Flash Gordon (serial)

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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. It stars Buster Crabbe, Jean Rogers, Charles Middleton, Priscilla Lawson, Frank Shannon and Richard Alexander. It was the first of three serials based on the comic Flash Gordon.

It was written by Basil Dickey, Ella O'Neill, George H. Plympton and Frederick Stephani from the comic strip by Alex Raymond. It was directed by Stephani and Ray Taylor (uncredited).

Thirteen episodes were filmed and released:

  1. Planet Of Peril
  2. Tunnel Of Terror
  3. Captured By Shark Men
  4. Battling The Sea Beast
  5. The Destroying Ray
  6. Flaming Torture
  7. Shattering Doom
  8. Tournament Of Death
  9. Fighting The Fire Dragon
  10. The Unseen Peril
  11. In The Claws Of The Tigron
  12. Trapped In The Turret
  13. Rocketing To Earth

The 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 costumery, intensity, and special effects, as well as many plot similarites; and indirectly to Richard Wagner's Ring cycle due to 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 Studio. 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.

During the 1950s, 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.

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