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Mars Attacks the World

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The 1938 "Mars Attacks the World" is part of the popular Flash Gordon serials that were produced throughout the late 30s. Film serials are short subjects that were originally shown in theaters in conjunction with a feature film. The serials were broken up into a number of segments called chapters or episodes that ended with a cliffhanger to motivate the audience to come back and see the next chapter. The Flash Gordon serial and its sequels were major productions in their time and were the most expensive serials created. In addition, it was the only serial that was advertised in some theaters above the name of the feature presentation and was eventually selected for preservation in the U.S. National Film Registry.

Ford Beebe and Robert F. Hill directed the Flash Gordon serials. Larry "Buster" Crabbe starred as the legendary Flash Gordon. Crabbe, who graduated from the University of Southern California, was on the 1928 and 1932 summer Olympic teams and in 1932 he won the Olympic 400-meter Freestyle Swimming Championship. Crabbe began working as an actor for Paramount and was cast into various Zane Grey westerns. Though he made a number of appearances in many films and science fiction serials, Crabbe is best remembered for his role as Flash Gordon in the Universal Studios Flash Gordon serials. In 1940 Crabbe acted in a string of Billy the Kid westerns for low-budget studio, PRC. After World War II, Crabbe acted on the side as he devoted much of his time to his swimming pool corporation and the operation of a boy’s camp that he created in New York.

Jean Rogers played the role of leading lady, Dale Arden. The beautiful Rogers was born in Massachusetts and began acting after she won a national beauty contest in 1933 and was offered a contract by a Hollywood producer. Following her move to Hollywood, Rogers was signed by Warner Brothers studio and a year later she left Warner Brothers and signed a contract with Universal. Like Crabbe, Rogers appeared in several of the Universal serials, and is best remembered for her role in the Flash Gordon serial. Rogers became a leading lady of low-budget films throughout the 30s and 40s. She retired from acting in 1951 after making the film, "The Second Woman".

Charles Middleton plays the role of Emperor Ming the Merciless. Middleton was born in Elizabethtown, Kentucky and worked in a traveling circus and acted in live theatre before he turned to motion pictures in 1920. Middleton’s career began to flourish when sound was introduced in movies because of baritone voice. Many found that his voice was perfect for villainous roles and though he acted in a number of roles, he is best remembered as the Emperor Ming in the Flash Gordon serials.

The Science

Mike Murray

Mike MurrayMike Murray of Utah’s Clark Planetarium discusses the red planet and the film “Mars Attacks The World.”


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