Dedications: My four late friends Rory, Stan, Bryan, Jeff - shine on you crazy diamonds, they would have blogged too. Then theres Garry from Brisbane, Franco in Milan, Mike now in S.F. / my '60s-'80s gang: Ned & Joseph in Ireland; in England: Frank, Des, Guy, Clive, Joe & Joe, Ian, Ivan, Nick, David, Les, Stewart, the 3 Michaels / Catriona, Sally, Monica, Jean, Ella, Anne, Candie / and now: Daryl in N.Y., Jerry, John, Colin, Martin and Donal.

Monday, 3 December 2012

Back to 1980: Flash Gordon

In this update of the 1930s comic strip, Flash Gordon is a football hero who is skyjacked aboard Dr. Hans Zarkov's rocketship along with beautiful Dale Arden. The threesome are drawn into the influence of the planet Mongo, controlled by Ming the Merciless. Ming has been testing the Earth with unnatural disasters, and deeming it a threat to his rule, he plans to destroy it. He also intends to take Dale as his concubine. Flash must avoid the amorous attentions of Ming's daughter and unite the warring kingdoms of Mongo to rescue Dale and save our world.
Sam J.Jones is our hero and it would be unkind to diss his acting skills, he just looks right as the amiable hunk Flash, with Melody Johnson just right too as Dale Arden (with her catchphrase "Flash, I love you! But we only have fourteen hours left to save the earth!"). Topol as discredited scientist Hans Zarkov gets some scenery to chew and seems to have fun with his role. The same goes for the film’s rather distinguished supporting cast, Brian Blessed and a pre-Bond Timothy Dalton gamely give their all. Brian's King Vultan is probably his most memorable movie role, and we cheer as Prince Barin offers his hand in - no, not marriage - but friendship to Flash. Swedish acting giant Max Von Sydow enjoys himself hugely as Ming the Merciless.  As Aura, Ming’s daughter Ornella Muti looks absolutely sensational as usual, with those cat eyes of her. Her decadent princess who helps Flash ramps up the camp fun factor, particuarly when Flash is executed wearing those tight leather shorts before the Princess reactivates him ...
Flash Gordon is probably best known for its musical score performed by Queen. The famous theme song (“Flash! Aaaa-ah!”) made such a change from the scores of John Williams in all those space movies of the time. I love the look of the film too - all those reds and yellows and the fantastic costumes were by Fellini regular Danilo Donati.
FLASH GORDON remains an enjoyable treat from just as those '80s began; there is something about its humour, its failure to take itself seriously and the sight of Brian Blessed in a leather speedo and hawk wings that wins you over. Add in the camp delights of Mariangela Melato and Peter Wyngarde and even playright John Osborne ... and the terrific sequence where Dr Zarkov has his memories removed. The ending is sheer fun and left the way open for a sequel which never materialised. The film was rather a flop on release, but has grown in stature since, it will be on again at Christmas no doubt. Mike Hodges (GET CARTER) directed from a script by Lorenzo Semple Jr. We have to thank Dino De Laurentiis for this one. You can keep STAR WARS and SUPERMAN - I'll take FLASH anytime ... what a popcorn double-bill this would be with BARBARELLA!

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