Flash Gordon (serials)
Synopsis of Movie
“Okay, Flash, I'm game. I'll help you save the world.”
Daring adventures, interstellar travels and fantastic alien costumes awaited each week of Flash Gordon’s serial run. Action hero and Olympic gold medallist Buster Crabbe took on the role of artist Alex Raymond’s famed hero, who had rocketed to fame in the comics pages beginning in 1934. A 13-part serial, simply titled Flash Gordon, debuted in 1936, bringing Flash and his allies to the big screen in epic fashion.
The story remained largely the same as in Raymond’s Flash Gordon comic strip: Famed scientist Dr. Hans Zarkov discovers a large planet on a collision course for the Earth. Building a rocketship of his own design, Zarkov charts a course for the planet, hoping to find a way to avert a cataclysmic crash. Along for the ride are a pair of fellow earthlings, the strapping, brave Flash Gordon and his lovely companion, Dale Arden.
Landing on the Planet Mongo, the trio discovers that its course is no accident. Mongo’s evil ruler, the robe-wearing Ming the Merciless, has his greedy eyes on galactic conquest, and it’s up to our heroes to stop him. With the help of Prince Barin of Arboria, King Vultan of the Hawkmen, and other Mongo-ites, the earthlings take on Ming and his servants, with the fate of the Earth hanging in the balance.
Flash Gordon brought the comic strip’s cast of imaginative characters to vivid life, presenting a pageant of Hawkmen, Sharkmen, Lionmen, giant lobsters and other creatures. The short, cliffhanging adventures kept audiences coming back for more, and for most kids, it was all over much too soon.
Flash’s serialized adventures were recut into a feature that same year, titled Flash Gordon: Rocketship, but anxious audiences had to wait until 1938 for a new story. In that year, Flash Gordon’s Trip To Mars hit theaters, delivering 15 episodes of Earth vs. Mars excitement.
Once more, Ming the Merciless is up to his world-conquering ways. The extraterrestrial despot creates a ray that will sap the Earth’s atmosphere of all its nitrogen, destroying humanity. Dr. Zarkov discovers that the ray is based on Mars, so it’s off to the red planet for Flash, Dale, Zarkov and a nosy stowaway reporter, Happy Hapgood.
Ming’s partner in evil, Queen Azura of Mars, guards the ray, turning her enemies into clay with the help of a white jewel. Flash makes an alliance with some of Azura’s victims, eventually discovering that a black jewel hidden in a Martian forest will counteract Azura’s wicked powers.
Flash Gordon’s Trip to Mars was another space opera success, and Universal decided to bring the hero back for a third and final installment in 1940. Flash Gordon Conquers the Universe cast a new Dale Arden, but the rest of the main cast remained intact.
In this final, 12-episode adventure, Earth is infected with the Plague of the Purple Death. Not surprisingly, Ming is once more behind it, forcing his henchmen to release the stuff into our atmosphere. Flash, Dale and Zarkov again blast off for Mongo, where they team up with Prince Barin and with a new ally, Queen Fria of Frigia, whose polar climate may hold the key to saving the Earth.
The three Flash Gordon adventures were some of the most elaborate serials ever filmed, entertaining audiences not only in the 1930’s and 40’s, but for years afterward on television, often recut into shorter features. Along with the Buck Rogers serials (also starring Buster Crabbe), Flash Gordon had a tremendous impact on modern space operas, influencing to look and storyline of George Lucas’ Star Wars and every space opera that followed in its wake.
The complete, uncut serials were eventually released to video, and Gordon himself made a brief big-screen comeback in 1980’s Flash Gordon feature. The intrepid spacefarer has also dabbled in radio, books, cartoons and television, and his comic strip adventures continue in several major newspapers today.
Movie Release History1936 - Flash Gordon
1938 - Flash Gordon's Trip to Mars
1940 - Flash Gordon Conquers the Universe
Movie Sub Categorieslive-action
CastFlash Gordon Buster Crabbe
Dale Arden Jean Rogers
Ming the Merciless Charles Middleton
Princess Aura Priscilla Lawson
Dr. Alexis Zarkov Frank Shannon
Prince Barin Richard Alexander
King Vultan Jack 'Tiny' Lipson
High Priest Theodore Lorch
Professor Gordon Richard Tucker
Professor Hensley George Cleveland
Prince Thun James Pierce
King Kala Duke York Jr.
Zona Muriel Goodspeed
Officer Torch Earl Askam
Unknown House Peters Jr.
Hawkman Throne Room Guard John Bagni
Transcontinental Pilot Lynton Brent
Earth Radio Scientist Don Brodie
Ming Soldier/Sharkman Lane Chandler
Hawkman Lookout Captain William Desmond
Spaceograph Technician Al Ferguson
Sharkman Jerry Frank
Aura's Handmaiden Olive Hatch
Robot/Ming Soldier Fred Kohler Jr.
Ming Soldier George Magrill
Atom Furnace Slavedriver Charles McMurphy
Monkey Man Bull Montana
Ming Soldier Eddie Parker
First High Priest Lon Poff
Priestess of the Tigron Sana Rayya
Monkey Man Constantine Romanoff
Soldier with Drugged Wine Fred Scott
Sharkman Fred O. Sommers
Robot/Ming Soldier/Gocko Glenn Strange
Sharkman Bunny Waters
Prison Guard Slim Whitaker
Ugly Sentry Harry Wilson