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FLASH GORDON SERIALS

Flash Gordon Conquers the Universe (1940)

Flash Gordon Conquers the Universe is a 1940 American black-and-white science fiction movie serial from Universal Pictures, produced by Henry MacRae and co-directed by Ford Beebe and Ray Taylor. The serial stars Buster Crabbe, Carol Hughes, Charles B. Middleton, Frank Shannon, and Roland Drew. It was written by George H. Plympton, Basil Dickey, and Barry Shipman and was adapted from Alex Raymond's syndicated newspaper comic strip of the same name from King Features Syndicate. Shown theatrically in 12 separate weekly "chapters", it was the last of the three Universal Flash Gordon serials made between 1936 and 1940.

In 1966 Flash Gordon Conquers the Universe was edited down by King Features Syndicate into two feature-length films for television syndication: Purple Death from Outer Space and Perils from the Planet Mongo. In the early 1970s, a third feature version was re-edited for the 16 mm home movie market, using story material taken from the entire serial. It bore the title Space Soldiers Conquer the Universe and later appeared on television during the 1980s. Afterward, all three edited feature length versions became available through various public-domain video sellers, first on VHS videotape and later on DVD.

In the mid-1970s all three complete Universal Flash Gordon serials were shown chapter-by-chapter by PBS stations across the U.S., bringing them to a new generation of science fiction fans, two years before Star Wars and Close Encounters of the Third Kind. From the late 1980s onward, all three serials became available on the home video market under their original theatrical release titles, chapters, and running times.

Buster Crabbe once again does a sterling job as Flash, balancing the character’s superhuman heroics with good-natured affability–bursting into a hearty laugh just as quickly as he leaps into battle.

Frank Shannon, as Zarkov, returns to the prominence he enjoyed in the first Flash Gordon serial, devising most of the strategies that are executed by Flash and explaining nonsensical scientific principles with convincing seriousness.

Charles Middleton is also in fine form in his final turn as Ming, scheming and ranting maniacally while uttering numerous scornful and sarcastic lines at the expense of his own men and the good guys alike. Ming is portrayed as a military dictator in this serial, rather than as a Fu Manchu or Devil-like character as in the two previous Flash Gordon serials.

Jean Rogers, who had played Dale Arden in the two previous Flash Gordon serials, was under contract to 20th Century Fox at this point, and neither she nor Fox wanted her to repeat the Dale Arden role; it was given instead to a recent Universal contract starlet Carol Hughes (left) and proves to be very spunky and likable and does a fine job following in Rogers’ footsteps.

The slick, suavely dignified Roland Drew (below middle) replaces Richard Alexander as Prince Barin. Drew's Barin is not the rough-and-tumble adventurer of the previous serials, but a ruler installed in his own palace and Drew portrays a more aristocratic version of the character.

Shirley Deane (below left), as Barin’s wife Aura, is the most jarring of the replacement players–being blonde, mild-mannered, and generally as far from Priscilla Lawsons version of the character. Don Rowan, takes over the part of Officer Torch played by Earl Askam in the first serial, is a fine action heavy; while Askam’s elderly and sententious Torch seemed more like a harried middle-management official than a villain, Rowan is tough, callously mean, and very physically intimidating.

Co-star billing was given to Universal ingenue Anne Gwynne playing Ming’s female accomplice Sonja (above right). Gwynne is excellent; though she doesn’t have much to do in the first half of the serial, she gets a lot of screen time in the second half, carrying out treacherous and murderous deeds with a perpetual sneering smirk on her pretty face. This last-minute change in billing resulted in the elimination of Donald Curtis, as Ronal, from the screen credits, despite the fact that he, unlike Gwynne, is in every episode as Flash's primary aide, a major role. In an unrelated piece of trivia, Anne Gwynne is the grandmother of Star Trek actor Chris Pine.

Although no specific moments from the previous two serials are shown, there are numerous references to the original "Flash Gordon" serial that were largely absent from "Flash Gordon Trip To Mars". Ming has once again resumed his slimy pursuit of Dale, while Zarkov has much more to do than he did in Trip to Mars. George Plympton and Basil Dickey, two of the writers of the original Flash Gordon, handle the writing here–along with Barry Shipman, a newcomer to the Flash trilogy but not to serials.

