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As near as I can figure, this is an original "Flash Gordon" serial from
the thirties, edited into a feature length film for television. I
discovered this on a DVD in the bargain bin at a local pharmacy, and
was delighted, I watched the serials in their uncut form on WPIX New
York almost 40 years ago, and have long wanted another look.
The editing down results in a crazy faced-paced narrative that 21st century viewers will probably find particularly enjoyable. It just races from one wild plot point to the next-- the tournament of death, the invisibility ray, the atomic furnaces... it never ever stands still.
Considering the far-out plot, and ridiculous dialog, the acting is pretty good. Charles Middleton is especially effective as Ming the Merciless, completely deadpan in his interpretation.
Buster Crabbe was a big, good-looking guy who could act. The Flash
Gordon serials of the 1930s used several big guys (most of whom really
weren't actors) to bring to life the characters of a serialized
cartoon. This TV movie condenses the first series. If you have a
choice, watch the serial as it was originally made, and avoid this. the
serial was hectic enough, but compressed into this format, the entire
drama is rushed - like a string of fight scenes with some vaguely
important dialog in between.
Flash starts out as a young man on a plane who is preoccupied about the planet which is about to slam into the earth, destroying everything, and the very pretty girl sitting next to him (Jean Rogers). The passengers bail out and the plane crashes. Flash saves the girl and lands near a rocket ship designed to solve the interplanetary problem by a seemingly deranged but very brilliant scientist (Frank Shannon). And the adventures have just begun.
We meet Ming the Merciless - self-proclaimed Emperor of the Universe; an enormous jovial winged king with the attention span of a chickadee; an honorable and huge prince clad in Roman armor with a sword and a fleet of rocket ships; a conniving princess who wants to possess Flash, a despicable high priest, and a tribe of enslaved space hippies who Flash will eventually inspire to great deeds.
Some of the dialog is predictably corny, but overall, the main story arc is cleverly plotted. The special effects are good for their time, and the costumes are terrific. Most of the acting is surprisingly good, but there are a few glaringly bad exceptions. These little problems don't really reduce the entertainment value of the film.
There are no great philosophical points you can take home from this film, but they do exactly what they were intended to do quite well - they entertain and stimulate the imagination. Good enough for me!
ROCKETSHIP is frequently confused with a second (and very similar) film
cut from the original 1936 FLASH GORDON serial, the 1966 TV movie
SPACESHIP TO THE UNKNOWN. (While SPACESHIP contains most of the
material found in ROCKETSHIP, that second film has a longer running
time.) As with MARS ATTACKS THE EARTH (a feature made from the 1938
chapter-play FLASH GORDON'S TRIP TO MARS that hit theaters soon after
Orson Welles' infamous WAR OF THE WORLDS panic broadcast), ROCKETSHIP
was playing the big screens before the small screens become a household
Curiously the third/final Flash Gordon serial, FLASH GORDON CONQUERS THE UNIVERSE, did not result in a theatrical feature from Universal. When the decision was made to make new features from the old serials in the mid-Sixties, CONQUERS THE UNIVERSE yielded no less than two instant TV movies, THE PURPLE DEATH FROM OUTER SPACE and THE PERIL FROM PLANET MONGO. (The new film made from FLASH GORDON'S TRIP TO MARS was called THE DEADLY RAY FROM MARS.)
My first contribution sent them, serve them, I found this series and thanks to a translator sending(parcel) the titles(degrees) of every chapter, please should translate this page: the names of 12 chapters that the series has: 1. The death purple 2. Ming the merciless one 3.Polarita 4. The bombs 5. The beam of the death 6. Barin's assault 7.Thermal control 8. Rock men 9. Rock Prince 10. The rescue of the princess 11. The exchange 12. Destruction of the empire Ming. I found the chapters of this series, in a shop of ancient video of my country, and checking your page there was absent the information of the chapters of the series, I leave them him(you,them) for his(her,your) knowledge ... series expressed(emitted) in 1936, 2n 2 DVD's and of an approximate duration of 04 hours
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