Monday, 29 December 2008

Flash Gordon (1980)

The 1980 Flash Gordon movie successfully captures both the naïve charm and the campy silliness of the original serials.

In this case Flash Gordon isn’t a spaceman superhero, he’s a football player. Dr Hans Zarkov is an eccentric (well not so much eccentric as totally insane) scientist who is convinced Earth is under attack. He has built a rocket ship and intends to use it to travel through the galaxy to find the source of the threat to our planet. Just as his assistant decides not to accompany him, as luck would have it, a small plane crashes into his laboratory. Zarkov kidnaps the passengers, football player Flash and a young woman named Dale Arden, and they find themselves en route to the planet Mongo.

They are caught up in the megalomaniacal plans of the Emperor Ming the Merciless to dominate the galaxy. Ming wants Dale as his bride, while Ming’s beautiful but evil and lust-crazed daughter wants Flash. The only hope seems to be to try to precipitate a revolution against the Emperor, but this will require the co-operation of Prince Barin and Prince Vultan, leader of the hawkmen. Can Flash and Dale escape with their virtue intact? Can the untrustworthy Barin and Vultan really be relied upon? Can the Earth be saved? What ensues is lots of breathless adventure and high camp outrageousness.

Sam J. Jones is handsome and vacuous as Flash and Melody Anderson is a bland heroine as Dale, but fortunately there’s galaxy of great acting talent on hand to enliven the proceedings. Max von Sydow is a wonderfully sinister Ming, although he’s overshadowed by the always marvellous Peter Wyngarde as his evil henchman Klytus. Ornella Muti is sexy as the licentious but not entirely wicked Princess Aura, while Mariangela Melato is even sexier as the thoroughly wicked General Kala. And the icing on the cake is Brian Blessed, chewing the scenery (as only he could chew it) as Vultan.

Visually the movie is both spectacular and fun, the sets are suitably over-the-top, and director Mike Hodges keeps the action moving along nicely. And there is of course the music by Queen, which is incredibly bombastic and that is of course exactly what this film demands, and it works. It’s all great fun, managing to send up the Flash Gordon serials but doing so in an affectionate and good-natured way. It’s a popcorn movie, but it’s a classy and stylish popcorn movie and I highly recommend it.

As is usual with Region 4 DVD releases there are no extras at all.

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