"Flaming Frontiers" was the third of four serials that Johnny (billed as "John") Mack Brown made for Universal in the 30s before moving exclusively to features. Though not one of the best western serials ever made, it nonetheless contains non-stop action throughout its 15 chapters. Much of the credit can be attributed to Universal's liberal use of its vast store of stock footage and its large cast of seasoned performers.
The story is that old chestnut about competing parties trying to gain control of a gold mine. Mary Grant (Eleanor Hansen) receives word from her brother Tom (Ralph Bowman) that he has struck it rich in Gold Creek. She and her father (Eddy Waller) plan to go to Gold Creek to join Tom. Villainous Bart Eaton (James Blaine) woos Mary in order to acquire the mine for himself. Indian scout Tex Houston (Brown) aids the Grants in their quest.
Along the way Mary's father is killed (through the actions of henchman Roy Barcroft). Upon arriving at Gold Creek we meet up with yet another villain, Ace Daggett (Charles Middleton) who has his own plans for the mine.
Amid double crosses, Indian raids and murder the quest for the mine continues. Tom is falsely accused of a murder committed by bad guy Breed (Charlie Stevens) and is jailed. Eaton and Daggett both try to capture Tom and/or Mary to force him to sign over his mine. Its up to Tex Houston to save the day.
Brown once again plays the all-in-black hero (no doubt to match the stock footage). He was a cut above the average western hero of the day, a fact born out by his long running career with both with Universal and Monogram. Eleanor Hansen is the usual helpless heroine, "Mary". We are treated to a "two for one" combination of main villains. Charles MIddleton, best known for his portrayal of "Ming the Merciless" in the Flash Gordon serials steals the show from the rather colorless James Blaine.
Others in the cast are Chief Thunder Cloud, Charlie King and Jack Rutherford as Buffalo Bill.
Ralph Bowman later changed his name to John Archer and enjoyed a lengthy career. Eddy Waller is best remembered as Allan "Rocky" Lane's sidekick, Nugget Clarke. Chief Thunder Cloud would go on to play "Tonto" in the Lone Ranger serials and Geronimo in the movie of the same name.
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