The most expensive and elaborate serial of the 1930s (it was budgeted at a then-astronomical $350,000) Flash Gordon proved to be well worth the extra cost and effort, earning millions at the box office, not to mention overwhelmingly positive reviews from such influential publications as Time and Variety. Olympic swimming champ Buster Crabbe stars as virtuous, clean-limned intergalactic adventurer Flash Gordon, while Jean Rogers, clad in a variety of skimpy costumes, trembles and screams convincingly as heroine Dale Arden. Thoroughly dominating the serial's 13 chapters is Charles Middleton as Ming the Merciless, the despotic, megalomanic ruler of the planet Mongo. Closely following the continuity of the Alex Raymond comic strip on which it was based, the story begins as the Earth faces imminent destruction at the hands of the maleficent Ming. Kidnapped by brilliant but eccentric scientist Dr. Zharkov (Frank Shannon), Flash Gordon and Dale Arden blast off in Zharkov's rocketship, bound for Mongo. Hoping to negotiate a truce with Ming, Zharkov and Flash are imprisoned by the evil ruler, while poor Dale is prepared for a forced marriage with the libidinous emperor. Several perils later, Flash, Zarkov and Dale befriend King Thun (James Pierce) of the Lion Men and deposed Mongo regent Prince Barin (Dick Alexander), and find an unlikely ally in the form of the portly, winged Vultan (John Lipson) of the Flying City. Meanwhile, Ming steps up his efforts to kill Flash, much to the dismay of his daughter Aura (Priscilla Lawson), who's developed a crush on the handsome earthling. Though its special effects are primitive compared to the brilliant creations of Republic's Lydecker Brothers, Flash Gordon remains an exhilarating experience even today. Understandably, the serial yielded a brace of equally successful sequels, Flash Gordon's Trip to Mars and Flash Gordon Conquers the Universe.