Archive for Duke York Jr

Battling the Sea Beast

Posted in FILM with tags , , , , , , , on May 18, 2022 by dcairns

James Cameron, eat your CGI Canadian heart out.

Last we saw, Larry “Buster” Crabbe as Flash Gordon was wrestling an “octo-sac” in the flooded guest bedroom of King Kala of the Shark Men. Strangely enough, his tendriled foe transformed mid-tussle from a bit of stock footage of a real octopus to a rather flat looking rubber cephalopod, which might be easier to defeat, I dunno, limited experience here.


Worse, Kala has a special handmaiden on, well, hand, to make sure Dale Arden “misses none of the sport,” so Dale has her face pressed to the what you might call a Porthole of Death, not quite a ringside seat since she’s standing and it’s a waterlogged chamber, but morally undistinguishable. “Watching helplessly” is essentially Jean Rogers’ entire character description here, but she switches it up by falling into a dead faint. The handmaiden “Zona” is played by one Muriel Goodspeed. Yes, THAT Muriel Goodspeed. The one who plays the handmaiden “Zona” in this.

Surprise entrance — in the best Raymond Chandler tradition, one or other of the four screenwriters has a man come in the door with a gun, or in this case, a Lion Man and a woman with a raygun. How they gained access to this undersea kingdom isn’t immediately clear, but it has to be good news for Larry “Buster” Crabbe who, Olympic swimmer or not, is going down for at least the third time. More like sixth, if you count the recap.

“Stop that fight at once!” demands Princess Aura, for the female newcomer is she. “How does one stop an octo-sac?” asks Kala, which sounds like a perfect set-up to a joke, but Aura replies with plodding literalness, getting Kala to drain Flash’s bedroom, currently wetter than the Moscow Ritz-Carlston.

Meanwhile, in Ming’s palace workshop, Zarkov labours among bad vats and jeroboams, Strickfadenesque electrical toys and Ruritanian decor. His situation has not advanced much since episode 2, and Flash has passed up two opportunities to rescue him. However, through his cunning, he has set up a comms link with Griffith Observatory. Under the very nose of Ming!

Hilarious moment at 8.22 to where, mid-conversation Ming-Zarkov, the Emperor’s off-camera lines are read in by some stooge, possibly the director. Mid-SENTENCE. Ming: “They are being cared for -” Not-Ming: “-by Kala, King of the Shark Men.” One expects to see Charles Middleton transfigured, like the octo-sac, into some (even) cheaper stand-in, but he’s back to normal by the time we see him.

FG rarely falls below a certain level of competence, but that was a goofy moment. Emperor Fake Shemp.

Flash, free from his watery lodgings, is required to overpower a guard. Disarming the underling of his ray-gun, he’s faced with a sword, while Aura every so cautiously reaches in extreme slow motion for the fallen pistol. This kind of behaviour drove me nuts as a kid, but now seems a plausible simulacrum of royalty in a crisis.

Thun has been left guarding Kala at gunpoint for some time now. Anxious lest we forget about this tense stand-off, the filmmakers cut regularly to them exchanging pleasantries/threats.

While Flash’s shadow strangles the guard’s shadow — one of the regular nods to expressionism — Aura lasers some kind of control panel, and immediately the undersea kingdom starts leaking. Possibly a mistake?

With her tiny earthwoman lungs, Dale is once more the first to react to the lack of oxygen. She’s better than a canary.

My favourite exchange in this episode follows: a Mongovision TV screen is showing the water squirting through the undersea kingdom’s bulkheads in a steady spurt. A man in tinplate armour says to a man in a cassock, “Find out what it means.” Aaaand SCENE.

What it means is that Dale passes out for the second time this episode — she spends more time unconscious than a housecat. Kala is prepared to abandon his feud with Thun if it means he doesn’t have to asphyxiate. Who says Shark Men and Lion Men can’t be friends?

The controls of Kala’s console are a bunch of door handles, I think possibly from a Model T Ford.

CRASH! Just as Flash is reunited with Dale (and Thun and Kala), the undersea kingdom CRUMBLES, which translates in visual terms to a wobbling model shot, some stock footage of leaks, and a firehose turned full on, cueing a liquid vertical wipe that runs down the screen and tells us to —


Captured by Shark Men

Posted in FILM, Comics with tags , , , , , , , on May 11, 2022 by dcairns

And we all know what that feels like, right?

