OTR – The Interplanetary Adventures of Flash Gordon – Episode 4 (1935)

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This week on old time radio, it’s episode 4 of The Interplanetary Adventures of Flash Gordon from May 18, 1935. Gale Gordon plays the lead role of Flash Gordon with Maurice Franklin as Dr. Zarkov and Bruno Wick as Ming the Merciless.

Tune into episode 3, Can Zarkov Save Hawkmen’s City! You can find it on the Flash Gordon playlist on my YouTube channel.

Flash Gordon (1936): Chapters 8-10

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Flash Gordon (1936)

Cast:
Buster Crabbe as Flash Gordon
Jean Rogers as Dale Arden
Charles Middleton as Ming the Merciless
Priscilla Lawson as Princess Aura
Frank Shannon as Doctor Alexis Zarkov
Richard Alexander as Prince Barin
Jack ‘Tiny’ Lipson as King Vultan
Theodore Lorch as High Priest #2
James Pierce as Prince Thun

Based on the comic strip by Alex Raymond
Screenplay by Frederick Stephani, Ella O’Neill,
George H. Plympton & Basil Dickey
Directed by Frederick Stephani

Chapter 8: Tournament of Death
Chapter 9: Fighting the Fire Dragon
Chapter 10: The Unseen Peril

Plot: As King Vultan and the Hawkmen see their alliance with Ming coming to an end and a new allegiance towards Flash and his friends, new dangers await our hero. First, Flash must battle the orangopoid and then has his memory erased by Princess Aura as Ming continues to lust after Dale.     

Richard’s Review: As with all chapter serials, there reaches a point where the action seems to slow down and the main villain tends to disappear from the main storyline. So it’s no surprise that Ming was absent for a while before returning to take center stage again. I’m not sure how much help Prince Barin really is but it’s nice to see King Vultan become an ally as Flash certainly needed some more powerful friends. Definitely a lot to love with this classic sci-fi adventure.  

Karla’s Thoughts: Wow, that orangopoid was…interesting. The special effects continue to be interesting but the story is moving along at a fun pace. Flash is always getting into a fight with the bad guys but Ming just doesn’t seem that menacing to me. And oh no, it’s the return of the giant lizard dragon creature. Princess Aura continues to be evil while Dale continues to scream and be so naïve. However, I’m still having lots of fun with it all. 

Trivia:

  • Theodore Lorch starred in 171 films, including The Last of the Mohicans (1920) with a young Boris Karloff and numerous Three Stooges shorts, including Half-Wits Holiday (1947), the last short subject to feature Curley Howard in a lead role.
  • Ray Corrigan appeared as the orangopoid, which was essentially a gorilla costume with a horn on its head, foreshadowing the Mugato from Star Trek decades later. Ray spent the better part of his career under a mask, playing roles in such films as Tarzan the Ape Man (1932), The Ape (1940) with Boris Karloff, The Strange Case of Dr. Rx (1942) with Lionel Atwill, Dr. Renault’s Secret (1942) with J. Carroll Naish, Bela Lugosi Meets the Brooklyn Gorilla (1952) and his final film, It! The Terror from Beyond Space (1958). After retiring, he ran Corriganville, a ranch that was used for films and TV series. He sold the property to Bob Hope in 1965. Part of the land was turned into a housing subdivision called Hopetown, with several fires in the 70s, including the last in 1979, destroying the remaining parts of the ranch. Corrigan died in 1976 at age 74.  

Availability: Flash Gordon is available through a variety of sources, including the Image Entertainment DVD or watch it on YouTube for free!

Next week…chapters 11, 12 and 13!

