7.1/10
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15 user 18 critic

Flash Gordon Conquers the Universe (1940)

Approved | | Action, Sci-Fi, Adventure | 9 April 1940 (USA)
Flash Gordon, Dale Arden and Dr. Zarkov return to the planet Mongo for an antidote to the Purple Death, which wreaking destruction on Earth. However, Ming the Merciless has other plans for them.

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(screenplay), (screenplay) | 2 more credits »
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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
... Flash Gordon (as Larry 'Buster' Crabbe)
... Dale Arden
... Emperor Ming
... Sonja [Chs. 2, 6-12]
... Dr. Alexis Zarkov
... Professor Gordon [Chs. 1, 4]
... Dr. Frohmann [Chs. 1, 4]
... Professor Arden [Chs. 1, 4]
... Princess Aura
... Captain Roka
... Prince Barin
Don Rowan ... Captain Torch
Victor Zimmerman ... Lieutenant Thong
... Captain Turan
... General 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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ZOOMING Off The Earth! See more »


Certificate:

Approved | See all certifications »
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Details

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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 Mirrophonic Recording)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
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Did You Know?

Trivia

Buster Crabbe (Flash Gordon), Charles Middleton (Ming the Merciless) and Frank Shannon (Dr. Alexis Zarkov) are the only actors to appear in all three "Flash Gordon" serials. See more »

Connections

Referenced in Troma Tour 5000 (2017) See more »

Soundtracks

Les Preludes
Written by Franz Liszt
Used behind main title and throughout the serial
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Frequently Asked Questions

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User Reviews

 
The Universal Soldier
14 April 2010 | by 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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