These are the classic "Flash Gordon" serials from Universal, starring Buster Crabbe in the title role, with Charles Middleton as Emperor Ming "The Merciless" and Frank Shannon as Dr. Alexis Zarkov. The first two, "Flash Gordon" (1936) and "Flash Gordon's Trip to Mars" (1938) have Jean Rogers as Dale Arden, and Richard Alexander as Prince Barin, with Carol Hughes and Roland Drew in these roles for the last serial, "Flash Gordon Conquers the Universe" (1940). The acting, special effects and other aspects of these are thoroughly discussed elsewhere; I'll just note that the appearance of the Flash Gordon comic strip may well have provoked over-the-top serials like "The Lost City" and "The Phantom Empire," and Universal was ready for these classics, having made the first comic strip adaptation with "Tailspin Tommy" in 1934.
This "Collectable Video-Book" is by Image/Madacy Home Entertainment, # VB9 51292, the discs being the same ones first issued by Image in 1999 with only the labels changed to match the new packaging. They are numbered a little oddly; disc 1 has the first serial, but the second serial is on discs 3 and 4 owing to the layout of the package. At least they are labelled correctly. Included is a 24-page booklet, "Flash Gordon & the Golden Age of Comic Strips," with text by David Fiore and containing a number of illustrations from the comic strip by Alex Raymond, which is an "extra feature" not present in the old set, though the down side is that the package is 3/4 inch taller than a standard DVD case or VHS tape. The discs are stored in pockets in the cardboard cover, with a soft plastic piece holding them at the center hole; they are not especially easy to remove and could easily get damaged in the process. The cardboard folder doesn't latch closed, and there is no outer sleeve provided, so the discs are not protected as well against dust as they would be in normal cases. Still, the package thickness is about the same as a standard DVD case, taking less horizontal space than the old set.
As for the discs, the picture quality is decent, for existing prints of Universal serials, sharp and with mostly-good gray scale, though no extensive clean-up has been done. There are small scratches and dirt, some of which is from the original negatives, and a few scenes are a little bright, with highlights slightly washed out. The first serial has an increase in the number of scratches near the ends of the reels, noticed mostly at the mid-point of some chapters. The titles of "Flash Gordon's Trip to Mars" are rather grainy, but the chapters themselves show less of the problem. The sound is clear enough for the dialogue to be understood, but the first two serials have some speed glitches, "wow" or intermittent sticking of the soundtrack heard mostly in the music of the credits. It is worse in "Flash Gordon's Trip to Mars" where the instability can even be heard in the "rocket motors" sputtering through the air. This serial is also still missing the 70-second piece from Chapter 3 where the pursuing Stratosled is shot down by Flash and Zarkov, though it was included in the "Space Soldiers' Trip to Mars" version run for many years on television. The third serial, "Flash Gordon Conquers the Universe" has the best print quality. Those complaining about a grainy image are most likely observing the truly dreadful quality of Universal's stock footage, especially that from the 1929 German film "Die Weisse Hölle vom Pitz Palü" ("The White Hell of Pitz Palu") used extensively for the avalanche rescue scenes in Frigia, where Flash and party have gone to find "Polarite." Grain can become fairly intolerable if the sharpness enhancement levels are excessive in the monitor and DVD player. The old film also shows some flicker, and a clip from it appears in the opening titles. Fortunately such "defects" have not been "corrected" in the Image edition; it appears as it would have in the theatre.
The included booklet is entertaining, if not a great wealth of information, and the package is worthwhile for those who don't already have the earlier DVD set from Image. I had hoped that some effort would have been put into correcting the defects in the film prints, but these serials are a lot of fun, when watched with time between the chapters, and at least they remain available in generally good transfers. I think that's enough for a 4-star "I Like It" rating.