Vic’s Retro Pick – “Flash Gordon” 1980


7 out of 10

If indeed you dig cheese and camp on the most epic of levels (thrown in with some sci-fi) the Mike Hodges 1980 fantasy offering “Flash Gordon” is your platter that matters. It’s pretty cemented as one of the best ‘bad” films of the 1980’s. It’s laughable, charming and empty and quite a ride on the roller-coaster of camp. Hodges’ film is an explosion of sound, color, bombast and fun. I dare say that everyone can find something to love in this movie while exclaiming that it’s really bad. Well, its a conundrum all right.  Sam J. Jones, in a Razzie nominated performance, plays an ex-football player for the NY Jets. After boarding a plane with the very cute Dale Arden (Melody Anderson, “Dead and Buried”) they get caught in a funky looking meteor shower. They crash land and meet Dr Zarkov, played with delightful glee by the awesome Topol (“For Your Eyes Only”). Zarkov claims to know what is sending all of these meteors and causing the disasters that are plaguing earth. After they reluctantly get tricked aboard his rocket, Zarkov launches them to the planet Mongo. Then all campy hell breaks loose. In a good (and bad) way.

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The film then becomes an opulent ride full of loud Sci Fi action and gaudy costumes (Danilo Donati) that are bright red and jump at you from the screen. The 2 best things in Hodges’ hokey comic opus are Queen’s rock-a-licious soundtrack and of course the amazing Max Von Sydow as Emperor Ming The Merciless. Fred Mercury belts out the now iconic “Flash. Ah Ah” with vivid abandon. And we love it. Von Sydow absolutely revels in the material when he steals every scene he’s in. Except when the stunning Ornella Muti is on screen. Rawr. Brian Blessed, while attached to huge ridiculous looking wings is fantastic to watch as he bellows just about every line he has (“Impetuous Boy!!!). Prince Barin (Timothy Dalton) is another character we are introduced too as well and he displays heroic Robin Hood tendencies that are so off the wall that it is completely lovable but rather silly. There are Rocket Cycles, Sky Cities, football style fight scenes, force fields and wing barbarian attacks that are bountiful and ludicrous to behold. But is it fun and a piece of colorful camp and wonder?  Yeah sure. Is it full of innovative and funky sets and costumes? Kinda. Is it full of hammy, scene chewing? Oh yeah! Is it a good movie? Who the fuck knows. But have fun re-watching it. I sure did. Much more fun than when I first skewered it for my Middle School Newspaper review.

5 responses to “Vic’s Retro Pick – “Flash Gordon” 1980

  1. Flash. Ah, ahhhhh.

    Love it. Great review of a camp classic, Vic.

  2. Just watched it the other day. Awesomely terrible.

  3. kidmiracleshitter

    I never thought of this as a bad movie, and never passed up on opportunity to watch this on HBO as a kid. I think that like Army of Darkness, the way Flash Gordon turned out was what they were aiming for.

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