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Flash Gordon
(1936 Serial)

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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 worked.

    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.

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