Flash Gordon Conquers the Universe
Once again, it's up to Flash Gordon, Dale Arden, and Dr. Zarkov to rescue Earth from the evil designs of the tyrannical Ming The Merciless. In "Flash Gordon Conquers The Universe" (1940), earthlings suffer "The Purple Death," a plague like none history has ever seen. Turns out, Ming has been loading Earth's atmosphere with an "electrified dust" that causes the strange, fatal malady. Fortunately, when our heroes travel to the planet Mongo to sort Ming out, they find an antidote and the help of allies old and new, including Prince Barin of the forest realm Arboria and Queen Fria, sovereign of the icy land, Frigia.
The "Flash" characters originally came to life in the Thirties through the pen of comic strip artist Alex Raymond at the behest of King Features Syndicate, which wanted to give the Buck Rogers strip a run for its money. King Features played a critical role in the development of comics into a full-fledged narrative art form and, no doubt, was instrumental in a crossover from newsprint to film that was so successful, it resulted in three film serials starring Buster Crabbe as Flash and other adaptations, including the Eighties' version which featured Queen's unforgettable soundtrack.
In the first two serials, "Flash Gordon" (1936) and "Flash Gordon's Trip To Mars" (1938), the comic strip's brunette Dale was replaced by a blonde version, played by Jean Rogers (alas, no relation to Buck). Rogers was a starlet who experienced a fair amount of success in Hollywood's studio system, appearing in numerous films as she worked her way through several companies: starting at Warner Brothers, starring in "Flash" at Universal, then moving on to Twentieth Century Fox before the third serial was filmed. Carol Hughes plays Dale in this third and last serial with Crabbe, and sports the dark locks of her comic strip counterpart—perhaps because Luli Dest, the actress playing Queen Fria, got to the blonde wig first?
Brenda van der WielBrenda van der Wiel, University of Utah costume designer and professor, discusses the design process for theater costuming and the film “Flash Gordon Conquers the Universe.”
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