Lively, entertaining reviews of, and essays on, old and newer films and everything relating to them, written by professional author William Schoell.

Thursday, March 31, 2016


The wonderful Charles Middleton as Ming the Merciless
FLASH GORDON CONQUERS THE UNIVERSE (12 chapter Universal serial/1940). Directors: Ford Beebe; Ray Taylor.

The third and final Flash Gordon serial has a plague striking earth, leaving purple spots on victims' foreheads. This is caused by Ming (Charles Middleton) the Merciless' "death dust," which Flash (Buster Crabbe)  and his allies, Dale (Carol Hughes) and Zarkov (Frank Shannon), must stop or else. A cure for the death dust is Polarite, which can be found in the frozen kingdom of Frigia on Mongo. Flash has a few allies in the form of Queen Fria (Luli Deste of The Case of the Black Parrot) of Frigia; Prince Barin (Roland Drew of The Invisible Killer) of the medieval kingdom of Arboria; and Ming's daughter, Princess Aura (Shirley Deane). Aura has a handmaiden named Sonja (Anne Gwynne), who is secretly in league with the bad guys -- she and Dale have a "cat fight" in chapter ten. There are some decent cliffhangers, such as Flash falling into a bottomless pit in chapter one; an avalanche in chapter two; and the electrical ray in chapter four. We see more of Mongo's delightful giant lizards, one of whom snacks on a soldier (off-screen) in Ming's army. Crabbe and Shannon could have acted their parts in their sleep by now; Hughes [Meet the Boyfriend] is perhaps not as glamorous as Jean Rogers  but she's spunky enough. Byron Foulger, Roy Barcroft, Tom Steele, and Donald Curtis are also in the cast.

Verdict: Flash Gordon's last gasp, and not a moment too soon. **.


angelman66 said...

This one was fun, I remember it well. Buster Crabbe was really a heartthrob, what handsome chiseled features and perfectly proportioned muscles. A superhero indeed!Even better looking than Weissmuller as Tarzan...I think Crabbe was a champion swimmer as well, wasn't he?

William said...

Yes, that's what brought him to the attention of Hollywood; he was an Olympic champion, in fact. He played Tarzan in "Tarzan the Fearless," but Weissmuller got the plum role for Columbia. Arguably, Crabbe was handsomer than his "rival" although Lupe Velez may not have thought so.