Sunday, April 20, 2014

And Men Shall Call Him "Merciless"! For He is...

...for decades, the single greatest menace in movies.
There have been cinema villians who threatened cites, threatened countries, even threatened whole planets!
But only one has ever proclaimed that not only did he rule the Universe, that he was the Universe!
Conceived in 1934 as the antagonist of the brand-new Flash Gordon newspaper comic strip, Emperor Ming of Mongo was a futuristic version of the "Yellow Peril" menace popularized by Sax Rohmer's insidious Fu Manchu and the Han, conquerors of Buck Rogers' 25th Century America!
When Universal Studios adapted Flash Gordon into a 13-chapter movie serial in 1936, they defied movie convention by keeping Ming as the villain and faithfully adapting the strip's plotline.
(Studios usually made radical changes to comic strip and pulp characters they used, most frequently replacing the original pulp and comic villains with the studios' own creations.)
With handsome Olympic athlete-turned-actor Buster Crabbe as the embodiment of an all-American hero, who could portray the ultimate villain to oppose him?
How about a guy who also tried to kill Dick Tracy and Jack Armstrong: All-American Boy in other serials, as well playing opposite Laurel & Hardy and the Marx Brothers (and even sang a song with Groucho and his brothers in Duck Soup*)?
Charles Middleton, who could not only chew the scenery, but spit it out like toothpicks, got the role, and certainly made the most of it...

...making Ming the most hissable foe any movie hero ever faced!
When not plotting to destroy and/or conquer Earth, and lusting after Dale Arden, Ming also had to keep an eye on his own daughter, Princess Aura, who lusted after Flash Gordon, and kept saving him!
By the end of the serial Ming had been fried to death in a creamatorium, Earth and Dale were safe, Aura fell in love with Prince Barin, the true ruler of Mongo!
And that was the end of the man called "Merciless", right?
Be back here...tomorrow...for the answer to that, and many other questions!
And for more villains than you can boo and hiss at, see the other contributors to...
by clicking HERE!


  1. I enjoyed your write-up and the Ming clips -- I never knew anything about the character, or the actor Charles Middleton. Good stuff!

  2. Saw Flash Gordon as a kid and so Ming is really one of the first villains that made an impact on me. Such a strong character

  3. I too knew nothing about this one. Sounds interesting at the very least. I do love to learn about actors that fly under the radar.

  4. As villains' costumes go, Ming's has got to be up there with the best! Flash Gordon is one of my guilty pleasures, so thanks for the nostalgia trip!

  5. Judging by what I've seen here, Ming has the absolute BEST villain costume.

    Admittedly, I've never seen Flash Gordon in any form whatsoever, and why is that! I see I've been missing out.

    Thanks for participating in the blogathon and for profiling the uber-malificent Ming. :)