Flash Gordon: Deadline at Noon (1955)

Flash Gordon

Television Series – Deadline At Noon

Country: United States
Director: Gunther V. Fritsch
Starring: Steve Holland, Joe Nash, Irene Champlain
Roger Roger
Theme: Kurt Heuser
Based on characters by Alex Raymond

Deadline At Noon is one of the episodes of the Flash Gordon television series that screened in the mid 1950’s. The show starts with Flash Gordon (Steve Holland), Dale Arden (Irene Champlain), and Dr. Zarkov (Joe Nash) completing a routine outer-space patrol in the ‘Skyflash’. In this series, Flash, Dale and Zarkov are almost like space policemen, and they live in the future, in fact 1150 years from now. And the ‘Skyflash’ is their cutting edge spaceship in which they travel from planet to planet, and galaxy to galaxy.

During this patrol they witness the unexplained destruction of four planets, Isis, Osiris, Mithra and Baquis. The only other planet in the system is Minerva, so Flash and the crew head there to investigate. Dale picks up the signature of a radioactive element called Duridium. Duridium is a recently discovered element, and is the most powerful fissionable material known to man. But it is very slow to build up to a critical mass; it takes 1200 years. At that moment Minerva explodes. With no other clues to go by, the ‘Skyflash’ returns to earth.

Meanwhile the earth is suffering some unexplained freakish weather disturbances across the globe. At the Galaxy Bureau of Investigation (or the G.B.I), Commissioner Herrick is interrogating an agent from the planet Callous. The Callousens have vowed eternal vengeance against the Earth. What for? I don’t know, but they will go to extraordinary lengths to get it. This Callousen has just returned from travelling back in time. He travelled back to 1953 and planted a Duridium Bomb in one of the Earth’s capital cities. The bomb, now approaching 12 hundred years old, all that while building up to critical mass, is set to explode in an hour.

Herrick informs Flash and the crew of Earth’s imminent destruction. But naturally Zarkov has a time machine on board, so the team travel back in time to 1953 and scoure the Earth for the hidden Duridium Bomb. The ending features a classic beat-the-clock finale that could have come straight out of Goldfinger or Octopussy.

As I am sure you’ve guessed, Flash saves the day, and the Earth is saved. It’s a tight little episode, and it’s nice to see some of the set pieces that would become regular features in the spy films of the sixties, right down to the nuclear terrorism. One sequence that surprised me, particularly as Flash Gordon is a children’s show, is the interrogation of the Callousen Agent. When Herrick doesn’t get the information he requires, he whallops the Callousen over the head. The Callousen, with a small trickle of blood running from his lip, says that Herrick can beat him all he likes. He will still not divulge the whereabouts of the nuclear weapon. I am sure that in the mid 50’s beating up on a suspect was a perfectly acceptable method on interrogation. But looking back today, it does seem a bit medieval. How times have changed!

Sure this Flash Gordon television series looked cheap. The planets looked like they were made from paper maché and there are large amount of stock footage used. But the show is pacey, and fairly entertaining.

5 Comments Posted in Television
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  1. why would he travel back to 1953? Why not wait a year or so after the bad guys have left the bomb and you can retrieve it at ease?

  2. Of course you're right. But where's the fun in that?

    And all good spy-fi shows need a 'beat the clock' ending.

  3. The one thing I'm surprised you didn't mention is the fact that Flash and the others locate the bomb in Berlin. Now, it just so happens that the show was shot in Germany, but seeing Flash and friends race around Berlin in those pre-wall days gives the whole thing a different look and feel, not to mention directly connecting with Cold War airs.

  4. beat the clock? but the bomb will go off in 1200 years from 1953. What's the rush? I'm confused – Is it some type of special clock that can go off in 1953 and 1200 years later?

    "How times have changed!" – is this irony, should there be a special global font introduced to show that your sentence contains irony or sarcasm?

  5. Great point, anonymous!

    Markus – If Dirty Harry taught us anything, it is that suspects have rights!

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