Plot: What’s it about?
Whenever there is an evil, destructive deed been done, you can’t help but assume that Ming The Merciless (Charles Middleton) is behind it and most of the time, you’d be correct in that assumption. So it comes as no surprise to Dr. Zarkov (Frank Shannon) that Ming’s fingerprints can be found on this latest attack on the people of Earth. He has done some vile and cruel things in the past, but Ming has done his worst this time, infesting the population with a strange, devastating disease. The plague is called The Purple Death and Ming has been using his ship to stir up dust, in an effort to keep the plague moving across the lands. This must be stopped of course, but how? Flash Gordon (Buster Crabbe) arrives and he has a plan to be sure, which is to find an antidote fast and use it to cure those infected. Seems simple enough, but Ming won’t let it be that easy of course. As Flash and his buddies travel to a distant planet to track down the antidote, you can be sure Ming has some aces up his sleeve, to throw them off course and allow the virus to continue to spread.
This is a classic serial and I have to admit, I loved every episode. I didn’t think I would, but by the end I was sucked in just like the creators had planned. I am a science-fiction fan and this serial offers some cool stuff to look at, as well as a nice storyline and decent enough acting. I am speaking of course about the wacky visuals and props used, which range from the practical and effective to the outlandish and laughable. I wouldn’t have it any other way though, as it all emerges in fine form and works well enough for me. The cliffhangers are cool and I think I will revisit this release, to be sure. This is a two disc release, which include the full selection of episodes for Flash Gordon Conquers The Universe, as well as some nice bonus materials. The audio & video are good and with the bonus features, this one is more than worth the cash. I do wish I didn’t have to change/flip discs so much, but that’s a price I am willing to pay in this case. Whether you’re a longtime fan or just getting started with Flash Gordon, don’t miss this stupendous two disc release of one of the classics.
Video: How does it look?
Flash Gordon Conquers The Universe is presented in a full frame transfer, which preserves the serial’s original aspect ratio. This looks good, but some unavoidable age issues arise. I found some damage and debris at times and while that isn’t good, this is to expected from a film of this age (1940). The black & white image is sharp though, detail is high and contrast is very well balanced. I detected no compression flaws, even in the smokiest and most complex sequences.
Audio: How does it sound?
The original mono track is used and though it isn’t memorable, it more than handles the task. I was surprised at times with how clear this mix was, as many titles this old display a lot of harshness and distortion. That’s not the case here though, these episodes sound terrific. The music is clean and loud, but never overpowers the other audio elements. The sound effects also come through well, though they don’t have the punch I would have liked. Dialogue is sharp and crisp too, no volume or clarity issues in the least.
Supplements: What are the extras?
VCI Home Video has included some nice supplements with this release, including some cool classic television commercials. Also found on the discs is footage of Buster Crabbe’s Olympic antics, still photographs, and a wealth of interviews with the man. A nice selection of bonus materials indeed, kudos to VCI for tacking all these on.