In 1936, Universal Pictures created a sensation with Flash Gordon, a 13-part adventure serial based on the popular comic strip of the day about a dare-devil do-gooder in outer space. Flash Gordon: Rocketship is a condensed version of that original serial, compressing the original twelve episodes into an efficient 97 minute feature. Flash Gordon (Buster Crabbe) heads into space with brilliant scientist Dr. Zarkoff (Frank Shannon) and his sweetheart Dale Arden (Jean Rogers) in an effort to throw the planet Mongo off course; it is expected to crash into the Earth within a matter of days. However, once Flash and his crew arrive on Mongo, they have to deal with the supremely evil Ming the Merciless (Charles B. Middleton) and his wicked minions; Ming also appears to have a "fate worse than death" in mind for Dale, while Ming's daughter Princess Aura (Priscilla Lawson) has similar designs on Flash. Sharp-eyed film buffs will notice that many of this film's sets, costumes, and musical cues were borrowed from other Universal productions of the period, most notably The Bride of Frankenstein.
by Mark Deming synopsis