Today I Watched…Flash Gordon

Flash Gordon

Flash Gordon

Reviews by Paul Preston

Welcome to Today I Watched…, a series of posts documenting my new challenge – watch a movie a day for the rest of my life. Keep coming back to to find out what I watch each day…and get my take on it.

When I see a movie that’s a new release in theaters or on demand, I’ll give it a proper review in the “Reviews” or “Home Viewing”, otherwise, I’ll write about it here.

June 25, 2017 – Flash Gordon

Oh, New Beverly, you’ve once again taken an old film from my youth and thrust it back in front of my fully-maturized adult eyes and asked me to re-consider it. The Black Hole failed to hold up. One year after The Black Hole came out, Flash Gordon was released in theaters, with Max von Sydow as Ming the Merciless and a rocking Queen soundtrack. I liked it then. Now?

Flash Gordon

Well, one thing Flash has going for it is not giving a damn about being serious AT ALL. That immediately takes the wind out of any real criticism one could give the film. Also, and I’ve said this before, the New Beverly crowd is a movie’s best friend. Even a half-dead piece of trash looks like Kubrick when that group of frenzied fans gets behind it. It’s a shame no one really knew how to follow in Star Wars’ footsteps. The sci-fi trend that followed couldn’t quite match Star Wars’ maturation and audience-perfect blend of story and characters with mind-blowing effects. It took Star Trek until 1982 (The Wrath of Khan) to do it, and other films followed suit as ’82 delivered Tron and Blade Runner as well, not necessarily outer space adventures, but still crowd-pleasing sci-fi that wasn’t outright goofy. What we got between ’77 and ’82 (outside of Alien, which didn’t care if it pleased the crowd or not) was goofy shit – The Black Hole, Buck Rogers in the 25th Century, Message From Space, Moonraker and The Cat From Outer Space. Also, Flash Gordon.

From the Man From Planet X-type costumes to the low-grade effects to the presentational sets to the dialogue never missing a chance to be cornball, Flash Gordon lives in its cheese, and it’s infectious. Not good, mind you, but infectious to where it creates its own rhythm. They, in fact, win by not trying to copy Star Wars (it’s a testament to how good Star Wars is that it couldn’t be matched). It is probably the first movie listed in the dictionary under the definition of “guilty pleasure” (just in case you didn’t get that from the fact that it’s a Dino De Laurentiis production).

Flash Gordon

Sam J. Jones plays football star Flash Gordon, who is whisked away on a spaceship with travel agent Dale Arden by mad scientist Hans Zarkov. They land on the planet Mongo (outstanding planet name) and are brought before the planet’s ruler, Ming, who is plotting Earth’s destruction. It takes a lot of football move fight choreography for Flash to get out of this one. Couple that with dialogue and over-the-top characters (except for Timothy Dalton’s Prince Barin, who is wonderfully serious) and you can have fun at this leave-your-head-at-the-door sci-fi bonanza.

(Not for nothing, but adding to the throwback charm of this film was the 35mm projection and the pinkish hue of the print!)

Directed by: Mike Hodges
Release Date: December 5, 1980
Run Time: 111 Minutes
Rated: PG
Country: UK/USA
Distributor: Universal Pictures

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