|Directed by||Frederick Stephani|
|Screenplay by||Frederick Stephani|
George H. Plympton
(as George Plympton)
|Based on||Flash Gordon|
by Alex Raymond
|Produced by||Henry MacRae|
Charles B. Middleton
|Edited by||Saul A. Goodkind|
King Features Syndicate
|Distributed by||Universal Pictures|
Flash Gordon is a 1936 superhero serial film. Presented in 13 chapters, it is the first screen adventure for Flash Gordon, the comic-strip character created by Alex Raymond in 1934. It presents the story of Gordon's visit to the planet Mongo and his encounters with the evil Emperor Ming the Merciless. Buster Crabbe, Jean Rogers, Charles Middleton, Priscilla Lawson and Frank Shannon portray the film's central characters. In 1996, Flash Gordon was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant".
Universal hoped to regain an adult audience for serials with the release of Flash Gordon and by presenting it in many of the top or "A-level" theaters in large cities across the United States. Multiple newspapers in 1936, including some not even carrying the Flash Gordon comic strip, featured half- and three-quarter-page stories about the film as well as copies of Raymond's drawings and publicity stills that highlighted characters and chapter settings.
The film was the first outright science-fiction serial, although earlier serials had contained science-fiction elements such as gadgets. Six of the fourteen serials released within five years of Flash Gordon were science fiction.
For syndication to TV in the 1950s, the serial was renamed Space Soldiers, so as not to be confused with the newly made, also syndicated TV series, Flash Gordon.
The serial film was also edited into a 72-minute feature version in 1936, which was only exhibited abroad, until being released in the USA as 1949 as Rocket Ship by Sherman S. Krellberg's Filmcraft Pictures.
A different feature version of the serial, at 90 minutes, was sold directly to television in 1966 under the title Spaceship to the Unknown.
Flash Gordon was Universal's second-highest-grossing film of 1936, after Three Smart Girls, a musical starring Deanna Durbin. The Hays Office, however, objected to the revealing costumes worn by Dale, Aura and the other female characters. In response to those objections, Universal designed more modest outfits for the female performers in the film's two sequels.
In his review of the film in the 2015 reference Radio Times Guide to Films, Alan Jones describes Flash Gordon as "non-stop thrill-a-minute stuff as Flash battles one adversary after another", and he states that it is "the best of the Crabbe trilogy of Flash Gordon films".
Two sequels to Flash Gordon, also in serial form and starring Buster Crabbe, followed the popular 1936 production: Flash Gordon's Trip to Mars (15 chapters) in 1938 and Flash Gordon Conquers the Universe (12 chapters) in 1940. Between the releases of those two later productions, Crabbe starred in an entirely separate but similarly structured Universal science-fiction serial portraying Buck Rogers, another popular character also featured in magazines, comic strips, and on radio in the late 1920s and 1930s.