In 1936, Flash Gordon was among the most popular comic strip characters in America when Universal Pictures first brought his planet-hopping exploits to the big screen in the 13-episode serial Flash Gordon, one of the most lavishly produced and wildly popular "chapter-plays" of its day. Flash Gordon's Space Soldiers, the title of the original serial's home video release (the title was changed in the early 1950s to avoid confusion with a short-lived Flash Gordon TV series), features all 13 installments in their entirety. The world is in a state of panic when it is discovered that a planet has fallen out of its normal orbit and is destined to collide with Earth in a matter of days. Brawny adventurer Flash Gordon (Buster Crabbe), his girlfriend Dale Arden (Jean Rogers), and renowned scientist Dr. Zarkoff (Frank Shannon) blast off into space in hopes of setting the runaway planet back on course. However, they discover that it was all a ruse cooked up by the wicked Ming the Merciless (Charles Middleton), despot of the Planet Mongo, as part of his latest plot for galactic domination. Flash soon finds himself battling Ming both for the fate of the Earth and the hand of the lovely Miss Arden, though Ming's daughter, Princess Aura (Priscilla Lawson) appears to have amorous ideas of her own for Flash. The producers of the serial stretched its budget by utilizing sets, costumes, and music from several of Universal's better-known horror films of the period, including The Bride of Frankenstein; the serial was also later edited into a feature film, entitled Flash Gordon: Rocketship.
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