Alex Raymond created Flash Gordon as a comic strip for King Features Sydicate to compete with the already popular Buck Rogers. King Features had tried to get the rights to Edgar Rice Burroughs' John Carter of Mars series, but failed. They then to Raymond, a staff artist. Raymond, in part, used elements of Philip Wylie's novel When Worlds Collide as his inspiration. When the syndicate accepted his proposa, Raymond was teamed with experienced writer and editor Don Moore as a ghostwriter. The first Flash Gordon comic strip appeared on January 7, 1934. The strip was an outstandind success and became one of the most popular comic strips of the 1930s, spawning merchandise galore, including toy spaceships and ray guns.
The world-wide popularity of the strip was diminshed somewhat during World War II. Nazi Grmany refused to let the strip run in German newspapers; Mussalini's Italy restricted it to only two newspapers; and Spain's only newspaper to carry the strip ceased publication with the Spanish Civil War in 1938. Following World War II, the floodgates reopened for the comic strip.
Three serial films starring Buster Crabbe as Flash were made, beginning in 1936; all three were later condensed into full movies.
In May 1953, an international West German, French, and American production company began filming a live action half hour show in an abandoned beer hall in Stugart, Germany, allowing parts of the war-torn city to be used as backdrops. The first 26 episodes were shot there before the director, Wallacw Worsley Jr., quit over a salary dispute. The final 13 episodes were filmed in Marseille with new director Gunther vom Fritsch. Flash Gordon ran in syndication through most of the United State, while it was broadcast on the East Cost by the Dumont Network. The show proved to be very popular and reruns continued into the early 1960s.
In the series Flash Gordon is an agent for the Galactic Bureau of Investigation. With his fellow agents Dale Arden and Dr. Zarkov, the trio traverl the galaxy under the order of Paul Richard to battle space kmonsters, power-mad alien dictators, and any other threats to the cosmos. (In hindsight, there are traces of imperialism and capitolistic themes, but, hey, it was the Cold War 50s.)
The premier episode, "The Planet of Death," has Flash Dale, and Zarkov traveling to the planet Tarsit to investigate an ancient curse. There, they face a traitorous scientist and a threatened invasion by the evil planet Ebon. The screenplay was by Pearl Markham and Bruice Elliot.
Steve Holland stars as Flash. In later years he served as model for "Doc Savage" on the many paperback covers created by artist James Bama Dale Arden is portrayed by 21-year-old Irene Chapman. While the first season of Flash Gordon was airing, she also appeared as a harem girl in a television commercial for men's aftershave. I can't find much information about Joe (Joseph Nash), who played Dr. Zarkov. He did has a role as the Head Waiter in the 1951 television film of Clayton Rawson's Th Great Merlini, though. The character of Commander Paul Richard laster only eight episodes and he was played by Henry Beckman, who had a 53-year screen careert in flims and television, including regular roles in I'm Dickens, He's Fenster, Here Comes the Bride, Funny Face, and Bronc. None of the other actors used in the series spoke English, which added a challenge to filming.
Enjoy this episode.