Flash Gordon's Trip to Mars
Directed by Ford Beebe
Robert F. Hill
Frederick Stephani (uncredited)
Written by Ray Trampe
Norman S. Hall
Wyndham Gittens
Herbert Dalmas
Alex Raymond (based on the comic strip by)
Starring Buster Crabbe
Jean Rogers
Charles B. Middleton
Frank Shannon
Beatrice Roberts
Cinematography Jerome Ash
Distributed by Universal Pictures
Release date(s) March 21, 1938
Running time 15 chapters (299 min)
Country United States
Language English

Flash Gordon's Trip to Mars is a 1938 serial film of 15 episodes, based on the comic strip Flash Gordon. It is the second of three Flash Gordon serials made between 1936 and 1940.

The main cast from first serial reprise their roles: Buster Crabbe as Flash Gordon, Jean Rogers as Dale Arden, Frank Shannon as Dr. Alexis Zarkov and Charles B. Middleton as Ming the Merciless.

Also in the principal cast are Beatrice Roberts as Queen Azura, Donald Kerr as Happy Hapgood, C. Montague Shaw as the Clay King, and Wheeler Oakman as Ming's chief henchman.

Plot summaryEdit

Another crisis is striking the Earth: a fictional chemical element called nitron is vanishing from the atmosphere, causing hurricanes and other meteorological disasters. (Universal used stock newsreel footage for the scenes.) Flash and Zarkov use an airplane to take measurements only to discover that a ray-beam from Mars is the source of the nitron depletion. A comical newspaper journalist, Happy Hapgood, arrives on the scene to get the scoop, and stows away when they, together with Dale Arden, leave to investigate in Zarkov's rocket ship.

They discover that Azura, Queen of Mars, is working with Ming the Merciless, their old nemesis from Mongo, not dead as they had believed, to conquer earth. All Martians who oppose her have been turned into clay humanoids, consigned to live in a world of clay-walled caverns beneath the Martian soil. Flash, Zarkov, Dale and Happy take refuge from the Martians in one of these caverns and are captured by the Clay People, and taken to their Clay King. From him, they learn what is transpiring between Queen Azura and Ming, and anxiously agree to help.

The plot sequence becomes:

  1. Destroy the Nitron Lamp which is draining the Earth's atmosphere
  2. Restore the Clay People to their original human form
  3. Defeat Ming



This serial, the first sequel to Flash Gordon, was based on the 1936 "Big Little Book" adaptation of the strip "Flash Gordon and the Witch Queen of Mongo". According to Harmon and Glut, the location was changed to Mars to capitalise on Orson Welles' famous The War of the Worlds broadcast.[1] According to Stedman, this serial preceded that broadcast, which made Universal hastily release a feature version of the serial as Mars Attacks the World to capitalise on the publicity. The film played to good audiences.[2]

Flash Gordon's Trip to Mars was less expensive than the first Flash Gordon serial.[2]


Flash Gordon's Trip to Mars received good attention in the press.[2]

Mars Attacks the WorldEdit

Universal Pictures also prepared a feature length edited version of this serial, which was already in print and ready for release in October 1938 when Orson Welles astounded the entire USA with his Mercury Theatre production of H. G. Wells's The War of the Worlds. As an exploitation film tie in, Universal had the feature's title changed to Mars Attacks the World, and eight days following the Welles broadcast, placed it at a Broadway theater as a major premiere event. Strangely, the original title for this feature version had been Rocket Ship, which was subsequently and more appropriately added to reissues of the first Flash Gordon serial's feature version, first shown under its source serial's title in 1936.

Television broadcastingEdit

During the 1950s, the three serials were shown on American television. To avoid confusion with a made-for-TV Flash Gordon series airing around the same time, they were retitled, becoming respectively Space Soldiers, Space Soldiers' Trip to Mars, and Space Soldiers Conquer the Universe. In the mid-1970s, all three serials were shown by PBS stations across the US, bringing Flash Gordon to a new generation, a full two years before Star Wars and Close Encounters of the Third Kind re-ignited interest in the science fiction genre. They have also been broadcast in other countries at various times.

Critical receptionEdit

Time magazine declared the serial to be "a Grade A cinemedition of the famed King Features strip."[3]

Chapter titlesEdit

  1. New Worlds to Conquer
  2. The Living Dead
  3. Queen of Magic
  4. Ancient Enemies
  5. The Boomerang
  6. Tree-men of Mars
  7. The Prisoner of Mongo
  8. The Black Sapphire of Kalu
  9. Symbol of Death
  10. Incense of Forgetfulness
  11. Human Bait
  12. Ming the Merciless
  13. The Miracle of Magic
  14. A Beast at Bay
  15. An Eye for an Eye



  1. 1.0 1.1 Harmon, Jim; Donald F. Glut (1973). "2. "We Come from 'Earth', Don't You Understand?"". The Great Movie Serials: Their Sound and Fury. Routledge. p. 39. ISBN 978-0-7130-0097-9. 
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 Stedman, Raymond William (1971). "4. Perilous Saturdays". Serials: Suspense and Drama By Installment. University of Oklahoma Press. p. 105. ISBN 978-0-8061-0927-5. 
  3. "Also Showing". Time magazine. March 28, 1938.,9171,759387,00.html. Retrieved 2009-03-23. 
  4. Cline, William C. (1984). "Filmography". In the Nick of Time. McFarland & Company, Inc.. p. 220. ISBN 0-7864-0471-X. 

External linksEdit

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