Still there are some continuity issues. Flash appears to be acquainted with Captain Ronal, who was not in the earlier serial. Ronal gives back Flash his old sword, which may be the one with which he fought Prince Barin in "Flash Gordon Chapter 8: Tournament of Death" although it is actually the wrong type of sword. There is also no mention of the other allies Flash made during his previous visit to Mongo, such as King Vultan and Prince Thun and no attempt made to explain how Ming survived his apparent demise at the end of the previous serial, "Flash Gordon's Trip to Mars". Flash and Zarkov seemed certain he was dead at that time but quickly conclude that Ming must be behind this new attack on Earth.

This serial reveals an unknown fact about Dale Arden, that she is a chemist and a radio operator. It is not clear whether Dale possessed such skills prior to first meeting Flash and Zarkov in the first serial (as her background was never explained) or whether she took some cources between adventures. Flash Gordon's Trip To Mars, had shown her working with Flash and Zarkov in a scientific capacity.

For anybody experiencing Flash Gordon's adventures only from the point of view of the film serials, the re-introduction of the characters of Prince Barin and Princess Aura in this chapter would have been particularly jarring. In terms of both physical appearance and personality, both are drastically different to how they were previously represented in the film serials. However, Flash Gordon Conquers the Universe was merely trying to keep up with the events of the Flash Gordon (comic strip) which had, of course, been running continuously throughout the long intervals between each film serial. In the comic strip, the characters of Barin and Aura had developed more gradually over time, and Flash Gordon Conquers the Universe is a fairly faithful representation of those characters as they appeared in the strip circa 1939. In this serial, Prince Barin and Princess Aura reappear as prim & proper rulers of Arboria, the Forest Kingdom. The 1940 serial follows the strip's costume changes too having been inflenced by Errol Flynn's popular Robin Hood movie.

This serial also introduces several other characters that had since appeared in the comic strip, chiefly Captain Ronal (above left), Queen Fria (above center), and Count Korro. Fria and Korro are particularly strong in physical resemblance to their comic strip counterparts. However, their roles are much downplayed in this serial. In the strip, Ronal was a Prince, not a Captain, who was the cousin of Barin and who had a deep but unrequited attraction for Dale. Queen Fria of Frigia has a substantial amount of adventuring time with Flash in the comic strip and becomes a serious love rival to Dale, to the point of tricking Flash into agreeing to marry her. Count Korro, meanwhile, wants Fria for himself and as such becomes deeply jealous of Flash and a deadly rival. In the serial there are subtle hints of jealous rivalry between Dale and Fria for Flash's affections, but nothing to suggest that Count Korro is emotionally involved with his Queen.

General Lupi (above right) and Captain Sudin are also named from characters that had appeared in the comic strip storyline, but in their cases the resemblance extends as far as name only. In the strip, Captain Sudin was the commander of one of Ming's naval submarines who befriended Flash and was killed in action on the Island of Tombs. Lupi held the lower rank of Captain and was a traitor who tried to kill Flash.

Sonja is another character nominally lifted from the Flash Gordon comic strip, in which she appeared from February to October in 1938, but once again there are significant differences. In the comic strip Sonja was an exiled noblewoman imprisoned by Ming, and later freed by Flash whom she then tried to seduce. When Flash spurned her advances, she then sought revenge by releasing the imprisoned Ming on the condition that he made her his Empress. Ming kept his word but had Sonja executed as soon as she was crowned.

Like the previous serials many props and other elements in the film were recycled from earlier Universal productions. The "chamber of the death dust experiments" was previously used in Universal's Buck Rogers serial. Another money-saving device used was inserting some exciting mountain climbing search and rescue scenes from the German film White Hell of Pitz Palu (1930), as well as using its music score. Excerpts from "The Bride of Frankenstein" soundtrack by Franz Waxman were also sampled.

CHAPTERS

1. The Purple Death

March 3, 1940

"Brace yourself for another charge!"

