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Flash Gordon [RSC Film Club 50]


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Our fiftieth film for the film club is a cult classic and guilty pleasure, as per @omarcomin71's category nomination.  That film is 1980's Flash Gordon, chosen by @djw180.

Flash Gordon 40th Anniversary Poster Is Available & Awesome

Sam J. Jones plays Flash, football star of the New York Jets who has to defend the Earth from Ming the Merciless (Max von Sydow).  As well as Sydow there are a number of fantastic actors in supporting roles such as Topol, Timothy Dalton, and the shy and retiring Brian Blessed.  

I have vague memories of seeing this as a child but I couldn't tell you a thing about it apart from the legendary soundtrack by Queen, so I can't wait to watch this again.

flying flash gordon GIF

gordon's alive

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It is ages since I have seen this and to be honest I do not remember much of the opening with Flash and Dale on the plane crashing into Zarkov's lab. I would say it is not quite in the so-bad-it's-good category, because it isn't actually that bad. The lead actor, Sam J. Jones, rightly won a Worst Actor Razzie and some of the support aren't great. But most are OK for the sort of film it is, and Max Von Sydow is brilliant as Ming the Merciless, as is Brian Blessed as Prince Vultan.

It is, of course, all very silly, and I am sure it is meant to be. It's based on a 30s series that would have been shown in cinemas, as no one had TVs then. I remember seeing these on the TV when they got endlessly repeated in school holidays on the BBC in the 70s and 80s. This film still keeps the feel of the original, the actual style of the space ships and the costumes of the various peoples of Ming's empire. But made decades later it obviously has better effects and sets. Some of the script is hilariously bad, “Flash, Flash, I love you – but we only have 14 hours to save the Earth!” and distances are measured in “Mongo-Miles” - but again I think that was deliberate. They were clearly not trying to make serious sci-fi. Take the Football Fight scene where Ming's guards attempt to arrest Flash (“Quarter back, New York Jets”), and he fights them off using a handily available American Football shaped weapon which he just throws at the heads of each guard in turn knocking them out, until Dr Hans Zarkov (Topol) tries to help and ends up hitting Flash instead.

My favourite scene has to be the wedding ceremony, all set to Brian May playing Mendelssohn's wedding march on his electric guitar. When the priest, referring to Ming's intended bride Dale Arden, asks him if he “promises not to blast her off into space”, there is a pause as Ming considers if he wants to make such a promise, so the priest quickly adds “until such time as you grow weary of her”, Ming replies “I do”, Dale exclaims “ I do not!”, cue the music changing as Flash and the Hawk Men come to the rescue.

For me the music is brilliant, the best rock-score for a film ever. But I am biased as a huge Queen fan (all four band members wrote the music). I do know not everyone agrees. Someone once told me they thought it was quite a good film but the music spoilt it or them. 

For me, 8/10.


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