2018 Sci-Fi Horrorfest: Flash Gordon (1980)
Cast: Sam J. Jones as Flash Gordon
Melody Anderson as Dale Arden
Max Von Sydow as The Emperor Ming
Topol as Dr. Hans Zarkov
Ornella Muti as Princess Aura
Timothy Dalton as Prince Barin
Brian Blessed as Prince Vultan
Screenplay by Lorenzo Sample Jr.
Adapted by Michael Allin
Based on the characters created by Alex Raymond
Produced by Dino De Laurentiis
Directed by Mike Hodges
Plot: Emperor Ming the Merciless becomes bored and decides to toy with the planet Earth, causing natural disasters and planet-wide calamity. When a plane carrying football star Flash Gordon and Dale Arden crashes into the laboratory of Dr. Hans Zarkov, they stumble into an adventure they takes them to the planet Mongo and into the clutches of Ming and his daughter, Princess Aura. Can Flash stop Ming before he destroys Earth?
Richard’s Review: I first discovered Flash Gordon through the original chapter serials in the late 70s. When we got cable, channel 41 out of Kansas City played a chapter every Sunday morning. As a young sci-fi fan, I was hooked. Buster Crabbe was heroic and Charles Middleton was delightfully evil as Ming the Merciless. Surprisingly, I didn’t discover the 1980 film until several years after it’s’ release and, once I did, I was disappointed. While I loved the music of Queen, the best part of the film in my opinion, Sam Jones’ lack of acting ability was overshadowed in my mind by Buster Crabbe. Admittedly, Crabbe was not incredibly talented either but he was more engaging.
Max Von Sydow does a great job as Ming, channeling Charles Middleton in performance and appearance, while Topol’s performance seemed a little more mean-spirited at first than he needed to be. The low-budget special effects looked even worse when compared to the recent Star Wars and Star Trek films at the time. There is also too much humor, resulting in a campy film when the characters were never intended to be treated that way. It’s become a big cult classic over the years but this revisit still failed to impress me.
Karla’s Thoughts: The special effects are atrocious, the costumes leave a lot to be desired and the acting could be better. However, I still love the movie for all of it’s’ flaws. The story is good and the music from Queen is amazing and awesome. The movie is so cheesy but you can’t help but love it anyway.
- Based on the Flash Gordon comic strip by Alex Raymond, first published in 1934 to compete with Buck Rogers. It inspired three chapter serials starring Buster Crabbe, a 1950s TV series, a radio program, and much more. Original artwork from Alex Raymond is featured in the opening credits.
- Lou Scheimer was working on a live-action Flash Gordon film for NBC in the late 70s. When it was determined that it would be too costly, it was changed to a more adult-oriented animated film. The use of early computer animation for the ships threatened to financially cripple the project until Dino De Laurentiis became involved. He would help fund the production in exchange for the feature film rights. As a result, the finished animated film was so good that NBC decided to re-edit the film into a Saturday morning series. After the success of the feature film, NBC wanted to capitalize on the feature film and ordered a second season. However, it was made to be more kid-friendly and less sexy. The second season was delayed and, when they eventually aired, the ratings dropped due to the miscalculated change, resulting in the cancellation of the series. The original more adult-oriented material was eventually re-edited back into an animated film, Flash Gordon: The Greatest Adventure of Them All, released in 1982.
- Sam Jones had a dispute with Dino De Laurentiis and left the production prior to post-production. As a result, most of his lines are dubbed by another actor
- Melody Anderson came up with the idea of Dale cheering Flash on during the football sequence.
- Dino De Laurentiis wanted Kurt Russell to play Flash but he turned it down as he felt the role lacked personality. He also wanted Sergio Leone to direct the film but he also declined due to the lack of faithfulness to the original storylines.
- Screenwriter Lorenzo Sample is not fond of the film due to the campiness, which he now regrets, and the constant revisions, which he feels really hurt the final version.
- Queen composed the music for the film, despite Dino De Laurentiis having never heard of them prior to making the film.
Availability: Flash Gordon is available on Blu-ray for less than $10. It lacks a lot of extra features but you can’t beat the low price.