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Buster Crabbe



(Click on chapter titles below)


Universal, 1936.  Directed by Frederick Stephani.  Camera:  Jerome Ash, Richard Fryer.  With Buster Crabbe, Jean Rogers, Charles Middleton, Priscilla Lawson, Frank Shannon, Richard Alexander, Jack "Tiny" Lipson, Theodore Lorch, Richard Tucker, George Cleveland, James Pierce, Duke York, Muriel Goodspeed, Earl Askam, House Peters, Jr.

Flash Gordon is a 1936 film serial which tells the story of three people from Earth who travel to the planet Mongo to fight the evil Emperor Ming the Merciless.  Buster Crabbe, Jean Rogers, Charles Middleton, Priscilla Lawson and Frank Shannon played the central roles.  This serial has been selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry.

This first Flash Gordon serial has been called "the American Siegfried", referring directly to Fritz Lang's 1924 silent movie from the personality of its title character, its costumes, intensity, and special effects, as well as many plot similarities; and indirectly to Richard Wagner's Ring cycle because of its (sensational but admittedly lesser and imperfectly cued) music—a collection of the science fiction and mystery theme music from the feature films of the Universal Studios.  The archetypal plot points common to both legends include the personality differences of the two main female characters, the monarch's desire for one of them and her magical seduction, and the hero's invisibility and his fight with a giant lizard.

The Flash Gordon serial was the most expensive of them all, the only serial advertised in some theaters above the name of the feature presentations, and probably the serial with the greatest attendance.  It was the only sound serial with sexual tension, and it has become the best-remembered serial of them all.

Years later, in a television appearance in his native Oakland, Crabbe told an interviewer that he was unhappy when Universal insisted on coloring his hair blonde to match the comic strip character.

Flash Gordon was followed by two more serials, Flash Gordon's Trip to Mars (1938) and Flash Gordon Conquers the Universe (1940).  During the 1950s, the three serials were shown on American television.  To avoid confusion with a made-for-TV Flash Gordon series airing around the same time, they were re-titled, becoming respectively Space Soldiers, Space Soldiers' Trip to Mars, and Space Soldiers Conquer the Universe.



Chapter 01
The Planet of Peril

The planet Mongo is on a collision course with Earth.  Dr. Hans 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.


Chapter 02
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.


Chapter 03
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.


Chapter 04
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.


Chapter 05
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.


Chapter 06
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.


Chapter 07
Shattering Doom

Flash, Barin, Thun and Zarkov create an explosion in the atomic furnaces.


Chapter 08
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, and then a vicious orangopoid.


Chapter 09
Fighting the Fire Dragon

Flash survives the tournament.  Still determined to win Flash, Aura has him drugged to make him lose his memory.


Chapter 10
The Unseen Peril

Flash recovers his memory.  Ming is determined to have Flash executed.


Chapter 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.


Chapter 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.


Chapter 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.  Flash, Dale and Zarkov make a triumphant return to Earth.