- Flash Gordon

A deadly plague is ravaging the Earth, known as the Purple Death because of a purple spot left on victims' foreheads. Flash Gordon learns that Ming the Merciless is behind the plague when he spots one of Ming's spaceships spreading the "Death Dust" in the Earth's atmosphere.

Flash Gordon, along with Dr. Zarkov and Dale Arden, return to the planet Mongo to find a possible cure, seeking the assistance of their old friend Prince Barin. However, Ming the Merciless has other plans for them.

Although no specific moments from the previous 2 serials are shown, there are numerous references to the first "Flash Gordon" serial. Flash appears to be acquainted with Captain Ronal, who was not in the earlier serial.

The scenes of Ming's throne room once again use stock footage of a giant idol flanked by female dances originating in the film "Just Imagine" 1931, and used in the 1936 Flash Gordon serial.

Ronal gives back Flash his old sword, which may be the one with which he fought Prince Barin in Chapter 108: Tournament of Death (although it is actually the wrong type of sword).

Doctor Zarkov is called "Professor Zarkov" several times in this chapter (and also in the recap of this chapter that appears at the start of Chapter 2: Freezing Torture). These are the only occasions when he is given this title in the 3 film serials.

By 1940, the upgrade in film stock makes the insertion of grainy old footage from other movies or stock fottage very visible, and the effect does not blend in well at all.

Zarkov's ship lands in the forest kingdom of Arboria, yet stock footage is used of a model shot showing the rocket ship landing in a rocky terrain. There is not a tree in sight.

General Lupi recognizes Ronal when he is brought in as a prisoner with Count Korro. Yet there is no reason why Lupi of Frigia would know Ronal of Arboria.

2. Freezing Torture

March 10, 1940

"Zarkov and Flash must be captured alive!"

- Ming the Merciless

In our last episode...

Following the wake of dictators, war and rumors of war - a ravaging plague, the "Purple Death", strikes the earth.

Flash Gordon and professor Zarkov, believing Ming The Merciless is behind the "Purple Death", start with Dale Arden in Zarkov's rocket ship for Mongo.

Arriving in Arboria to enlist aid of Prince Barin, they meet Fria, Queen of the Ice Kingdom, also seeking Barin's aid against Ming.

Joining forces, they break into Ming's laboratory in time to halt a fiendish laboratory test. But Flash, pitted against a giant of tremendous strength....

Now...

Flash is rescued from the energy pit and escapes with Zarkov from Ming's palace. Ronal, Barin's captain, learns there is an antidote for the "Purple Death", a mineral known as "Polarite", found only in the frozen unlivable Frigia. Flash and Zarkov promptly lead an expedition into Frigia, protected against the unlivable cold by a discovery of Zarkov's. A Ming ship, sent to destroy them, sees Flash, Dale, Barin, Roka and one of the miners climbing a huge mountain searching for the "Polarite" and they drop a bomb.

Zarkov's invention of a Transparency Screen to render his ship invisible might be considered to be an extension of the work he was conducting during the first Flash Gordon serial, when he managed to make Flash invisible. A rocket ship turning invisible was also a concept used by Universal in their "Buck Rogers" serial in 1939.

The name "Mongo" now seems to relate to the region controlled by Ming who is titled in an official capacity as the "Dictator Ming".

Some prints of this serial include a voiceover reading out the recap of the preceding chapter. On the recap for this chapter, the voice pronounces "Arboria" incorrectly.

There are 4 members of the expedition; namely Flash, Dale, Barin, and Roka; yet the stock footage used for the long shots clearly shows 5 mountain climbers.

3. Walking Bombs

March 17, 1940

"That's fine Doctor Zarkov but hurry, we can't hold out much longer."

- Flash Gordon

In our last episode...

Flash is rescued from the energy pit and escapes with Zarkov from Ming's palace.

Ronal, Barin's captain, learns there is an antidote for the "Purple Death", a mineral known as "Polarite", found only in the frozen unlivable Frigia.

Flash and Zarkov promptly lead an expedition into Frigia, protected against the unlivable cold by a discoveryof Zarkov's.

A Ming ship, sent to destroy them, sees Flash, Dale, Barin, Roka and one of the miners climbing a huge mountain searching for the "Polarite". They drop a bomb. It misses, but starts an avalanche which....

