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Chapter 301: The Purple Death

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Flash Gordon Conquers the Universe


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Chapter 215: An Eye for an Eye Chapter 302: Freezing Torture



Synopsis

A ravaging plague is sweeping across Earth, the Purple Death, so called because it leaves a single purple spot on the forehead of its victims. The world's top scientists have grouped together in an attempt to combat this deadly epidemic. One of them, Professor Gordon, hears news which he relays to the anxious public that his son Flash Gordon has once more penetrated the stratosphere with Doctor Zarkov and Dale Arden in Zarkov's rocket ship, as they try to determine the source of the mysterious electrified dust which is causing the Purple Death.

Aboard their rocket ship, Zarkov spies another rocket ship which is discharging a strange dust over the Earth which turns invisible as it falls through the sky. Zarkov recognizes the craft as one of Ming's ships from the planet Mongo, and tells Flash that they must destroy the ship.

Back on Earth, the scientists are scournful of Zarkov's theories that the Purple Death originates from outer space until they hear word of his sighting of the rocket ship from Mongo.

The crew of the Mongo ship, commanded by Captain Torch, spot Zarkov's ship and recognize it. They plan to shoot it down and there is then a skirmish between the two craft, with both sides scoring hits. However, when their firepower is disabled, Flash has to concede defeat, but he saves their lives by taking their ship into a rapid descent. The ploy works as Captain Torch's crew believe Zarkov's ship has been crippled and leave it as they head back to Mongo.

Realizing that Ming the Merciless must be behind this new assault on the planet Earth, Flash and his friends report back to Earth that they are traveling to the planet Mongo in a bid to stop Ming. If they are to have any chance of doing so, then they will have to solicit the aid of their old friend Prince Barin.

They subsequently land on Mongo in the forest region of Arboria, Prince Barin's kingdom. They are warmly welcomed by Barin, Princess Aura (now Barin's wife) and Ronal. Barin confirms that Ming is indeed still alive and ruling Mongo more ruthlessly than ever.

Flash, Dale and Zarkov are made guests that evening at a banquet in Barin's palace which is being held in honor of Queen Fria of Frigia, a frozen kingdom to the north of Mongo. Queen Fria is also there to seek Barin's aid against Ming.

In his own palace, Ming is pleased to receive news from Captain Torch that Doctor Zarkov's ship was shot down over the Earth. This ought to mean that Earth remains ignorant as to the cause of the Purple Death. Then, the fanatical scientist Janda, tells Ming that he has developed a new strain of the Death Dust. Whereas the existing Death Dust is lethal to all life, this new variant Janda claims will only prove harmful to people of high intellect, those enemies who pose a threat. This will leave the people of lower intellect alive to work for Ming as slaves. Ming is excited by this new development and is eager to see a demonstration, which is arranged for that evening.

During the banquet in Arboria, the Earth trio learn that Ming holds one of Queen Fria's top soldiers, General Lupi, prisoner, and that she is determined to rescue him at all costs, hence her seeking aid from Prince Barin. Flash is keen to help, but at the same time he knows the urgency of attacking Ming's Power Room. Several strategies are proposed. It is thought that Ming will be reluctant to attack Arboria so long as his own daughter, Princess Aura, still resides there, and Queen Fria explains that Ming's soldiers cannot attack Frigia as they would not be able to withstand its extreme cold. Only Frigians know the secret of surviving there.

Then, word reaches them from Captain Sudin that General Lupi is to be executed that evening. Sudin is the Commander of Ming's palace guards who, unbeknown to Ming, is actually loyal to Barin. With no time to lose, Flash and his friends set off at once for a strike against Ming. Traveling with them is one of Barin's officers, Captain Roka, whom Barin assigns to act of Flash's aide.

Captain Ronal and Count Korro (Fria's aide from Frigia) allow themselves to be captured. As expected, they are taken as prisoners to Captain Sudin, hence they are able to tell him to open the gates to the drainage tunnel under Ming's palace. Sudin does so, which allows, Flash, Zarkov, Barin, Roka and another Arborian soldier, Turan, to secretly enter the palace via the tunnel.

Zarkov finds Ming's laboratory and sees confirmation that the Death Dust is manufactured there, a development of what Ming was working on when Zarkov was last on Mongo. Zarkov waits behind to destroy the equipment there as the others go in search of General Lupi.

By this time, Ming is in the Power Room and about to test the new strain of Death Dust on Lupi, Ronal and Korro. Flash's team interrupt just in time. A fight breaks out. Ming flees the scene, flooding the chamber with Death Dust. He then encounters Zarkov who is leaving the laboratory.

Most of the others manage to escape the Power Room but Flash is caught up in a struggle with a giant man of great strength. The giant is trying to force Flash into the pit, which burrows deep down to the inner core of the planet, from which Ming draws power. As Flash rallies, both topple over the edge of the pit and plunge down it.

Recap card

Following the wake of dictators, war and rumors of war - - a ravaging plague, the "Purple Death", strikes the earth.

FLASH GORDON and professor Zarkov, believing Ming The Merciless is behind the "Purple Death", start with Dale Arden in Zarkov's rocket ship for Mongo.

