To be continued next week...once those words would flash up on movie screens and be greeted with groans of disappointment and anguish as young movie goers realised they had a full seven days before they could find out what happened to Flash Gordon, Superman or Batman. This was serial cinema and in the early days the serials were usually western adventures but in 1936 Universal made cinema history with Flash Gordon - not only was this the first sci-fi serial for the cinema but it was also the most expensive at a cost of $125,000. And although it has made more money over the years than any other serial its producer was never allowed to make another movie again. Buster Crabbe the star of that serial played Flash twice more and became the all American hero with other roles including Tarzan, Buck Rogers and Billy the Kid.
"They entertained a generation of snot-fuelled youngsters in post-war
fleapits, and subsequent generations via the medium of summer holiday
telly. They were responsible for shaping the landscape of mainstream
Hollywood for decades to come. " TV Cream
The serial was based on the comic strip and stuck closely to the source material - Alex Raymond's drawings became a blueprint for the design of the movie which still looks good today. It also stuck the comic's episodic format and each week would end with a cliffhanger. After fifteen episodes the story was over and young fans clamoured for more. The studio gave it to them with two other Flash adventures. In 1938 we saw Flash Gordon's trip to Mars which saw the studio try and lure in a more adult audience to the serials and in 1940 this was followed up by Flash Gordon Conquers the Universe. The year previously Buster Crabbe had cemented his idol status by playing Buck Rogers. However the only Sci-Fi hero who presented a real rival was Crash Corrigan but in the Forties the super hero was brought into the Saturday Morning serials with The Adventures of Captain Marvel in 1941. Batman came in 1943 and in 1944 it was Captain America.
The serials were the perfect home for superheros of all kinds - the comic books were episodic by nature which made them excellent material to be adapted into the exciting shorts.
Below we have embedded an episode of Flash Gordon Conquers the Universe.