Flash Gordon (1980) Directed by Mike Hodges. With Sam Jones, Melody Anderson Max Von Sydow, Timothy Dalton, Ornella Muti, Brian Blessed, and Topol.
I’ve been told to guard against my own nostalgia getting the better of me when it comes to reviewing Mike Hodges’ 1980 cult classic, Flash Gordon. My Dad rented it on Betamax in the early ’80’s, and we settled down to a double-bill of it and Star Wars – I was blown away. While George Lucas’ space opera still has the power to turn most of us back into starry-eyed 7-year-old’s, Flash survives to be seen by many as more of a guilty treat. Not I.
I won’t bore you with the plot set-up – suffice it to say that an American footballer and his friends unwittingly travel to the planet Mongo, whereby they encounter a tyrannical leader with intentions of destroying Earth. Intergalactic insanity ensues.
In my mind at least, there has to be something wrong with you to not get this. The joyously camp tone is feast for the eyes, with the art department and wardrobe design doing a Spinal Tap by cranking everything up to number 11. The soundtrack (provided by Queen), blasts off with its glorious, unashamed anthem. Freddie Mercury and co belt the title song with a conviction you might expect to hear placed elsewhere. Wherever it comes from, it rocks.
The whole thing has an air of innocence about it that papers over its obvious flaws. As Flash, actor Sam Jones is a cardboard cut-out hero, pitted against a deliciously over-the-top Max Von Sydow as the dastardly Ming the Merciless. They are supported by a range of the stunningly beautiful (Ornella Muti), the devilishly handsome (Timothy Dalton), with a fist-full of true South Yorkshire grit (Brian Blessed) as back-up. The whole thing has a party atmosphere, but one in which the drinks are free and the bar never closes. This is pure, escapist fun at its most B-movie effective.
All of these things that I’m highlighting as positives, could easily be sneered at by anyone who opts to not play-along with the larger-than-life tone. In the end, fighting it is doing yourself out of a pleasure. It’s one of those films that I can watch any time it pops on the TV. Like an antidote to sadness, it puts a song in my heart and forces a beaming smile across my face. Sexy, colourful and utterly bonkers – Gordon is very much alive! 4/5