Cast and Crew: Mike Hodges (Director); Lorenzo Semple Jr. (Screenplay); Michael Allin (Adaptation); Dino De Laurentiis (Producer); Bernard Williams (Executive Producer); Howard Blake (Orchestral Score); Ornella Muti, Timothy Dalton, Brian Blessed, Peter Wyngarde, Richard O’Brien, William Hootkins, Robbie Coltrane, George Harris, Deep Roy
What It’s About: Flash Gordon (Sam J. Jones), “Quarterback. NY Jets.”, has a meet-cute with reporter Dale Arden (Melody Anderson) in a small commuter jet. There’s just one problem: before their romance can go further, they’ll need to survive a hot hail storm (whatever the hell that is), an encounter with the maverick NASA heretic Dr. Zarkhov (Topol) and a trip in his private rocket ship to the planet Mongo. When the trio arrives they meet Ming the Merciless (Max Von Sydow), the emperor of Mongo, who rules the shattered remnants of the worlds he conquers by keeping his subjects fighting one another. Can Flash Gordon’s “can do” attitude, all-around athletic ability, and team building and leadership skills unite the warring tribes of Mongo and overthrow this ancient tyrant? I’ll give you a hint, as Queen so subtly put it in their epic theme song, while Flash Gordon is nothing but a man (with a man’s courage) he can never fail, a handy attribute when dealing with this sort of situation.
Why Watch it Today?: The first Flash Gordon comic strip ran today in 1934, was a smash hit, and was adapted into serials, cartoons, TV shows, comic books, and today’s movie. Flash Gordon (both the comic and the serial) were immensely influential, inspiring characters like Buck Rogers and a generation of filmmakers, authors and artists, including George Lucas who wanted to make a feature film version, a project which became Star Wars when Lucas was unable to obtain the rights.
In the wake of the success of Star Wars, Flash Gordon was one of the many properties revived in an attempt to cash-in on that film’s success and the renewed interest in the Space Opera sub-genre. While the resulting production is more campy than Lucas’ mega-blockbusters, it features an amazing supporting cast, wonderful costumes, props and sets based on Alex Raymond’s original comic strip artwork, immensely quotable dialogue, and an amazing soundtrack courtesy of Queen. It could just be that I saw this version first, but this will always be my favorite adaptation of Flash Gordon.
Other Options: Since today is Distaff Day, why not watch Mildred Pierce?