PURPLE DEATH FROM
STARRING: Buster Crabbe, Carol
Hughes, Charles Middleton, Frank Shannon, Don Rowan, Capt. Torch, Victor
Zimmerman, Lee Powell
1966, 88 Minutes, Directed by:
Ford Beebe, Ray
Flash Gordon, Dale Arden and Rd. Zarkov must go to the planet Mongo and fight
the evil emperor Ming when a deadly “Purple Death” plague breaks out on Earth.
Tracking the source, our group of adventurers flies to it in Dr. Zarkov’s
rocket. There they discover that Emperor Ming, whom they believed dead at the
end of their last battle, is still alive. He is threatening to not only conquer
all of Mongo, but is also attacking Earth again, using a “Death Dust” spread by
his spaceships that will eventually destroy everyone on Earth.
In 1966 the various episodes of the 1940 Universal serial
Flash Gordon Conquers the Universe serial were edited together as one movie and
syndicated out to TV as Purple Death from Outer Space.
Flash Gordon Conquers the Universe was the third
— and last — of the
Flash Gordon serials starring Buster Crabbe. (Serials were short 12 minutes or
so episodes from ongoing adventures aimed at children, in particular boys, which
were screened before the main attraction at cinemas in the 1930s. They proved to
be an inspiration for the Indiana Jones movies and
George Lucas wanted to do a Flash Gordon movie, but when he couldn’t
obtain the rights, he made Star Wars instead.)
The Flash Gordon serials were always amongst the better
serials, so the production values (sets, effects, costumes, etc.) were better
than most of their competitors’. That doesn’t mean that they were any good
— even by the standards of the time they were pretty
B-grade. But at least Purple Death from Outer Space moved the action
around a bit to various locales such as forests, snow-covered mountains and so
on instead of reusing the same few locations over and over again
— a bit like the brand new Flash Gordon TV
series on Sci-Fi Channel.
Told in a breathless “and then!” story-telling style
reminiscent of children’s essays, they should still appeal to small boys. Adults
will only smile indulgently at the cheap sets, overuse of stock footage, dated
special effects, ridiculous and bad acting.
However despite this particular serial’s reputation for
over-the-top camp that things actually seem quite subdued —
especially compared to the self-conscious post-modern camp take on the character
in the 1980 Flash Gordon big screen movie.