Category Archives: 1936

Flash Gordon (1936, Frederick Stephani), Chapter 13: Rocketing to Earth

Rocketing to Earth starts out poorly. The cliffhanger resolution is so lazy star Buster Crabbe remarks on it; clearly someone making Flash Gordon knew they’d run out of resolves. Worse, Crabbe and the gang go right back to Charles Middleton’s palace. The past four or five chapters have just been one failed escape or another–and now they go right back.

With Priscilla Lawson now officially one of the good guys, Middleton just seems like an angry dad. It helps his performance (a little). But then just when things seem dire for the heroes, everything turns around–not just for the characters’ struggle against intergalactic tyranny, but the screenwriters. There’s this brisk pace as Rocketing goes from being wrap-up for A plot to epilogue. Except everyone’s savvy enough to know Flash can’t go out with a final thrill.

Enter Theodore Lorch’s stooge. Lorch goes all out and director Stephani lets him. Lorch seems to understand, based on the content, he’s got a lot more leeway with hamming. It’s even more amusing given Lorch’s more restrained appearances in earlier chapters.

As for Stephani, he gets to do some big scale stuff here–Middleton’s fate–and some subjective camerawork with Lorch’s evil glee.

There’s not enough resolution with Middleton, but he and Crabbe didn’t have good nemesis chemistry anyway so it’s not exactly missing… it’s just unfortunate it’s not.

The strangest part is when Frank Shannon, after twelve chapters of just being there to expound, all of a sudden gets cute. He doesn’t succeed as much as affably bewilder.

CREDITS

Directed by Frederick Stephani; screenplay by Ella O’Neill, George H. Plympton, Basil Dickey, and Stephani, based on the comic strip by Alex Raymond; directors of photography, Jerome Ash and Richard Fryer; edited by Saul A. Goodkind, Louis Sackin, Alvin Todd, and Edward Todd; produced by Henry MacRae; released by Universal Pictures.

Starring Buster Crabbe (Flash Gordon), Charles Middleton (Ming the Merciless), Jean Rogers (Dale Arden), Priscilla Lawson (Princess Aura), James Pierce (Prince Thun), Richard Alexander (Prince Barin), Jack ‘Tiny’ Lipson (King Vultan), Theodore Lorch (High Priest), and Frank Shannon (Dr. Alexis Zarkov).


RELATED

Advertisements

Flash Gordon (1936, Frederick Stephani), Chapter 12: Trapped in the Turret

Trapped in the Turret is the penultimate chapter of Flash Gordon, which might explain some of its inconsistencies. After a stunt person heavy resolution to the previous cliffhanger, Richard Alexander tells scheming Priscilla Lawson she might just try being nice to Buster Crabbe and Jean Rogers.

So she does. And becomes a good guy. Apparently. She then intercedes on Crabbe’s behalf with father Charles Middleton, who too agrees to play nice. It’s an anticlimactic scene, with Alexander getting to have the standoff with Middleton, not Crabbe.

The second half of Turret is just talky logistics planning. The good guys are leaving Middleton’s palace for another one. Will Middleton actually leave them alone or will he plot against them, regardless of daughter Lawson’s wishes (and presence)?

I swear a few chapters ago Crabbe and Middleton came to another armistice, which Middleton broke a scene or two later. The screenwriters are rushing to wrap up the serial, with Crabbe (to some extent) and Rogers being left in the proverbial dust.

The editors are particularly clunky this chapter too.

CREDITS

Directed by Frederick Stephani; screenplay by Ella O’Neill, George H. Plympton, Basil Dickey, and Stephani, based on the comic strip by Alex Raymond; directors of photography, Jerome Ash and Richard Fryer; edited by Saul A. Goodkind, Louis Sackin, Alvin Todd, and Edward Todd; produced by Henry MacRae; released by Universal Pictures.

