For this month’s next review for Genre Grandeur – Sci-Fi, here’s a review of Flash Gordon (1980) by SG of Rhyme and Reason
Thanks again to Natasha of Life of This City Girl for choosing this month’s genre.
Next month’s Genre has been chosen by Dan of Slipthrough Movies We will be reviewing our favorite Crime Movies.
Please get me your submissions by the 25th of February by sending them to email@example.com Try to think out of the box! Great choice Dan!
Let’s see what SG thought of this movie:
When our planet is bombarded,
Earth deserves to be safeguarded.
Who will save us from our doom
And stop a villain in costume?
Who will stop the evil Ming
And be unfazed by everything?
Who’ll fly to distant worlds to fight
The evil of a tyrant’s might
With courage and romantic flair
And somehow always perfect hair?
Who will punch and soar and crash
To victory? The fearless Flash!
MPAA rating: PG
The science fiction genre has given us original, thought-provoking, frightening, mind-blowing, and influential films like Inception, The Matrix, Alien, E.T., Planet of the Apes, and the whole of Star Wars and Star Trek. It also gave us Flash Gordon. This 1980 adaptation of the classic 1930s comic strip is so cheesy and so corny that it may be literally impossible to watch with a straight face. It’s undoubtedly silly but so much fun, one of my VC’s guilty pleasures.
Inspired by the first comic serials, the film shows the earth under attack by distant evil overlord Ming the Merciless (Max von Sydow; yes, that Max von Sydow). We find our hero Flash (Sam Jones), having recently taken flying lessons, soaring through the sky as a passenger alongside lovely journalist Dale Arden (Melody Anderson). They hit it off, since Flash is the quarterback of the New York Jets (not the polo player of the comics) and Dale is gorgeous. Then they are attacked by Ming and kidnapped by scorned scientist Hans Zarkov (Chaim Topol of Fiddler on the Roof) and taken by rocket ship to the distant planet of Mongo to stop Ming’s diabolical despicability.
Just describing it sounds ridiculous, and it is. So why does it work so well? Perhaps it’s because of the inherent campiness of the old comics, which the film captures to a tee. When Topol stands up and dramatically points his finger as he says, “Check the angular vector of the moon!”, it really does feel like a comic book come to life. Perhaps it’s because so much work clearly went into this Dino De Laurentiis production. It doesn’t help the believability, but the set design and costumes are impressively colorful and elaborate, if utterly campy, again as if plucked from the pages of a comic.
Then, there is the surprising star power at work, with big-name actors vacillating between straight-faced goofiness and overacted goofiness. Sydow and Peter Wyngarde monologue about how pathetic we earthlings are, both turning in great villainous caricatures. There’s also Italian actress Ornella Muti as sultry Princess Aura, Timothy Dalton as Prince Barin of the forest moon Arboria, and Brian Blessed as the exuberant Prince Vultan of the Hawkmen, complete with giant papier-mâché wings on his back. The latter two rule over exotically wrought floating kingdoms that host inventive challenges akin to Mad Max’s Thunderdome. Deep Roy even makes an early appearance as Princess Aura’s pet.
And who can forget the film’s memorable excesses, like the histrionic one liners: “Gordon’s alive?!” or “Dive!!!” or “No, not the bore worms!!!!!” Of course, I mustn’t forget the awesome rock score delivered by Queen, which mostly hangs in the background with an occasional utterance of “Flash!” but picks up epically during a climactic battle with the Hawkmen, and the head-banging end credits theme is just one reason my VC loves this movie. By the time the film concludes with one last moment of over-the-top absurdity, the actors (especially Dalton) are standing in victory, smiling hollowly as if they’re thinking “This must be the end of my career.” Thankfully, that was not the case, not even for the incredibly wooden Sam Jones. They went on to bigger and better things with this garishly fun piece of cheese as a cult classic stepping stone. It’s a sci-fi comic book come to life in all the worst and best ways.
Best line: (Dale Arden) “Flash, Flash, I love you, but we only have fourteen hours to save the earth!”
Rank: List Runner-Up
© 2016 S. G. Liput
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