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Flash Gordon Conquers the Universe (1940)

7.0
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Ratings: 7.0/10 from 730 users  
Reviews: 13 user | 20 critic

Flash and his friends return to planet Mongo for an antidote to the Purple Death. But Ming the Merciless has other plans for them...

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(screenplay), (screenplay), 2 more credits »
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Title: Flash Gordon Conquers the Universe (1940)

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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
...
Flash Gordon (as Larry 'Buster' Crabbe)
Carol Hughes ...
...
Anne Gwynne ...
Sonja [Chs. 2, 6-12]
Frank Shannon ...
John Hamilton ...
Prof. Gordon [Chs. 1, 4]
Herbert Rawlinson ...
Dr. Frohmann [Chs. 1, 4]
Tom Chatterton ...
Prof. Arden [Chs. 1, 4]
Shirley Deane ...
Lee Powell ...
Roland Drew ...
Don Rowan ...
Victor Zimmerman ...
Edgar Edwards ...
Ben Taggart ...
Gen. Lupi [Chs. 1-2]
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Storyline

A mysterious plague, the Purple Death, ravages the earth. Dr. Zarkov, investigating in his spaceship, finds a ship from planet Mongo seeding the atmosphere with dust. Sure enough, Ming the Merciless is up to his old tricks. So it's back to Mongo for Flash, Dale, and Zarkov, this time with ready-made allies waiting: Prince Barin of Arboria and Queen Fria of the frozen northern land of Frigia; where, it so happens, is found polarite, antidote to the plague. But Ming will use all his forces to keep our heroes from thwarting his plans of conquest... Written by Rod Crawford <puffinus@u.washington.edu>

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Taglines:

From the ALEX RAYMOND newspaper feature owned and copyrighted by King Features Syndicate (all of the original posters and cards) See more »


Certificate:

Approved | See all certifications »
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Details

Country:

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Release Date:

9 April 1940 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Flash Gordon: Space Soldiers Conquer the Universe  »

Company Credits

Production Co:

 »
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Technical Specs

Sound Mix:

(Western Electric Sound System)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
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Did You Know?

Trivia

In the final chapter before his demise, Ming is looking to escape. In the endings of most serial episodes the hero is is the one trying to escape (then thought to be killed - until the next week). This might suggest another sequel or fourth Flash Gordon serial. However, after 7 December 1941 and the attack on Pearl Harbor, just 3 years after Orson Welles' infamous 'War of the Worlds' radio broadcast simulating an attack from from outer space, the production of "space travel" films were put on hold. See more »

Connections

Edited into Attack of the 50 Foot Monster Mania (1999) See more »

Soundtracks

Some of the music cues came from the following films:
The Sun Never Sets (1939) music composed by Frank Skinner
Bombay Mail (1934) by Heinz Roemheld
White Hell of Pitz Palu (1929) by Heinz Roemheld
The Bride of Frankenstein (1935) by Franz Waxman
The Invisible Man (1933) by Heinz Roemheld
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Frequently Asked Questions

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User Reviews

The Universal Soldier
14 April 2010 | by (Portland, OR, United States) – See all my reviews

There were many very fine heroes and villains of the serials, but clearly, Buster Crabbe as Flash Gordon, and Charles Middleton as Ming the Merciless were the tops in their respective fields. These fine performers, plus the return of our old friend Frank Shannon as Dr. Zarkhov, help make this an entertaining and appealing serial.

This is the most polished and opulent of the Flash Gordon serials, although it lacks the passion and visceral excitement of the 1st serial. Also, it lacks the performers who originated the roles of Dale Arden, Prince Barrin, and Princess Aura. The actors who replaced Barrin and Aura are at least adequate, although they lack the physical charisma of the originals, and we feel especially the loss of Priscilla Lawson's raw sensuality. However, the gal who replaced the wonderful Jean Rogers as Dale is not sufficient to the role, and in one chapter when she was pleading for Flash to save her, I kind of wished Flash had just left her.

This serial is not as sexy as the 1st Flash Gordon (which somehow seemed to have been sneaked completely past the Hayes Office), but while the actresses all appear to be wearing bras, there are thankfully a few bare midriffs here and there, and we have the welcome addition of a genuine femme fetalle, in the person of the wicked Sonia, played by Anne Gwynne.

While the 1st serials were characterized to a large extent by activities involving the various diverse peoples and monsters of Planet Mongo and Mars, the Lion Men, the Shark Men, the Hawk Men, the Clay People, Azura Queen of Magic, the Forest People, dragons, octosacs, beast men, etc., this serial is more preoccupied with technology and warfare. There are chapters wholly concerned with strategic materials, incendiary bombs, robot bombs, torture of political prisoners, poison gas, and there are more aerial dogfights than in the previous Flash Gordons.

Also, Ming is referred to as Dictator Ming, rather than Emperor Ming. Others have already mentioned this, but I agree with the hypothesis that this serial reflects the fact that by 1940 much of the world was at war and that many in the US had the idea that the US would inevitably be drawn into the conflict. In 1939, the Germans invaded Poland, and by the time this serial drew to a close on its first run, the Nazis had also invaded France. There is perhaps a bit of unconscious insight into the geopolitical future in the fact that Flash, whose initial mission was to stop Ming from becoming Conqueror of the Universe, ends his mission when he is declared to be the Conqueror of the Universe.

This is entertaining to fans of serials, of B-Movies, of old comic strips, and other aficionados of old school and low budget cinema. It is not as powerful as the 1st Flash serial, and suffers from being a little longer than it should be, and having a little too much back and forth. Also, the directors seemed to have no concept of how to insert a few close-ups into a fight scene to juice up the action. Nonetheless, many viewers would, like me, find it pleasurable to waste 20 minutes here and there with these old friends.


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