Encyclopedia of Fantasy (1997)
Flash Gordon Movies

A number of movies have been based on the Comic-strip characters and scenarios created by Alex Raymond.

1. Flash Gordon US serial movie (1936). Universal. Pr Henry MacRae. Dir Frederick Stephani. Spfx Norman Drewes. Screenplay Basil Dickey, Ella O'Neill, George Plympton, Stephani. Starring Richard Alexander (Prince Barin), Buster Crabbe (Flash Gordon), Priscilla Lawson (Princess Aura), John Lipson (King Vultan), Charles Middleton (Ming the Merciless), James Pierce (King Thun), Jean Rogers (Dale Arden), Frank Shannon (Dr Alexis Zarkov), Duke York Jr (Kala). 13 circa 20min chapters. B/w.

Earth lies in the path of the wandering planet Mongo. Flash, Dale and Zarkov fly by spaceship to Mongo, hoping to divert it from its course. There, however, they are seized and imprisoned under the tyrannical rule of Ming the Merciless, who hopes to become emperor of the Universe. But their lives are spared because Ming lusts for Dale while his daughter Aura lusts for Flash. Flash deposes the tyrant, and the Earthlings return home in triumph.

The creaking spfx are familiar from this era of serial movies, but FG had a comparatively large budget; even so, the music (by Franz Waxman) was drawn largely from The Bride of Frankenstein (1935) (see Frankenstein Movies), as were many of the sets. Middleton is an exceptional Ming and Rogers a very lovely Dale, although her acting abilities are not overtaxed. Crabbe, hair bleached to match the Comic-strip prototype, became the definitive image of Flash.

There were two serial sequels, Flash Gordon's Trip to Mars (1938), edited as the feature The Deadly Ray from Mars (1938; vt Flash Gordon: Mars Attacks the World), and Flash Gordon Conquers the Universe (1940), edited as the feature Purple Death From Outer Space (1940), as well as a spectacular remake, 2; a soft-porn spoof was the rather tedious Flesh Gordon (1974), inevitably sequelled. FG itself was re-released in various edited forms as Rocket Ship, Spaceship to the Unknown (1936), Perils from the Planet Mongo (1936), Space Soldiers and Atomic Rocketship. [JG]

2. Flash Gordon: The Greatest Adventure US Animated Movie (1979 tvm). Filmation. Voice actors Bob Holt (Ming), David Opatoshu (Zarkov), Diane Pershing (Dale Arden), Robert Ridgely (Flash). circa 100 mins. Colour.

Very little is known about this movie; we have been unable to obtain a reference copy. This was the pilot of the series described under 4. [JG]

3. Flash Gordon US movie (1980). EMI/Starling/Famous Films. Pr Dino De Laurentiis. Exec pr Bernard Williams. Dir Mike Hodges. Spfx sv George Gibbs. Screenplay Lorenzo Semple Jr (1923-2014), adapted Michael Allin. Based largely on 1. Starring Melody Anderson (Dale), Brian Blessed (Vultan), Timothy Dalton (Barin), Sam J Jones (Flash), Mariangela Melato (Kala), Ornella Muti (Aura), John Osborne (High Priest), Topol (Hans Zarkov), Max Von Sydow (Ming), Peter Wyngarde (Klytus). 115 mins. Colour.

A Science Fantasy that resites many motifs from heroic Folktale. Read this way, the story is that through sheer decency, Hero Flash wins the hand of the beautiful princess (Dale), cures the Evil princess Aura of her wickedness, unites all Mongo's feuding lordlings to defeat the evil Dark Lord and technofantastic Wizard Ming, and saves two worlds. Rather heavy-handed in its attempts at Parody and using stark garishness to compensate for appalling spfx, FG is a gaudy cliché whose charm should not be underestimated. [JG]

4. A series of six FG Animated Movies was released, in colour, during 1989-1990 by Filmation/King Features, direct to video; these were based on a tv series broadcast 1979-1980. Uniformly badly animated, plotted and voiced, they are: Flash Gordon US movie (?1989; 56 mins), Flash Gordon in A Planet in Peril (1989; 60 mins), Flash Gordon in To Save Earth (1989; 60 mins), Flash Gordon in The Frozen World (1989; 60 mins), Flash Gordon in Blue Magic (1990; 60 mins) and Flash Gordon in Castaways in Tropica (1990; 60 mins). The credits offered are incomplete: Pr Don Christensen. Exec pr Norm Prescott, Lou Scheimer. Anim dir Gwen Wetzler. Screenplay Ted Pedersen, Sam Peeples. Voice actors Melendy Britt (Princess Aura), Allen Melvin, Allen Oppenheimer, Diane Pershing (Dale Arden), Bob Ridgely (Flash Gordon). [JG]

This entry is taken from the Encyclopedia of Fantasy (1997) edited by John Clute and John Grant. It is provided as a reference and resource for users of the SF Encyclopedia, but apart from possible small corrections has not been updated.