Flash Gordon (1936): Chapters 4 – 7

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Flash Gordon (1936)

Cast:
Buster Crabbe as Flash Gordon
Jean Rogers as Dale Arden
Charles Middleton as Ming the Merciless
Priscilla Lawson as Princess Aura
Frank Shannon as Doctor Alexis Zarkov
Richard Alexander as Prince Barin
Jack ‘Tiny’ Lipson as King Vultan
Duke York as King Kala
James Pierce as Prince Thun

Based on the comic strip by Alex Raymond
Screenplay by Frederick Stephani, Ella O’Neill,
George H. Plympton & Basil Dickey
Directed by Frederick Stephani

Chapter 4: Battling the Sea Beast
Chapter 5: The Destroying Ray
Chapter 6: Flaming Torture
Chapter 7: Shattering Doom

Plot: Captured by King Kala and the Shark Men, Flash must battle the octosak. As Princess Aura and Thun rescue Flash and Dale, they are captured by King Vultan and the Hawkmen. Meanwhile, Dr. Zarkov meets Prince Barin and they work together to save their friends but the Hawkmen are one step ahead of them.  

Richard’s Review: As our adventure moves along, we see Flash battling the dreaded octosak, which changes appearance as it goes from stock footage to prop. Sorry, but that prop is a bit of an odd mess. As we meet King Vultan, I thought the Hawkmen costumes were quite good for 1936. I’ve determined that Prince Thun is more of a liability as he doesn’t quite seem able to really defend himself. I’m also not sure how good Prince Barin is either but then again, our hero is Flash and he’s clearly the strongest and toughest of the lot. This is a solid adventure and fun to watch. I can only imagine how it was to watch this every Saturday in the theaters and seeing the comic-strip hero coming to life.

Karla’s Thoughts: I prefer this version of Prince Barin over the 1980 version played by Timothy Dalton. He’s less arrogant here and seems to be more of an ally. King Vultan is certainly more evil than I remember him to be from the 1980 film. Dale really does get annoying at times with her constant screaming and total helplessness. However, I’m really enjoying the overall adventure. Sure the special effects are bad, especially the miniatures with “giant” animals, but it’s so much fun.

Trivia:

  • Richard Alexander had 318 film credits and was a solid character-actor, despite starting off with more lead roles in such films as The Mysterious Lady (1928) and All Quiet on the Western Front (1931). Usually playing more villainous roles by 1936, the role of Prince Barin was a welcome change-of-pace.
  • Jack ‘Tiny’ Lipson also played the Nobleman in March of the Wooden Soldiers (1934) with Laurel and Hardy, as well as supporting roles in several Three Stooges shorts. He died in 1947 at the age of 46.
  • Duke York is another character actor who often blends into the background, as is in the case in numerous appearances in Three Stooges shorts. He died in 1952 at age 43 by suicide. 

Availability: Flash Gordon is available through a variety of sources, including the Image Entertainment DVD.

Next week…chapters 8, 9 and 10!

OTR – The Interplanetary Adventures of Flash Gordon – Episode 2 (1935)

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This week on old time radio, it’s episode 2 of The Interplanetary Adventures of Flash Gordon from May 4, 1935. Gale Gordon plays the lead role of Flash Gordon with Maurice Franklin as Dr. Zarkov and Bruno Wick as Ming the Merciless.

Tune into episode 2, Battling a Plant and an Earthman! You can find it on the Flash Gordon playlist on my YouTube channel.

Flash Gordon (1936): Chapters 1 – 3

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Flash Gordon (1936)

Cast:
Buster Crabbe as Flash Gordon
Jean Rogers as Dale Arden
Charles Middleton as Ming the Merciless
Priscilla Lawson as Princess Aura
Frank Shannon as Doctor Alexis Zarkov
James Pierce as Prince Thun

Based on the comic strip by Alex Raymond
Screenplay by Frederick Stephani, Ella O’Neill,
George H. Plympton & Basil Dickey
Directed by Frederick Stephani

Chapter 1: The Planet of Peril
Chapter 2: The Tunnel of Terror
Chapter 3: Captured by Shark Men

Plot: With an unknown planet on a collision course with Earth, scientists are puzzled and all seems lost. However, Dr. Zarkov has built a rocket ship and plans to travel to the planet to stop the pending collision. When Flash Gordon, son of prominent scientist Professor Gordon, and Dale Arden bail out of a doomed airplane, they land near the home of Zarkov and discover his plan. They join him on a journey to what they soon discover is the planet Mongo, ruled by the evil Ming the Merciless. With Ming lusting after Dale and his daughter wanting Flash, our heroes begin a journey to defeat Ming and save the Earth.

