Flash Gordon Conquers the Universe
Flash Gordon 3.jpg
Directed by Ford Beebe
Ray Taylor
Produced by Henry MacRae
Written by George H. Plympton
Basil Dickey
Barry Shipman
Alex Raymond (comic strip)
Starring Buster Crabbe
Carol Hughes
Charles B. Middleton
Frank Shannon
Cinematography Jerome Ash
William Sickner
Distributed by Universal Pictures
Release date(s) 3 March 1940
Running time Brazil:220 min / UK:195 min (12 episodes)
Country United States
Language English

Flash Gordon Conquers the Universe is a 1940 twelve episode serial film about Flash Gordon. It was the last of three Flash Gordon serials made from 1936 to 1940. The serial was produced and copyrighted by Universal Pictures.

During the 50s, 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. King Features Syndicate had acquired the rights for showing and eliminated the original Universal Pictures titles. In the mid-1970s, all three serials were shown by PBS stations across the US, bringing Flash Gordon to a new generation, a full two years before Star Wars and Close Encounters of the Third Kind re-ignited interest in the science fiction genre. The re-edited television version, with the title card reading Flash Gordon - Space Soldiers Conquer the Universe, was used for some VHS and DVD releases of the serial.

Plot summaryEdit

The film starts on Earth. A deadly plague has been ravaging the planet, known as the Purple Death because it leaves a purple spot on the forehead of its victims. Ming the Merciless is suspected to be behind the plague, and Flash Gordon is sent with Dr. Alexis Zarkov and Dale Arden to the planet Mongo to find the cause of the plague, as well as a cure. Caused by Ming's spaceships dropping "Death Dust" into the Earth's atmosphere, they eventually find an antidote, Polarite in the Kingdom of Frigia, for it and Flash and Zarkov distribute it by the same method soon after the start of the series, while Dale Arden remains in the forest kingdom. Ming sends an army of walking robot bombs after them and succeeds in capturing Zarkov, but Flash is able to free him.

Soon reunited with her, the trio continue to battle Ming, his cohorts, and his underlings. Ming's Captain Torch is the "spearpoint villain" of this serial, a type of character which the previous two did not have. He takes tactical command of the efforts to stop them.

Before they leave, they destroy Ming by locking him in a tower and crashing a rocket ship loaded with Solarite into it. Prince Barin takes his rightful place as ruler of Mongo. In his rage, Ming says, similar to King Louis XIV of France, "I am the universe!" for nearly his last words. Flash Gordon is said by Zarkov at the end of the series to have conquered the universe.



Plot points taken from the immediately preceding serial, Flash Gordon's Trip to Mars include the Rock People as derived from the Clay People of the former, and the bringing-back-to-life of people assumed by Captain Torch to have died.

The chamber of the death dust experiments was previously used in the Buck Rogers serial. One money-saving gimmick used by Universal Studios was to take some exciting mountain climbing catastrophe, search, and rescue scenes from the obscure German film White Hell of Pitz Palu (1930)[1] and its music as well.

This serial contains greater story depth than the others, though the plot is quite episodic: Flash goes from battling in ice, to fire, to rock. It is readily seen as derived from the events of its age. Ming is a trope for the fascist dictators of the age. He has spies, secret police, military-technical laboratories, and kidnappers, and his agents fight a resistance movement. His rule of the few disparate regions of Mongo shown here is presented as just like the countries that Hitler captured. It is all exemplified when Ming dresses up just like an Earth dictator, except with a few more feathers in his cap, in the last episode.

Donald Curtis, playing Ronal, Flash's right-hand-man throughout the serial, inexplicably is omitted altogether from the screen cast despite the primary nature of his character. At the same time, co-star billing is given to Anne Gwynne, Universal ingenue whose role does not actually develop until the middle of the serial, but is retroactively enhanced through periodic, clumsy intercut shots from these later episodes into the first episodes, as well as her replacing, in the finale, Victor Zimmerman's henchman character, Thong, as Captain Torch's chief aide.

Critical receptionEdit

According to Harmon and Glut, Flash Gordon Conquers the Universe "was the most picturesque of the trilogy but surrendered much compelling charm for its cinematic sophistication."[1]

Chapter titlesEdit

  1. The Purple Death
  2. Freezing Torture
  3. Walking Bombs
  4. The Destroying Ray
  5. The Palace of Horror
  6. Flaming Death
  7. The Land of the Dead
  8. The Fiery Abyss
  9. The Pool of Peril
  10. The Death Mist
  11. Stark Treachery
  12. Doom of the Dictator



  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 Harmon, Jim; Donald F. Glut (1973). "2. "We Come from 'Earth', Don't You Understand?"". The Great Movie Serials: Their Sound and Fury. Routledge. pp. 44. ISBN 978-0-7130-0097-9. 
  2. Cline, William C. (1984). "Filmography". In the Nick of Time. McFarland & Company, Inc.. pp. 226. ISBN 0-7864-0471-X. 

External linksEdit

Download or view onlineEdit

Th UniversalMonsters This page uses content from Wikipedia. The original article was at Flash Gordon Conquers the Universe.
The list of authors can be seen in the page history. As with Universal Monsters Wiki, the text of Wikipedia is available under the GNU Free Documentation License.