Review of 'Flash Gordon'

flash_gordon.jpg Evil ruler of Mongo Emperor Ming (Max von Sydow) is bored so starts a series of disasters on Earth including “Hot Hail” which causes the plane carrying famous footballer Flash Gordon (Sam J. Jones) and his girlfriend Dale Arden (Melody Anderson) to crash. The aircraft comes to rest in the middle of a greenhouse where scientist Dr. Hans Zarkov (Topol) is researching his theory that the disasters are being caused by an unknown source in space. Zarkov tricks Flash and Dale into his spaceship which promptly crashes on Mongo with the three captured and taken to Ming's palace. There Ming takes Dale for his pleasure, sends Zarkov to have his mind wiped and sentences Flash to death. Flash will need the help of both Prince Barin (Timothy Dalton) of Arboria and Hawkman Prince Vultan (Brian Blessed) of Sky City if he hopes to save Earth and rescue Dale from the clutches of Ming.

This is a truly silly film that seeks to capture the magic of the Flash Gordon comics and films of the 1930s without any attempt at modernising the story in any way. In this is “Flash Gordon” succeeds with it's intentionally cheesy effects and costumes as well as naff dialogue and story. The acting is suitably one-dimensional with, of course, no attempt at nuance but many attempts at sexual innuendo. The film is intended for a juvenile audience but those willing to suspend their doubts will likely find the film amusing and terribly camp. It has to be said the vivid, extravagant, costumes are amazing and the much-vaunted soundtrack by Queen is very good indeed (though there is very little Queen material here). The primary colours of Mongo are brought eye-wateringly to the screen again echoing the source material.

Listening to the director, Mike Hodges, describe the film making process is absolutely incredible as he acknowledges having very little control. The control over the film was very much in the hands of the Italian producers who simply came up with outrageous sets and costumes leaving the director to attempt to film whatever he could with very little reference to the original script. Hodges even acknowledges being astonished the film ever even saw the light of day. It this mythos that only adds to the insanity of what we see on the screen.

Stupid, childish and unbelievable “Flash Gordon” is surprisingly entertaining though does require significant suspension of all manner of good taste and belief from the viewer. Certainly not for everyone but perhaps those wishing for a bit of nostalgia for the days of film serials now long passed which it faithfully reproduces…As far as being a watchable film, well, perhaps once after having prepared yourself…Not entirely my cup of tea.

Rating: “It is OK but I have some issues”

Review Date: 2019-11-17

Directed by: Mike Hodges

Studio: Starling Films

Year: 1980

Length: 111 minutes

Genre: Action/Adventure