Archive for Jack "Tiny" Lipson

Flaming Torture

Posted in FILM with tags , , , , , , , , on May 25, 2022 by dcairns

The FLASH GORDON episode recaps are turning into word soup. “Doomed shark city” sounds like som kind of garage band, while “forced to feed radium to the mighty atom furnaces” supplies information that I don’t think was even present in the previous episode. That’s radium he’s shovelling? I’m afraid Thun is screwed.

And the rapey King Vultan is, we are to understand, merely “boisterous”? Although we admit his boister “terrorizes” Dale, as well it might. Possibly the title-writer is attempting to seed in a rehabilitation for the alarming man-fowl, since he’s got to perform a volte-face later on. Or possibly it’s an example of the cautiousness with words Nic Roeg detected in the newspaper strip. “You could have Princess Aura whipping Dale Arden but the caption would just say something like ‘Oh! That hurts me a lot!'” Roeg was attracted by the idea of smuggling sex and kink into a kids’ film, and when he departed the 1980 project, Mike Hodges inherited that ambition…

Two-part recap! The fall of Barin’s stricken rocketship is mysteriously arrested mid-plummet — is this the birth of George Lucas’ tractor beam? — then we flashback in order to allow the stripey bear to appear again, by popular demand and so the production can get their money’s worth. The bear leaves (again) and Vultan starts advancing indecently (again).

By a surprising temporal leap, the indecent advance is interrupted by the arrival of Barin, Aura, Zarkov and Flash, all chained at spearpoint. I suppose Vultan could have continued advancing, but decency prevails: not in front of the prisoners.

Meanwhile — what’s Ming up to? Sitting at an instrument panel, receiving news from the armour-plated minion with the adorable kidney-bean shaped torso of the kind so beloved of Robert Crumb. Except that said minion is a dude, a disqualifying attribute to becoming a companion to Honeybunch Kaminsky or Angelfood McSpade.

The episode is halfway over and nothing has happened but talk! A touch of mid-serial droop is detected. It’s like an Eric Rohmer movie in space. Better hurry up and get to the FLAMING TORTURE.

Flash and Barin, stripped to their trunks, are sent to join Thun, whose beard and fangs should’ve fallen out by now, shovelling radium into the furnaces. I’m unclear whether setting light to your scoops of radium is the best way to get the value out of them. I’m no physicist but…

Is this the flaming torture? The flames look uncomfortable, but I would imagine that it’s the radioactivity that really makes for unsafe working conditions.

Zarkov, meanwhile, is excused shovelling, and it put to work in yet another electrical Strickfaden workshop, where he sets about making the novelty contraptions flash on and off in a stimulating fashion.

Aura now gets to work on Dale, trying to make her renounce Flash — good MEAN GIRLS psych-out stuff. Judging from this serial, when girls want to attack other girls, they work on their emotions. When guys want to attack other guys, they use a DESTROYING RAY or else hit them with a spear. Men are from Mars, women are from Mongo.

You’ll notice the visual quality of my viewing copy is even better now, so we can all appreciate Aura’s exotic eyebrows (inherited from her father, no doubt).

SUDDEN WEIRD PRODUCTION NUMBER! Undoubtedly stock footage. The chorines bouncing in their boob tubes are notably wingless. Plus, it looks expensive. I’m not sure if it’s from JUST IMAGINE, but I think it’s likely. I’m not sure I ever made it through that movie… it has El Brendel in it.

JUST IMAGINE is on YouTube! You can see that Zarkov’s lovely rocketship model has also been ported over to FG. But I don’t see the stock shot above. Anyone who knows which obscure early thirties musical it’s culled from, let me know.

The stock shot doesn’t last long, and soon Vultan is eating roast chicken — a clear case of semi-cannibalism. THE PRIVATE LIFE OF HENRY VIII is just three years old, and Jack “Tiny” Lipson clearly seems to have been influenced by Charles Laughton’s performance. But Jack “Tiny” Lipson, sir, is no Charles Laughton. This being a movie serial and not a Korda film, the banquet is cut-rate too — “Tiny” must content himself with a small piece of chicken, a goblet of something, and two loaves. Then we pull back and there’s a big plate of some kind of meat and a fruit bowl. Better.

Cutting back to the dupey stock shot makes it clear that this gay performance is meant to be happening right in front of Vultan’s dinner table, an illusion which crumbles before it’s even formed. I don’t care what Mr. Kuleshov says, that banquet and that dance number are not happening in the same sky palace.

