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.
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.
In 13th century England, Robin “Hood” Longstride (Russell Crow) and his band of marauders confront corruption in a local village and lead an uprising against the crown that will forever alter the balance of world power. And whether thief or hero, one man from humble beginnings will become an eternal symbol of freedom for his people. “Robin Hood” chronicles the life of an expert archer from his service in King Richard’s army in the crusade to Richard’s death. Robin travels to Nottingham after assuming the identity of a dead knight. Nottingham suffers from the corruption of a despotic sheriff and crippling taxation. Here he meets Lady Marian (Cate Blanchett). With their country weakened from decades of war, embattled from the ineffective rule of the new king and vulnerable to insurgencies from within and threats from afar, Robin and his men heed a call to ever greater adventure. This unlikeliest of heroes and his allies set off to protect their country from slipping into bloody civil war. Directed by Ridley Scott (Gladiator).
Rating: 7 out of 10
This is not your grandpa’s Errol Flynn, swashbuckler in green tights. In some ways, it should have been a little more of that romantic, idealized character.
Instead, we’re given a very gritty Robin Hood who steals the identity of a dead knight, assumes his role as husband and son, and stumbles into heroism rather than a planned, gallant effort. We’re given the origin story of a soldier-for-hire, working his way through the crusades for King Richard (Danny Huston) as an archer. We’re given a little too much violence, which is odd for me to say because it normally doesn’t bother me, but there are a lot of battle scenes that get in the way of this picture and slow the story down.
The back story of Longstride is nicely woven into the story, and Crow gives a solid performance in a physically demanding role. This film has a great cast with Max von Sydow and Blanchett in strong supporting roles, and Oscar Isaac is delightful as the villainous Prince John. But the movie is bogged down by too much action and moves slowly at times. It’s 140 minutes long, and I’d bet that a good half is fighting which could have been cut way back and, streamlining the picture.