Now...

Emperor Ming, rejoicing in the belief that Flash and his party have been destroyed, intercepts a radio message from Flash to his father saying he has discovered Polarite, an antidote for the "Death Dust" with which Ming is bombarding the Earth. Ming, enraged and knowing his soldiers cannot survive the intense cold of Frigia, sends Torch against the expedition with an army of mechanical men charged with explosives, which Torch can control and explode from his ship. Deep in the frozen wastes, the "Walking Bombs" attack the expedition

4. The Destroying Ray

March 24, 1940

"What have you done with Doctor Zarkov?"

- Dale Arden

In our last episode...

Emperor Ming, rejoicing in the belief that Flash and his party have been destroyed, intercepts a radio message from Flash to his father saying he has discovered Polarite, an antidote for the "Death Dust" with which Ming is bombarding the Earth.

Ming, enraged and knowing his soldiers cannot survive the intense cold of Frigia, sends Torch against the expedition with an army of mechanical men charged with explosives, which Torch can control and explode from his ship.

Deep in the frozen wastes, the "Walking Bombs" attack the expedition and....

Now...

Zarkov and Dale are captured by Ming's men, but Flash opts to return to earth with the life-saving Polarite. He immediately returns to Mongo, in an attempt to save Dale and Zarkov, who he finds about to die via Ming's death ray. Can he save Zarkov and rescue dale?

This episode titled the "The Destroying Ray" shares the same title as Chapter 5 in the original Frash Gordon serial (1936).

The recap at the start of the start of this chapter does not accurately describe the events of the preceding chapter. It states that Ming intercepted a radio message from Flash to his father. Although Flash did broadcast such a message, the actual message Ming intercepted was from Dr Zarkov to (presumably) Arboria.

Two palace guards walk the length of a corridor in silence, stop right by where Flash and Roka are hiding to say that Zarkov is about to be executed in the arena, and then move on in silence. This seems a rather convenient way for Flash and Roka to learn essential information. Flash and Roka then attack the guards when they surely don't need to, given that they are in disguise and have already been walking about the palace undetected.

5. The Palace of Horror

March 31, 1940

"Guards! Seize them!"

- Ming the Merciless

In our last episode...

Flash and Roka capture a Ming ship and force its crew to fly them to Ming's palace, hoping to rescue Dale and Zarkov.

Disguised as Ming guards, they make their way to the palace corridors.

Overhearing a guard saying Zarkov is about to meet death in the arena, Flash races up the stairs leading to the arena, and through a window sees Zarkov standing manacled between two stone pillars. As Ming's voice sentences Zarkov and the "Death Ray" starts towards the helpless victim, Flash leaps through the window and...

Now...

Flash, Dale, Roka and Zarkov escape from Ming. But Just before departure, they are almost captured and Roka, unconscious and bound, winds up on a sabotaged ship, which soon catches fire. Flash is able to save Roka (of course), but flying in a Ming ship is pursued and shot down by Prince Barin.

Dale is captured and taken to a cell, finding herself in the company of another woman, Verna. Verna reveals she too is a prisoner, and is from Arboria. Verna's costume appears to be a modified (and more modest) version of the one Jean Rogers wore as Dale in the first Flash Gordon serial.

Even though the only people in the lab are Karm and Zarkov, Zarkov is allowed to walk out completely unchallenged by the guard on the door and escape by only donning a cloak as a disguise.

6. Flaming Death

April 7, 1940

"Oh Flash, it's terrible!"

- Dale Arden

In our last episode...

Flash and Roka, after escaping from the arena, and while frantic search was being made for them, ambush two guards and, disguised in their uniforms, return to Ming's palace and rescue Dale and Zarkov.

After a further encounter with guards, and a hazardous mid-air rescue of Roka from a burning ship, Flash and his party are congratulating themselves on escaping in one of Ming's ships, when suddenly an approaching Barin ship opens fire on them.

Flash, realizing Barin is mistaking them for his enemy Ming, tries desperately to signal Barin's ship but...

Now...