Episode three of FLASH GORDON resolves the rubber dragon-lobster problem rather briskly, with Thun rushing up and raygunning down the offending beast. But not before we’ve been allowed to enjoy the sight of a miniature Flash, rigid of limb and seemingly hydrocephalic, being waved triumphantly around in one giant pincer. Intercut medium shots of Larry “Buster” Crabbe gritting his teeth et voila! A classic science fiction fight scene to rival anything in the MCU.

The baggy-trousered reptile laid smouldering on the cavern floor, Flash and Thun descend a precipitous stone stairway inherited from FRANKENSTEIN — in the steps of Dwight Frye. Then Flash strangles a bloke in a Norman helmet with a dinner gong, freeing them to reach the cluster of MUMMY props to save Dale from almost certain matrimony. The stone god — definitely the idol from Freund’s monsterpiece, makes a familiar gesture, and then tips forward at the celebrants, propelled by Flash, your visiting district iconoclast. Dale, only lightly dehumanized, is swept off her feet by her hero, leaving Ming jilted and emasculated, a spare prick at his own wedding. Curses!

Dialogue indicates that the tumbling deity is “the great god Tao,” but he looks totally different to the version seen last time, in footage from JUST IMAGINE. I guess that was the great god Tao of stock footage, and this is the great god Tao of secondhand props.

Flash and Thun now continue on down the same staircase they already descended, I think, though this is not embarrassingly obvious or anything, it’s just that I know the set. How far down are we going? “FIRST FLOOR DUNGEON: Assorted simple tortures”? I note that the stair has been cleaned and dried since Colin Clive was its proprietor.

Flash and Dale are halted at a big steel bulkhead and a henchman spies at them through a telescope as Dale’s dehumanization wears off. Flash takes too long to notice, though, and before a clinch can be arranged they’re dropped through ANOTHER trap door, this time into water. Boy, if Aura could see this, would she be jealous. “I’m the one he should be plummeting through trapdoors with!” Imagine Flash’s stuttered excuses: “I dropped twenty feet with her but that’s as far as it went!”

Now Flash is set upon by Shark Men. Well, it must have seemed a good idea to give Larry “Buster” Crabbe, Olympic swimmer, some splashing about to do. But aquatic punch-ups are rarely fun to watch, and this babbling donnybrook is no exception. That’s why THUNDERBALL will never be my favourite Bond — the one time undercranking would have helped them, they forgot it was available.

Our heroes are soon abducted into a Shark Man submarine, the tiniest-looking model yet. The big bricks in its dock don’t help.

Now, in the finest tradition of Ruggiero Deodato, we get some genuine animal bloodshed — shark versus octopus. Ugh. At one point the picture goes out of focus and the image rolls vertically, which is a relief.

Flash and Dale barely have time to get dry — but they do get dry, perhaps for censorship reasons — before they’re presented to the grand old King Kala of the Shark Men, played by the grand old Duke York Jr. Within seconds of meeting, Flash and the King/Duke engaged in a wrestling match. Pretty strange royal protocol they have on Mongo. But it soon escalates into a knife fight, which is more in line with the life of our own dear Queen.

Editing can do strange things to performance, and Jean Rogers’ reaction shots make you wonder if she’s fully de-dehumanized. Not her fault.

Flash beats Kala who’s so impressed he orders that his captors spend the night “in their separate quarters” (Production Code dictates or something more sinister?) and be released in the morning. “Don’t worry, Dale. Everything’s all right,” Flash assures her, but with so little time to the cliffhanger, can this be true? Also, Dale’s separate quarters consist of a divan in the corner of the throne room, surrounded by shower curtains. Those aren’t proper quarters. They’re barely eighths.

Flash’s separate quarters, on the other hand, are a metal vault, into which he is bundled by Kala’s hench-shark-men. Their costumes deserve mention: swim trunks and HUGE silvery cummerbunds, boots and skull-caps. At least Kala gets to wear a kind of lurex sarong with a cartoon squid on it. Dignity, always dignity.

Flash’s quarters are, in fact, less air-bnb than airlock, and are soon flooding. Worse, since Dale’s bedroom is PART OF THE THRONEROOM, she’s able to sneak out and eavesdrop as Kala has a quick Zoom call with Ming, showing them to be in cahoots, or nextdoor to cahoots. Ming’s image appears, amusingly, in a porthole. Because Shark Men would naturally have portholes for monitors.

Cliffhanger! Flash’s metaphorical cliff is a room filling with water, in which he is not hanging but drowning. Soon, an “octo-sac” is unleashed, to further inconvenience him. Deduct at least one rating star.