Flash Gordon Conquers the Universe

Flash Gordon Conquers the Universe

Infobox Film
name = Flash Gordon Conquers the Universe

director = Ford Beebe
Ray Taylor
producer = Henry MacRae
writer = George H. Plympton
Basil Dickey
Barry Shipman
Alex Raymond "(comic strip)"
starring = Buster Crabbe
Carol Hughes
Charles Middleton
Frank Shannon
cinematography = Jerome Ash
William Sickner
distributor = Universal Pictures
released = March 3, 1940
runtime = Brazil:220 min / UK:195 min (12 episodes)
country = USA
language = English
preceded_by = "Flash Gordon's Trip to Mars"
amg_id = 1:17733
imdb_id = 0032475

"Flash Gordon Conquers the Universe" is a 1940 twelve episode serial film about Flash Gordon. It was the last of three Flash Gordon serials made from 1936 to 1940. The serial was produced and copyrighted by Universal Pictures.

During the 1950s, the three serials were shown on television. To avoid confusion with a made-for-TV Flash Gordon series airing around the same time, they were retitled, becoming respectively "Space Soldiers", "Space Soldiers' Trip to Mars", and "Space Soldiers Conquer the Universe". King Features Syndicate had acquired the rights for showing and eliminated the original Universal Pictures titles. In the mid-1970s, all three serials were shown by PBS stations across the US, bringing Flash Gordon to a new generation, a full two years before "Star Wars" and "Close Encounters of the Third Kind" re-ignited interest in the science fiction genre. The re-edited television version, with the title card reading "Flash Gordon - Space Soldiers Conquer the Universe", was used for some video and DVD releases of the serial.

Plot summary

The film starts on Earth. A deadly plague has been ravaging the planet, known as the Purple Death because it leaves a purple spot on the forehead of its victims. Ming the Merciless is suspected to be behind the plague, and Flash Gordon is sent with Dr. Zarkov and Dale Arden to the planet Mongo to find the cause of the plague, as well as a cure. Caused by Ming's spaceships dropping "Death Dust" into the Earth's atmosphere, they eventually find an antidote for it and Flash and Zarkov distribute it by the same method soon after the start of the series, while Dale Arden remains in the forest kingdom.

Soon reunited with her, the trio continue to battle Ming, his cohorts, and his underlings. Ming's Captain Torch is the "spearpoint villain" of this serial, a type of character which the previous two did not have. He takes tactical command of the efforts to stop them.

Before they leave, they destroy Ming by locking him in a tower and crashing a rocket ship into it. Prince Barin takes his rightful place as ruler of Mongo. In his rage, Ming said, similar to King Louis XIV of France, "I am the universe!" for nearly his last words. And so, with a simple metaphor, Flash Gordon is said by Zarkov at the end of the series to have "conquered the universe".


* Buster Crabbe as Flash Gordon
* Carol Hughes as Dale Arden
* Frank Shannon as Dr. Zarkov
* Charles B. Middleton as Ming the Merciless. Ming is portrayed as a military dictator in this serial, rather than as a Fu Manchu or Devil-like character as in the two previous Flash Gordon serials.cite book
last = Harmon
first = Jim
coauthors= Donald F. Glut
authorlink = Jim Harmon
title = The Great Movie Serials: Their Sound and Fury
origyear = 1973
publisher = Routledge
isbn = 9780713000979
pages = pp. 44
chapter = 2. "We Come from 'Earth', Don't You Understand?"
* Roland Drew as Prince Barin
* Shirley Deane as Princess Aura
* Donald Curtis as Captain Ronal
* Lee Powell as Roka
* Ron Rowan as Officer Torch
* Victor Zimmerman as Officer Thong
* Anne Gwynne as Lady Sonja
* Edgar Edwards as Captain Turan
* William Royale as Captain Sudan
* Sigurd Nilssen as Count Korro
* Luli Deste as Queen Fria
* Michael Mark as Professor Karm
* Byron Foulger as Professor Druk
* Ray Mala as Prince of the Rock People


Plot points taken from the immediately preceding serial, "Flash Gordon's Trip to Mars" include the Rock People as derived from the Clay People of the former, and the bringing-back-to-life of people assumed by Captain Torch to have died.