Ming has a new fire bomb weapon with which he plans to decimate Prince Barin's homeland as a test of its future effectiveness against the Earth. First he rescue's his wayward daughter Princess Aura who has become the lover of his enemy Prince Barin. With Aura safe in Mongo, he goes ahead with his fire bomb plan. But (of course), Dr. Zarkov has developed a counter weapon and Flash rockets to the now-burning area decimated by the fire bomb and uses the counter weapon. However, a second bomb knocks Flash out amidst the burning terrain. Can he be saved in order to continue his fight against the evil Emperor Ming.

The November 28th 1937 installment of the Flash Gordon comic strip was also titled "Flaming Death".

Actor Charles Middleton uncharacteristically stumbles over his words when he has to say "six Zoltranilium projectiles".

7. The Land of the Dead

April 14, 1940

"I've never been there but I've heard tales that at one time
it was habited by a race of Rock Men."

- Prince Barin

In our last episode...

Ming has his daughter, Princess Aura, removed from Barin's kingdom, which he is going to destroy with a fiery projectile.

Flash, to defeat Ming's purpose, takes off with Dale and Ronal in a ship equipped with Zarkov's untested Thermal Control, constructed to combat the effects of Ming's fiendish invention.

Dale and Ronal, operating the Control from the ship, watch Flash, in a fireproof uniform, fighting his way into the blazing inferno as the first projectile falls.

The Thermal Control resists the terrific temperature, but suddenly the intense heat melts a connection, the Control fails and...

Now...

Flash finishes his task of putting out the fires in Arboria, only to find out from Zarkov. But, another ship carrying Capt. Torch, Sonja and a crew fire two bombs that land near Barin's Palace. These fires are quenched as well. Ming orders Torch and Sonja to enter the palace and find out what secret plans are being formed by Flash, Zarkov and Barin. Meanwhile Zarkov has come up with a device that will neutralize Ming's weapons and self-destruct. However, the weapon will release poison gases as it destroys itself and so it is decided to fire it fron "the Land of the Dead", part of Mongo. Captain Torch and Sonja learn about this, escape back to their ship and warn Ming of these plans. Ming then sends them with a giant bomb with a timing device, intended to blow up Zarkov's device and they are able to land and bury it out of sight, before they are captured by the hitherto unknown Rock Men. Flash, Dale, Zarkov, Barin and crew also land and go to set up their device. Flash, Dale, Zarkov and Roka are captured by the Rock Men. And, then the bomb explodes.

This is a rare serial chapter where Flash actually has very little to do.

The shots of the giant dragons comprises stock footage lifted from the first Flash Gordon serial.

The strange dialogue for the Rock Men is achieved by playing the actors' speech backwards. The lines spoken by the actors do actually relate to the events that are unfolding, albeit they are crudely-formed sentences and sometimes the order is rearranged. For example, the phrase "We are going to the rocket ship" might be spoken as something like "To the rocket ship we going" (which would then be played backwards on screen).

Just after the dragon has passed by, the Rock Men move off and one of them slips badly as they descend the slope.

For all his scientific brilliance, Zarkov is talking nonsense when he suggests that sheltering in a cave will offer protection from poisonous gas fumes which will destroy all life over a wide area.

8. The Fiery Abyss

April 21, 1940

"None of us expected this part of Mongo was inhabited."

- Flash Gordon

In our last episode...

Ming's attack on Barin's kingdom prompts Zarkov to perfect an "N" Ray, to be discharged from a powerful Nullitrion, to neutralize and render useless Ming's power plant.

Barin tells Flash the Nullitrion can best be directed against Ming's palace from the Devil's Dome, in the 'Land of The Dead'.

Ming learns of their plans, and his soldiers plant a powerful time bomb on the Devil's Dome, but are promptly captured by Rock Men.

Flash and his party land, unaware of the bomb and the Rock Men who are watching them, and...

Now...

