Cast & Crew
Larry "buster" Crabbe
As a planet rushes toward a collision with the Earth, Flash Gordon leaves his polo team to be with his father, the eminent scientist Professor Gordon, during the final hours before destruction. However, atmospheric turbulence forces Flash to parachute from his transcontinental flight, on which he has met the beautiful Dale Arden. Flash and Dale land near the rocket ship of Doctor Zarkov, an enigmatic but brilliant scientist, who enrolls Flash in his plan to avert the cosmic catastrophe. Dale joins them in the rocket ship, and they land on the planet Mongo, where they are taken to the palace of the evil Emperor Ming. The wily Zarkov persuades Ming to conquer rather than destroy the Earth, but Ming condemns Flash to death and decides to marry Dale. Ming's sultry daughter, Princess Aura, desires Flash and rescues him. Hidden in a rocket, Flash attacks the gyroships of the native Lion Men when they fly against the palace. The rockets flown by Flash and Prince Thun, leader of the Lion Men, collide, and after crashing, Flash and Thun realize that they both oppose Ming. Zarkov informs Flash that Dale has been drugged so that she will marry Ming, but she is rescued by Flash and Thun. Aura assists in their escape, and they meet Prince Barin, the legitimate ruler of Mongo, whose parents were deposed by Ming. After emerging from the rocks of their escape tunnel, Zarkov and Dale are seized by the winged Hawk-men and taken to the aerial sky city of King Voltan. He orders Barin's rocket to be attacked with the melting ray and condemns Flash and Barin to slavery as stokers in the atomic furnaces, which supply the anti-gravity beams that support the sky city. Ming flies to the city when he learns that Aura has been taken captive, and on his arrival, Flash and Zarkov sabotage the furnaces. Zarkov substitutes a new ray after Voltan promises to release his friends, but Ming demands an imperial tournament that pits Flash against a vicious horned "orangopoid." Aura gives Flash a spear to kill the monster in the contest, whose victor will be given his choice of a bride at Ming's palace. The High Priest and Aura then conspire to give Flash a drug known as "the drops of forgetfulness," so that he will no longer know his friends. However, Barin takes Flash from Aura, and Zarkov restores his memory, then makes him invisible so that he can escape the guards. After returning Flash to visibility, Zarkov calls the Earth by radio, and as they prepare to depart, Barin protects Dale by hiding her in the palace catacombs. Aura pursues her with Tigron, and Flash kills the beast with his bare hands. The Lion Men then resume their attack in their gyroships, and this time Ming loses. After Ming enters the sacred temple of Tao, from which no man returns alive, Barin promises that Earth has nothing further to fear from Mongo. Before Flash, Dale and Zarkov leave the planet, the High Priest sets a time bomb on board their rocketship. Barin, however, learns of the bomb and radios the ship in time for Flash to throw it overboard. As the rocket prepares to land on Earth, Flash and Dale enjoy their first kiss.
Larry "buster" Crabbe
Norman S. Hall
Elmer A. Johnson
Sherman S. Krellberg
I'll soon be leaving for the planet Mongo, in a rocket-ship of my own design.- Dr. Zarkoff
Okay, Flash, I'm game. I'll help you save the world.- Dr. Zarkoff
Flash... Flash... Flash.- Dale Arden
She calls for Flash! I'll give her a flash!- Vultan
Although various modern sources credit the 1936, 13-chapter serial Flash Gordon as the source for the feature length film Rocket Ship, Universal legal files reveal that Rocket Ship was a feature-length version adapted from the second serial, Flash Gordon's Trip to Mars, made in 1938. Rocket Ship was tentatively set for an April 1938 release, however, no official release date can be found in contemporary records, and the film was neither reviewed nor copyrighted. A credit sheet, dated April 18, 1938, that is contained in the copyright records for Mars Attacks the World, a feature compilation of footage from both Flash Gordon and Flash Gordon's Trip to Mars, notes that its title was originally Rocket Ship. Later, scenes from the feature Rocket Ship appeared in Mars Attacks the World. The print viewed gave screenplay credit to Frederick Stephani, George Plympton, Basil Dickey, and Ella O'Neill, and also credited "Orig story and scr by Ray Trampe, Norman S. Hall, and Wyndham Gittens," who were the writers of Mars Attacks the World. According to studio publicity, the budget for the first Flash Gordon serial was about $350,000, a higher figure, according to modern sources, than most Universal features.
According to a modern interview, Buster Crabbe recalled that production on the serial began in October 1935 on a six-week schedule. Modern sources add the following information about the Flash Gordon serial: Eddie Parker doubled for Crabbe in some of his stunt scenes. Some scenes were filmed on location in Bronson Canyon in Hollywood. Many of the costumes, including those of "Flash," "Ming," "Barin" and "Torch," were exact reproductions of those in the comic strips. The "Orangapoid" was played by Ray "Crash" Corrigan in costume. Among the musical backgrounds are portions of many other Universal film scores, including Franz Waxman's score for The Bride of Frankenstein, which was released the previous year, and music by Heinz Roemheld and Karl Hajos from the 1933 film, The Invisible Man. Zarkov's rocket ship was a prop from the 1930 Fox feature film Just Imagine, from which some incidental footage was taken (see AFI Catalog of Feature Films, 1921-30; F2.2833). Silent newsreel footage was used to show the effects of "Ming's" ray on the Earth, and a ballet segment was taken from Universal's 1926 film The Midnight Sun (see AFI Catalog of Feature Films, 1921-30; F2.3605). Electrical equipment was designed and operated by Kenneth Strickfaden. In the 1960s, two new and different feature versions were taken from the original Flash Gordon serial and were edited together for broadcast on television. They were titled Spaceship to the Unknown and Perils from the Planet Mongo. Flash Gordon was remade in 1980 by Dino Di Laurentiis productions with Sam Jones in the title role.