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Flash Gordon (1980) Poster

(1980)

Trivia

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George Lucas, who had loved the old Universal Flash Gordon serials as a kid, wanted to make a modern version based on the original comic strips, but when he learned the rights were too expensive (as King Features wanted to sell them to Federico Fellini, who was optioning them at the time), he wrote Star Wars: Episode IV - A New Hope (1977) instead.
Four 007 actors appeared in this movie: Max von Sydow (Never Say Never Again (1983)), Timothy Dalton, Haim Topol and a young Robbie Coltrane.
Max von Sydow's Ming costume weighed over 70 pounds and he could only stand in it for a few minutes at a time.
The psychedelic color effects throughout the Ming universe were accomplished by swirling multicolored dyes through creatively-lit tanks of water.
Arnold Schwarzenegger was turned down for the lead role because of his impenetrable Austrian accent.
Most of Sam J. Jones's dialog was dubbed. This was due to the fact that Jones had a falling out with producer Dino De Laurentiis over lack of payment and refused to go into the recording studio to loop his lines.
All the main actors were signed for multiple films but the sequels were never made since the first movie didn't do as well as expected.
The backstory of Flash's T-shirt was that it was a gift from an anonymous female fan. Flash wore it a lot in the hopes that he would eventually meet the woman.
This was the first movie that the rock band Queen made the music for, in it Prince Vultan says "Who wants to live forever?". The only other movie Queen did the soundtrack for was Highlander (1986), for the movie they wrote songs including "Who Wants to Live Forever" plus many others.
Director Mike Hodges, referring to the numerous production problems that plagued the film, once called it "the only improvised $27-million movie ever made".
Sam J. Jones' dark hair was bleached blonde for this role, and Melody Anderson's blonde hair was dyed brown. Flash was also supposed to have blue eyes, but Sam could not wear the contact lenses.
Kurt Russell auditioned to play Flash Gordon. According to an interview with Russell in Starlog magazine from August 1981, Dino De Laurentiis really wanted Russell for the part, but Russell ultimately turned it down because he thought the character was lacking in personality.
In the finished film, George Harris's dialogue as Prince Thun of Ardentia was dubbed. His actual voice can be heard on the Queen soundtrack album, however, indicating that this change must have been made fairly late in post-production.
One of the feast items in the Hawkmen's Kingdom was Twinkies colored with food dye.
Sam J. Jones was cast in the role after being spotted by the mother-in-law of Dino De Laurentiis on an episode of The Dating Game (1965)
During the opening credits each actor's credit is accompanied by artwork of their character from the original comic strip. Therefore you see all of the major characters as cartoons before you see the actors who play them.
In the original script, when Flash is sentenced to death by Ming, Dale bursts out that Ming is "absolutely merciless". Ming is enthralled with the description, and immediately starts calling himself "Ming the Merciless".
John Hollis plays one of Klytus's Observers, who is fitted with an electronic "imager" device in place of his eyes. Hollis also has a role in Star Wars: Episode V - The Empire Strikes Back (1980) as Lando Calrissian's aide, who has a similar distinguishing feature: a cybernetic device installed over his ears.
Dino De Laurentiis originally hoped that Federico Fellini would direct this film. The director had actually contributed to the original Flash strip cartoon during WWII.
According to the original storyline, when Dale is entranced by Ming's hypnotic ring, she is having a vision of being on an erotic picnic with Ming in a 1920's setting.
At one point Ming the Merciless says when he destroys a planet, he calls upon "the great god Daizan". Daizan is Japanese for "great cruelty".
Mike Hodges considered commissioning Pink Floyd to compose the music.
The movie came about when producer Lou Scheimer, seeking additional funding for his animated NBC movie of the week Flash Gordon: The Greatest Adventure of All (1982), turned to Dino De Laurentiis, who agreed to help out if Scheimer could finagle the rights for him to make a theatrical film. Impressed with Scheimer's results and the prospect of cashing in on the theatrical version, NBC shelved the animated movie for a handful of years, had Scheimer's company recut it and turned it into the Saturday morning series Flash Gordon (1979).
There is a rumor that the monitor behind Hans Zarkov (Haim Topol) as he is having his memory dumped shows scenes from Topol's previous movies.
Melody Anderson came up with Dale's cheerleading during the football fight.
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Brian Blessed improvised the scene where Vultan gooses Dale. Melody Anderson's reaction is genuine.
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Ming's symbol (which Klytus also wears on his gauntlets) is borrowed from the Freemason's square and compass. Ming also makes a Masonic gesture during the course of the movie.
Klytus and Kala, Ming's two chief henchmen, were competitors for their ruler's favor. Ming played them off against each other to keep them from teaming up against him. This was downplayed in the film to keep the storyline fluid.
Ming's attack on Earth was accomplished by bombarding the moon with force beams, knocking it out of orbit. The meteors which disrupt Flash's airplane flight were burning chunks of lunar debris.