Flash, Dale, Zarkov and Roka are knocked out or killed by the explosion. But, the Rock Men set them down next to some rocks which when pounded on release a gas that revives our heroes. And, although it turns out that Zarkov knows their language, Flash's group and Ming's men are taken away to the living quarters of the Rock Men inside the rocks. In the land of the Rock Men, it turns out that the King blames everybody for the death of his missing son. Flash tries to escape but is knocked out and he, Zarkov and Roka are held captive. Dale and Sonja are put together. Dale, thinking Sonja is still unconscious, contacts Prof. Karm in Ming's laboratory. Meanwhile, Sonja has overheard Dale's talk with Karm and during a fight with Dale, takes Dale's communicator. The women are separated and Sonja takes advantage of this to warn Ming, who then realizes Karm is a traitor. Flash and Zarkov manage to escape and find the king's son trapped by magnetic rays and threatened by giant lizards. Can Flash save the king's son and then save his crew?

The Recap text at the start of this chapter calls the area Flash lands in as "the Devil's Dome", but the previous chapter called it "the Giant's Dome".

When taken before the King, Dale and Sonja give each other decidedly hostile looks, yet there is no real reason at this point to suppose that Dale knows who Sonja actually is. For this scene to make sense, it must be assumed that Dale had some interaction off-screen during her time in Arboria during the earlier chapters of this serial, so that she knew exactly who Sonja was when later told about the manner of Princess Aura's abduction.

9. The Pool of Peril

April 28, 1940

"Flash, let me go with you."

- Dale Arden

In our last episode...

The Land Of The Dead, inhabited by Rock Men, becomes the battle-ground of a scientific war against Ming.

Flash and his party are captured by the Rock Men, who also capture Ming's soldiers.

The Rock King condemns all to death, blaming them for the disappearance of his son.

Flash and Zarkov escape by a clever ruse and discover the Rock Prince helpless in the grip of a powerful lodestone.

Flash attempts his rescue while Zarkov hurries to the Rock King but....

Now...

Flash saves the Rock Prince even as the Rock King is about to execute Dale. Zarkov, Dale and Roka escape and while Zarkov goes ahead to find Flash, Dale and Roka are re-captured. Flash arrives with the Rock Prince and Flash's group is spared, but Sonja and Ming's men escape, but are re-captured by the Rock Prince and Flash and crew. They all head for Barin's ship and fly to Mongo to rescue Princess Aura. They manage to sneak into a tunnel below Ming's castle, but are detected by Ming who orders flood gates to be opened which will sweep them away.

Again, ray guns are carried but not used. As they attempt to enter the palace, Flash and his friends spot some guards coming and have the options of either hiding or holding the guards at gunpoint and demanding that they surrender, but instead they choose to engage the guards in physical combat.

10. The Death Mist

May 5, 1940

"We got to get away from here as quickly and quietly as we can.
Ming doesn't know we've escaped."

- Flash Gordon

In our last episode...

Emperor Ming is holding his daughter, Princess Aura, as a hostage in his war against Prince Barin, Flash Gordon and Doctor Zarkov.

Leaving the Land of the Dead, and with Torch, Sonja and Thong prisoners, Flash and his friends accompany Barin in his ship to Ming's palace, in a daring attempt to rescue the Princess.

Through the co-operation of Captain Sudan, of Ming's guards, they enter the tunnels beneath the palace; but they are attacked by a party of Ming guards, who sounds an alarm and...

Now...

Flash and crew try to invade Ming's palace, but are almost swept away by flood waters. They escape and head back to Arboria with Sonja and Torch as prisoners. Sonja and Torch break free and warn Ming that Flash and crew are alive. There seems to be footage missing because suddenly we are in Arboria and Flash and crew are attempting to capture Sonja and Torch who now hold Dale as hostage. They contact Ming, who orders his space fleet to gas bomb Arboria. As Flash catches up with them on a tower roof, the bombing starts. Dale knocks out Sonja, but Flash and Torch fall off the roof. Will Flash survive?

Dale is shown to have a jealous streak. Dale takes exception to Sonja wanting to talk to Flash alone and when Flash subsequently returns from interviewing Sonja she flippantly asks Flash why he took so long and if he found Sonja interesting. When Flash completely ignores the question, Dale is visibly ruffled. This negative trait of Dale's is taken from the Flash Gordon comic strip, where Dale Arden frequently displays jealousy whenever Flash has interaction with another female character such as Queen Fria, Sonja, or Desira.

