As we conclude our Summer of Flash Gordon with the end of the original three chapter serials, you may find that you want to explore more adventures of Flash and his friends. So, here are a few options to keep you entertained as the days get shorter and the nights get cooler.
The 1954 television series
When Universal Pictures lost the production rights to Flash Gordon, former Universal executives Edward Gruskin and Matty Fox signed a new deal with King Features Syndicate to produce a new television series on the DuMont Television Network. It was filmed in West Berlin and Marseille as part of a joint German, French and United States production.
The story differs from the original comic strips as its set in the far future of 3203. Flash, Dale and Zarkov are agents of the Galactic Bureau of Investigation traveling space aboard their ship, the Sky Flash, and battling an assortment of villains with Ming the Merciless nowhere in sight. Steve Holland assumed the lead role of Flash with Irene Champlin as Dale and Joseph Nash as Zarkov. A total of 39 episodes were produced and aired from the fall of 1954 until the summer of 1955. While the show was popular at the time, most modern reviews find it disappointing due to the lack of Buster Crabbe and the now rather obvious poor production values. Fourteen episodes are currently available in the public domain to give you an example of what this series had to offer.
Flash Gordon’s Trip to the 80s
In 1980, producer Dino de Laurentis brought to life a rather polarizing new version of Flash Gordon. Sam J. Jones takes on the lead role and, to be fair, is not quite Buster Crabbe. However, despite his performance being almost ridiculed at the time, Sam has become a definite cult favorite as has the film. Sure, it’s campy and the special effects are questionable at times but so was the original. Max Von Sydow is truly great as Ming and Brian Blessed is so much fun as Prince Vultan. The rest of the cast does well in truly Saturday afternoon matinee fashion. And if don’t get excited when Queen’s theme song plays, I’m not sure this movie is for you. Go into it with a childlike fascination and immerse yourself in the moment and there’s no way you can’t have fun watching this cult classic.
Flash Conquers Animation
There have been several animated versions of Flash in the last four decades. The first was The New Adventures of Flash Gordon, which ran for 32 episodes on NBC television from 1979-1982. The first season would follow the more traditional storylines from the original comic strips in a serialized format. Unfortunately, changes were made in the second season with the inclusion of a pet dragon and more episodic stories. Robert Ridgley, better known for being the voice of Tarzan in the popular Tarzan, Lord of the Jungle series (1976-1980), played Flash with Alan Oppenheimer, the second Dr. Rudy Wells on The Six Million Dollar Man, playing both Dr. Zarkov and Ming the Merciless.
In 1982, Flash Gordon: The Greatest Adventure of All, was broadcast on NBC three years after being completed. It was originally made during the big Star Wars rush of copycat productions. However, it was never released as it was reworked into the NBC series. Various storylines were more adult in nature, including Ming providing weapons to Adolf Hitler, more revealing costumes and graphic creatures. Most critics view this as one of the more faithful adaptations.
In the fall of 1986, 65 episodes of Defenders of the Earth were produced for syndication. Flash teams up with other legendary heroes, such as The Phantom and Mandrake the Magician, to battle Ming’s plans to conquer Earth after Mongo’s resources have been depleted. With the addition of the main characters children as sidekicks, this new adventure was well received at the time and is still fondly remembered.
Flash and the Terrors of Modern Television
In 1996, Alex aka “Flash” and Dale were seen as teenagers battling Ming in the short-lived syndicated series Flash Gordon. The more contemporary take didn’t quite go over well with long-time fans and the series was quickly forgotten, much like the somewhat similar modernized live action series that aired on the Sci-Fi Channel from August 2007 to February 2008. Eric Johnson starred as Steven aka “Flash” with Gina Holden as his ex-girlfriend Dale, now a TV reporter. This was an even more loosely adapted version and was not well-received at all. Most diehard Flash Gordon fans found it a disgrace, thus the reason is was so quickly cancelled.
Flash Faces the Future
There has been talk of a new feature film for years but nothing has ever truly reached even the pre-production phase. A 3D film announced in 2010 quickly dissolved and ever since 2014, numerous writers and directors have been mentioned as being interested in making a new movie but then quickly move on to new projects. Taika Waititi was writing and developing a new animated film as recently as 2019. As of July 2021, it appears it will now be a live-action film instead but beyond that, there has been nothing solidly announced.
For now, Flash Gordon appears to be in a dormant state without even a new comic book being produced. We all must anxiously wait for his return and enjoy the numerous radio, film and comic strips from the past. But Flash will return some day when the universe needs a hero or the evil Ming the Merciless rises from the ashes once again.