Saturday, February 15, 2014

My Favorite Era: Flash Gordon (1980)

Here it is, the greatest thing Dino DeLaurentiis ever put his name on.   Based on the classic character from serials, comics and television, this is one of the most entertaining 80's flicks and an early childhood favorite of mine.  Let's take a closer look.
  • Amusingly enough, the first choice Dino had to direct the movie was Federico Fellini.  I'd love to have seen how that would have turned out.  You think the film is wild now?
  • The plot is as basic as it gets pro footballer "Flash" Gordon (Sam Jones) ends up joining reporter Dale Arden (Melody Anderson) and Dr. Hans Zarkov (Topol) on a trip to the reason the moon is moving closer to the planet.  They end up being taken to the planet Mongo where of course they run into the evil despotic ruler Ming the Merciless (Max von Sydow) as well as a bunch of other colorful characters.  It's pure pulpy goodness.
  • Dear lord, the theme song by Queen is still one of the greatest things I have ever heard in my life.
  • I love that one of the choices on Ming's control panel of destruction is "hot hail".  You know, because just regular hail just isn't good enough sometimes.
  • The film doesn't fart around with too much exposition, it just cuts right to the aforementioned flight.
  • Jones and Anderson have good chemistry together, making Flash and Dale instantly likable.
  • Max von Sydow does something incredible here as Ming, going the incredibly ballsy route of underplaying him.   Most actors would have hammed it up to the nth degree buy good old Max takes the alternate route and comes up with a fantastic cinematic villain.
  • While the main bad guy is busy being low key in his approach, the rest of the supporting cast dives into their roles with a remarkable relish.  First of all, Topol as Dr. Zarkov whose first scene is just hilariously over the top.  Shouting at his assistant to help while waving a gun around, the man is fantastically charismatic and entertaining.
  • The production design is simply incredible with fantastic sets, costumes, cheesily wonderful f/x.  This is basically the greatest Italian space opera ever made.
  • Timothy Dalton and Brian Blessed are hammily awesome as Prince Barin (leader of Arboria) and Prince Vultan (leader of the Hawkmen) respectively.  Dalton is enjoyably cool and it is easy to see why he was chosen as James Bond eventually.  He also hams it up a bit every now and then.
  • Brian Blessed, however, is another story.  Overall he's a pretty awesome guy, he's tried to climb Mt. Everest a few times, is a fantastic classically trained actor, but his real talent is in going over the top.  I'm not talking Shatner over the top either, as much as I love Bill, he tends to come off as sort of self-consciously hammy.  Blessed is just like that naturally as an actor.  He's just doing his normal thing... And its awesome.
  • Peter Wyngarde is delightfully droll as Klytus, Ming's second in command.
  • I love that the first action scene is Flash starting up an impromptu football game to combat Ming's guards.  It's just hilariously fun.
  •  Ornella Muti is quite sexy as Ming's daughter Aura.  She also gets the most memorable line after she is captured and sent off to be tortured after helping Flash escape.  Not often you hear a line like "No, not the bore worms!" and it fits the tone of the film perfectly.
  • Topol explaining how he managed to fend off being brainwashed is a thing of beauty.  The scene where Klytus tries to brainwash him is also good.
  • My favorite thing about the movie is just how diverse the planet Mongo is.  Every place we see has a different look, culture, personality.  It's an uncommonly well thought out screenplay.
  • The pacing of the film is quite good, especially considering the 111 minute running time.
  •  The final act is just pure fun, as is the rest of the movie.  Brian Blessed really rules the roost here, hamming it up with abandon.
Flash Gordon is quite simply one of the most enjoyable films I have ever seen.   Fast, funny, irresistibly silly, it still holds up as one of the finest things to come out of the 80's.

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About Me

I've been a huge fan of action, horror and comedy for as long as I can remember.