Flash Gordon's Trip to Mars (1938, Ford Beebe and Robert F. Hill), Chapter 13: The Miracle of Magic

The Miracle of Magic is a funny title for the chapter since nothing really miraculous happens. There’s some anti-miracles. Maybe it refers to the curse of the Clay people getting lifted, which involves magical receptacles, but not really magic itself. It’s a strange sequence where the still suspicious C. Montague Shaw has Buster Crabbe do the spell lifting because Crabbe’s familiar with electricity and can run the Clay people’s machine. Presumably they too could use the machine, since they’re pretty technologically advanced–including the high-speed subway system–but whatever. Maybe they wanted publicity stills of Crabbe and company with the electronic gadgetry.

Besides lifting the curse–revealing all the Clay people are male–most of the chapter involves Crabbe and the boys trying to stop Ming (Charles Middleton) from arming the Forest people to attack the Clay people. Middleton had to get Beatrice Roberts out of the way to do so; it’s not clear why exactly, just because he wanted her out of the way. She probably would’ve gone along with him arming the Forest people. It’s also not clear why they’re better for destroying the Clay people than the Martian troops. The Martian troops have all the weapons, they’re just giving them to the Forest people.

Maybe because Middleton has stupid ideas, which does explain why it’s taken him thirteen chapters to get to this point in his scheme.

Crabbe ditches Jean Rogers with Shaw, rather ingloriously, and takes Frank Shannon, Donald Kerr, and Richard Alexander to the Forest people’s… well, their forest. Then he and Alexander ditch Shannon and Kerr to go sneak around and discover what’s the rumpus. Of course, it turns out Shannon and Kerr figure out what’s going on without having to go sneak around the Forest people’s underground lair.

The chapter ends with Crabbe executing his plan to save the Clay people. It’s not going as planned.

There’s some big plot developments in the first few minutes–Clay people curse lifted and such–but then it’s more of the same stalling and circular narrative for the rest. Mars has only got two chapters left and it’s hard to imagine they’re going to be able to make a major quality uptick. Magic is far from the worst chapter in the serial, but also far from the best. It’s one of the better middling chapters.

Hopefully there’s some engaging surprise coming, because there sure wasn’t anything here.

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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