Starring Buster Crabbe (Flash Gordon), Charles Middleton (Ming the Merciless), Jean Rogers (Dale Arden), Priscilla Lawson (Princess Aura), James Pierce (Prince Thun), Richard Alexander (Prince Barin), Jack ‘Tiny’ Lipson (King Vultan), and Frank Shannon (Dr. Alexis Zarkov).


RELATED

Flash Gordon (1936, Frederick Stephani), Chapter 11: In the Claws of the Tigron

Once again, the title refers to a finale item. In the Claws of the Tigron doesn’t have much tigron (a Mongonian tiger), but it does have a lot of invisible Buster Crabbe causing mischief around Charles Middleton’s palace.

The chapter’s a tad nonsensical–Crabbe, invisible, terrorizes Middleton’s guards while all his friends hang out in the laboratory. Only Priscilla Lawson comes up with a plan. Without her, Middleton would just be sitting around sputtering (between getting choked out by the invisible Crabbe).

Tigron is a fairly light chapter for the most part. Crabbe’s disembodied voice performance isn’t mixed well with the other actors’ dialogue, but he’s always going for fun with it. Crabbe doesn’t have a worry in the world since he’s invisible. And Jack Lipson is back, guffawing as he body slams guards. Poor Jean Rogers is reduced to worrying nonstop about Crabbe’s invisibility dependence.

Until the end, anyway, when the cliffhanger has her, you know, In the Claws of the Tigron.

It’s a good chapter, even with the logic holes.

CREDITS

Directed by Frederick Stephani; screenplay by Ella O’Neill, George H. Plympton, Basil Dickey, and Stephani, based on the comic strip by Alex Raymond; directors of photography, Jerome Ash and Richard Fryer; edited by Saul A. Goodkind, Louis Sackin, Alvin Todd, and Edward Todd; produced by Henry MacRae; released by Universal Pictures.

Starring Buster Crabbe (Flash Gordon), Charles Middleton (Ming the Merciless), Jean Rogers (Dale Arden), Priscilla Lawson (Princess Aura), Richard Alexander (Prince Barin), Jack ‘Tiny’ Lipson (King Vultan), Theodore Lorch (High Priest), and Frank Shannon (Dr. Alexis Zarkov).


RELATED

Flash Gordon (1936, Frederick Stephani), Chapter 10: The Unseen Peril

Once again, the chapter title doesn’t come into play until the very end–The Unseen Peril, or at least what seems like it, shows up in the last scene. The chapter skips a more dramatic cliffhanger, going on just a few seconds longer to do a puzzling one.

Most of the chapter involves Priscilla Lawson’s schemes to ensnare Buster Crabbe finally coming to fruition. She manages to brainwash him, which sends his friends in a delayed uproar. Only Jack Lipson freaks out at the time; Lipson’s now one of Crabbe’s allies. He doesn’t have any function in the chapter other than that initial uproar. It’s a narrative delay, nothing more.

There’s some more filler later on with Frank Shannon and Jean Rogers communicating with Earth. Despite Shannon’s ability to revive (though not de-brainwash) Crabbe, he can’t figure out how to make the interplanetary radio work. Once he gives up, it’s time to go back to the A plot. The writers shift focus entirely between the plot lines here; Flash is starting to feel heavy.

It’s a good bridging episode, though Crabbe’s expressions during the sword fights are beyond goofy.

CREDITS

Directed by Frederick Stephani; screenplay by Ella O’Neill, George H. Plympton, Basil Dickey, and Stephani, based on the comic strip by Alex Raymond; directors of photography, Jerome Ash and Richard Fryer; edited by Saul A. Goodkind, Louis Sackin, Alvin Todd, and Edward Todd; produced by Henry MacRae; released by Universal Pictures.

Starring Buster Crabbe (Flash Gordon), Charles Middleton (Ming the Merciless), Jean Rogers (Dale Arden), Priscilla Lawson (Princess Aura), Richard Alexander (Prince Barin), Jack ‘Tiny’ Lipson (King Vultan), Theodore Lorch (High Priest), and Frank Shannon (Dr. Alexis Zarkov).


RELATED