Judge David Johnson had a sweet ice jewel to offer as tribute, but that bastard Vultan stole it from him when he was burying his dead on Frigia.
Flash Gordon is, objectively speaking, a pretty awful movie. But remove your thinking cap for 110 minutes and watch it in good company and there are few experiences, I would argue, that can be as fun as drinking in Sam J. Jones' misadventures in a sci-fi fantasy world that has a production design just slightly more understated than the Biblical apocalypse as detailed in Revelation. Speaking of drinking, that would also enhance the viewing experience.
Facts of the Case
Ming the Merciless (Max Von Sydow) rules the universe and from time to time feels the need to obliterate a populated planet with "hot hail." Caught in his crosshairs this time? You got it, planet Earth. As catastrophe rains down, all-star Jets quarterback Flash Gordon (Sam J. Jones), journalist Dale Arden (Melody Anderson) and paranoid scientist Hanz Zarkov (Topol) launch themselves into space with Zarkov's phallus-shaped rocket and get sucked into a black hole. They're eventually puked up at the doorstep of Ming's palace and almost immediately Flash is scheming a way to unite the people's of Ming's kingdom of Mongo in a good old-fashioned government overthrow.
Before he can become a hero of the people, Flash will have to overcome an onslaught of palace guards using his football skills, come back from the dead, climb out of a swamp cage, escape the clutches of a giant forest crab, defeat Timothy Dalton in a whipping contest, convince the pantywaist Hawkmen to grow a pair and fight, fly a rocket cycle through a cloud, commandeer a warship and, finally, ram it into the palace before Ming marries Dale. Because, as everyone knows, Mongo's divorce statutes are incredibly complex to circumvent.
Ridiculous and corny beyond belief, Flash Gordon still stands as one of my all-time favorite movie-watching memories. When I was young, my brother and I would just eat this up, wearing out our VHS tape with repeated viewings. Despite my love for it, I knew even then that it was cheesy and moronic, especially when compared to more serious sci-fi fantasy fare like Star Wars or Jabberjaw.
The story goes that Steven Spielberg and George Lucas sat around to write Raiders of the Lost Ark and they each took turns reeling off things they've always wanted to see in a movie. That turned into the greatest adventure film ever made. I suspect that something similar happened during the brainstorming sessions of Flash Gordon. Dino De Laurentiis and his crew drew up a checklist that looked something like this:
1. Planets that look like vaginas
So much crazy, all dressed up with outlandish costume design, bolstered by a bitching Queen soundtrack, and delivered by actors with the subtlety of a cement truck with its brake lines cut. All churned, stewed and sautéed into a tasty cobbler of camp.
Let's keep the good times rolling and take a gander at the players in this epic romp:
Flash Gordon (Sam J. Jones)
Dale Arden (Melody Anderson)
Hans Zarkov (Topol)
Prince Barin (Timothy Dalton)
Princess Aura (Ornella Muti)
Klytus (Peter Wyngarde)
Prince Vultan (Brian Blessed)
Ming the Merciless (Max Von Sydow)
Here's the straight dope on the Blu-ray: Universal has put together one of the finest looking visual treatments for a catalog release I have ever seen. The 2.35:1 VC-1 1080p update is marvelous, sporting a stunning level of detail and, more importantly, flawless color work. Flash Gordon is, of course, packed with so many hues, your eyes will blister. The nutso production design is given its due respect with this high-def makeoever; one of the best this year, no doubt. The sound work isn't far behind, the DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio doing what it has to do, namely pushing out that Queen soundtrack so it peels the paint in your mud room. Extras are recycled from the "Savior of the Universe Edition" DVD: interviews with Alex Ross gushing about his love for the film and screenwriter Lorenzo Semple Jr. amusingly and candidly recounting the writing process and the frist episode of the 1936 serial.
The movie is big, moronic fun and the technical upgrade is dramatic. Disappointing extras keep Universal from hitting the trifecta.
Not Guil…no, no, not the bore worms!!!!!!
Give us your feedback!
What's "fair"? Whether positive or negative, our reviews should be unbiased, informative, and critique the material on its own merits.
Scales of Justice
Review content copyright © 2010 David Johnson; Site design and review layout copyright © 2013 Verdict Partners LLC. All rights reserved.