It is beautifully campy.
It is full of critically acclaimed actors taking on less than critically acclaimed roles (seriously Max Von Sydow, how do you go from The Seventh Seal and The Exorcist to Flash Gordon?).
It is covered in matte paintings and spandex and glitter and laser guns that make that fabulous ‘pew pew pew’ sound.
Queen did the soundtrack. QUEEN! And dang if the main theme song isn’t catchy as all get out.
It’s got fantasy. It’s got science fiction. It’s got a super hero with absolutely no super powers except fabulous hair and the ability to get himself in some really stupid situations.
Basically Flash Gordon is just a big ol’ beautiful mess and way more fun to watch than any movie this ridiculous should be.
The plot basically breaks down like this: Ming the Merciless is being his merciless best and attacking Earth for no other reason than he’s bored (dude, seriously, that just isn’t cool). Football star Flash Gordon (Sam J. Jones) and plucky reporter Dale Arden (Melody Anderson), along with super scientist Dr. Hans Zarkov (Topol – because Fiddler on the Roof was a long time ago I guess), get sucked into Ming’s nefarious plot and the next thing you know sexy Princess Aura (Ornella Muti) is coming between the budding Flash/Dale relationship, Brian Blessed is running around in wings and leather underpants (as Prince Vultan) and Timothy Dalton is doing his best soundrel-y Robin Hood impression (as Prince Barin). Lots of yelling, running, shooting, flying, falling, fighting, and outfit changes ensue as our erstwhile heroes try to stop Ming and save the world.
Flash Gordon was released at a time when everyone seemed to be trying to get in on the Star Wars/Superman bandwagon. It was big and expensive and loud and explosive and had just about every element it could grab from the science fiction/fantasy/superhero genres stuffed inside it. The plot is all over the place as if it can’t decide where it’s going. The dialogue is awkward and clunky at best (though Max Von Sydow sure does try to make the most of his Evil Overlord speeches) and the chemistry between our titular hero and his lady love is pretty much non-existent.
Yet for all the (I’m sure unintended) silliness, this remains a film that is just so much fun to watch. Brian Blessed and Timothy Dalton chew up their scenes like no one’s business. The bright colors and shiny bedazzled costumes are almost mesmerizing in their late 70’s, early 80’s splendor. Sam J. Jones is as earnest as earnest can be while playing the part of a dumb beefcake tasked with something way out of his league.
And that Queen soundtrack is just delightful as delightful can be.
– Mia V.
Flash Gordon, Rated PG, 1980
Starring Sam J Jones, Melody Anderson, Max von Sydow, Topol
Directed by Mike Hodges
Written by Lorenzo Semple Jr (screenplay), Michael Alin (adaptation)
*Watch Flash Gordon on ThisTV, Tuesday 6/10 at 3p, Thursday 6/26 at 8:30a