Flash Gordon (1980)


Pro football star Flash Gordon and his travelling companion are kidnapped by a mad scientist during his attempt to foil an attack on Earth by a malevolent intergalactic dictator.

Star Wars meets Barbarella in this high camp space opera based upon the comic strip and Saturday morning serial of the 1940’s. Flash Gordon will never be celebrated for its subtlety or sophistication, but what it is, is fun with a capital F! The plot is breathlessly episodic, the dialogue cheesy as Hell and Sam Jones’ performance as Flash is so wooden the crew probably had to spray him for termites. But the fact is, all of these seemingly bad elements come together to make something that is hugely enjoyable. The real joy of the film is in the performances, particularly Max Von Sydow’s disdainful and aloof Ming – the first line of the film is “Klytus, I’m bored…”, Ornella Muti smoulders with sex appeal as the space-borne femme fatale, Peter Wyngarde is hilarious as the camp secret police commander and Brian Blessed’s scenery chewing performance as Voltan instantly propelled him into the heart of the British public as a national treasure. The ornate production design and costumes still look fantastic today, combining the Art Deco feel of the comic strip with the look of a gladatorial Roman empire and the climactic space battle is actually really exciting.

It does perhaps take a little too long to get there, but Queen’s flamboyant pomp rock soundtrack and its wealth of hilarious lines keep it more than ticking over in the entertainment stakes making for one of the pinnacles of cinematic kitsch.



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