4 October 2016 | MartinHafer
An old Flash Gordon serial chopped down to full-length picture size.
In the 1920s up to the early 50s, a staple of Saturday movie theaters were the movie serials. Each week, you'd see a different chunk of a very long movie--usually 4-5 hours long broken into about a dozen pieces. Folks loved them and they were entertaining...provided you weren't very demanding! The acting usually was adequate at best and the films were filled with one crazy death-defying stunt after another. As for the stories, they usually involved some goofy super-villain as well as a handsome, rugged star.
One of the weirdest genres within the serials were the sci-fi pictures--such as Buck Rogers and Flash Gordon. Both starred the same handsome hero (Buster Crabbe) and it was pretty easy to mix them both up...though the Flash Gordon was so popular it actually ended up being made into three series--"Flash Gordon", "Flash Gordon's Trip to Mars" and "Flash Gordon Conquers the Universe". "Purple Death from Outer Space" is actually this third series pared down to normal movie length--pared down from 220 minutes to only 88!
The Purple Death from the title refers to the sudden deaths of many humans on Earth...and in each case a weird purple mark appeared on the corpse's forehead. Dr. Zarkov thinks this might be the work of the Evil Ming the Merciless, so he and Flash blast off to investigate. His hunch turns out to be true and what follows are a series of adventures and near-death experiences as well as Flash and his friends looking for an antidote for the Purple Death.
If you've seen any of the old Flash Gordon serials, this is pretty much the same thing all over again--Mind trying to capture Dale to make her his bride and the Doctor to make him do his evil bidding. And, like the other serials, the trio of good folks are seemingly indestructible. Silly kids' stuff but entertaining despite the silly writing and costumes (many of which look like recycled clothes from "The Prisoner of Zenda" as well as "The Adventures of Robin Hood"--which is pretty odd considering it's sci-fi! Dopey fun.
By the way, during the mountain climbing portion of the film set in Frigia, keep count of the good guys. There are four but in several of the bits of stock footage they use, there are five!