Tuesday, May 24, 2011

SCI-FI Week!: Does Flash Gordon Suck?


We here at Film Deviant constantly ask the questions that are always on the tip of your tongue. And while it's Sci-Fi Week here where ever you turn...we have one very important question to ask of the genre...

Does the 1980 version of Flash Gordon suck?

Please join me now for a detailed look into the film we all grew up on.

First of all...let's not forget that Dino De Laurentiis brought us this film. What? You don't know who Dino is?! Blasphemy! Actually...I don't expect you to know exactly who he is...however, if you grew up in the 80's then you may know some of the other films he's produced. Here...let's take a brief walk down the path that Dino help build:

Halloween II (1981)
Conan the Barbarian (1982)
Amityville II: The Possession (1982)
Halloween III: Season of the Witch (1983)
Dead Zone (1983)
Dune (1984)
Silver Bullet (1985)
Blue Velvet (1985)
Evil Dead 2 (1987)
Army of Darkness (1993)

Ok...so, now that we got that out of the way...and you see some of the films he's produced, I'm sure you're a little more familiar with Dino now. If not...then, shame on you. I'm not gonna come out and say that you suck in life....but, yeah....you kind of do.

So...unfortunately, Mr. De Laurentiis passed on to the big production company in the sky late last year at the tender age of 91. As you can see he left us a large catalog of quality classic films. Shit...that Evil Dead 2 production credit alone pretty much cements his name into horror history. Looking at all of those films on his list, it seems that Dino was fond of horror, fantasy and science fiction. Luckily...it happens to be SCI-FI Week! here at Film Deviant...so, let us go back to the original question of this article as we examine his 1980 produced film...Flash Gordon.


Mention the name "Flash Gordon" to any unsuspecting geek over the age of 30 and odds are he/she might break out with the Queen title track to the film..."DUN DUN DUN DUN DUN DUN DUN DUN....FLASH! *crash* AAHH AAAHHHH! GONNA SAVE EVERYONE OF US!!!!!" It's a really great soundtrack...and I'm sure every fan of the film will take it with them along this long journey of life...occasionally whipping out the "Football Fight" theme whenever darting through city traffic....maybe that's just me. The soundtrack remains a classic musical masterpiece.

The film is directed by Mike Hodges who went on to direct Morons from Outer Space and the solid A Prayer for the Dying...as well as the oft overlooked Black Rainbow with a very sexy Rosanna Arquette. Sam Jones is Flash...and you probably won't recognize him from anything else...unless you watched a ton of prime-time television back in the 80's and 90's. But, even then....you'll always come back to Flash. And that's not necessarily a bad thing....it's just...I always feel bad for an actor that stars in something kind of iconic at first and then spends the entirety of his or her career trying to break free from the shadow of that iconic role...never succeeding. Recently....the enormously talented Brandon Routh is suffering from this curse. So...Sam Jones...wherever you may be...we love your Flash!


Ming the Merciless is played with devilish delight by the legendary Max Von Sydow....and he's fucking awesome! He IS the quintessential bad guy....and you almost kind of root for him as the film goes on...because you wonder if Ming was actually onto something by eradicating all the idiots that got in his way. I sometimes think to myself...if I were in this film...I might want to be Ming. The guy has it all...the girls, the power...he even sports a kick ass fu manchu! Of course Von Sydow continues to be quite the prolific actor...often demolishing any role he chooses at will.

There's a handful of young actors that you may recognize as a James Bond...or as a Fiddler on the Roof...or as a really fucking hot female specimen. Speaking of the latter...let us pause here in appreciation of Princess Aura...


The daughter of Ming the Merciless, Princess Aura is the sex-starved embodiment of 1980's perfection in vixen mode.


If God could only use one mold to create the female form from now until eternity...I would elect Ornella Muti's Princess Aura.


Lost my train of thought...

Ummm...what? Sci-what?? Oh....yeah.....Sci-Fi...right--Jesus Christ. Yeah....I know...Flash Gordon...ok...I got it...

Ok...so, where were we? Oh...yesh...Flash Gordon. Flash is a big dumb football player who is flying back to New York where he plays football for the New York Jets. This is pre-Mark Sanchez....post Joe Namath. He is flying with a reporter cutie who is pretty much annoyed at his antics. We hear Ming's voice in the beginning of the film explaining his plan to eradicate the Earth via a series of cataclysmic natural disasters. All of a sudden the airplane that Flash and reporter girl (I think her name is Gale...or Diane..or...Dale!) starts flying through some crazy hot hail. Then the plane is hit by a meteorite leaving no one at the controls. So Flash, being the hero type that he is, takes hold of the controls and happens to literally crash land the airplane onto the home of Dr. Zarkov where he's been researching the cause of the meteoric hail that has fallen upon Earth. The good doctor just so happened to be working on a spacecraft in which to explore the source of this destruction which he's narrowed down to somewhere out in fucking space. So, Flash gets into a little scuffle with Dr. Zarkov which leads to accidentally setting off the launching process of the spacecraft...thus shooting the trio (Flash, Dale and Dr. Zarkov) off into space. Oh...someone accidentally sets a course through a goddamn black hole to planet Mongo...which, coincidentally, is ruled by Ming the Merciless...the guy who is trying to destroy Earth.


Get all that? Ok...I never said that the premise is brilliant or anything. But, stay with me...it gets better. By the by...I just can't get over what a suave muthafucka that Ming the Merciless is! He can sure rock that plastic widow's peak better than any man I've seen.

Ok...so, Flash is captured by Ming's army....and this happens...


Then...Flash dies.

Then...Flash comes back to life.

He sticks his hand in a hole...fights Timothy Dalton in an awesome spiked platform battle....then proceeds to save the Earth and foil Ming's wedding to Dale somewhere in there. The plot often feels like they just thought this shit up along the way. Super weak as far as undeveloped ideas and a lack of character depth.

BUT!

Flash Gordon is fucking awesome!


I've watched it so many times...I could probably re-enact the entire scene where Dale and Princess Aura tussle around in a silk pillow fight. Max Von Sydow is evil lightning. Sam Jones is your cardboard hero. Timothy Dalton is there. Even Prince Vultan is awesome. Come on! A 500 pound bird man who flies with the grace of a hummingbird?? You can't write that stuff. Well...I suppose you could...'cause...well...they did. But, that's what makes this film so great. You know that it's turn of the decade cheese at its greatest...and yet...it all works so seamlessly. They could never recapture the magic of this film in any remake or reboot.


It exists as a one-off crappy masterpiece that succeeds in content as much as it does atmosphere. Queen's soundtrack is as much the star of the film as Sydow's Ming is. And why not? It's pure Science Fiction at its most preposterous and fun. It is everything you would want Flash Gordon to be...100 percent awesome.



So...NO...Flash Gordon doesn't suck.

Good job...Mike Hodges and Dino!

Thanks for reading,

bryan.






No comments:

Post a Comment