|The "lobster-clawed dragon" has Flash in its clutches|
In this serial based on the Alex Raymond "cartoon strip," the earth is threatened by another planet rushing toward it on a path to destruction. Flying to this planet, Mongo, with Professor Zarkov (Frank Shannon) and lovely Dale Arden (Jean Rogers of The Second Woman), Flash Gordon (Buster Crabbe) encounters Emperor Ming (Charles Middleton of The Town Went Wild) and his horny daughter, Aura (Priscilla Lawson). The original menace of two planets colliding is solved right off the bat, but now Flash and his friends have to deal with a variety of friendly and not-so-friendly Mongo inhabitants, as well as giant, man-eating lizards and a terrible fire dragon with lobster-like claws. Ming is also determined to make Dale his bride, while Aura is equally smitten with Flash and hates Dale, whom he prefers. Prince Thun (James Pierce) is king of the lion men while the obese King Vultan (Jack "Tiny" Lipson) rules the winged Hawkmen. (One can't imagine how Vultan would ever be able to get off the ground!) Flabby-armed and pot-bellied Prince Barin (Richard Alexander) claims to be the rightful ruler of Mongo. An "octosac" is merely an octopus that battles a shark (in footage later used in The Beast from 20,00 Fathoms and probably dozens of other films). There are some exciting scenes and death traps in the serial, such as a electric torture device in chapter six, a tank that fills with water and then an octosac; and a splendid, lengthy sword fight between Flash and Barin in chapter eight. The dragon does double-duty, first appearing in chapter two before becoming a fire-breathing variation in a later chapter. It's interesting that the flying ships of Mongo greatly resemble the design of Arkov's own spaceship, but why on earth does the scientist wear hot pants throughout the serial! The acting is more than acceptable, with Crabbe quite good in fact, and Middleton wisely underplaying instead of chewing the scenery as a lesser actor might do. There are interesting sets and some creative art direction, but some of the supporting players may have you scratching your head All told, however, Flash Gordon, despite its variable pleasures, is not that great a serial.
Verdict: A generally fast pace helps put the absurd material over and much of it is fun. **1/2.