|Savonarola on Film
Author: Savonarola PM
Like James Agee for B-movies... and without the talentRated: Fiction M - English - Humor - Chapters: 29 - Words: 22,192 - Updated: 10-22-06 - Published: 04-21-05 - id: 1892353
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
Flash Gordon (1936 Serial) Oh no! The planet Mongo is hurtling towards earth. What will we do? Well in the exciting opening to the film we see how the world reacts to their impending doom. Londoners, Parisians are rushing around in panic. Romans are driving insanely and gesticulating wildly. The people of Shanghai are racing around in rickshaws. In India everyone is bathing in the Ganges. In Africa everyone has put on war-paint, grabbed their spear and is jumping up and down. They simply do not make movies like this anymore.
Anyhow Flash Gordon (played by swimming champion Buster Crabbe) is in a plane that goes down in a meteor shower. He shares a parachute with the impossibly blonde Dale Arden, and they land next to crackpot Dr. Zarkov. Dr. Zarkov realizes that Flash is the son of a renowned scientist Dr. Gordon (intelligence apparently skipped a generation in the Gordon family.) With that he offers Flash a chance to save earth, by flying in his rocketship to the radioactive planet Mongo.
But what is to be done with perpetual damsel in distress Dale? Why the obvious answer is to take her along on an untested rocket to a radioactive planet. So the three launch themselves to Mongo. Mongo is a strange world inhabited by lizards shot in forced perspective to make them seem big. Our intrepid heroes are quickly captured by Emporer Ming.
Ming dresses in long flowing robes. His guards dressed up as roman legionnaires, except for their leader who is dressed in medieval plate armor. Their idols are Egyptian. Though there are ray guns and rocketry, everyone carries a sword and uses it as the weapon of choice. (Except Flash, who never uses a sword or a gun, preferring to wrestle armed opponents.) It's all very confusing.
Ming immediately forces Dr. Zarkov to work in his lab, orders Dale to marry him, and throws Flash into the arena. (That's the sort of efficiency that only monarchy can provide.) Alas there is just one fatal flaw in Ming's plan, his daughter, Princess Aura, has amorous designs on Flash. (You can tell Aura is evil, because she has raven tresses, like Veronica in the Archie comics. Good girls (like Betty, and Dale Arden) are always blonde.) After Flash defeats three ape men (that is actors dressed in loin cloths) in the arena Princess Aura rushes in and clings to Flash, right above a trap door that leads to the Tunnel of Terror.
Meanwhile Dr. Zarkov is forced to wear short pants and work in a lab. The short pants are a recurring motif in this serial. All men, except Ming and the guy in the plate armor, wear short pants. It's an obvious sign of the moral degeneracy in the 30's. Likewise all the women wear sleeveless full length dresses that exposes their belly buttons. That didn't bother me so much.
Then we go to Dale and Ming's wedding. Dale has to be hypnotized to go through with her royal wedding (just like Princess Di.) Dale's acting is so awful that it's hard to tell when she's supposed to be staring ahead vapidly because she's hypnotized, and when she's just staring ahead vapidly due to sheer lack of acting ability. So hypnotized Dale is dressed up as a Mongonian bride (sleeveless full length dress that exposes her belly button.) and taken to the Egyptian idol with her betrothed. There they wait for the thirteenth chime of the gong to complete the ceremony. Will Flash arrive in time to save her? Come to the movie theater next week to catch the next installment of this exciting serial!