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Sci-Fi Nerd: Commentary, reflection, and accolades from a fan’s point of view on all things sci-fi and fantasy.

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Destined for greatness and maybe even immortality, Flash Gordon was created near the advent of the modern motion picture industry, a hero for his time and one of the early entries into the pantheon of modern American mythology.

Flash Gordon is the hero of a space opera adventure comic strip originally drawn by Alex Raymond. First published January 7, 1934, the strip was inspired by and created to compete with the already established Buck Rogers adventure strip.

One thing led to another, and as Flash became more popular with young readers, it seemed almost inevitable he would soon transition to the fledgling moving pictures industry becoming popular at the time. Timing is everything, and Flash seemed custom-made for the niche of serial matinees unique to the period, created specifically and designed to separate children from their nickels weekly. These matinees were hugely popular and quickly became a modern tradition popular with both kids and parents who were glad to get rid of the little monsters for a while in what seemed like a relatively safe and harmless manner at the time. A notion that gave birth to an army of geeks, nerds, and freaks destined to become the science fiction fans of the post-industrial world.

Swept up into this tsunami of the cultural revolution were Clarence Linden Crabbe II, a competitive swimmer and actor known as Buster Crabbe, who won an Olympic event in 1932 before entering into acting. Crabbe played the titular roles as Tarzan, Buck Rogers, and Flash Gordon, being well suited to the athletic characters he played. he was justifiably popular in these roles. Which often called for the frenzied style of the action depicted in adventure movies of the time.

Flash Gordon Conquers The Universe (1940) was the third of three serialized films featuring the iconic Flash, composed of twelve episodes. Some fans do not realize it, but George Lucas’ Star Wars and Indiana Jones movies were tributes to these sorts of serialized adventure films and the period they were created in.

In Conquers The Universe, Flash re-teams with his partners in adventure Dale Arden (played earlier by Jean Rogers and this time by Carol Hughes) and Dr. Alexis Zarkov (Frank Shannon), who he had met earlier in the original serialized adventure Flash Gordon (1936) in which they team up against Ming The Merciless (Charles B. Middleton) the alien despot of the planet Mongol to prevent his planet from colliding with earth.

In this sequel, they once again visit the alien planet, searching for a cure for the deadly Purple Death, a plague that Ming is behind. His ships have been seen spreading “Death Dust” into Earth’s atmosphere, and the trio return to Mongols to find an antidote for the disease.

Before Princess Leia, Dale Arden was slim and attractive; Dale was the hottie of her times. Dale is Flash Gordon’s constant companion in his adventures, as well as his one true love. The emperor Ming the Merciless is immediately attracted to her. The early strips were basically based on Flash’s heroic efforts to rescue Dale from Ming’s many attempts to marry (hook-up with) her. She was one of several prototypical heroines of the modern age, a product of an era born of a combination of the classic romance figures of classical mythology and the birth of the industrial age. The modern woman, only partially a damsel in distress, beautiful, independent, intelligent and capable, makes a fitting science fiction female fantasy character. Along with Dr. Zarkov, the half-mad scientist, and Flash, they made a formidable team to throw a wrench into Ming’s plans.

The depiction of the art deco spaceships, and other artistic touches of the period in these films, along with the villains and allies they encounter in their adventures, are unforgettable. These films from Universal studios are remarkable in their staying power and are still enjoyed by audiences today, setting the standard many films have attempted to emulate for decades. This serial film is in the public domain and available to enjoy free online.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4hWZKjTfrdY

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tzhJ1UYQgLA

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Our Score
C

By Craig Suide

A genuine (OCD) enthusiast of Sci-FI and fantasy. Addicted to stories. a life-long fan of movies, TV, and pop culture in general. Purchased first comic book at age five, and never stopped. Began reading a lot early on, and discovered ancient mythology, and began reading science fiction around the same time. Made first attempts at writing genre fiction around age 12 Freelance writer for Sci-Fi Nerd (Facebook), retired professional gourmet chef. ex-musician, and illustrator

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