FLASH GORDON CONQUERS THE UNIVERSE

A friend loaned this to me and I have been watching through it.  I guess it was matinee cinema for the 1940s.  Each episode was about half an hour long and ended with Flash facing fatal death and the ominous THE END.  Presumably this was to hold the attention of the boys until they came back the next Saturday.  They could play out their own adventures during the week.

The emperor Ming is the stringy-bearded dictator of the empire of Mongo, the home of the dreaded yellow peril perhaps.  He is seeding the earth with the purple plague in prepation to his invasion.  Between trying to conquer his enemies with scientism and turning the universe into his minions Ming likes to relax in his throne room watching dancing girls.  Politely!

Curiously enough Ming sounds disturbingly like Winston Peters!

Once his plans to conquer the earth fail Ming turns his attention to his rivals in the Ruritanian kingdom of Arboria which is defended by the men in tights.  Flash and his chums have to fight off suicide drones and flaming bombs while flying around space rockets powered by sparkers with only minimal special effects to aid them.  Fortunately in an age before Captain Kirk no shirts get ripped, and in black and white, no one gets to be a red-shirt!  There’s no kissing either.  This is for boys!

Between the black and white television and the American accents I was constantly expecting the Marx Brothers to burst out of cupboard and start firing off wisecracks!  Then in the Land of Death the final secret is revealed.  The original language of the forerunner humans of Earth and Mongo is, in fact, back-masking!

In an technology that has radio phones, the car alarm and glowing water coolers they still haven’t invented a helmet that protects a guard from stunning blows on the back of the head!  That happens at least twice!  Despite being a genocidal dictator Ming has surprising loyalty from his closest minions.  They are obedient to his commands and not treacherous to him.  Apart from Princess Aura, Ming’s daughter and Princess Consort of Arboria only Ming’s scientists and Arborian agents in his court change sides.  His soldiers and own agents in Arboria remain loyal to him.  He must pay well!  Despite all his posturing and threats none of his own allies are punished for their failures.  The merits of a small cast perhaps?

At the end of the serial Ming is defeated and everyone goes home.  Please get your ice cream and return to your seats before the main feature begins!

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