What do you mean, "Flash Gordon approaching"?!
Flash Gordon is probably the best known cult-classic of campy pulp science fiction. Best known today for the 1980 movie with the soundtrack by Queen, it all started with a newspaper comic strip created in 1934 by Alex Raymond. Originally introduced as competition to Buck Rogers, the serial soon surpassed the older strip in popularity, in fact so much so, that it is still running to this day. In 1936, Universal produced the first of three movie serials, which also enjoyed immense success. In the late seventies, Flash Gordon reemerged on the small screen for an animated series, and around the same time, the Flash Gordon movie appeared for the big screen, the latest release up to today. As for what the future may bring, we shall have to see...
Every thousand years, I test each life system in the Universe. I visit it with mysteries, earthquakes, unpredicted eclipses, strange craters in the wilderness... If these are taken as natural, I judge that system ignorant and harmless - I spare it. But if the Hand of Ming is recognized in these events, I judge that system dangerous to us. I call upon the great god Dyzan, and for his greater glory...
... and for our mutual pleasure ...
... I destroy it utterly.
The comic strip:
started out as a comic strip in 1934. He was invented by Alex Raymond who wrote and drew the strip for the first 10 years until he went into the army, at which time Austin Biggs
took over the series. The series ran daily until 1996, and even today a new strip is put out every Sunday (now written and drawn by Jim Keefe
The movie serials:
Because of the immense popularity of the comic strip, the movie rights were bought by Universal Pictures
to create a 13 part cinema serial
in 1936 starring Buster Crabbe
as Flash (the intergalactic babe-magnet
), Jean Rogers
as Dale Arden
(Flash's very fragile girlfriend
, always prone to faint at the smallest shock), Frank Shannon
as Dr. Zarkov
and Charles Middleton
as Ming the Merciless
as well as Phyllis Lawson
as Princess Aura
(strong, forceful, uninhibited, topheavy - the complete opposite of Dale)..
This again was so popular, that it sparked off two further sequels, namely Flash Gordon's Trip to Mars in 1938 and Flash Gordon Conquers the Universe in 1940, along with revitalizing the entire movie serial genre. It must be noted that the series is racist and sexist at times, with the evil asian (with the beard to remind one of the evil Fu-Manchu and the frail and helpless women who just melt in the arms of a strong protective alpha-male. Still, if one is willing to overlook this flaw, the original series makes for excellent, if campy viewing pleasure. The special effects, once state-of-the-art, are laughable from today's standards, but they are part of the serials charm.
In 1972, the movie Flesh Gordon
, a sex-flick
based on the serials was put out. The story is severely based on the original concept and plot, and today, it can be really funny to watch, as some of the scenes are hilarious, such as the jumping penis-monsters, an stuff like that... There is further information here
The cartoon series:
In 1979, Flash Gordon was turned into a TV cartoon show, the new adventures of Flash Gordon
, produced by Filmation Productions
. The story followed the old comic strip closely with all the major character featured, but without the more adult angle. It enjoyed two seasons, each of 16 episodes. The first season episodes were 30 minutes long, while the second seasons' episodes were only 12 minutes. It ended in 1981, but was turned into an animated feature in 1982: Flash Gordon: The Greatest Adventure of All
There was also another, weaker cartoon show in 1986, where only Flash appeared alongside three other heroes as one of the Defenders of the Earth
. The other three heroes were Mandrake the Magician
, The Phantom
and Flash's son Rick
Best known today is the 1980 movie produced by Dino De Laurentiis
(who else) and directed by Mike Hodges
. It had a big budget, and used the same cliffhanger approach that made the serials so popular. Even in its style and with its cheap special effects it was similar to the serials, making it campy to the extreme, and thus enjoyable to watch, even if the dialogue is more than a bit wooden and some of the acting atrocious (worst of all Sam J Jones
as Flash). But to do the movie justice, some of the other acting was superb, especially Max von Sydow
's Ming the Merciless
. Peter Wyngarde
is a wonderfully evil Klytus
; Ornella Muti
is a lush Princess Aura
. In effect, the movie seems like a parody
of itself and the original serials at the same time, but played completely straight by the actors. The pulp sci-fi atmosphere is superbly supplemented by Queen
's soundtrack. I recommend watching this classic soon.
The TV series:
According to the IMDB there also appears to have been a 1996 TV show, which I didn't see. If anybody can point me to some more information, I'd like to add that in.
The creator of Flash Gordon was born October 2, 1909. After losing his job in the stock market crash, he enrolled in the Grand Central School of Art, and starts working on various comic strips as an assistant. In 1934, he finally began drawing Flash Gordon, an immediate hit. In 1944 he enlisted in the Marine Corps leaving Flash Gordon to writer Don Moore and artist Austin Briggs, who had been drawing the dailies and assisting on the Sundays. After returning form the war, he couldn't continue working on Flash because of King Feature's contract with Briggs. In September 1956, Raymond was killed in an automobile accident, aged 46.
Dispatch war rocket Ajax to bring back his body!