Throwback Thursday: Flash Gordon (1980)

“Flash Gordon. Quarterback. New York Jets.”

Entirely over the top and insanely fun to boot, 1980’s Flash Gordon is loud, brightly colored, and completely bonkers. It features a stellar cast loaded with actors who are well known in the science fiction and fantasy genres and boasts a soundtrack written and performed by none other than rock legends, Queen. The film is based upon the King Features Syndicate comic strip of the same name that was created by Alex Raymond.

In the film, Ming The Merciless has decided to toy with (and ultimately destroy) planet Earth by using a weapon to cause seemingly natural disasters on a catastrophic scale. On the planet, the brilliant and slightly mad Dr. Zarkov determines that an outside force is causing the devastating events and plans to pilot his rocket to their source in order to end the destruction. He tricks Flash Gordon and Dale Arden, fresh from a plane crash, into going with him to the planet Mongo. On Mongo, the trio quickly find themselves at the mercy of Emperor Ming. Ming orders the execution of Flash, the wiping of Zarkov’s brilliant mind, and that Dale becomes his newest bride.

All three of our heroes manage to survive their fates to some degree. Dale uses cunning to slip out of Ming’s clutches. Flash is aided by an unexpected traitor to Ming’s empire. Dr. Zarkov uses his amazing mind to defeat the brainwashing and even enhances his already powerful brain.

As the story continues, Flash attempts to unite the kingdoms of Arboria and Sky City by convincing their respective leaders that combined, they can overthrow Ming and his minions. Prince Barin of Arboria doesn’t trust Flash nor does he trust Vultan, leader of the Hawkmen in Sky City. He and Flash ultimately battle one another in a whip duel. The result of that duel (no spoilers, I promise), leads up to an attack on Sky City and the eventual bonding of Sky City and Arboria against Ming and his army. Will Flash save the day? I’m not telling you. You’ll have to watch the film for yourself!

This film is just fun to watch. It’s crazy and doesn’t really make that much sense but it doesn’t have to in order for the viewer to have a good time. This movie hearkens back to the whizbang days of early science fiction and fantasy where lasers, spaceships, monsters, and other genre tropes didn’t need to be explained. You simply accept them for what they are and move on with the film, book, radio broadcast, etc. The brightly colored costumes and sets also remind me of the days of films shot in Technicolor.

The film’s greatest strengths are found in its cast and the music by Queen. The persistent dunh-dunh-dunh-dunh of a piano gives the entire film a sense of urgency. It seems like the music is always building up to the next big explosion, battle, or fisticuffs. The cast features Sam J. Jones, Melody Anderson, Max von Sydow, Topol Brian Blessed, Timothy Dalton, Mariangela Melato, Richard O’Brien, William Hootkins, Robbie Coltrane, John Morton, Kenny Baker, Deep Roy, George Harris, and many, many more stars that appeared in films that include multiple Star Wars films, Raiders of the Lost Ark, numerous James Bond films, Doctor Who, the Harry Potter films, The Highwayman, Thunder in Paradise, Game of Thrones, The Neverending Story, and countless other science fiction and fantasy films. In other words, if you’ve ever watched a fantasy or sci fi film or television show, odds are that you’ve seen a few of the faces in Flash Gordon a time or two.

This movie isn’t for everyone. It’s probably too much for “serious” fans of science fiction to really enjoy and a tad bit too insane for hardcore fantasy followers. That being said, if you can toss out logic for a couple of hours, I’m sure that you’ll become a fan of this brilliantly crazy film. If nothing else, watch it to hear the great Queen soundtrack!

Thanks for reading my post. I’ll have a few Christmas themed posts next week!

One thought on “Throwback Thursday: Flash Gordon (1980)

  1. […] see any A-listers in their films, but you’d never know when someone like Sam J. Jones (Flash Gordon), Maxwell Caulfield (Grease 2), Adrian Zmed (Grease 2/T.J. Hooker), David Carradine (Kung Fu) or […]

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