Saturday, February 13, 2016

Saturday Morning Cult-TV Blogging: Flash Gordon: "To Save Earth" (October 13, 1979)

This week on the Filmation animated series Flash Gordon, our stalwart hero from Earth has brought together Thun the Lion Man, King Vultan and Prince Barin as "brothers in arms" against the despot, Ming the Merciless. 

Flash -- the exceptional American/Earthman -- muses that it would be nice to speak with Dr. Zarkov - who is still trapped in Mingo City with Dale,and lo and behold, Zarkov conveniently appears courtesy of a little astral projection. It's just his big floating head, however...

Unfortunately, Ming busts into the transmission to tell Flash he's launching an attack on Arboria with his "aerial navy." 

No sooner said than done, but Barin's "leaf fighters" repel the assault. 

From beneath Arboria, Ming then attacks again...dispatching evil mole people and a burrowing device to cut out the roots of the tree-laden metropolis. These Mole Men look suspiciously like evil clones of the McDonald's Grimace; they're porcine and purple. 

Anyway, they're defeated in short order thanks to a remote control which can activate tree roots (?) and make them attack on command.  Flash learns that "in Arboria men and trees are one."

Then Flash uses the mechanical mole driver to tunnel through the magma beneath Mingo City so he can rescue Dale.

Meanwhile, the tension is rising. Dale is about to marry Ming the Merciless and the planet Mongo is now rapidly approaching Earth, wreaking havoc on Terra's weather.

Yes, it's a busy week for Flash Gordon. But he gets the girl, unites the planet, and defeats Ming. Only problem: by saving Earth, he's set Mongo on a course for deep space and now he, Dale and Zarkov can never return home. It's a Pyrrhic victory.

There's a lot of silly action this week, as you might guess. For instance, Ming apparently has the capability to teleport whenever he wishes, yet he doesn't use this device/power when threatened by Flash; or when Flash follows him into the bowels of the city. In fact, Ming takes the elevator.

Still, it's virtually no matter, for "To Save Earth" features some of the most dynamic visualizations of the series so far.  There's a great look at tree-covered Arboria, and its central metropolis, for example. Mist hangs over the city, and it is back-lit by a kind of force field.

And the episode also features several glorious shots of Earth looming over the skyline of Mingo City.

Visuals such as these represent one reason I love the series so.  They are amazing, and capture the flavor of the Flash Gordon universe beautifully. These gorgeous shots help sell the idea of the spectacular and epic nature of the story line.  Shots such as these could not be accomplished as well in live-action, I believe.

Next week:  "The Beast Man's Prey."


  1. Thank you for reminding me that this show exists. I only vaguely remembered it from my childhood, but the moment I heard the opening narration and theme music, it all came back. I got hold of the DVDs and was completely sucked in. I hope that you get around to covering the original pilot film, "The Greatest Adventure of All." Although parts of it were recycled for the series, it's definitely its own beast. Thanks again!

  2. Filmation's animation visuals are awesome in this series.