Still, as a kid I was always fascinated by those shots, so much more elaborate than anything involving our main cast.

A really miserable looking winged chef brings Vultan a fresh platter of turkey legs. More cannibalism ensues. Dale, coached by Aura, tells Vultan how attractive she finds him. He gets amorous again, so the serial cuts to Flash & co being whipped in the furnace room — a kinky case of erotic displacement. The perversity of the 1980 FG is all fully-present in this version.

REBELLION! Since a shovel is a deadlier weapon than a bullwhip, the slaves can easily overpower their overseers, especially since the big turkeys don’t consider taking flight, and are weighed down by their huge rigid wings. But now some guards enter, armed with futuristic pop guns. “If anyone moves, you’ll all be destroyed!” Good luck keeping the “city in the sky” airborne without a slave force, bozo. Flash and the gang could have taken over simply by going on strike.

Marvelous emoting from “Larry “Buster” Crabbe in response to the threat. Flash, big dummy that he is, responds to “don’t move” with an exaggerated brandishing of his shovel, despite the fact that his foes are way out of range.

And so the mutiny is quelled, I believe the word is. Vultan comes along to gloat from a catwalk, bringing his bitches along to enjoy the view. Dale forgets to act indifferent, overcome as she is with compassion for the sight of the sweat-sheened Flash getting lacerated. She screams and faints. “She did not eat enough dinner,” diagnoses Vultan, whatever medical acumen he has distorted by his fat-guy sensibility.

Vultan resolves to punish the unruly Flash. “Take him to the Static Room!” I envision a room where everybody is sedentary. It sounds like a perfect encapsulation of this episode.

Aura berates Dale in what passes here for an opulent boudoir. It’s quite attractive, actual: Grecian deco. “What happens to him now will make those whip lashes seem like love pats!” spits the princess. My favourite line in the whole photoplay to date, the perfect combination of sado-eroticism and awkwardness. The dramatic equivalent of snagging a nipple clamp on your partner’s earring.

The Static Room turns out to be an elaborate Kenneth Strickfaden torture chamber, the impressive set-piece needlessly elaborated upon by stock shots from God-knows-where — FRANKENSTEIN? No. MASK OF FU MANCHU? I wonder. Director Stephani’s signature move is the pull back from a close to a wide, or the opposite, and he does a nice expressive rush towards Dale’s reaction, standing in a palatial doorway ported over from some bigger and more dignified production. Why the torture chamber NEEDS a door that size is beyond the scope of this dissertation.

Flash passes out from the non-specific torment — it’s not exactly FLAMING TORTURE but it’ll do — I guess we could admit that the episode has featured both flaming and torture — and a lightning bolt wipe introduces the TO BE CONTINUED title —

OK, it was a talkie episode, but it made up in sheer perversion what it lacked in punch-ups. I look forward to the Shattering Doom with undimmed enthusiasm.

The Destroying Ray

Posted in FILM with tags , , , , , on May 21, 2022 by dcairns

At last I have a slightly better copy of FLASH GORDON now, so the quality of framegrabs will improve. And I can geek out to the opening credits and go “Yay!” and “Boo!” at the goodies and baddies. An important ritual.

You’re still stuck with YouTube, alas.

What a relief — the huge annihilating wave that swamps the screen at the end of part 4 passes, and our heroes (and a couple of villains) are still standing. They hurriedly leave the room. Not sure what could cause a huge a.w. to come and go like that in an underwater city that’s sprung a leak, but we can all be glad it wasn’t more lasting.

Great model shot of a fleet of rocketships, spinning lazily on their wires so that several of them are flying sideways or backwards.

Enter Prince Barin (Richard Alexander — Oliver Hardy was unavailable), or Pwince Bawin as I always think of him, thanks to Ornella Muti’s idiosyncratic line reading. A big man wearing body armour above the waist, and very little below the waist. Lurking shyly at the entrance to Zarkov’s workshop, as well he might. PB is, he tells Z, the rightful ruler of Mongo. What he’s doing lurking around the workshop with no pants on is never explained.

Montage of iguanas and rockets! This starts to get pretty abstract. Terrarium pyrotechnics.

Flash, Thun and the girls emerge from a cavern. Apparently the submerged city was pretty easy to get out of after all. Perhaps the destroying ray won’t be so bad either? Maybe more just an annoying ray?

