MILL CREEK NIGHTMARE WORLDS: Purple Death from Outer Space (1940, 1956)

Directed by Ford Beebe — who also made a Buck Rodgers serial — and Ray Taylor — who was the director of The Spider’s Web — is the first part of the serial Flash Gordon Conquers the Universe and Perils from the Planet Mongo completes the storyline. While most movie serials were made for children, the Flash Gordon series connected with adults and became these actual films. This is the third of the serials and was also adapted into three syndicated films called Space Soldiers, Space Soldiers’ Trip to Mars and Space Soldiers Conquer the Universe, given that title as there was a Flash Gordon TV series at the time and they didn’t want to take away from it. There’s also another version released in the 70s called Space Soldiers Conquer the Universe.

The Purple Death is killing people, leaving behind a purple spot on the victims’ foreheads. Flash Gordon discovers that Ming the Merciless is behind the plague when he finds one of Ming’s spaceships spreading “Death Dust.” Our hero goes off to save every one of us along with Dale Arden, Dr. Alexis Zarkov and Prince Barin.

Taking sets and ideas from Buck Rodgers as well as footage from the German movie White Hell of Pitz Palu, this is still a great looking movie even eighty years later. As a kid, I would stay awake until four in the morning on Sundays, as WTAE in Pittsburgh would show thirty minutes of these old serials. It was just when my grandfather would get home from the mill and I was always so excited to watch these with him, then sleep in his bed while he told me about seeing then in the theater. A magical memory I’ll forever cherish.

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