MovieChat Forums > Flash Gordon Conquers the Universe (1940) Discussion > The weakest link in the Flash Gordon tri...

The weakest link in the Flash Gordon trilogy in my humble opinion.


There were things I liked about this serial and things I didn't, but over all it doesn't add up to the first two serials.

I liked the relevancy of the time, the way in which Ming now paralleled America's greatest threat, Adolf Hitler, complete with Germanic attires for he and his troops, a Hermann Goering-like Captain Torch, a reference to concentration camps, and a change of title from Emporer Ming to Dictator Ming. In accordance with Ming's transformation from Yellow Peril Emporer to Hitlerian Dictator, the way in which he was treated had changed. In the first two serials, Ming was to be sent to prison or deposed of, Flash condemning Tarnak's attempt to kill Ming in seemingly cold bood. Yet, in this serial, Flash Gordon and his companions had to eliminate Ming's threat perminantly in the same way that the serial creators felt that Hitler must be eliminated. Sure enough, it was scarcely a year later that America entered into World War II.

On the science fiction adventure side of the equation, I liked the Purple Death (brief though it was), the walking bombs, the attempt to drown Flash at the cost of Ming's own men, the cliffhanger in which Flash fights the large guard and they fall into the pit, and the camp title with Les Prelude accompaniment, but overall the serial just doesn't do it for me. The first one had a lot of cool scenery and some good fight scenes. The second one was more plot driven, presented Ming as a greater threat, and had a final battle between the hero and villain which the other two serials were lacking. However, the third doesn't seem to bring much to the table by comparison.

Roland Drew made a poor replacement for Richard Alexander as Prince Barin. Lee Powell, who played Roka, would have been better served to have played the role. As soon as I saw Drew's Barin, I knew he wouldn't be taking on the active fighting role the prince of Mongo had in the earlier serials. He was perhaps the best of the secondary characters. The action didn't stand up to either of the previous serials as well. The first serial had the battles with the ape men, orangapoid, and Prince Barin in disguise and the second serial had the struggle between Flash and Ming, but there were virtually no noteworthy conflicts in this film aside from possibly the brief struggle between Flash and Torch. I also found Ming's demise to be somewhat anticlimactic. I think that Flash comandeering Ming's ship and crashing it into his tower was exciting enough, but the lack of retaliation on Ming's part took away from any excitement. He was a trapped rat and nothing more. It would have been far more exciting if Ming had troops dispatched to shoot the Z-0 ship out of the sky and Flash overcame them en route to destorying Ming. Yet, we get Flash escaping from the guards, calling Ming's bluff, and then 15 minutes or so of talk before Flash crashes the ship and destroys Ming. I much prefered their ray gun battle from the second serial.

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Well, I have to agree with you wholeheartedly. I loved the serials as a kid and even then I thought the first and second were the best - and of those two, I though "Trip to Mars" was the best for plot, action and real sci-fi situations and people. Ming was great as usual, but so was the evil Queen Azura, and the clay people were far ahead of their time. Watching them on sunday morning TV was a real treat. I even thought the music for Mars was better than Universe because it didn't seem so symphonic (as it was of course).

The one thing that the first serial had that the second didn't was Jean Rogers in those incredible outfits - how did they get them past the censors (sorry ladies for being a bit sexist).

And then DeLaurentis had to go and ruin it all with his rendition years later - he should have stayed in bed!!

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Dino DeLaurentiis has made a career out of half-hearted film adaptations and cash-ins; King Kong (1976), Masters of the Universe, etc. For all I know, he could have singlehandedly killed the Flash Gordon franchise. Back in 1980, it was possible for Flash Gordon to make a comeback. Today, it'd be extremely difficult to do on a large scale without people thinking it an attempt to cash in on Star Wars' popularity.

Oh, and I wholeheartedly agree with you on Jean Rogers' outfits.

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This movie was Cheesey, with a capital C. But I liked it MUCH better then Buster's Buck Rodgers movie Planet Outlaws.

Trust me,
Swan

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I haven't seen that one. It's edited into a movie from the Buck Rogers serial, right?

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Yes.. Both are on the Mill Creek (stinky) Box Set "Apocalypse" 4 DVDs. 20 movies, and there were like 3 or 4 good ones. Lol!

Trust me,
Swan

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Yea, I have that one on one of my Mill Creek Entertainment collections. I think it's the "Sci-Fi films" one. I saw the actual serial that it was edited from. It wasn't that bad aside from the weak ending. I haven't seen the "edited into a film" version though.

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Yes, but although inferior to the first two, it's still good.

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I agree about the replacement for Richard Alexander to play Barin. I also hated the replacement of Priscilla Lawson ... she and Middleton had chemistry together. It was a real shame they couldn't get those two actors to play the roles in FGCTU. Other than that I like the film and the costumes.

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The weakest link was the writing. It was absolutely horrendous dialog with many of the actors just reciting their lines as if they read them off cue cards for the first time. But then, it mattered not at all to the kids who watched. The special effects were super bad though we never criticized that when we saw these serials in the movies. It all looked real to us.

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