1980, Dino De Laurentis decided to revive Flash Gordon in a big-budget feature
faithful to both the original serials and the Dan Barry's comics. The
result was a campy, colorful, and flamboyant movie that did a good job updating
the original story. Despite this, it was a box-office sleeper that lost
More folks remembered the main title song
by Queen ("Flash .... AHHHHH!") than the movie itself. Ironically, the
flamboyant Queen soundtrack overrode other musical tributes like elements,
sounds, and scores from the Lost in Space television series.
The story was a close tribute to the
original material in which Ming the Merciless opts to destroy Earth out of sheer
boredom. He causes natural disasters and galactic mayhem until Flash Gordon,
Quarterback for the New York Jets, Dale Arden, and NASA scientist Dr. Hans
Zarkov drop in on his planet and start a revolution.
In this updated movie version, Sam Jones
played Flash Gordon and honestly played it well. Melody Anderson was
stunning as Dale Arden and Topol's performance as Dr. Hans Zarkov (changed from
the former "Alexi") was also quite good. Timothy Dalton played well as
Prince Baron, and Max Von Sydow was brilliant as Ming The Merciless. The
surprises of the remade Flash Gordon were Brian Blessed, who played a
happy-go-lucky bird man and Ornella Muti who played Princess Aura and was just
Max Von Sydow brought a majesty to Ming
concurrent with Boris Karloff's portrayal of Dr. Fu Manchu. Modeled
largely after the film version of "The Face of Fu Manchu", Ming came off as an
exotic madman, impressed with his own machines and dangerous by his mere
presence. He perfectly captured the essence of the original villain.
Also noteworthy were the fairly faithful
environments shown in the film. Rather than portraying more contemporary
settings, Dino De Laurentis insisted
on recreating the film serial look throughout this movie. The final effect
is a black and white film heavily saturated with color. When you see it,
you understand the approach and it works well.
Ming's ultimate power rested in a ring he
wore. Contrary to other space operas, this ring appeared to have a magic,
mystic effect on its victims. That, combined with an array of strange
devices and warcruisers that appear to be directly plucked from the film
serials, make Ming's Empire a great opponent for Flash to fight.
In all, the updated version provides a
nice revamp of the original material but does lack any real sense of danger or
fear ... despite this, it is fun, fun, fun.