The Prisoner of Mongo title suggests, well, whoever was titling the chapters wasn’t paying attention to the actual script–much like last chapter’s title, calling the Forest People the Tree-Men–but it does indeed turn out Buster Crabbe and company will end up prisoners of Mongo. At least, of Ming (Charles Middleton). He’s commanding the Tree-Men–sorry, Forest People–something he neglects to mention to Martian queen Beatrice Roberts, presumably because he’s eventually going to turn on her.
The chapter has Crabbe, Frank Shannon, Jean Rogers, and Donald Kerr on the run from the Forest People–temporarily imprisoned before Richard Alexander (from the previous serial) arrives to save them. It’s nice having Alexander back, though for a while it seems like Rogers and Kerr are once again going to be second or third fiddle. The chapter leaves it unresolved.
After their escape, Crabbe and company plans an assault on a Forest People temple–they’ve got a magic stone to counter Roberts’s magic stone–while Middleton’s forces are on the way. It’d be an awesome chapter if it weren’t for a couple big problems. First, the stock music is an ill-fit for the action. It doesn’t build tension, it often isn’t even action music, it’s distracting in its dullness.
Second–and bigger problem–the Forest People. Well, Forest Men (at least Tree-Men accurately addresses the lack of females). They’re terrible villains. The acting ranges from silly to inept to terrible. Really drags the chapter down. Combined with the bad stock music, it’s far from dramatic.
Still, the forest sets are decent and all the leads are good. Crabbe and Alexander are an affable team as well.
The cliffhanger is simultaneously lacking in drama but well-plotted–but it’s lacking in drama because the plotting is so dang good. Hopefully the next chapter gets them away from the Forest People. The Forest People are really annoying.
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).