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Flash Gordon Conquers the Universe (1940)

Approved | | Action, Sci-Fi, Adventure | 9 April 1940 (USA)
Flash Gordon, Dale Arden and Dr. Zarkov return to the planet Mongo for an antidote to the Purple Death, which wreaking destruction on Earth. However, Ming the Merciless has other plans for them.




(screenplay), (screenplay) | 2 more credits »

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Cast overview, first billed only:
Flash Gordon (as Larry 'Buster' Crabbe)
Sonja [Chs. 2, 6-12]
Professor Gordon [Chs. 1, 4]
Dr. Frohmann [Chs. 1, 4]
Professor Arden [Chs. 1, 4]
Don Rowan ...
Victor Zimmerman ...
General Lupi [Chs. 1-2]


A mysterious plague, the Purple Death, ravages the earth. Dr. Zarkov, investigating in his spaceship, finds a ship from planet Mongo seeding the atmosphere with dust. Sure enough, Ming the Merciless is up to his old tricks. So it's back to Mongo for Flash, Dale, and Zarkov, this time with ready-made allies waiting: Prince Barin of Arboria and Queen Fria of the frozen northern land of Frigia; where, it so happens, is found polarite, antidote to the plague. But Ming will use all his forces to keep our heroes from thwarting his plans of conquest... Written by Rod Crawford <puffinus@u.washington.edu>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


From the ALEX RAYMOND newspaper feature owned and copyrighted by King Features Syndicate (all of the original posters and cards) See more »


Approved | See all certifications »




Release Date:

9 April 1940 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Flash Gordon: Space Soldiers Conquer the Universe  »

Company Credits

Production Co:

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs

Sound Mix:

(Western Electric Sound System)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
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Did You Know?


In the final chapter before his demise, Ming is looking to escape. In the endings of most serial episodes the hero is is the one trying to escape (then thought to be killed - until the next week). This might suggest another sequel or fourth Flash Gordon serial. However, after 7 December 1941 and the attack on Pearl Harbor, just 3 years after Orson Welles' infamous 'War of the Worlds' radio broadcast simulating an attack from from outer space, the production of "space travel" films were put on hold. See more »


Version of Flash Gordon (2007) See more »


Les Preludes
Written by Franz Liszt
Used behind main title and throughout the serial
See more »

Frequently Asked Questions

See more (Spoiler Alert!) »

User Reviews

FLASH GORDON # 3, Is It Three Strikes You're OUT, or Third Time's a Charm?
5 November 2006 | by (United States) – See all my reviews

The success of the 2 prior Flash Gordon serials and the continued and ever expanding popularity of the Newspaper Comic Strip no doubt were the prime movers behind the filming of the third installment. Universal Pictures had done well with the production of many other titles belonging to Hearst's King Features, so they were given the go ahead for the new project.

Buster Crabbe was brought back for his powerful, faithful characterization. This was after he had time out to portray rival Spaceman* in the title role of BUCK ROGERS (Universal 1939).Also returning were Charles B. Middleton (Emperor Ming) and Frank Shannon (the good Dr. Zarkov).

Replacement for Miss Jean Rogers was Carol Hughes, a dark haired beauty of a starlet, who had a lot of success in the '30's and '40 in many supporting roles and Female leads, mostly in 'B' Films.

Prince Barin(Roland Drew) and Princess Aura(Shirley Deane)** were also played by newcomers to the roles. But it wasn't just a difference of actors, for their appearance as well as the overall look of the Planet Mongo, was now radically different.We'll try to explain, at least offering some theory.

The surface of Mongo now looked more like medieval western and northern Europe. Barin's domain, the Kingdom of Arboria was like one, giant Sherwood Forest. Baron, himself, and his soldiers often sported the green costuming of a Robin Hood and his Mery Men.They were armed with long bows and swords in addition to their ray guns.The frozen land to the north was called Frigia and was the Domain of one Queen Fria. The Queen looked very much like popular Sweedish Ice Skating Champion turned Movie Star, Sonja Hejne. The Queen also had a very Scandanavian sounding accent.

All of these changes would seem extremely puzzling to any modern day viewer, 'for back in the day', everybody read the comic page and knew the story lines. It was the comic strip,in the news print,that caused all the changes. Creator, Alex Raymond, had made gradual changes in the design and artwork. This equaled a sort of evolution from a setting that looked like a of combination Romanesque,Chinese, Egyptian and Art Decco to a very modern, western-styled decor*** and costuming. Now Ming had secret police, slave labor camps and spies. We also hear Ming referred to as 'Dictator' Ming. In short, the comic page and serial now mirrored developments in Western Europe and the rest of the World in that period of time between World Wars.

The story line in this FLASH GORDON CONQUERS THE UNIVERSE is most action filled and loaded with a load of new developments. Robot attackers, invisibility screened rockets, a new race of 'Rock Men' and incendiary projectiles were all featured prominently in the see-saw action. There is a sort of back and forth series of battles in which combatants from either side are captured and subsequently rescued or ransomed.

Maybe I'm being a little too critical here, as we must remember that these Serials were meant to be seen a chapter a week, not all at once in one or two sittings.

There is one point thus far overlooked in this review, and that is the general look of the production. The Robin Hood type sets were as good as there were around. The cinematography is as beautiful as any in a serial, ever.

As a kid growing up in Chicago one could identify with this last of the FLASH GORDON Trilogy. Afterall, our area is annually transformed into a veritable Frigia for at least 6 to 8 weeks every December, January and February.

NOTE: * Flash and Buck were not and could not be rivals as Buck Rogers's adventures are set 1n the 25th Century. They were real competitors in the market place,for "Box Office"(more newspaper subscribers),if you will.

NOTE: ** The evolution of this Royal Couple also was effected by the 1938 Waener Brothres' Film, THE ADVENTURES OF ROBIN HOOD, as Barin's appearance morphed from looking like a Power Lifter in Roman garb to a sort of 'Road Show' Errol Flynn. Aura changed from a scantily clothed nymphomaniac to a perfect picture of nobility.

NOTE*** 'Western'as in Western Civilization, not Country & Western.

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