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The third and best of Buster Crabbe's Flash Gordon serials
on 9 June 2005
"Flash Gordon Conquers the Universe" was the third and best of the serials starring Buster Crabbe. Alex Raymond's character first appeared in a comic strip in 1934 and was briefly in the pulps as well, created to be King Feature's competition for Buck Rogers. The very first panel of the strip had the thrilling newspaper headline: "WORLD COMING TO END-STRANGE NEW PLANET RUSHING TOWARD EARTH-ONLY MIRACLE CAN SAVE US, SAYS SCIENCE." Two years later we had the first serial of "Flash Gordon" (a.k.a. "Space Soldiers"), with Crabbe (his hair dyed blonde) as our hero.
In this 12-part serial finds Alex Raymond's science-fiction hero battling Ming the Merciless (Charles Middleton). Flash has to save the earth from a mysterious plague known as the Purple Death. When Dr. Zarkov (Frank Shannon) finds one a spaceship from planet Mongo seeding the atmosphere it is clear that Ming the Merciless is back to his old tricks. Flash is aided by old friend Prince Barin of Arboria (Roland Drew) and his new wife Princess Aura (Shirley Deane), as they head to Frigia, where our heroes will find polarite, the antidote to the plague, and some really interesting locking Rock People. Of course, Ming is going to go out of his way to stop Flash and his friends.
My only real complaints are that the costumes look like leftovers from "Robin Hood" and that Carol Hughes replaced Jean Rogers as Dale Arden; yes, she looks more like Dale did in the comic strip, but I did not read the comic strips so that is not a consideration (and I prefer Rogers as a blonde in the first Flash Gordon serial, not the brunette she was in the second, "Flash Gordon's Trip to Mars"). Oh, well, life is full of such disappointments, but we push on. you want to watch the three Flash Gordon serials in order, but if you start with this one you will certainly be able to follow the fun without any problems.