ARRIVING in Arboria to enlist aid of Prince Barin, they meet Fria, Queen of the Ice Kingdom, also seeking Barin's aid against Ming.

JOINING forces, they break into Ming's laboratory in time to halt a fiendish laboratory test. But Flash, pitted against a giant of tremendous strength....

Trivia

  • The title of the following chapter, "Freezing Torture", is displayed in snow-capped lettering on the caption at the climax of this chapter.
  • Although no specific moments from the previous 2 serials are shown, there are numerous references to the "Flash Gordon (serial)". However, Flash also appears to be acquainted with Captain Ronal, who was not in the earlier serial. Ronal gives back Flash his old sword, which may be the one with which he fought Prince Barin in Chapter 108: Tournament of Death (although it is actually the wrong type of sword). Or perhaps Flash and Zarkov had another (unscreened) visit to Mongo following the events of the first serial? Likewise, why is there no mention of the other allies Flash made during his previous visit to Mongo, such as King Vultan and Prince Thun? Are we to assume Ming has vanquished them?
  • There is no attempt made to explain how Ming survived his apparent demise at the end of the previous serial, "Flash Gordon's Trip to Mars". Flash and Zarkov seemed certain he was dead at that time, so why do they so readily conclude that Ming must be behind the new attack on Earth?
  • Doctor Zarkov is called "Professor Zarkov" several times in this chapter (and also in the recap of this chapter that appears at the start of Chapter 302: Freezing Torture). These are the only occasions when he is given this title in the 3 film serials.
    • The terms Doctor and Professor often overlap based on academic degree and occupation.
  • For anybody experiencing Flash Gordon's adventures only from the point of view of the film serials, the re-introduction of the characters of Prince Barin and Princess Aura in this chapter would have been particularly jarring. In terms of both physical appearance and personality, both are drastically different to how they were previously represented in the film serials. However, Flash Gordon Conquers the Universe was merely trying to keep up with the events of the Flash Gordon (comic strip) which had, of course, been running continuously throughout the long intervals between each film serial. In the comic strip, the characters of Barin and Aura had developed more gradually over time, and Flash Gordon Conquers the Universe is a fairly faithful representation of those characters as they appeared in the strip circa 1939 (although by then, Prince Barin had attained the status of King in the strip).
  • This chapter also introduces several other characters that had since appeared in the comic strip, chiefly Captain Ronal, Queen Fria, and Count Korro. Fria and Korro are particularly strong in physical resemblance to their comic strip counterparts. However, their roles are much downplayed in this serial. In the strip, Ronal was a Prince, not a Captain, who was the cousin of Barin and who had a deep but unrequited attraction for Dale. Queen Fria of Frigia has a substantial amount of adventuring time with Flash in the comic strip and becomes a serious love rival to Dale, to the point of tricking Flash into agreeing to marry her. Count Korro, meanwhile, wants Fria for himself and as such becomes deeply jealous of Flash and a deadly rival. In this chapter, there are still subtle hints of jealous rivalry between Dale and Fria for Flash's affections, but nothing to suggest that Count Korro is emotionally involved with his Queen.
  • General Lupi and Captain Sudin are also named from characters that had appeared in the comic strip storyline, but in their cases the resemblance extends as far as name only. In the strip, Captain Sudin was the commander of one of Ming's naval submarines who befriended Flash and was killed in action on the Island of Tombs. Lupi held the lower rank of Captain and was a traitor who tried to kill Flash.
  • The Purple Death leaves a distinguishing feature on its victims, namely a large purple dot on the forehead. Such a man is shown collapsed in the street, obviously bearing such a mark, yet the crowd of onlookers react with surprise when he is diagnosed by (presumably) a doctor as having the Purple Death.
  • The narrative is contradictory with regards to the panic over the Purple Death on Earth. Flash and Zarkov seem excited to discover that a ship is discharging dust over the planet which turns invisible as it falls, suggesting that it had not been known that the Purple Death was caused by such dust. Yet, earlier in the chapter, Professor Gordon had already said they were trying to find the source of the strange electrified dust causing the plague. What was the point of the dust turning invisible if its existence is known about?
  • After engaging with Captain Torch's ship, Zarkov is at the controls when they start to plummet downwards. Flash then takes his place at the helm, and credits himself with having thought of the idea to make it look like their ship had been crippled.
    • It is possible that Flash thought of the idea during the dive and Zarkov had failed to react.
  • The scenes of Ming's throne room once again use stock footage of a giant idol flanked by female dances (originating in the film "Just Imagine" 1931, and used in the 1936 Flash Gordon serial), yet when seen from various angles it appears that there is no area of the throne room which could accommodate this huge construction. By 1940, the upgrade in film stock makes the insert of grainy old footage very visible, and the effect does not blend in well at all.
  • Zarkov's ship lands in the forest kingdom of Arboria, yet stock footage is used of a model shot showing the rocket ship landing in a rocky terrain. There is not a tree in sight.
  • General Lupi recognizes Ronal when he is brought in as a prisoner with Count Korro. Yet there is no reason why Lupi of Frigia would know Ronal of Arboria.

Gallery

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