Last night, the Late Night Movie Gang and I watched Zydereen of Neptune!
Never heard of Zydereen of Neptune? Well, don’t feel bad. It’s not really a movie. Instead, it’s three episodes of an old 1950s TV series that someone edited together. According to The Complete Directory to Prime Time Network TV Shows, Flash Gordon aired in 1954 on a now defunct network called DuMont. The eponymous space hero was played by Steve Holland, a clean-cut model with an impressive head of hair. On the show, Flash was a member of the GBI, which is like a galactic version of the FBI. Working with him was scientist and love interest Dale Arden (Irene Champlin) and scientist and non-love interest Dr. Zarkov (Joseph Nash). Flash was not a scientist but he had really nice hair. Did I mention that?
(Seriously, the Late Night Movie Gang estimated that Flash was 90% hair spray.)
Anyway, in three episodes, Flash and the GBI had to defeat the machinations of Zydereen (Marie Powers), an evil witch who lived on Neptune and who yearned to escape and take over the universe. She caused quite a bit of panic on Neptune, the majority of which, according to Wikipedia, was portrayed via stock footage of a 1953 anti-communist demonstration by citizens of East Berlin. Having been made in 1954, it’s not surprising that Flash’s struggle to keep the universe safe feels a lot like America’s effort to keep the world safe from communism.
I was fulling expecting to be dismissive of this low-budget television show-turned-movie but actually, I enjoyed it. From the threadbare production values to the grainy stock footage to the model rocket that crossed the screen whenever Flash was on a mission, there was an undeniable charm to the film’s low budget aesthetic. Steve Holland grew on me as well. At first, he seemed like a stiff but by the 30 minute mark of the film (or the second episode, if you will), Holland seemed a lot more comfortable with the role. If nothing else, he had really impressive hair. (Did I already mention that?)
Plus, Marie Powers was a good villain. Again, it helps to remember that she was playing a space witch on a low-budget TV series that was mainly aimed at children. As a result, neither she nor her schemes are particularly subtle but who cares? It was right for the show.
As I’ve said many times in the past, I’m a history nerd. And, if nothing else, Zydereen of Neptune was definitely a piece of history!
Want to watch it? Well, here it is: