clay Men’s kingdom. Crabbe and Shannon start the chapter saving Jean Rogers and Donald Kerr, who promptly disappear from the action, because Crabbe and Shannon can’t rescue them yet. But they’ve discovered an underground tram from the Clay kingdom to the palace–which probably would’ve helped them infiltrate it a chapter or two ago–and head back to the palace, not to kidnap evil queen Roberts to deliver to the Clay King, but to get some weapons to free Rogers and Kerr.

At least the tram sequence is cool.

Once back at the palace, Shannon makes a freeze ray–you zap someone motionless–but Roberts and Charles B. Middleton are on to the Earthlings. Luckily Middleton’s still a doofus and Crabbe and Shannon get away. Only to get stuck again in the cliffhanger, as they go back to the Clay Men’s kingdom.

Besides the chapter being a bunch of running around for no real purpose, it’s all pretty solid. It’s hard to believe Roberts puts up with condescending Middleton though, especially as he orders her own soldiers around.

As always, having Crabbe in the lead is an immeasurable plus for the serial. He’s not just good at the action–though Boomerang has some real obvious stuntmen during fisticuffs–but at making Shannon’s expository dumps more palatable.

The chapter does open with a cliffhanger resolve cheat, which hopefully won’t kick off too obvious ones in subsequent chapters.

And it’d be nice for Rogers to have something to do.


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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