Saturday, 4 September 2010

Film Review: FLASH GORDON (1980)

Director: Mike Hodges
Running time: 111 mins (approx)
Certification (UK): PG

USA release date: 5th December 1980

Watched on Sky+ Saturday 4th September 2010.


I have seen this film many times over the years, but not recently. So when I saw it come up on the TV schedules I made it a priority to record it and give it yet another viewing. There are many things wrong with this film, but to me, they are outweighed by the things that are so right! Yes, its kitch and camp, yes the acting and the special effects aren’t great, but, to me, it’s so much fun! Here’s a bit about the plot and then I’ll tell you why.

American footballer Flash Gordon is returning home after a vacation when his plane is involved in a crash. The only other survivor is travel agent, Dale Arden. They crash in the grounds of scientist Dr. Hans Zarkov, who has been in the news because he thinks that recent natural disasters are the work of extra terrestrials and the Earth is under attack. He has pinpointed where he thinks the attacks are coming from and kidnaps Flash and Dale because he cannot operate his spaceship alone. They take off and eventually make it to the planet Mongo, ruled by the evil dictator, The Emperor Ming. All the moons of Mongo are ruled by different princes who are permanently at war with each other, among them are Prince Barin of Arboria and Prince Vultan, leader of the Hawk-Men. Ming is very interested in Dale and decides to take her as his bride. Flash is to be executed, but Ming’s daughter, Princess Aura intervenes and he is rescued and taken to Arboria. Zarkov is to be conditioned and enrolled into the network of spies run by Ming’s advisor, Klytus. Can Flash unite the oppressed people against Ming, can Zarkov save the Earth, and can Dale escape the evil clutches of The Emperor? Well, in the tradition of the 1930’s shorts, I’ll leave you on that cliff-hanger.

OK, I’ll admit the first thing that turned me onto this film was the soundtrack by Queen; I’m a fan of their work. But once I got past the great soundtrack I found a film that is actually pretty good in its own way, and an awful lot of fun! As I said at the beginning, not the greatest acting I’ve ever seen, but some really over-the-top stuff from Brian Blessed as Prince Vultan is a performance not to be missed. I also liked Max von Sydow as The Emperor Ming, Topol as Dr. Hans Zarkov and Timothy Dalton as Prince Barin. And of course it would be amiss of me to not give honourable mentions to Sam J. Jones as Flash Gordon, Melody Anderson as Dale Arden, Ornella Muti as Princess Aura and Peter Wyngarde as Klytus.

So why do I think this film is so much fun? Well, as soon as Flash, Dale and Zarkov land on Mongo you know none of this is to be taken too seriously. Its pure fantasy and you can just sit back and enjoy the ride. Yes, there is some violence there, but when a guy gets stabbed and his blood is blue, you know you’re not in Kansas any more. The visual style reminded me very much of the 1968 Roger Vadim film Barbarella starring Jane Fonda, although I felt the special effects weren’t quite so good in this one. Over all, kitch, camp, not great acting, not the best special effects, but a great soundtrack and an awful lot of fun! Recommended.

My score: 7.4/10

IMDb Site:
Official Site:

1 comment:

Shaun said...

This was my favorite movie when I was a child, most people remember Empire Strikes Back from the same year, which of course is a great movie, but Flash was the bomb of movies. It still has an iconic imagine in my mind because of watching on the big screen as a kid. I mean how could you not love seeing all the ropes and the miniature of the ship with the smoke coming out the back end. The movie screamed it was filmed in the 1950’s and yet there it was released in 1980. To this day I think that is what they were going after, was a retro fun film, and they nailed it on the head. “DIVEEEEEE!” Queen’s soundtrack played right into the movie as well, that had to be one of the best records that I ever owned as a child as well, just about the whole movie on vinyl with Queen’s movie playing. Even the movie geeks I work with at DISH who have seen every movie at least once love this movie. I just put it in my blockbuster @home queue, after reading reviews on the movie again, it made me want to see it. You got lucky I looked on my 20 movie cahnnels that come with my blockbuster movie pass, and no go on Flash, but that is why I have the DVD by mail service as well, so Thursday I can watch Flash all night.