Yet another area of the Hollywood film industry that saw heavy recycling was the movie serial – a short “Episode” about a character that was shown alongside a feature film. The individual episode would play for about a week, and viewers would have to come back each week to see the next installment. Most serials were either Westerns or Sci-Fi related. Several famous serials included Dick Tracy, The New Adventures of Tarzan and Zorro’s Fighting Legion. However, with the advent of television and episodic television dramas in the 1950s, the serial film became less popular and eventually died out.
In 1936, Universal released Flash Gordon, a thirteen part serial film based on the adventures of the comic book character Flash Gordon, with actor Buster Crabbe in the title role. It was later combined together to create a short feature length film that eventually went on to be called Rocket Ship. The serial was unique in that it was shown in A theatres, while most serials tended to run alongside a B movie. It also recycled heavily, using props from such films as the 1931 Frankenstein and the 1932 film The Mummy.
This costume, first seen on Buster Crabbe as Flash Gordon in the original serial was eventually used again in a 1940 Flash Gordon serial entitled Flash Gordon Conquers the Universe. This time the costume appears to have been altered and perhaps even dyed a darker colour. Eventually the costume went on to be used again in 1952 in the television series The Adventures of Superman, in the first episode entitled Superman on Earth, where it was worn on actor Robert Rockwell as Jor-El.