Buster Crabbe as Flash Gordon [credited as Larry "Buster" Crabbe]
Jean Rogers as Dale Arden
Charles Middleton as Ming the Merciless
Priscilla Lawson as Princess Aura
Frank Shannon as Dr. Hans Zarkov
Richard Alexander as Prince Barin
Jack Lipson as King Vultan of the Hawkmen [credited as Jack Lipson]
James Pierce as Prince Thun of the Lion Men
Earl Askam as Officer Torch, leader of Ming's soldiers
Richard Tucker as Professor Gordon [uncredited in feature film version]
George Cleveland as Professor Henson, Professor Gordon's buddy
[uncredited in feature film version]
Flash Gordon (1936; film version): No
one can claim that this is a "slow old movie". This movie is
incredibly fast-paced and never stands still. It jumps from one
crazy scenario to another, and we wonder how Flash and Dale developed
any romantic relationship at all with so much activity happening.
The acting is hokey all around, but the movie makes
up for it with great spectacle and a likable cast. I think for
everyone, Buster Crabbe will always be Flash Gordon. That's
because he's a great Flash Gordon. Crabbe looks like Flash Gordon
should, and it looks like he's having a good time playing him onscreen.
Jean Rogers is hot as Dale Arden. This is the
only time we see Dale as a blonde in the original serials/films.
Jean played Dale in the next serial, "Flash Gordon's Trip to Mars"
(1938), but as a brunette. I'd say Jean Rogers is prettier than
Priscilla Lawson as Princess Aura, but you have to remember that Lawson
was made up to look a bit more "alien" in this serial, with funny
eyebrows and such. One advantage that Lawson has over Rogers is
that she's a bit chestier. I like both of the leading ladies of
this serial; they did good jobs and played interesting characters.
Charles Middleton is cool as Ming the
Merciless. Like Buster Crabbe will always be Flash Gordon,
Charles Middleton will always be Ming. He certainly matches the
look of the character from comics, and he plays it with the most
conviction. Ming is always deadpan, but he truly means what he
says and does, when he says
and does it.
Frank Shannon plays a good Dr. Hans Zarkov.
The character of Zarkov has been interpreted in so many ways that
Shannon does not stand out in the minds of "Flash Gordon" fans like
either Crabbe or Middleton, but he gives a strong performance.
This version of Zarkov is quite literally the most brilliant scientist
on Earth, probably anywhere. He's an older guy (60s-ish), and
kind of skinny. This Zarkov is very American with no kind of
accent, German or otherwise. I like Shannon as Dr. Zarkov, but
seeing him in short pants is just too, too funny! And he's in
short pants for most of the film (and serial version). He's not
"Mr. Good Legs".
I also really liked Richard Alexander as Prince
Barin. He's a husky fellow in this movie, and dressed like a
Spartan versus the rather "Robin Hood" look of the character most
people know from comics, etc. Alexander's a likable guy, and
looks like he could kick some butt. Since this movie called for a
Prince Barin that was strong and more physical, Alexander's portrayal
Visually, Jack "Tiny" Lipson makes a good King
Vultan. Acting wise, he has the character's basic personality of
being full of himself and stubborn. Lipson's only error is that
he played the character a bit too over-the-top. James Pierce does
a good job as Prince Thun of the Lion Men, but he doesn't LOOK like a
lion, like most people might be used to seeing. Instead, Thun has
shaggy hair and beard like a lion.
The special effects aren't too special, but we can
appreciate the attempt. Overall, this is an exciting Flash Gordon
screen adventure that's still watchable several decades later, and is a
pretty good (although not entirely faithful) adaptation to the origin
tale of Flash Gordon from the comics.
For This Film:
Atomic Rocketship [undefined film version
Flash Gordon: Rocketship [video title for film
Flash Gordon: Space Soldiers [video title for
Rocket Ship [USA; film version reissue title]
Space Soldiers [USA; TV alternate title for
This serial cost $360,000 to make, which was an
unusually high budget for movie serials at that time. This is
actually triple the amount of most serials' budgets. When you
watch this serial/film, and if you've seen other movies made around
that time, you will notice that it has very "top shelf" production
values of the day.
This serial took six weeks to shoot, and the cast
and crew put in many fourteen-hour work days.
There are thirteen chapters to this serial, which
is an unusual number of chapters for movie serials. Many film
serials have 12 or 15 chapters.
The basic storyline and cast of characters of
this serial/film is the one used for Filmation's animated "Flash
Gordon" series of 1979-1980, and the live-action feature "Flash Gordon"
Upon Flash Gordon's return to Earth, you'll see
footage of a maddening crowd of people. This is actually taken
from newsreel footage of Charles Lindbergh's legendary arrival in
Paris, France, in 1927.
Despite this serial's large budget, it used a lot
of sets and materials from other Universal Studios productions.
The laboratory and crypt set comes from "Bride of
The castle interiors come from "Dracula's
The idol prop comes from "The Mummy" (1932).
The opera house interiors come from "The Phantom
of the Opera" (1925).
The outer walls of Ming's castle are actually the
cathedral walls from "The Hunchback of Notre Dame" (1923).
The film version of this serial was re-released
in 1950 on a double bill with "Mars Attacks the World" (1938), which
was a film version of this serial's sequel, "Flash Gordon's Trip to
In 1954, the rather crappy syndicated TV series
of "Flash Gordon" starring Steve Holland led to the original three
Flash Gordon serials being retitled, so as not to confuse TV
audiences. This serial was retitled to "Space Soldiers".
Incidentally, this serial has also been titled "Flash Gordon: Space
Soldiers" on certain video releases.