Saturday, February 06, 2016

Saturday Morning Cult-TV Blogging: Flash Gordon: "Vultan - King of the Hawkmen" (October 6, 1979)

Script editor Ted Pederson contributes his first teleplay to Filmation's Flash Gordon (1979-1982) with this, the third "chapter" of the ongoing serial.

"Vultan - King of the Hawkmen" finds Aura, Barin, Thun and Flash captured and taken to Vultan's hovering "Sky City." 

Vultan -- who presciently looks and sounds like the 1980's movie's Brian Blessed -- consigns the men to the city's "atomic furnace" and decides he wants to marry the scantily-clad Aura so he will beome heir to Ming the Merciless. 

Meanwhile, Ming launches his space armada to rescue his daughter and warns that Vultan will soon feel "the wrath of Ming!"

Down in the atomic furnace, Flash instigates the second slave revolt in two weeks and devastates the city's power core just in time for Ming to come and reduce much of the Hawkman city to rubble with his fleet. 

This is where the episode really takes off as the battle rages. 

In the air (over the spires of Sky City...) a laser-firing spaceship combats sleek, flying Hawkmen, and I was amazed to see a children's cartoon featuring images of Hawkmen (and their hawk steeds...) being disintegrated in mid-air by the weaponry!

In the end, the Hawkmen flee Sky City with Ming, Barin and Thun. Vultan resolves to join them as "brothers" since they now "share the same fortune." 

So in just three episodes, Flash has allied three Kingdoms of Mongo, and soon he will begin the rebellion against Ming in earnest...

"Where there's a will, there's a way," Gordon tells his new friends, and again I'm reminded of Flash Gordon's origins in the 1930s, in a time of gathering global danger when tyrants were sweeping through Europe and bringing the tide of fascism with them. 

The only chance to resist the momentum of evil was for the countries of the world to band together against evil; and Flash Gordon is certainly a metaphor for that idea of uniting: the putting aside of racial and ethnic divides to serve the common good. The uniter, of course, is one heck of an exceptional American. Flash brings grounded wisdom, practicality, and honor to Mongo, a place (standing in for Old Europe) where those concepts are considered alien.

"Vultan - King of the Hawkmen" also follows Dale Arden (Diane Pershing) as she is taken to Ming's harem. There are several frames here of his scantily clad brides...of many species.  Last week, I wrote some about sex in Flash Gordon (no doubt to the discomfort of some...), and yet here comes the sexuality again. In addition to Ming's harem, there are also exotic dancers in Vultan's palace!

The inference is clear: Flash must save Dale from a fate worse than death; being deflowered and debauched as one of the "exotic" Ming's many lovers.

And again, it's a bit surprising to see a Filmation kid's show be quite so explicit in its imagery.  On the other hand, this is a welcome development, as the series feels more three-dimensional and adult than do some series from the same studio.

Next week: "To Save Earth."

1 comment:

  1. I always loved the production design of Ming's Aerial Navy Imperial Flyers ["laser-firing spaceship"] in this animated series much more than Ming's Ajax rocketship in the 1980 live-action film.

    Ming's Aerial Navy Imperial Flyers were yellow.
    Ming's Aerial Navy Royal Imperial Flyers were white.