Tag Archives: Universal Pictures

Flash Gordon’s Trip to Mars (1938, Ford Beebe and Robert F. Hill), Chapter 11: Human Bait

And it’s back to the Martian imperial city or whatever it’d be called this chapter. After a surprising cliffhanger resolution–brainwashed Jean Rogers does indeed stab Buster Crabbe in the back–Crabbe and his male sidekicks (Frank Shannon, Donald Kerr, and Richard Alexander) go running around in the forest a bit before they have to go back to the temple. So much going somewhere and going back. Eventually they get to Alexander’s rocket ship so they can get to the city and rescue Rogers.

Only Charles Middleton and Beatrice Roberts have her and she’s the Human Bait of the title.

Crabbe and Shannon once again fall for one of Middleton’s questionably contrived plans against them, eventually getting them to the cliffhanger. It’s a very boring chapter. The stuff with Rogers having sympathetic (slightly sympathetic anyway) guards is far more interesting than anything in the finale. Except maybe how none of the four editors realized Middleton was supposed to be away from the trap spot only they kept cutting to old footage of him there, conniving.

Oddly weak performance from Roberts this chapter too. She just stares into space while Middleton talks to her. Meanwhile Rogers is in Mars more, only as a zombie. It’s a disappointment.

With only four chapters left, Human Bait is definitely concerning. There might not be anywhere else for Mars to go and it’s a little too early for it to be in such bad shape. Hopefully they pull it off. Hopefully.

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).


RELATED

Advertisements

Flash Gordon’s Trip to Mars (1938, Ford Beebe and Robert F. Hill), Chapter 10: Incense of Forgetfulness

Okay, Incense of Forgetfulness might be where Flash Gordon’s Trip to Mars starts getting into… well, travel trouble. After an exceptionally bad cliffhanger resolution (Buster Crabbe just manages to break free of his bonds, nothing else), there’s about ten minutes of circular narrative. Crabbe, Frank Shannon, and Richard Alexander head back to the Clay kingdom. There’s something of a chase through the palace, but nothing Crabbe can’t take care of by himself… against like five armed guards. Even though Shannon and Alexander are there, it’s all Crabbe.

Back at the Clay kingdom, they reunite with Jean Rogers and a now fully healed Donald Kerr (who was supposed to be convalescing for a few days but whatever). They have to go back to the forest people’s kingdom to get Alexander’s ship. But first, a flashback to the previous serial, and a change in the story of why Alexander is on Mars. Originally he was there to hunt down Ming (Charles Middleton), now he’s there to save his Earth friends. It’s not an earth shattering change (no pun) but it’s some lazy storytelling.

Made even lazier once they go back to the forest, get into it yet again with the forest people, this time with Rogers getting taken prisoner. Crabbe leaves her with Kerr, who obviously isn’t much of a protector. It’s kind of funny watching Kerr and Rogers walk through the forest. She looks like she’s doing a glamour shoot, while he looks utterly terrified. Of course, when Rogers gets grabbed, she doesn’t do anything. Just lets the forest people lead her back to the temple.

The temple where they all were a couple (or three) chapters ago.

Again. Circular.

At least Crabbe figures out Middleton is setting up to double cross Martian queen Beatrice Roberts, but it doesn’t matter here. Forgetfulness is a fairly pointless chapter, with bad editing ruining the possibly dramatic cliffhanger. Rogers is brainwashed by the forest people and now Crabbe’s sworn enemy.

They’ll never get that kiss now.

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).


RELATED

Flash Gordon’s Trip to Mars (1938, Ford Beebe and Robert F. Hill), Chapter 9: Symbol of Death

Nine chapters in, Flash Gordon’s Trip to Mars hasn’t had any majorly repetitive chapters. The overall story moves along, at least moderately, by the end of the chapter. But not so with Symbol of Death. The chapter opens with Buster Crabbe escaping Charles Middleton’s imprisonment and death ray; it ends with Crabbe imprisoned and Middleton bombarding him with another death ray. A different death ray. Middleton’s got all sorts.

In between, Crabbe tries to escape, but gets caught destroying the beam zapping the Earth’s atmosphere. Now, he uses a weapon near the hanger, far away from where he got caught last chapter; Symbol never addresses why Crabbe went to Middletown’s lab to destroy the Earth-sucker when he just could’ve done it from the hanger.

One big change is Crabbe loses his advantage over Martian queen Beatrice Roberts, forcing Frank Shannon and Richard Alexander to go back to the palace to rescue Crabbe. So they’re in trouble at the end too. And it’s confirmed Middleton is plotting against Roberts. But it’s a fairly boring, pointless chapter just to get all those story switches flipped.

Though there’s one great scene where Alexander knocks around two Martian guards. His helmet’s barely hanging on to his head by the end of it.

And there’s some decent stuff with Crabbe’s escape through the palace city–and, eventually, the first decent miniature effects of the palace city. Usually there’s a strange profile shot but there’s finally the city next to the Martian landscape here. But once you realize Crabbe’s just going somewhere better to destroy the Earth-sucker ray… the circular narrative gets annoying.

It’s competently produced–Crabbe gets nothing to do–and it’s nice to see Shannon and Alexander team up, but Symbol of Death is Mars’s weakest chapter so far.

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).


RELATED

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.

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).


RELATED