Richard’s Review: I have a lot of fond memories of watching Flash Gordon on Sunday mornings with my dad in the late 70s on channel 41 KBMA (and later KSHB) from Kansas City. My introduction to Flash had actually come several years earlier through some random chapters being shown at Straw Hat Pizza in Wichita, Kansas. I instantly fell in love with the serials and revisited them quite often in the 80s and 90s. However, this is my first time watching them in over 20 years, so I’m very excited about spending the summer with Flash Gordon. Three chapters in and it seems like I’m visiting old friends. The sounds of the rocket ships immediately send me on a nostalgic journey. The typical chapter serial tropes are already present but they work so well here, one must remember how original a lot of this was in 1936, especially for the science fiction genre. Fantastic! 

Karla’s Thoughts: Having only seen Flash Gordon (1980) before, there were some immediate comparisons. Buster Crabbe struck me as a true hero and not the airhead Sam J. Jones portrayed in the 1980 film. Jean Rogers is definitely not as aggressive as Melody Anderson. She’s definitely a lot more helpless here. This version of Princess Aura doesn’t seem to be as spoiled but is still more concerned with having Flash all to herself. Ming may look the same but he’s not quite as evil, at least so far. However, he’s a lot more firm with his daughter as he doesn’t give into her whims. And what is up with all of the men wearing shorts? Three chapters in and I’m loving it so far.

Trivia:

  • Some sources indicate that Flash Gordon had a budget of over a million dollars, while others state it was much closer to $350,000.
  • This was the first science fiction chapter serial and the first of the Flash Gordon trilogy.
  • Buster Crabbe and Jean Rogers both dyed their hair blonde for their respective parts.
  • Buster Crabbe had previously appeared as Tarzan in the Tarzan the Fearless (1933) chapter serial.
  • Jean Rogers also starred in Night Key (1937) with Boris Karloff.
  • Charles Middleton had previously starred with the Marx Brothers in Duck Soup (1933), Harold Lloyd in Welcome Danger (1929), and Laurel and Hardy in Beau Hunks (1931)
  • Glenn Strange (House of Frankenstein) appeared as the lobster-clawed dragon monster.
  • Lon Poff appeared as a high priest and was killed in the original print but the death scenes were cut before release. When Theodore Lurch appeared as the new high priest, many thought Poff had died during production, when he actually lived until 1952.  

Availability: Flash Gordon is available through a variety of sources, including the Image Entertainment DVD.

Next week…chapters 4, 5, 6 and 7!

OTR – The Interplanetary Adventures of Flash Gordon – Episode 1 (1935)

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While we’re celebrating the chapter serials of Flash Gordon and Buster Crabbe all summer long, we’re giving Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson a break so we can tune into the old time radio Flash Gordon series from 1935. 

The Interplanetary Adventures of Flash Gordon ran for 26 episodes beginning April 27, 1935. Each 15-minute episode adapted the popular Alex Raymond newspaper strip and while it started off being a faithful adaptation, it would eventually move into all new adventures. Gale Gordon plays the lead role of Flash Gordon with Maurice Franklin as Dr. Zarkov and Bruno Wick as Ming the Merciless.

We start the story off with episode 1, On the Planet Mongo! You can find it on the Flash Gordon playlist on my YouTube channel.

Flash Gordon – Saving the Universe for 88 Years

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For many casual film fans, the only version of Flash Gordon they may know is the 1980 movie, most likely because of the theme song by rock band Queen. However, for those who appreciate diving into film history a little deeper, they are at least familiar with the Buster Crabbe chapter serials of the late 30s. But where did Flash Gordon really originate from and what does the future hold for the legendary space hero?

