Gordon Neither a "Pan of the Flash" nor a "Flash in the Pan"
In 1934, King Features Syndicate, a distributor of comic strips and columns to newspapers, plans to boost morale of Depression-era audiences, by forging a contest to promote a Sunday comic strip featuring a heroic figure.
But when someone suggests assigning the task to in-house artist Alex Raymond, he launches the saga of a well-dressed, handsome, intelligent, athletic Yale graduate who travels to the Planet Mongo, to rescue the earth from the evil ruler, Ming the Merciless, as well as other interplanetary menaces.
Greg O'Neill narrates this account of the creation and ongoing heroics of Flash Gordon, the Alex Raymond superhero, of interplanetary travel, lauded by fans of comic strips, comic books, radio, film and television, each of which presents the subject of this "Biography" episode, premiering on August 28, 1997, making Flash 63 years of age at the time.
As the Great Depression victimizes the masses, with citizens losing employment, property and savings, additional maladies strike mankind according to this episode, as many fiery ordeals begin to plague the earth, such as storms and floods, earthquakes and fires, as well as a meteor shower, as a distant planet approaches the earth at lightning speed, and no one is able to stop the perpetrator of these dastardly deeds, the evil ruler of Mongo, Ming the Merciless.
But a mad scientist from earth, Dr. Zarkov, devises a plan, to travel to the Planet Mongo by a rocket ship, which he invents. And when a meteor collides with an airplane, two of its surviving passengers become stranded, a Miss Dale Arden and a Mr. Flash Gordon, whom Dr. Zarkov kidnaps, accompanying him to the Planet Mongo to confront Ming the Merciless, who often places Dale in dangerous situations to divert Flash Gordon's attention from fighting him.
Under the capable guidance of Alex Raymond, who utilizes various Science Fiction mechanisms unheard of during the 1930's. Flash Gordon grows better looking as the comic strip progresses, as Alex improves his artistry. And Dr. Zarkov becomes less eccentric and more heroic in the process.
In 1936, film audiences eagerly welcome 1932 Olympic Gold Medalist Buster Crabbe into the role of Flash Gordon in 20-minute cliff-hanging film serials, many remarking that the comic strip hero must have been patterned after Buster Crabbe, as they appear nearly identical, but the resemblance is the result of good casting, and not the other way around.
In 1954, Flash Gordon debuts on television in a series of 39 episodes, several filmed in war-ravaged Germany and France. Steve Holland plays the leading role, as Flash Gordon and company find themselves in a variety of predicaments, while trying to salvage the planet.
From here, various Flash Gordon incarnations crop up in film and on television, including live-action and animated productions, with producers' modernizing various character traits among Flash Gordon's heroes and villains.
And so, Flash Gordon earns his legacy, as documented in this "Biography" episode, notable for the final appearance of actor Steve Holland.
Interview Guests for this episode consist of Judith Reeves-Stevens (Executive Story Editor, TV Series), Garfield Reeves-Stevens (Executive Story Editor, TV Series), Bob Burns (Archivist), Steve Holland (Actor), Tom Roberts (Artist/Biographer), and Al Williamson (Cartoonist), with Greg O'Neill (Narrator), and Peter Graves (Host).
Still Photographs include Alex Raymond (Creator), and Sam J. Jones (as Flash Gordon, 1980).
Archive film footage includes Buster Crabbe (as Flash Gordon, 1936-40), Jean Rogers (as Dale Arden, 1936-38), Carol Hughes (as Dale Arden, 1940), Priscilla Lawson (as Princess Aura, 1936), Frank Shannon (as Dr. Alexis Zarkov, 1936-40), Charles Middleton (as Ming the Merciless, 1936-40), Steve Holland (as Flash Gordon, 1954-55), Irene Champlin (as Dale Arden, 1954-55), Joseph Nash (as Dr. Hans Zarkov, 1954-55), John Glenn (Astronaut), Neil Armstrong (Astronaut), and U.S. President John F. Kennedy.
Film Clips include scenes from Flash Gordon (1936/I), Flash Gordon's Trip to Mars (1938), Flash Gordon Conquers the Universe (1940).
Television Clips include scenes from the series "Flash Gordon" (1954-55), "Defenders of the Earth" (1986), and "Flash Gordon" (1996).
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