The actors playing the Hawkmen couldn't sit down because the costumes would hurt their backs. Melody Anderson told Starlog Magazine, "They could never sit down, because when they did the wings would dig into their backs. When we had a rest period, you'd see all these guys lying on their stomachs with wings, like they were ready to take off. It was a very funny sight." According to Brian Blessed, he had to sit on a perch.
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According to Brian Blessed, it took about three days to prepare the Ajax sequence and put everything, including dozens of hanging Hawkmen, in place. Blessed put in his own special effects, going "pew pew pew" as he "shot" his cardboard bazooka. Because of this they had to take another day to reset. Blessed didn't feel too bad as Sam J. Jones was also a pretty hot hand with his prop gun, also filling in the "pew pews."
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Dino De Laurentiis had never heard of Queen before making this film. The band was approached for the gig in 1979 and they were immediately interested in the prospect of working on a film. Their manager arranged a meeting with De Laurentiis to discuss the opportunity and he allegedly asked "who are the Queens?"
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Flash jumping into the camera screaming "YEAH!" was an improvisation by Sam J. Jones, as nobody could figure out how to end the movie.
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Princess Aura's "pet" is named Fellini. Production Designer Danilo Donati worked on a number of Federico Fellini films.
Mike Hodges was the eighth director chosen.
Brian Blessed revealed in his autobiography 'Absolute Pandemonium' that he was paid £30,000 for his role as Prince Vultan.
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Dennis Hopper was considered for the role of Dr Zarkov.
In the original script, Flash and Dale first meet at a Canadian resort called Dark Harbor. Although they flirt with each other, they don't become acquainted until they're sharing the ill-fated plane ride to New York City. Dale later talks briefly about Dark Harbor during her tear-filled meeting with Flash before his execution.
Dr. Zarkov's backstory was that he was a NASA scientist who was fired for his paranoid fantasies that Earth was going to be attacked from outer space. Sixty Minutes derided him as "A Poor Man's Billy Mitchell".
The script was translated into Italian by a woman who Lorenzo Semple Jr. described as a "horrible" translator. He gives an example saying if it said, "The tall, beautiful woman walked into the room," she'd say, "Oh, what a beautiful cat." Semple complained but Dino De Laurentiis said, "I do not want to be fooled by the words; I do not want to be fooled by written words. I want to know the story."
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Lorenzo Semple Jr. was pressured to make the film funny even though he says now was "a terrible mistake." He said, "Dino wanted to make Flash Gordon humorous. At the time, I thought that was a possible way to go, but, in hindsight, I realize it was a terrible mistake. We kept fiddling around with the script, trying to decide whether to be funny or realistic. That was a catastrophic thing to do, with so much money involved... I never thought the character of Flash in the script was particularly good. But there was no pressure to make it any better. Dino had a vision of a comic-strip character treated in a comic style. That was silly, because Flash Gordon was never intended to be funny. The entire film got way out of control."
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For a scene where Dale turns into a giant spider for a dream sequence, Melody Anderson spent six hours getting painted green, wearing fake eyes and fangs with a head piece that weighed over 20 pounds. When Mike Hodges came in, he said, "This is wonderful! But we can't use this, it has absolutely nothing to do with the script.
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Dino De Laurentiis considered hiring Sergio Leone to direct the film. Leone refused, because he believed the script was not faithful to the original comic strips.
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The wristwatch Flash is wearing in the early scenes of the film is a Seiko automatic chronograph, model 6139-6002. The watch disappears when Flash gets to Mongo.
According to Sam J. Jones, while filming the tilting-disc fight scene, the actors would get covered in paint by the disc that was spray painted silver. They would have to take extra time between each take to wipe silver paint off their bodies.
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There was a considerable language barrier onset due to having English and Italian crews.
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The insignia on Klytus's uniform is based on Masonic symbols.
Leon Greene was re-voiced by David de Keyser.
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Nicolas Roeg was originally going to direct, but didn't due to creative difference. One of his proposals was to excise the trademark cliffhangers and melodrama, seeing Flash as more of "a metaphysical messiah."
In the comics, Flash was a polo player, but that was a less popular sport by 1980.
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The psychedelic colour effects throughout the Ming universe were accomplished by swirling multicoloured dyes through creatively-lit tanks of water.
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First film of Jim Carter.
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Brian Blessed was an avid fan of Flash Gordon since childhood. His favourite character was Vultan.
