Flash Gordon Conquers the Universe

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Flash Gordon Conquers the Universe
Flash Gordon 3.jpg
Directed by Ford Beebe
Ray Taylor
Produced by Henry MacRae
Written by George H. Plympton
Basil Dickey
Barry Shipman
Alex Raymond (comic strip)
Starring Buster Crabbe
Carol Hughes
Charles B. Middleton
Frank Shannon
Roland Drew
Cinematography Jerome Ash
William Sickner
Distributed by Universal Pictures
Release dates
  • March 3, 1940 (1940-03-03)
Running time
Brazil:220 min / UK:195 min (12 episodes)
Country United States
Language English

Flash Gordon Conquers the Universe is a 1940 twelve episode serial film starring Buster Crabbe as Flash Gordon, and was the last of three Flash Gordon serials made from 1936 to 1940. The serial was directed by Ford Beebe and Ray Taylor, written by George H. Plympton, Basil Dickey, and Barry Shipman from Alex Raymond's comic strip, produced by Henry MacRae, and copyrighted by Universal Pictures. The supporting cast features Carol Hughes as Dale Arden, Charles B. Middleton as Ming the Merciless, and Roland Drew as Prince Barin. In 1966 the serial was edited into two feature films for television showing Purple Death from Outer Space and Perils from the Planet Mongo.

During the 50s, the three serials were shown on television. To avoid confusion with a made-for-TV Flash Gordon series airing around the same time, they were retitled, becoming respectively Space Soldiers, Space Soldiers' Trip to Mars, and Space Soldiers Conquer the Universe. King Features Syndicate had acquired the rights for showing and eliminated the original Universal Pictures titles. In the mid-1970s, all three serials were shown by PBS stations across the US, bringing Flash Gordon to a new generation, a full two years before Star Wars and Close Encounters of the Third Kind re-ignited interest in the science fiction genre. The re-edited television version, with the title card reading Flash Gordon - Space Soldiers Conquer the Universe, was used for some VHS and DVD releases of the serial.

Plot summary[edit]

A deadly plague is ravaging the Earth, known as the Purple Death because of the spot left on victims' foreheads. Ming the Merciless is suspected to be behind the plague and it is discovered that his spaceships have been dropping "Death Dust" in the Earth's atmosphere. Flash Gordon, along with Dr. Alexis Zarkov and Dale Arden, is sent to the planet Mongo to find a possible cure for the plague. They eventually find an antidote, called polarite in the Kingdom of Frigia. Flash and Zarkov distribute the antidote the same way the original Death Dust was spread. Ming sends an army of robot bombs after the three and he succeeds in capturing Zarkov for a short time before Flash frees him.

The trio continue to battle Ming and his allies. Ming's Captain Torch is the "head villain" of this serial. He is in charge of stopping the Earthlings.

Before Flash and his team leaves, they kill Ming by locking him in a tower and crashing a rocket ship loaded with Solarite into it. Prince Barin takes his rightful place as ruler of Mongo. Ming's last words are "I am the universe!". Zarkov announces that Flash Gordon has conquered the universe.


Publicity still with Carmen D'Antonio and Charles Middleton


Plot points taken from the preceding serial, Flash Gordon's Trip to Mars.

The chamber of the death dust experiments was previously used in the Buck Rogers serial. One money-saving gimmick used by Universal Studios was to take some exciting mountain climbing search and rescue scenes from the German film White Hell of Pitz Palu (1930)[1] and its music as well.

Co-star billing is given to Anne Gwynne, Universal ingenue whose role does not develop until the middle of the serial.

Jean Rogers who had played Dale Arden in the two previous Flash Gordon serials was contracted to 20th Century Fox and neither she nor her studio wanted to repeat the Dale Arden role so it was given to a recent Universal contract starlet Carol Hughes.[2]

Critical reception[edit]

According to Harmon and Glut, Flash Gordon Conquers the Universe "was the most picturesque of the trilogy but surrendered much compelling charm for its cinematic sophistication."[1]

Chapter titles[edit]

  1. The Purple Death
  2. Freezing Torture
  3. Walking Bombs
  4. The Destroying Ray
  5. The Palace of Horror
  6. Flaming Death
  7. The Land of the Dead
  8. The Fiery Abyss
  9. The Pool of Peril
  10. The Death Mist
  11. Stark Treachery
  12. Doom of the Dictator



Les préludes by Franz Liszt

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c Harmon, Jim; Donald F. Glut (1973). "2. "We Come from 'Earth', Don't You Understand?"". The Great Movie Serials: Their Sound and Fury. Routledge. p. 44. ISBN 978-0-7130-0097-9. 
  2. ^ Fitzgerald, Michael A View from the Cliff: Anne Gwynne Interview Serial Report
  3. ^ Cline, William C. (1984). "Filmography". In the Nick of Time. McFarland & Company, Inc. p. 226. ISBN 0-7864-0471-X. 

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