Saturday, February 20, 2016

Saturday Morning Cult-TV Blogging: Flash Gordon: "The Beast Men's Prey" (October 20, 1979)

This episode of Flash Gordon -- which follows last week's (temporary) defeat of Ming the Merciless -- isn't up to the same high quality standard of previous installments in the Filmation series. 

In fact, it's a bit of a mess. I suspect that's because the first five episodes comprised footage from the made-for-TV film; whereas this is all new stuff now...and that probbly means resources were stretched thin.

"The Beast Men's Prey" (by Sam Peeples) finds Flash, Zarkov and Dale seeking to escape Ming's palace just as Vultan, Barin and Thun -- under pressure from Ming's Metal Men Warriors -- make a hasty retreat. Zarkov thinks they've been abandoned. Flash's response.: "Don't think negatively, Doc." Even in terms of stereotypical American Exceptionalism, that's a bit weak.

Meanwhile, Flash and his friends are dealing with the fact that they may never get back to Earth, after demolishing Ming's planetary drive controls. 

Mongo -- like Moonbase Alpha -- is now roaming beyond Earth's solar system. I realize this franchise is considered space fantasy, and pulp entertainment, but I would be curious to know how Mongo's atmosphere doesn't freeze as it moves away from the sun, from one star system to the next.  It would take one or two words of dialogue to explain it: planetary force field.   There should at least be a veneer of technology or scientific plausibility, between action scenes.

Also, in this very same scene, Flash lets an important tidbit of information drop. Dale is afraid to jump from a ledge, and he comments on it. It's almost a throwaway, but he states: "Remember, you're stronger here on Mongo than on Earth."

That would have been nice to know earlier, and would have explained (or helped to explain), Flash Gordon's miraculous survival rate on the rogue planet.

Anyway, Flash, Dale and Zarkov steal a magnetic automobile and careen through Mingo City in it until the vehicle goes off a bridge. The triumvirate makes it to a distant shore, to a primitive land like "Earth during prehistoric times." 

There, they encounter a tribe of primitives -- Besast Men -- who worship a giant statue of Ming as their God. "I am your God, Ming," the Statue (replete with glowing eyes) tells his minions, "Obey Me!"

Flash and the others escape the cathedral of the Beast Men by climbing a staircase in the folds of the giant Ming statue's robes.They head over a lava pit, and Flash muses "It can't be any worse over there..." 

Later, Flash, Dale and Zarkov discover that their rocket has been rebuilt by Ming, steal it from sexy Princess Aura, take to the skies aboard the vessel, engage in a beautifully animated space battle, and then chart a course for "The Sea of Mystery."

If this scattershot summary tells you anything, it's that "The Beast Men's Prey" feels like a catch-all episode.  There's no explanation for the survival in the void of a rogue planet like Mongo, a quickie explanation for Flash's success rate on Mongo, and then the baffling plot development that Aura has recovered Flash's rocket from the bottom of the sea and restored it to operation.

Why would she do that? Earth technology, by Mongo standards, isn't exactly high-tech, right?  The real answer: stock footage.  The creators of the show are able to use the same alien dogfight used in the first episode at the conclusion of this one. For that to happen, the rocket had to be un-pulped.

Next week, the same rocket is re-pulped!  That occurs in Chapter 6: "Into the Water World."

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