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Flash Gordon

Flash Gordon

By Patrick Samuel • August 23rd, 2013
Static Mass Rating: 4/5
Universal Pictures

Original release: December 5th, 1980
Running time: 111 minutes

Director: Mike Hodges
Writers: Michael Allin, Lorenzo Semple, Jr., Alex Raymond
Composers: Queen, Howard Blake

Cast: Sam Jones, Melody Anderson, Chaim Topol, Max von Sydow, Ornella Muti, Brian Blessed, Timothy Dalton

Flash Gordon

Could there be another movie quite like Mike Hodges’ Flash Gordon? With its extravagant sets, lurid colours and a soundtrack by the legendary rock group Queen, it’s a one in a million film and there’s nothing else like it in the known universe.

I don’t remember exactly when I first saw it, but it was definitely on television during the 80s. Thankfully it was on a colour set, not the black and white one we had for a few years after I was born, so I didn’t miss out on the fantastic colours the movie had to offer. Aside from its action and adventure, what I remember being fascinated by was the music, and wondering afterwards why other movies didn’t sound the same. I found myself comparing it to Superman (1978), Supergirl (1984) and Masters Of The Universe (1987), and eventually coming to the conclusion that Flash Gordon was something of a one-off.

The film begins with Emperor Ming the Merciless (Max von Sydow) declaring that he’ll shower Earth with natural disasters before destroying it completely. We then meet New York Jets football star “Flash” Gordon (Sam J. Jones) who boards a plane together with travel journalist Dale Arden (Melody Anderson). Mid-flight the plane is hit by a meteorite and Flash takes control, managing to crash land it in a greenhouse owned by Dr. Hans Zarkov (Chaim Topol).

Zarkov believes the disasters are not natural and that they’re being sent from somewhere else. He’s built a rocket ship to investigate his theory and in no time at all Flash and Dale are on board with him to the planet Mongo.

Flash Gordon

Once they arrive there and are captured by Ming’s troops, Flash Gordon becomes a space opera with Dale gradually warming towards Flash as he fights to save her from becoming Ming’s reluctant bride and our planet from being destroyed.

With the help of Ming’s scheming and ardent daughter, Princess Aura (Ornella Muti), Flash escapes his death sentence, but the princess has other plans for him. Along the way he must also duel with Prince Barrin (Timothy Dalton) and form an alliance with a rebel group of Hawk-men led by Prince Vultan (Brian Blessed) if he has any hope of defeating Ming, saving Dale and Earth.

While the 70s and most of the 80s were responsible for a lot of camp cult classics, Flash Gordon, along with Masters Of The Universe, The Rocky –Flash GordonHorror Picture Show, and Little Shop Of Horrors (1986) tend to top the countdown lists and its no surprise why.

Queen’s electric soundtrack includes Flash’s Theme which is instantly recognisable with its unique synth melody and lyrics proclaiming “Flash, a-ah, saviour of the universe”. Viewers are also treated to shirtless screen time from Sam Jones as well as pair of very revealing leather shorts, but there’s also Ornella Muti’s revealing outfits to keep the boys happy too.

It’s hardly any surprise that the film continues to be enjoyed today by those who grew up with it, despite its poor reception when it was first released. There’s much to enjoy with its music, sets, special effects and costumes, if not the acting. While our superhero movies might’ve become more sophisticated in later years, this one still has a raw charm and vibrant energy to it that today’s attempts lack.

Patrick Samuel

Patrick Samuel

The founder of Static Mass Emporium and one of its Editors in Chief is an emerging artist with a philosophy degree, working primarily with pastels and graphite pencils, but he also enjoys experimenting with water colours, acrylics, glass and oil paints.

Being on the autistic spectrum with Asperger’s Syndrome, he is stimulated by bold, contrasting colours, intricate details, multiple textures, and varying shades of light and dark. Patrick's work extends to sound and video, and when not drawing or painting, he can be found working on projects he shares online with his followers.

Patrick returned to drawing and painting after a prolonged break in December 2016 as part of his daily art therapy, and is now making the transition to being a full-time artist. As a spokesperson for autism awareness, he also gives talks and presentations on the benefits of creative therapy.

Static Mass is where he lives his passion for film and writing about it. A fan of film classics, documentaries and science fiction, Patrick prefers films with an impeccable way of storytelling that reflect on the human condition.

Patrick Samuel ¦ Asperger Artist

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