Flash Gordon (1980) – Mike Hodges


Queen’s thrumming soundtrack, garish colors, unusual costumes, hokey special effects, and more than a healthy dose of camp are all part of this addition to the 101 Sci-Fi Movies list.

Flash Gordon is over-the-top, and has acquired a huge cult following, and you either get it or you don’t. It’s done with flair and fun, and pairs up some great actors with some who… well… aren’t.

Paying homage to the original comic strip as well as the serials of the 30s and 40s, Hodges delivers a film that makes it look like a comic book brought to life.

flash1At the film’s center is Flash Gordon (Sam Jones), Dale Arden (Melody Anderson) and Doctor Hans Zarkov (Topol) as they travel to the planet Mongo that is waging an environmental attack on Earth. Mongo is ruled by Emperor Ming (Max Von Sydow) who dominates the planetary shards and floating rocket thruster castles with tyranny, aided by his right hand man the golden-masked Klytus (Peter Wyngarde) and his daughter, the vixen, Princess Aura (Ornella Muti).

Flash and the audience are almost left dumbfounded by the worlds we see on the screen, weird skies, rocket cycles, lizard men with their faces inside their mouths, hawkmen, skimpy costumes, and lumbering art-deco spaceships. He unites some of the lesser kingdoms in a fight against Ming, including the leader of the hawkmen, Vultan (Brian Blessed) and Prince Barin (Timothy Dalton).

The film is completely ridiculous, and never found its target audience when it was first released, though it’s soundtrack is particularly awesome. Over the years, it has developed a huge cult following, of people who just embrace the sheer wackiness of everything that is going on it.

flashgordon3The film’s sets and costumes are all done in brilliant colors and thick blacks, as if they are comic frames brought to life, and the storylines are akin to the early strips. It doesn’t pay to examine the plot to extensively, it’s simplistic, and some of it is just downright odd.

For all that, it’s up there with the Batman television series of the 60s as delightful pop camp.

The effects are terrible, the matting and rotoscoping are amateurish when compared to the work ILM was producing for the two Star Wars films at the time, the modelwork is obviously miniatures, and don’t have an appropriate sense of movement, but there is something about art-deco spacehips that are just very cool.

MSDFLGO EC023It’s fun seeing Timothy Dalton, Von Sydow, Topol, and Brian Blessed in this film. All three are brilliantly strong actors and they run rings around their co-stars. They also elevate their characters beyond the pulp material they are given to work with, while Flash and Dale are simply two-dimensional characters.

It’s a film that needs to be simply watched for the garishly colored visuals, the music, and perhaps the less said about the wooden acting, the better.

It may sound as if I’m disparaging the film, but I’ll be honest, I quite like it, I just know that it’s not the best effort to be offered from the 1980s. Those ones are comg.

But if you’ll excuse me, I think I’m going to go crank the soundtrack now…

Flash… Ahhh!

What do you think of it?


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