Ming describes Karm's radio as "a very clever device"? Although adjusted to operate on a very low waveband, it's still a normal radiophone which his own soldiers routinely carry.

What is Sonja tapping out in code to Captain Torch while they are in their cells? Given that Torch plays no part in her subsequent escape trick, does she even need to pass a message to him?

11. Stark Treachery

May 12, 1940

"And what terms to you propose to make Ming?"

- Doctor Zarkov

In our last episode...

Torch and Sonja, Ming's agents, confined in cells in Barin's palace, escape to the radio room, overpower the operator and communicate with Ming.

Ming instructs Torch to send out a false order grounding Barin's space ships, in order to clear the way for Ming bombers, and to destroy the radio to prevent Barin countermanding the order.

Dale overhears the order and is captured by Torch and Sonja, who flee with her to the roof of the palace.

Flash pursues and corners them, and is battling with Torch when Ming's bombers...

Now...

Flash makes a deal with Ming to trade Torch for Dale and Ronal. The trade is made, but Ming has drugged Dale and she is dying. Ming's men give Ronal a letter for Zarkov, which explains that he, Zarkov and Dale must return to Ming's palace as only Ming can save her. Flash agrees to these terms, but sets out with Barin and Ronal to sneak into the palace and save them both. Flash gets into the palace and as he enters Dale's chamber, she screams for him to stop, even as he steps into the path of a deadly ray trap. Oh oh, is this the end of Flash Gordon?

The Ming bomber suddenly has a bed with a mattress aboard it, conveniently ready to rest the unconscious women on it. Later on in the chapter, Zarkov's ship is also seen to have a bed aboard it, on which the drugged Dale is placed.

12. Doom of the Dictator

May 19, 1940

"In his mad ambition Ming declared he was the universe."

- Flash Gordon

"And since you have conquered Ming I shall radio your father...
Flash Gordon conquers the universe."

- Doctor Zarkov

"And saved the Earth!"

- Dale Arden

In our last episode...

Ming's air attack on Barin's palace is beaten off and Torch recaptured by Flash Gordon, but the escaping enemy ships carry off Dale Arden.

Zarkov is tricked into Ming's power and, with Dale and Princess Aura already his prisoners, Ming now holds the whip hand over Flash and Barin.

Flash leads a rescue party into Ming's palace, by means of an abandoned tunnel, and locates the room where Dale and Aura are held. Unaware that the room is protected by a death-dealing electrical trap, Flash, sword in hand...

Now...

Flash battles gas bombers sent by Ming to destroy Prince Barin's palace. Flash manages to turn Ming's own destructive device against him.

Captain Sudan activates the control which locks Ming's party in the tower. Sudan's colleague comments that the group are now trapped, and Sudan replies, "Yes, And there's only one other way of escape for them, but they will be too terrified to think of it!" This comment is never fully explained. Is it possible that it was included to explain how Ming may have escaped from the tower in the event of a fourth Flash Gordon serial?

In the first scene in Ming's Throne Room, the establishing long shot shows Captain Torch entering to see Ming, but as the scene plays out it's actually another soldier coming to deliver the report.

There are some curious changes of costume during the course of this chapter. Firstly, Ming gives Zarkov 5 minutes to reach a decision, and apparently uses this time to remove his cloak and change his headgear. Sonja finished the previous chapter in her palace gowns. She is first seen in this chapter back in her Arborian cloak and tunic, and then is suddenly back in her palace gown once again when next seen. Dale is dressed in a long gown supplied by Ming but later when she was confined to the lab she is shown in her Arborian outfit.

When Druk calls Dr Zarkov on the radio, the voice that replies is nothing like that of the actor Frank Shannon (who plays Zarkov).

When parked in the Space Court, the Z-O Rocket Ship is clearly marked with a large "Z-O" logo on its side, but this logo is missing on the model shots.

The music that plays over the closing scene was also used as the theme music for Buster Crabbe's "Buck Rogers" serial the previous year.

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Flash Gordon is the property of it's copyright holders. All images are used for educational and informational purposes only in the context of this article.

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