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.
Charles Middleton, Priscilla Lawson and Frank
Shannon played the central roles. This serial has been
selected for preservation in the United States National Film
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
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.
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
Chapter 07 - Shattering Doom:
Flash, Barin, Thun and Zarkov create an explosion in the atomic
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
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