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The first draft of the script had, among other things, no Kala, Klytus being psychic, a Tiger Man aiding Flash, Ming having a group of Amazon warriors, and a proper swordfight between Flash and Ming.
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The original Flash Gordon serials were a major influence on George Lucas's Star Wars films. This film was made largely in response to the success of those films. It also features two future Star Wars cast members. Brian Blessed appeared in Star Wars: Episode I - The Phantom Menace (1999), and Max von Sydow appeared in Star Wars: The Force Awakens (2015).
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After production was completed on the film, 'Max Von Sydow (I)' would make a cameo in the 1982 film _"Conan the Barbarian"(1982)_ as King Osric. Arnold Schwarzenegger whom plays Conan in that film, was originally cast as Flash Gordon, but was turned down due to his accent.
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In the original comic strips, the character known as Kala was the King of the Shark Men (from the undersea kingdom of Mongo), rather than the German-accented female general of Ming's forces played in the movie by Mariangela Melato. Likewise, Prince Thun was the King of the Lion Men of Mongo in the strips (and in the Universal serial), unlike the more human character George Harris plays in the movie.
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John Osborne only has two lines.
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Because of his height, the 6-foot Sam J. Jones choreographed and did most of his own stunts.
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According to the book Dino: The Life and Film of Dino De Laurentiis, Sam J. Jones kept getting into fights during the filming of the movie - at one point, Jones was in the hospital with a big scrape on his face, and De Laurentiis himself barged into the operating room to make sure they fixed his face so as not to leave a visible scar. But Jones kept causing trouble, and then at Christmas, he left for Los Angeles and never returned - so De Laurentiis recalls that he told Mike Hodges, "We'll keep going, with the very best stand-in you can find."
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At one point Ming the Merciless says when he destroys a planet, he calls upon "the great god Daizan". Daizan is Japanese for "great cruelty".
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Klytus didn't appear in the original comic strip.
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Richard O'Brien found the whole experience of making the film tedious. He did, however, get a lot of pleasure from sitting in the personalised chairs of the principals. His impish behaviour wasn't curbed at all; he knew Mike Hodges very well, much to the consternation of the stars who regularly bitched about him on set.
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When Nicolas Roeg was going to direct, Debbie Harry was to play Princess Aura, and Keith Carradine was to be Ming the Merciless.
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Earlier in his career, Richard O'Brien mentions Flash Gordon in the opening song to his cult hit The Rocky Horror Picture Show (1975).
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Max von Sydow would later have small roles in the science fiction films Dune (1984) as Dr. Liet Kynes and _Star Wars: The Force Awakens (2015)_ as Lor San Tekka. The "Flash Gordon" serials of the 1930s, which this is film is a remake of and the science fiction fantasy novel "Dune" by 'Frank Herbert' (I) were considered to be 'George Lucas (I)'s influences behind the "Star Wars" films.
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Klytus was not in the original comic strips or the 1930s serials and was created for the film.
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"Flash Gordon" was photographed by veteran British cinematographer Gilbert Taylor, who had been the DP on Star Wars: Episode IV - A New Hope (1977). Taylor's distinctive camera work, which has a dreamlike, hazy look emphasizing the fantasy element (accomplished with the use of filters) is in full effect on "Flash Gordon."
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A comic book adaptation of the film was drawn by artist Al Williamson, who had previously worked on Flash Gordon comics in the 1960s. Williamson actually disliked the movie, especially the casting of Sam J. Jones, whom Williamson felt did not resemble the classic character.
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Mike Hodges had previously cast John Osborne in Get Carter (1971).
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In Spain was a re-release in 2015 only in Barcelona (Phenomena). The film was projected for 1 day in subtitled version.
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Cameo: Robbie Coltrane as man at airfield seen handing Flash and Dale's luggage and closing the plane door.
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Closing credits: The characters and events depicted in this photoplay are fictitious. Any similarity to actual persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.
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Cameo 

Peter Duncan: as a young tree man.
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Spoilers 

The trivia item below may give away important plot points.

A scene from Doctor Who: Last of the Time Lords (2007), which a unidentified hand is seen picking up the ring of The Master at his funeral pyre, which The Master's evil laugh is heard mirrors the final scene of this film.
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See also

Goofs | Crazy Credits | Quotes | Alternate Versions | Connections | Soundtracks

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