Flash Gordon's Trip to Mars (1938, Ford Beebe and Robert F. Hill), Chapter 8: The Black Sapphire of Kalu

Poor Flash (Buster Crabbe) and Dale (Jean Rogers), every time it seems like they might actually get a chance to lock lips, something happens. This time it’s Frank Shannon calling attention to Donald Kerr being injured. Flash being Flash, Crabbe has to attend to Kerr, not passionately reunite with Rogers, which is doubly unfair since Rogers–to everyone’s surprise–saves the day.

In the previous chapter recap at the opening, Black Sapphire of Kalu reveals Rogers isn’t just going to wait around for Kerr to warn Crabbe, Shannon, and Richard Alexander about Martian troops after them–the troops disappear–instead she’s going to take the Martian ship and help them from the air. Very cool since it seemed like Rogers and Kerr would about to be shunted to hostage status again. Kerr even gets to save Crabbe from the Forest People.

Then he gets injured. And they have to go back to the Clay People, where the king (C. Montague Shaw, who’s always partially suspect) can heal Kerr but wants Shannon to attend him. Crabbe leaves Rogers there and takes Alexander along to the palace to confront villains Beatrice Roberts and Charles Middleton.

It goes all right with Roberts–the confronting–but Middleton easily outwits nice guy Crabbe for the cliffhanger.

The first half of Kalu, except the bad stock music choices, is fantastic. The second half is fine just a little lacking in tension, which makes sense since it’s all building up to a cliffhanger where Crabbe makes an unbelievable mistake and pays for it.

Crabbe’s solo for the setup to the cliffhanger–he’s usually got a sidekick, whether Shannon or Alexander–so him bumbling is a little frustrating in just how contrived it all gets.

While not a terrible turn for Mars–Crabbe and Middleton tend to bumble through their animosity–Kalu’s definitely a let down after its awesome start.


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).