This series had such great promise. I am deeply aware that it was a series aimed at a much younger audience, and was intended to supplement the comic strip that ran in the Hearst-published newspapers at the time. It began well, with the hero, Flash, and his love interest, Dale Arden, and their eccentric-but-brilliant scientist friend, Dr. Hans Zarkov crash-landing on Mongo, the planet ruled by Ming the Merciless. Ming, using his alien technology, had brought Mongo close to earth for conquest. Flash, Dale and Zarkov traveled there to find a way to stop Mongo (and unbeknownst to them at the time, Ming)
There, the trio meet all of the colorful alien characters that has made Flash Gordon such a perennial favorite among sci-fi buffs. The adventures zip along for nearly half of the series (which can be found at the Internet Archive site). Perhaps the best was arc involved Flash's encounter with the Hawkmen, and how he forged his friendship with Vultan, king of the Hawkmen.
But then, as Flash is systematically working his way to take possession of the territories that Ming challenges him to conquer, it all starts to bog down. The pace begins to really drag during the trio's struggles against Queen Azura and the Blue Magic People. The interminably slow pace made me wonder why any youngster would keep up with the series. In addition, I found myself becoming more and more annoyed with the Dale Arden character. She must have had some major insecurity issues! She would vacillate from proclaiming her undying faith in and love for Flash, and then when another female character makes advances to him, Dale decides he must be more interested in the rival and begins to pout. Its cute...at first. Then it begins to become wearisome.
Its interesting that the last handful of episodes feature a 'miraculous' return to earth and encounter with 'Jungle Jim,' another Hearst comic character, and a transition as The Adventures of Flash Gordon morphs into The Adventures of Jungle Jim. I was so ready for the conclusion of this series.
The Adventures of the Sea Hound
I wanted to find another rock-'em, sock-'em maritime adventure series like The Adventures of the Scarlet Queen. I found this series, again from the Internet Archive site. It was again targeted toward a more juvenile audience. One of the things I learned from this series is how much I enjoy being able to follow a story arc. The extant episodes of this series (at least, extant as far as my source was concerned), had huge gaps in between them, making it difficult to follow the series. In other words, I might listen to episode 4, then jump ahead to episode 7, followed by 9, and so on. It was quite confusing. It was also quite frustrating, as I had a hard time judging the quality of the writing and production, so disoriented was I. I really wanted to enjoy this series, and I think I probably would have, had I been able to follow the story a little better to the order of the episodes. What was especially interesting was some of the series 'extras.' The series was supported by the US military during World War II, and seemingly used it as a recruiting tool. In addition, the series offered a world map as a premium, highlighting gazetteer information, such as capitals and leaders of the various nations.
I'd have to say that this series was disappointing only because I couldn't follow it through!
The Ghost Corps
Finally, some joy in Radioland! I found this series from my trusty source (the Internet Archive site) and noted that it was a series written by Talbot Mundy, who was also the writer on Moon Over Africa (previously reviewed within these virtual pages). I noted with pleasure that there were two complete or nearly complete seasons offered, so I downloaded them and proceeded to follow the adventures of K.C. Smith, an American operative, stationed in Cairo, for the Ghost Corps, a 'freelance diplomacy' organization. What we might term today an independent intelligence agency. The first series, "The Knives of al-Malik' introduces K. C. and his assistant, an Arab named Mohammad Ali. Together they are tasked to defeat a group headed by a rogue tribal leader, al-Malik Pasha, who is smuggling guns and explosives into Egypt in order to kick off a jihad (eerily contemporary). The writing was well-done, even though there were moments where it got a little tedious, with K. C. and Ali escaping capture only to get re-captured. But in the end, there were some quality adventurous moments.
The second series, "The Prayer Rug of Nana Seid" features K.C. with his chief, Baker, strolling the Cairo bazaar and encountering an auction for a unique prayer rug. K. C. outbids an Indian with a curious caste mark (one eyebrow shaved) for the rug, and upon examining it in his apartment, believes it might be the map to a hidden treasure. The Indian, Ram Das, visits and upon failing to buy the rug from K. C., drugs the operative and steals the rug. K.C. and Ali track him down to Kathmandu, where they learn that he is on the way to the forbidden city of Kundra, home of Nana Seid, the legendary ruler who supposedly buried a fabulous fortune.
Again, the writing is tight, the characterizations are good, and the end of each fifteen minute episode left me anticipating more. I found myself regretting that there are no copies of the third series, "The Ming Ruby," announced at the end of the second series.