Monday, April 6, 1970

Flash Gordon: Space Soldiers

Flash Gordon: Space Soldiers was the first of three serials produced by Universal Studios featuring Buster Crabbe as comic strip hero Flash Gordon. The serial was comprised of thirteen episodes with each coming in at just under twenty minutes long and follows Crabbe as the titular hero along with his companions Dale Arden (Jean Rogers) and Doctor Alexis Zarkov (Frank Shannon) as they journey to the planet Mongo and do battle with the forces of the evil Emperor Ming (Charles B. Middleton).

The serial was originally simply titled Flash Gordon, but it was renamed Flash Gordon: Space Soldiers several years later to differentiate it from the 1954 Flash Gordon television series. The production had a fairly big budget for the time, with various sources reporting that it cost between $350,000 and $1,000,000 to make. For comparison purposes, the 1939 movie Wizard of Oz had a budget $2,000,000. The serial was the first "science fiction" serial to be made, and was intended to bring adult viewers back to watching serials, which seems odd since science fiction became equated with "kid viewing" by the 1950s.

Despite its relatively large budget, the serial cut costs by reusing lots of sets and footage from other movies, resulting in a pastiche effect. Even so, the serial was placed in the National Film Registry by the Library of Congress on the basis of being "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant". The serial was later recut into a much shorter feature film that bore the various titles of Rocket Ship, Spaceship to the Unknown, and Atomic Rocketship.

Episode 1: The Planet of Peril
Episode 2: The Tunnel of Terror
Episode 3: Captured by Shark Men
Episode 4: Battling the Sea Beast
Episode 5: The Destroying Ray
Episode 6: Flaming Torture
Episode 7: Shattering Doom
Episode 8: Tournament of Death
Episode 9: Fighting the Fire Dragon
Episode 10: The Unseen Peril
Episode 11: In the Claws of the Tigron
Episode 12: Trapped in the Turret
Episode 13: Rocketing to Earth

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