A miniature rocky valley with miniature winged men circling like vultures! I once read an explanation, and I think it came from Larry “Buster” Crabbe, where he said the model crew would have the camera on a rotating platform with the model set, and the rockets would descend vertically, and the rotation of set and camera would make it LOOK as if they were descending in a spiral. Obviously nonsense. These little hawkmen are swinging round in circles just like the rockets.

Curious that the Hawk Men have actual wings, whereas the Lion Men just have beards (well, a beard) and the Shark Men just have skull caps and cummerbunds.

My Dad pointed out when I was watching this as a kid that generally when Flash gets into a fight with a group of bad guys, they come at him one at a time, the spare guys just standing idly by while he drubs their buddy. This is what is known as Fight Arranging.

Anyway, despite all this, and despite the hawkmen being encumbered by big rigid wings, Thun and Dale are soon all captive. Barin and Zarkov arrive in a rocket and help Flash defeat his attackers. Flash determines that Dale & Thun must be rescued, brushing aside Aura’s demand to be taken back to her father. “No, you’ve caused enough trouble already,” he says, peevishly. Rather ungrateful: if not for her, he’d still be getting tentacle-porned by the octo-sac.

Barin tweaks the door handles on his console and the rocketship lurches skywards.

Fade up the floating city! MUCH better than the underwater city. It wobbles about gently on beams of light, which as I recall are coal-powered. Later we will hear them described as “gravity rays,” which sounds good. In a hi-tech corner of the spacious throne room (left over from God knows what super-production) a couple of winged MDs do things to Dale Arden with neon tubes. But don’t worry — it’s sophisticated avian medicine. The throne itself looks to be an original prop — it’s too wonderfully goofy not to be. But maybe someone can prove me wrong.

King Vultan looks really good, I think. I sort of believe he has the power of flight more than I do with Brian Blessed. This is Jack “Tony” Lipson, otherwise a bit player, achieving low-budget immortality. Normally his characters have names like “Hefty Customer”, “Huge Turk” and “Fat Man with Newspaper.”

(Since we have Larry “Buster” Crabbe and Jack “Tiny” Lipson, it feels unfair that the other cast members have no nicknames. Feel free to chime in with suggestions, but I’d offer up Frank “Knees” Shannon for starters.)

Thun, played by Alan Moore, has been set to work shovelling coal in his shorts in “the atom furnaces.” The science here is all the more evocative by virtue of being, as the Wizard of Oz would put it, “technically unexplainable.” Along with the atomic coal there are slavemasters with bullwhips and those dials popularized by METROPOLIS, which possibly have something to do with balancing the city.

A lot of energy goes into keeping the Shark Men’s city underwater and the Hawk Men’s city airborne. Ming could cut down on his fuel bills by just setting them down amid the iguanas.

Finally something has been done about the single repeating rocketship interior, allowing director Stephani to shoot the crew frontally. A floating wall has been successfully floated, possibly with the aid of atom furnaces. So now we can enjoy the actors’ expressionless faces as they sway gently back and forth, pretending there’s a view. They’re facing the wrong direction to match the model shots, but nevertheless, the serial has taken a leap forward in decoupage.

Dale wakes up and is alarmed by Vultan’s maniacal yet eunuchoid laughter. Jean Rogers does some skilled bosom-heaving here, though outmatched in that department by Tiny’s steel-plated tits.

Barin’s rocket is fired upon by “the melting ray,” a nifty art deco searchlight. “Our resisto-force will soon be exhausted by the power of those melting rays!” pipes up a voice not easily identifiable as any of the characters in the rocket — possibly the director is feeding in lines himself again. I may soon be exhausted too.

Meanwhile (a word that gets used a lot in these things, I know) Vultan is feeling slighted. It’s implied that he’s tried to get Dale to pay the rent on his sky palace and she’s declined, so he now opens a sliding door and a striped bear pads into his chambers, the intention apparently being to intimidate the fair maiden into adopting a more convivial attitude.

Having dopily plodded into the room, Urso, for such is his name, shambles out again, his appearance so fleeting, so Bunuelian in its incongruity, that one can only conclude he came as a job lot with the iguanas or was rehearsing on the next sound stage for a production of Goldilocks and accidentally leaned against a freshly-painted picket fence. Anyway, he’s gone.

But don’t relax yet — Tiny, having abandoned the subtle approach, now comes lurching towards camera with an evil glint in his armoured moobs. That would seem like a pretty good cliffhanger in itself, but to cap it all the melting ray hits Barin’s rocket which promptly explodes (rather than melting, as one might expect) and plummets from the sky (rather than melting, as one might expect) and then it’s