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 7: The Land of the Dead
Chapter 8: The Fiery Abyss
Chapter 9: The Pool of Peril
Chapter 10: The Death Mist
Chapter 11: Stark Treachery
Chapter 12: Doom of the Dictator
Plot: Flash Gordon, Dale Arden and Dr. Zarkov are aided by their friend Prince Barin as they battle Ming the Merciless once and for all to save earth and the universe.
Richard’s Review: A thrilling 12 chapters from start to finish. I thought the writing was sharper on this story and the running time was the perfect length. There were less flashbacks and more variety in the soundtrack and scenery. Ming was portrayed more like a military commander, which worked for the story. Flash had much better support here than in the first two stories, evident by the fact that they weren’t constantly captured. This was my favorite of the three, with the original coming in second and the Trip to Mars in a distant third. I wish they would have made another with this same cast. Highly recommended!
Karla’s Thoughts: I continued to like this so much more than the Trip to Mars and I think it’s even better than the first one. The story was better, the music was less repetitious, the costumes were improved and there is a little variety in some of the scenery. The ships are still pretty goofy and that line about the Rock People being a lost tribe of Earth made no sense. Overall, this was my favorite and I thought the buildup to the climax was very well written. I’d definitely watch this one again.
- While the ending would suggest that Ming might have survived once again, a sequel was never made. However, with the attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941 and the U.S. entering World War II, all space travel films were put on hold.
- Writer Basil Dickey also wrote westerns and other chapter serials, including The New Adventures of Tarzan (1935), The Phantom Creeps (1939) and Mandrake, the Magician (1939).
- Writer Barry Shipman also wrote the chapter serials SOS Coast Guard (1937), Zorro Rides Again (1937) and Dick Tracey’s G-Men (1939).
- Donald Curtis did not receive billing in any of the chapters due to a last minute decision to highlight actress Anne Gwynne as she was a rising star at Universal. Curtis went on to star in Alfred Hitchcock’s Spellbound (1945) and Earth vs. the Flying Saucers (1956).
- Anne Gwynne is best remembered for her roles in The Black Cat (1941), The Strange Case of Doctor Rx (1942), House of Frankenstein (1944) and Dick Tracey Meets Gruesome (1947), the latter two of which also starred Boris Karloff.
- Shirley Deane’s version of Princess Aura was portrayed vastly different from how Priscilla Lawson was visualized on-screen. This was her next-to-last role as she left Hollywood for radio and stage performances. She retired altogether in 1952 to raise a family.
- Don Rowan also starred in Undersea Kingdom (1936) and Charlie Chan on Broadway (1937).
“Flash Gordon has conquered the universe!”