23 March 2007 | mstomaso
Classic serial - hectic pace, silly wandering plots, great fun!
Buster Crabbe was a big, good-looking guy who could act. The Flash Gordon serials of the 1930s used several big guys (most of whom really weren't actors) to bring to life the characters of a serialized cartoon. This is the first series, and, some of the experts believe it is the best. I am not an expert on Flash Gordon or serials, but I know what I like, and this serial was more entertaining and enjoyable than other classics like Radar Men on the Moon and The Phantom Creeps.
Flash starts out as a young man on a plane who is preoccupied about the planet which is about to slam into the earth, destroying everything, and the very pretty girl sitting next to him (Jean Rogers). The passengers bail out and the plane crashes. Flash saves the girl and lands near a rocket ship designed to solve the interplanetary problem by a seemingly deranged but very brilliant scientist (Frank Shannon). And the adventures have just begun.
As the serial progresses, we meet Ming the Merciless - self-proclaimed Emperor of the Universe; an enormous jovial winged king with the attention span of a chickadee; an honorable and huge prince clad in Roman armor with a sword and a fleet of rocket ships; a conniving princess who wants to possess Flash, a despicable high priest, and a tribe of enslaved space hippies who Flash will eventually inspire to great deeds.
Some of the dialog is predictably corny, but overall, the stories are cleverly plotted, well edited and very well directed. The special effects are good for their time, and the costuming is terrific. There is a lot of action and a lot of dialog. Most of the acting is surprisingly good, but there are a few glaringly bad exceptions. These little problems don't really reduce the entertainment value of the films however.
There are no great philosophical points you can take home from these films, but they do exactly what they were intended to do quite well - they entertain and stimulate the imagination. Good enough for me!