What’s it About?
A football player and his friends travel to the planet Mongo and find themselves fighting the tyranny of Ming the Merciless to save Earth.
Directed by Mike Hodges
7 out of 10
If you indeed love cinematic cheese and camp on the most epic of levels (thrown in with some off the wall sci-fi), the Mike Hodges 1980 fantasy offering “Flash Gordon” is your platter that matters. It’s pretty much cemented as one of the best ‘bad” films of the 1980’s. It’s laughable, charming, empty but it’s quite a ride on the roller-coaster of camp and colorful fun.
Hodges’ film is an explosion of sounds, colors, bombast and did I say fun? I dare say that pretty much everyone can find something to love in this movie while still exclaiming that it’s really bad. Well, its a conundrum all right. Hodges’ fantasy film stars actor Sam J. Jones, in a Razzie nominated performance, portraying an ex-football player for the NY Jets.
After boarding a plane with the very cute Dale Arden (Melody Anderson of Dead and Buried), Flash and Dale get caught in a funky looking meteor shower. They eventually crash land and meet the zany Dr Zarkov, played with delightful glee by the awesome Topol (For Your Eyes Only). Zarkov claims to know what is sending all of these meteors and causing the disasters that are plaguing earth. After they reluctantly get tricked aboard his rocket, Zarkov launches them to the planet Mongo. Then all campy hell breaks loose. In a good (and ironically bad) way.
The film then becomes an opulent ride full of loud sci fi action and gaudy costumes (Danilo Donati) that are mostly bright red and immediately jump at you from the screen. The 2 best things in Hodges’ hokey comic opus are Queen’s rock-a-licious soundtrack and of course the amazing Max Von Sydow as Emperor Ming The Merciless. Fred Mercury belts out the now iconic “Flash. Ah Ah” with vivid abandon. And we love it. Von Sydow absolutely revels in the material when he steals every scene he’s in. Except when the stunning Ornella Muti is on screen. Rawr.
Brian Blessed, while attached to huge ridiculous looking wings is fantastic to watch as he bellows just about every line he has (“You impetuous boy!”) thanks to Lorenzo Semple Jr’s (King Kong, Batman) corny but affable screenplay. Semple Jr, being no stranger to camp, kicks up the flamboyant fun into the stratosphere with this entry.
Prince Barin, played by the charismatic Timothy Dalton (The Rocketeer, Hot Fuzz), is another enjoyable character we are introduced too as well and he displays heroic Robin Hood type tendencies that are so off the wall that it is completely lovable but ultimately rather silly. There are rocket cycles, sky cities, stylized football fight scenes, force fields and wing barbarian attacks that are bountiful and ludicrous to behold.
But is it a blast and a piece of colorful camp and wonder? Yeah sure! Is it full of innovative and funky sets and costumes? Kinda. Is it full of hammy, scene chewing? Oh hell yeah! Is it a good movie? Who the fuck knows? But have fun re-watching it. I surely did. Much more fun than when I first skewered it for my Middle School newspaper movie review.