In 1929, Philip Francis Nowlan created the character of Buck Rogers, a spacefaring adventure hero who debuted in daily US newspapers on January 7. The strip was syndicated by the National Newspaper Service and soon inspired a variety of other science fiction strips. While many of us have forgotten Brick Bradford and Speed Spaulding, one hero who made his debut in 1934 is well-remembered today…Flash Gordon. It’s no secret that Alex Raymond created Flash to be direct competition for the Buck Rogers strip. King Features Syndicate had originally wanted John Carter of Mars, created by Edgar Rice Burroughs. However, when a deal with Burroughs could not be reached, it turned to staff artist Alex Raymond to create a new hero.

Flash Gordon is a dashing young college graduate who is kidnapped, along with his companion Dale Arden, by Dr. Hans Zarkov, who has come up with a plan to stop Earth’s impending collision with the planet Mongo. After leaving Earth in a rocket ship and crash landing on Mongo, they save Earth but encounter the evil Ming the Merciless. In the years that followed, they would encounter various kingdoms and rulers in their never-ending battle to defeat Ming.

The original daily strip ran daily from 1934 to 1992, outlasting Buck Rogers, which had ended its original run in 1967. The Sunday strips continued until 2003 and it is still being reprinted today. But Flash Gordon was not limited to newspaper strips. In 1935, The Amazing Interplanetary Adventures of Flash Gordon radio serial was launched. Gale Gordon, better known as Mr. Mooney in numerous Lucille Ball television shows, played Flash in the stories that essentially followed the weekly Sunday newspaper storylines. After 26 weeks, the program ended and was followed by The Further Interplanetary Adventures of Flash Gordon, which ran for 60 more weeks and was an original story set in Atlantis.

Of course, there have been numerous comic book series over the years from such companies as Dell, Harvey, Gold Key and, most recently, Dynamite Entertainment. Even DC and Marvel produced two short-lived series. There was a live-action television series in 1954 on the DuMont Network starring Steve Holland, as well as several recent attempts that are better left unmentioned. There were different animated series, and an animated film, and even a stage play in 1989. Most notably, there was also that 1980 feature film starring Sam J. Jones. The film didn’t do well initially but has become a cult favorite amongst fans and, admittedly, is a lot of fun if you go into it with the right mindset.

Aside from the original newspaper strips, the most memorable part of Flash Gordon’s history came in the form of three chapter serials produced between 1936 and 1940. Buster Crabbe would play the lead role of Flash Gordon with Charles Middleton playing the perfect on-screen version of Ming the Merciless. Over the course of three serials and 40 chapters, Buster became the definitive on-screen version of Flash Gordon. Even when he was hired to play the lead role of Buck Rogers in 1939, it was hard not to see Flash on screen (even part of his uniform as Flash was reused for Buck).

Over the last three summers, Karla and I have laughed our way through the films of Laurel and Hardy, the Marx Brothers and Harold Lloyd. This summer, we’re leaving Earth behind and hitching a ride to Mongo as we’ll be taking a weekly journey through all three chapter serials. Join us beginning next Friday, along with Flash, Dale and Dr. Zarkov, as we become space soldiers conquering the universe on our trip to Mars. And by the time summer is winding down, we’ll wrap up this series with a look towards the future. If there was ever a time for a hero like Flash Gordon, the time is now!

Classic Horrors Club – Sinbad Meets Ray Harryhausen

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The 68th episode of the Classic Horrors Club Podcast is a very special one indeed as Jeff and I are joined by a star of two of the Ray Harryhausen Sinbad films: Kurt Christian! Kurt went from the hero Haroun in The Golden Voyage of Sinbad (1973), to the villain Rafi in Sinbad and the Eye of the Tiger (1977). He has great stories to tell about the making of the films and even has a thing or two to say about our first film, The 7th Voyage of Sinbad (1958).

