Flash Gordon Conquers the Universe (1940)
Buster Crabbe as Flash Gordon
Carol Hughes as Dale Arden
Frank Shannon as Doctor Alexis Zarkov
Charles Middleton as Ming the Merciless
Roland Drew as Prince Barin
Shirley Deane as Princess Aura
Donald Curtis as Captain Ronal
Lee Powell as Roka
Don Rowan as Captain Torch
Anne Gwynne as Lady Sonja
Based on the comic strip by Alex Raymond
Screenplay by George H. Plympton, Basil Dickey
& Barry Shipman
Directed by Ford Beebe
Chapter 1: The Purple Death
Chapter 2: Freezing Torture
Chapter 3: Walking Bombs
Chapter 4: The Destroying Ray
Chapter 5: The Palace of Horror
Chapter 6: Flaming Death
Plot: Flash Gordon, Dale Arden and Dr. Zarkov return to planet Mongo to find an antidote for the Purple Death, Ming the Merciless’ latest plan to wipe out the planet Earth.
Richard’s Review: This Flash Gordon adventure is the one I have the most memories of watching. I fondly remember it on Sunday mornings on channel 41 in Kansas City, as well as owning both VHS tapes back in the late 80s (finding both was a challenge). The production values have been increased a little and the soundtrack isn’t as repetitious as the Trip to Mars. I appreciate the casting changes as Carol Hughes is not as much of a damsel in perpetual distress and Roland Drew is a much more efficient Prince Barin. Princess Aura’s change is a little hard to believe but it works in the context of the story. A very strong start and much easier to enjoy so far.
Karla’s Thoughts: I really like this serial better than the Trip to Mars. I think it’s on par with the first but improved in several ways. I love the new Dale Arden as she screams a lot less and is more strong-willed, getting involved in the action a lot more. Princess Aura is really changed and the new Prince Barin is much more dashing. The story moves along much quicker and it’s nice to not see them getting captured all of the time. The scene where Zarkov uses the robe to escape is ridiculous though. Strong start and much more enjoyable to watch than the Trip to Mars.
- Writer George Plympton has 298 credits, including Zombies of Mora Tau (1957), Atom man vs. Superman (1950), Batman and Robin (1949) and The Green Hornet (1940).
- Carol Hughes became the new Dale Arden when Jean Rogers was unable to continue due to her contract with 20th Century Fox. She also starred in The Naughty Nineties (1945) with Abbott and Costello and in uncredited role in Mighty Joe Young (1949).
- Roland Drew assumed the role of Prince Barin, playing him as much more dashing and a physically more demanding presence. He also starred in The Hidden Hand (1942) and The Invisible Killer (1939).
- Lee Powell also starred in The Lone Ranger (1938) and The Fighting Devil Dogs (1938).
- Every episode begins with a slanted opening crawl to recap the previous episode. This differed from the first two chapter serials and was the inspiration for the Star Wars film series.
- The dialog of the Rock People is actually just English played backwards.
- Franz Waxman’s score for The Bride of Frankenstein (1935) is once again heard throughout all 12 chapters but was less repetitious than Flash Gordon’s Trip to Mars (1938).
- The chapter serial was nominated in 2016 for the 1940 Retro Hugo Award at MidAmeriCon II, the 74th World Science Fiction Convention in Kansas City, Missouri.
Availability: Flash Gordon Conquers the Universe is available through a variety of sources, including the Film Detective DVD or you can watch it for free on YouTube!
Next week…the exciting concluding chapters of Flash Gordon Conquers the Universe!