A mysterious plague, the Purple Death, ravages the earth. Dr. Zarkov, investigating in his spaceship, finds a ship from planet Mongo seeding the atmosphere with dust. Sure enough, Ming the Merciless is up to his old tricks. So it's back to Mongo for Flash, Dale, and Zarkov, this time with ready-made allies waiting: Prince Barin of Arboria and Queen Fria of the frozen northern land of Frigia; where, it so happens, is found polarite, antidote to the plague. But Ming will use all his forces to keep our heroes from thwarting his plans of conquest.
I love and have a great affinity for serials from the golden age of cinema, and this was definitely one of the better ones I have seen. Previously, I had really enjoyed Buster Crabbe's presence in the post-Weissmuller era of Tarzan, and I have had the DVD of Hodges' 1980 'Flash Gordon' for eons, but wanted to first get to the root of the phenomenon by checking out the serials. Fortunately, in purchasing a 50-film pack, 'Nightmare Worlds' from Mill Creek, it was included. The 12 episodes of the 220-minute serial were well-edited into the fine flow that this version I saw had, and the special effects and production values were quite decent--you could tell it had been made both by a high-quality studio, in Universal, and by directors quite used to the serial format, in Ford Beebe and Ray Taylor. There are some goofs (for example, when Ming's henchmen are looking at a mountainside for the four protagonists, and five are shown), but it's action-packed, with interestingly stylized wipe-edits, and I can see how it later influenced the likes of both George Lucas and Steven Spielberg. As well, it's very interesting how the filmmakers were subtly able to use the film to offer social commentary to the growing Nazi/Fascist movements worldwide that were wreaking havoc across the globe in the Axis of Evil. Heartily recommended to anyone who enjoys the fun side of cinema.