Flash Gordon 1980

In 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 money.

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 plain hot!

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.