Running time: 111 mins (approx)
Certification (UK): PG
USA release date: 5th December 1980
Watched on Sky+ Saturday 4th September 2010.
PLEASE NOTE: THERE MAY BE SPOILERS IN THIS REVIEW.
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: http://uk.imdb.com/title/tt0080745/
Official Site: http://www.universalstudiosentertainment.com/flash-gordon/