Tuesday, 31 August 2010

Are You a Member of the CULT? - Flash Gordon (1980, Universal)

"Pathetic Earthlings. Who will save you now?" - Ming the Merciless (Max Von Sydow)
I love this poster, which was also used as artwork for the 25th Anniversary DVD.
Camp? Yes. Rubbish, in a great sort of way Special Effects? Yes. Brian Blessed shouting a lot, while dressed like some sort of Turkey thats escaped from Bernard Matthew's farm? Definitely yes. Is it a cult classic in every sense of the word? Most definitely yes. Flash Gordon is an update of the original comic strip, created by Alex Raymond in 1934, which was then turned into a TV serial, starring Buster Crabbe. It told the story of Flash Gordon, his love interest Dale Arden (no stiff jokes here, please, although I'm dying to say a few!), and scientist Dr. Zarkov, trying to save the world from Ming the Merciless. It was a very good show (even if it did have very dodgy sets), but it would take nearly 40-odd years before anyone made a movie. But, Universal & Dino De Lorentiis had a crack at it in 1980, with their adaption of the screenplay by Lorenzo Semple, Jr., which was directed by veteran Mike Hodges (Get Carter. Another cracking film).

"Flash...Flash, I love you, but we only have 14 hours to save the Earth.." - Dale Arden
Where is the microfilm, Mr. Bond?
The story saw our hero, Flash (aaaaaahhhhhhhh!), against the evil, bald headed, long bearded Ming, who has decided to have fun with our planet, creating Tornados, Hot Hail storms and, to top it off, subject our moon to an enormous force to bring it crashing down to Earth on top of us (....nice!) within 11 days. So, Hans Zarkov (played by Topol, and very well in fact), kidnaps Flash (Sam J. Jones) and Dale (Melody Anderson) and takes them to the planet Mongo, in an effort to save us (every man, every woman, every child....ok I stop reciting the lyrics). On the planet, he gets executed and resurrected by Ming's daughter, Aura (Ornella Muti), tries the Wood Beast on Arbora against Prince Barrin (Timothy Dalton), wrangles in Vultan (BRIAAAAAAN BLESSSED!) to help (and laugh a lot), and pilots a huge ship with a very long pointy thing on the end (wait until H&S catch up with him!).

"Gordon's Alive?" - Vultan
The Japanese version. I like this one much better than our poster.
I first saw Flash in the late 90's, on the SCI-FI Channel (when it used to show good films. You know, before it started showing SyFy Originals that were filmed in your backyard using Blu-Tak, Cardboard and a wig from the Party Shop in town!), and enjoyed it's camp-ness, cheap (but still stunning) sets, models on wire (which still look good, in a naff kind of way) and solid performances by all (yes, even Jones, who had to have his voice dubbed, because it was too low, or something). Even the soundtrack by Queen was very listenable to on it's own from the film (I've even got the Battle Theme as a ringtone on my phone!), as the music gave the film a bit of seriousness and oomph.

"Promise me, if you kill me, you'll team up with Vultan and fight Ming!" - Flash
Rocket Cycle? Looks more like a tank from Command & Conquer!
Some lines might be cheesy, but the film is instantly quotable (many lines delivered by Blessed himself), and is the perfect cult movie. It is a perfect adaption, and it deserves it's cult status indeed.


  1. This was on yesterday, is that what inspired the post? :P It's a brilliant film and an awful film at the same time!

  2. I love this film. I know that I shouldn't but there is just something about it.

    Who in their lifetime at some point hasn't shouted "Gordon's Alive?".

  3. RKS:
    Nah, I watched it a few days ago on DVD, and just wanted to have a ramble about it.
    I know what you mean. There's a certain crap charm to it. It's both brilliant, and shoddy at the same time. I think that's what's given it it's appeal.