The chamber of the death dust experiments was previously used in the "Buck Rogers" serial. One money-saving gimmick used by Universal Studios was to take some exciting mountain climbing catastrophe, search, and rescue scenes from the obscure German film "White Hell of Pitz Palu" (1930) and its music as well.

This serial contains greater story depth than the others, though the plot is quite episodic: Flash goes from battling in ice, to fire, to rock. It is readily seen as derived from the events of its age. Ming is a trope for the fascist dictators of the age. He has spies, secret police, military-technical laboratories, and kidnappers, and his agents fight a resistance movement. His rule of the few disparate regions of Mongo shown here is presented as just like the countries that Hitler captured. It is all exemplified when Ming dresses up just like an Earth dictator, except with a few more feathers in his cap, in the last episode.

Donald Curtis, playing Ronal, Flash's right-hand-man throughout the serial, inexplicably is omitted altogether from the screen cast despite the primary nature of his character. At the same time, co-star billing is given to Anne Gwynne, Universal ingenue whose role does not actually develop until the middle of the serial, but is retroactively enhanced through periodic, clumsy intercut shots from these later episodes into the first episodes, as well as her replacing, in the finale, Victor Zimmerman's henchman character, Thong, as Captain Torch's chief aide.

Critical reception

According to Harmon and Glut, Flash Gordon Conquers the Universe "was the most picturesque of the trilogy but surrendered much compelling charm for its cinematic sophistication."

Chapter titles

# The Purple Death
# Freezing Torture
# Walking Bombs
# The Destroying Ray
# The Palace of Horror
# Flaming Death
# The Land of the Dead
# The Fiery Abyss
# The Pool of Peril
# The Death Mist
# Stark Treachery
# Doom of the DictatorSource: [cite book
last = Cline
first = William C.
title = In the Nick of Time
origyear = 1984
publisher = McFarland & Company, Inc.
isbn = 078640471X
pages = pp. 226
chapter = Filmography

ee also

* "Flash Gordon" (serial) (1936)
* "Flash Gordon's Trip to Mars" (1938)
* List of film serials by year
* List of film serials by studio


External links

*imdb title|id=0032475|title=Flash Gordon Conquers the Universe
*amg title|id=1:125572|title=Flash Gordon Conquers the Universe

Download or view online

* [http://www.archive.org/search.php?query=subject%3A%22Flash%20Gordon%22%20AND%20mediatype%3Amovies Flash Gordon Conquers the Universe at The Internet Archive]
* [http://www.archive.org/details/flash_gordon1 Chapter 1]
* [http://www.archive.org/details/flash_gordon2 Chapter 2]
* [http://www.archive.org/details/flash_gordon3 Chapter 3]
* [http://www.archive.org/details/flash_gordon4 Chapter 4]
* [http://www.archive.org/details/flash_gordon5 Chapter 5]
* [http://www.archive.org/details/flash_gordon6 Chapter 6]
* [http://www.archive.org/details/flash_gordon_7 Chapter 7]
* [http://www.archive.org/details/flash_gordon8 Chapter 8]
* [http://www.archive.org/details/flash_gordon9 Chapter 9]
* [http://www.archive.org/details/flash_gordon10 Chapter 10]
* [http://www.archive.org/details/flash_gordon11 Chapter 11]
* [http://www.archive.org/details/flash_gordon12 Chapter 12]

###@@@KEY@@@###succession box
title=Universal Serial
before=The Green Hornet (1940)
years=Flash Gordon Conquers the Universe (1940)
after=Winners of the West (1940)

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