Thanks to Steve Turek for hosting the conversation and sharing it with all of us. You can listen to a full interview with Kurt Christian on episode 34 of the DieCast Movie Podcast.

Don’t forget to check out the video companion on our YouTube channel. It’s a special episode containing only exclusive content not available in this month’s podcast! Which creatures from Harryhausen’s mythical menagerie are our favorites? Which ones are yours?

Call us at (616) 649-2582 (CLUB), email at classichorrors.club@gmail.com or join us in our clubhouse at https://www.facebook.com/groups/classichorrors.club/!

We’d also appreciate if you’d give us an honest rating on Apple Podcasts or SoundCloud. Thank you!

You can find Jeff at:

Coming up next month, we’re firing up our time machine and returning to the drive-in! All summer, it’ll be double feature madness from the past and our first stop in June features two legends…Vincent Price in Pit and the Pendulum (1961) and Frankenstein 1970 (1958) with Boris Karloff!

Captain Sindbad (1963)

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Captain Sindbad (June 19, 1963)
Cast:        Guy Williams as Captain Sindbad
                Heidi Bruhl as Princess Jana
                Pedro Armendariz as El Kerim
                AbrahamSofaer as Galgo
                Bernie Hamilton as Quinius

Written by Ian McLellan Hunter & Guy Endore (billed as Samuel B. West & Harry Relis)
Directed by Byron Haskin

Plot: Captain Sindbad must face the deadly El Kerim before he can marry the lovely Princess Jana.

Richard’s Review: This version of Sinbad was clearly inspired by Ray Harryhausen’s 7th Voyage of Sinbad (1958) as magic and monsters (and even a shrunken princess) have now entered the fantastical adventures. Sadly, the special effects are not up to Harryhausen’s standards. They aren’t bad but you are left wondering how different the film would have been with Harryhausen’s touch. That said, this is a fun flick to watch on a rainy day or for an afternoon matinee. Sure, it’s a little cheesy at times and there might be a little too much comedy throwing off the balance of adventure. The swamp scenes and battle with the 12-headed dragon-like monster are especially fun. Above all else, I loved Guy Willliams as Sindbad (not sure why they changed the spelling) and his performance is worth the ticket price alone. Not Harryhausen but still a lot of fun and recommended.

Trivia:

  • Guy Williams’ second film was the classic The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951). He had also appeared in I Was a Teenage Werewolf (1957) but it was his role of Don Diego in Disney’s Zorro (1957-1961) that had earned him fame. After this film, he appeared in five episodes of Bonanza as Will Cartwright before taking on the lead role of Professor John Robinson in Lost in Space (1965-1968). He then retired from acting and moved to Argentina, where he lived until his death in 1989 at the age of 65 due to a brain aneurysm.  
  • Heidi Bruhl is well-known for her many film roles in her native country of Germany. She’s also remembered in the United States for The Gypsy Baron (1962) and The Eiger Sanction (1975). She died in 1991 at the age of 49 of cancer.
  • Pedro Armendariz was a well-known character actor with this film being the next-to-last of his 128 credits. After filming From Russia with Love (1963), he was diagnosed with terminal cancer, possibly from his involvement in The Conqueror (1956). He was one of 91 cast and crew members who suffered or died from cancer, including John Wayne. Unable to deal with the diagnosis, he committed suicide on June 18, 1963, at the age of 51, before this film’s premiere.
  • Abraham Sofaer was an accomplished character actor with 144 film and TV credits. His last role was in the Horror in the Heights episode of Kolchak: The Night Stalker in 1974. He retired and lived until his death in 1988 at age 91.
  • Byron Haskin also directed The War of the Worlds (1953), The Naked Jungle (1954), From the Earth to the Moon (1958), Robinson Crusoe on Mars (1964) and six episodes of The Outer Limits.     

Availability: Captain Sindbad is available to rent on Amazon Prime and on the Warner Archive Collection DVD for less than $10.