Flash Gordon (serial)

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Flash Gordon
Flash Gordon (serial).jpg
Directed by Frederick Stephani
Ray Taylor (uncredited)
Produced by Henry MacRae
Written by Basil Dickey
Ella O'Neill
George H. Plympton
Frederick Stephani
Alex Raymond (based on the comic strip by)
Starring Buster Crabbe
Jean Rogers
Charles B. Middleton
Priscilla Lawson
Frank Shannon
Cinematography Jerome Ash
Richard Fryer
Distributed by Universal Pictures
Release dates
  • April 6, 1936 (1936-04-06)
Running time
245 minutes (13 episodes)
Country United States
Language English
Budget $350,000[1]

Flash Gordon is a 1936 science fiction film serial. Shown in 13 installments, it was the first screen adventure for the comic-strip character Flash Gordon that was invented by Alex Raymond. It tells the story of Flash Gordon's first visit to the planet Mongo and his encounter with the evil Emperor Ming the Merciless. Buster Crabbe, Jean Rogers, Charles Middleton, Priscilla Lawson and Frank Shannon played the central roles. In 1996, Flash Gordon was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant".


  1. The Planet of Peril
    The planet Mongo is on a collision course with Earth. Dr. Alexis Zarkov takes off in a rocket ship to Mongo, with Flash Gordon and Dale Arden as his assistants. They find that the planet is ruled by the cruel Emperor Ming, who lusts after Dale and sends Flash to fight in the arena. Ming's daughter, Princess Aura, tries to spare Flash's life.
  2. The Tunnel of Terror
    Aura helps Flash to escape as Zarkov is put to work in Ming's laboratory and Dale is prepared for her wedding to Ming. Flash meets Prince Thun, leader of the Lion Men, and the pair return to the palace to rescue Dale.
  3. Captured by Shark Men
    Flash stops the wedding ceremony, but he and Dale are captured by King Kala, ruler of the Shark Men and a loyal follower of Ming. At Ming's order, Kala forces Flash to fight with a giant octosak in a chamber filling with water.
  4. Battling the Sea Beast
    Aura and Thun rescue Flash from the octosak. Trying to keep Flash away from Dale, Aura destroys the mechanisms that regulate the underwater city.
  5. The Destroying Ray
    Flash, Dale, Aura and Thun escape from the underwater city, but are captured by King Vultan and the Hawkmen. Dr. Zarkov befriends Prince Barin, and they race to the rescue.
  6. Flaming Torture
    Dale pretends to fall in love with King Vultan in order to save Flash, Barin and Thun, who are put to work in the Hawkmen's Atom Furnaces.
  7. Shattering Doom
    Flash, Barin, Thun and Zarkov create an explosion in the atomic furnaces.
  8. Tournament of Death
    Dr. Zarkov saves the Hawkmen's city from falling, earning Flash and his friends King Vultan's gratitude. Ming insists that Flash fight a Tournament of Death against a masked opponent, revealed to be Barin, and then a vicious orangopoid.
  9. Fighting the Fire Dragon
    Flash survives the tournament with Aura's help, after she discovers the weak point of the orangopoid. Still determined to win Flash, Aura has him drugged to make him lose his memory.
  10. The Unseen Peril
    Flash recovers his memory. Ming is determined to have Flash executed.
  11. In the Claws of the Tigron
    Zarkov invents a machine that makes Flash invisible. Flash torments Ming and his guards. Barin hides Dale in the catacombs, but Aura has her tracked by a tigron.
  12. Trapped in the Turret
    Aura realizes the error of her ways, and falls in love with Barin. She tries to help Flash and his friends to return to Earth — but Ming plots to kill them.
  13. Rocketing to Earth
    Ming orders that the Earth people be caught and killed, but Flash and his friends escape from the Emperor's clutches, and Ming is apparently killed in the flames of the "sacred temple of the Great God Tao". Flash, Dale and Zarkov make a triumphant return to Earth.[2]



According to Harmon and Glut, Flash Gordon had a budget of over a million dollars.[3] Stedman, however, writes that it was "reportedly" $350,000.[5]

A lot of props and other elements were recycled from earlier Universal productions. The watchtower sets from Frankenstein (1931) appeared as several interiors within Ming's palace. The Egyptian statue from The Mummy (1932) became the idol of the Great God Tao. The laboratory set and a shot of the Moon rushing past Zarkov's returning rocket ship from space came from The Invisible Ray (1936). Zarkov's rocket ship and scenes of dancers swarming over a gigantic idol were reused from Just Imagine (1930). Ming's attack on Earth used footage from old silent newsreels. An entire dance segment from The Midnight Sun (1927) was used.[3] and much laboratory equipment came from Bride of Frankenstein (1935). The music was recycled from several other films, notably Bride of Frankenstein,[5] Bombay Mail, The Black Cat (both 1934), and The Invisible Man (1933).

Exterior shots, such as the crew from Earth's first steps on Mongo, were filmed at Bronson Canyon.[3]

Crash Corrigan, who would later be the lead in other serials, wore a modified gorilla suit as the "Orangapoid".[3]

Flash Gordon was intended to regain an adult audience for serials.[5] It was shown in 'A' Theaters in large cities across the United States. Many newspapers, including some not carrying the Flash Gordon comic strip, contained half and three-quarter page feature stories in their entertainment pages with Alex Raymond drawings and stills from the serial.[6]

Flash Gordon was the first outright science fiction serial, although earlier serials had contained science fiction elements such as gadgets. Six of the fourteen serials released within five years of Flash Gordon were science fiction.[7]

The serial film was subsequently released as a 72-minute feature named Rocket Ship. Alternate titles for this film include Spaceship to the Unknown and Atomic Rocketship. The TV version was named Space Soldiers.[8]



  1. ^ Tracey, Grant. "Images Journal Flash Gordon article". ImagesJournal.com (Images Journal) (4). Retrieved 2010-08-02. 
  2. ^ Copied from Wikia – Flash Gordon, 17th July 2007
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i Harmon, Jim; Donald F. Glut (1973). "2. "We Come from 'Earth', Don't You Understand?"". The Great Movie Serials: Their Sound and Fury. Routledge. pp. 29–35, 38. ISBN 978-0-7130-0097-9. 
  4. ^ Essoe, Gabe (1972). Tarzan of the Movies. Citadel Press. pp. 56–7, 77. ISBN 978-0-8065-0295-3. 
  5. ^ a b c Stedman, Raymond William (1971). "4. Perilous Saturdays". Serials: Suspense and Drama By Installment. University of Oklahoma Press. pp. 97–100, 102. ISBN 978-0-8061-0927-5. 
  6. ^ Cline, William C. (1984). "2. In Search of Ammunition". In the Nick of Time. McFarland & Company, Inc. p. 17. ISBN 0-7864-0471-X. 
  7. ^ Cline, William C. (1984). "3. The Six Faces of Adventure". In the Nick of Time. McFarland & Company, Inc. p. 32. ISBN 0-7864-0471-X. 
  8. ^ Reid, John Howard (2007). Science-fiction & Fantasy Cinema: Classic Films of Horror, Sci-fi & the Supernatural. Lulu.com. pp. 71–72. ISBN 1-4303-0113-9. 

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