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Flash Gordon

Thanks to the convenience of home cinema, these days we all tend to have movies that we can watch again and again. They are a non-fattening sort of comfort food, and tend to be as wide and as diverse as people are. The feature that happens to be my cinematic bowl of chocolate ice-cream is 1981 sci-fi flick Flash Gordon.

In case you’ve missed it, the plot is as simple as it is fun; Football1 player Flash Gordon stumbles upon an alien assault on the planet Earth. With the assistance of a crazy genius and a sassy New York City girl, Flash embarks on a quest to save the Earth, picking up a menagerie of strange and exotic allies along the way.

With lavish sets and frankly ridiculous costumes, the world of Flash Gordon is one of pulp adventure and comic book weirdness, and it’s the real star of the movie. Sam Jones, who plays Flash, suffers from a lack of acting skill. Luckily, everybody else in the feature overacts in order to make up for it. The glorious scenery is chewed into tiny bits, and the result is wonderfully over-the-top.

Instantly quotable, utterly unforgettable. Also features rocketships.

Max Von Sydow is glorious as the Emperor Ming, a combination of high-camp villain and fatherly monster. This is the movie that gave Brian Blessed some of his best known catch-phrases 2 and allows to see a well-loved children’s TV presenter die a slow and lingering death. It also features Italian national treasure Ornella Muti3 as the Emperor’s Daughter. Thanks to a series of skimpy, body hugging outfits, Flash Gordon is responsible for the stirrings of all sorts of feelings in many a teenage boy.

This is a movie without subtlety or subtext, with a tiny hint of dark humour for taste. It’s filled with beautiful people being energetic and exciting, often in various states of undress. The plot is as complicated enough as it needs to be, the twists and turns are there simply to keep you on your toes and the characters are just deep enough for you to forget how shallow they are. It also features a sound-track by the rock band Queen, artists who, in their time, were famed for being every bit as ridiculous and camp as Flash Gordon .

1: Well, American Football, a game in which there is not much kicking and the ball isn’t round. Though I suppose ‘Hand Egg’ is a silly name for a sport.
2: Say it with me “Dive my Hawkmen” or failing that, “Gordon’s Alive”.
3: Wikipedia tells me her breasts are insured for $350,000. I have no idea who handles things like this. Go Compare, maybe?

Categories: Uncategorized
  1. March 2, 2012 at 9:12 am

    “Flash Gordon is responsible for the stirrings of all sorts of feelings in many a teenage boy.”

    You’re not kidding.

  2. peter coffey
    March 2, 2012 at 1:48 pm

    Hi Ed,

    Coupla things,
    Flash Gordon is 1980 not 1981.
    Why no love for Timothy Dalton that he couldn’t get a shout out? He did after all make a future Bond.
    Yeah, bit of overacting but it’s Flash Gordon for goodness sake. The strangest person in it was by far Prof Hans Zarkov played by Topol. Why is he so strange? He’s a trained opera singer, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chaim_Topol amongst other things and sometimes you just have to remember that if your body language can’t be seen by people sitting 40 foot away with the unaided eye than you need to get off the stage.
    Oh, and you also didn’t see Robbie Coltrane in it? Tut tut.

    • March 4, 2012 at 9:32 pm

      Well yes and no. The release of the film is a tale in and of itself, as are all the rest of the cast. (It’s almost as if I plan to do another post some day 🙂 )

  3. Carrie
    March 2, 2012 at 3:01 pm

    This movie never hit wide release in the US – they talk about it on the DVD, there was some disagreement between the star and the American publicity guys and they just neglected to book movie houses.

    Until Ash sat me down I had no idea what a lot of the quotes were from.

  4. March 2, 2012 at 5:11 pm

    Top quality cheese, this movie. Perfectly soundtracked as well of course.

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