Sam J. Jones, Melody Anderson, Topol, Ornella Muti, Timothy Dalton, Brian Blessed, Peter Wyngarde, Mariangela Melato and Max von Sydow
Out to buy on Blu-Ray 23/08/10
As earthquakes, storms and floods plague the Earth, American Football star Flash Gordon (Jones) and his travelling companion Dale Arden’s (Anderson) plane is forced to crash land after been caught in a fire hail storm. Surviving the crash, the pair head to a nearby building only to be forced into a rocket ship built by Dr. Hans Zarkov (Topol), who is convinced that the Earth is in fact under attack from an alien force. Launching themselves into space, the three travelled to the planet of Mongo, the domain of the self proclaimed ruler of the universe, Ming the Merciless (von Sydow).
When it comes to naming the campest, most outrageous adaptations of a comic book hero, one movie should spring instantly to mind ‘Flash Gordon’.
The success of ‘Star Wars’ in 1977 made science fiction cool again. The concept of George Lucas’s space opera was based on the Sci-Fi serials of the 30s and 40s where intergalactic heroes thought invaders from other worlds. ‘Buck Rogers’ and ‘Flash Gordon’ were clear influences and with ‘Buck’ returning to the small screen, ‘Flash’ headed for the big screen and quickly became an almost legendary cult hit.
Since its release in 1980, the film has grown in popularity from its low initial box office. Having to compete with the ‘Star Wars’ sequel ‘The Empire Strikes Back’ didn’t help and the style of the film didn’t really endure it to a 1980s audience. Were Star Wars became dark and story orientated, ‘Flash Gordon’ was overly camp, badly acted with poor visual effects by comparison and ended up only taking just over $27 million compared to ‘Empire’s’ Ł209 million. Even with a soundtrack by Rock Legends ‘Queen’ the movie soon disappeared from the memories of 1980 moviegoers but that was not the end of Flash.
Showings on TV and then its release on home video continued to introduce new audiences to the film. With the soundtrack continuing to sell and the many quotable lines becoming part of science fiction folklore, the movie became a cult classic with an adoring fan following that remains unabated thirty years later.
While the two leads, Sam J. Jones as Flash and Melody Anderson as Dale Arden never saw their careers head to the stratosphere as they might of expected, and their performances, to be fair, never really warranted it as they seemed to have been hired for their looks rather than their acting ability. It is the supporting cast that are the most remembered. Max von Sydow’s Ming the Merciless is exactly how you would envision the character from the classic serials and the comic book series. Timothy Dalton plays the dashing Prince Barin and Topol is well cast as Dr. Hans Zarkov. Peter Wyngarde and Mariangela Melato as Ming’s creepy minions Klytus and General Kala camp it up and Ornella Muti looks great in the many revealing outfits of Princess Aura. It is Brian Blessed who steals the movie however as the leader of the hawk men Prince Vultan. His ‘Gordon’s Alive’ line has become a classic of the genre and one that the actor is still asked to say all these years later.
Overly camp, dreadful visual effects and badly acted by the leads but ‘Flash Gordon’ has rightly become a cult classic. With a theme tune by Queen that still stirs the fans, so many quotable lines and supporting cast that makes the movie so much fun, you cannot help but think that Flash, a-ah, could be the saviour of the universe.
Bonus CD - Original Soundtrack by Queen
Interview with director Mike Hodges
Commentary with director Mike Hodges
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