Flash Gordon (1980)
May the "colors" be with you !
27 August 2017
Warning: Spoilers
May God forgive George Lucas for Star Wars (1977). Its success led to such a huge wave of follow-ups, imitators, and wannabes, from America and out of it, written directly to cinema or based on old work, good or miserably bad!

Flash Gordon (1980) is one of those movies, produced by American-English money, based on old 1930s comics, and for the most part.. not miserably bad.

While it has bases to launch a saga of its own, it doesn't realize itself as an enjoyable blockbuster, or strong sequel-worthy movie. And I have 2 accused of that crime!

If this script has a mark, then it has to be that a lot of its events happen SUDDENLY. For instance, while the hero and the heroine travel by a plane, they find themselves SUDDENLY in a Russian scientist home, and within 2 minutes they find themselves SUDDENLY in planet Mongo!! While the Vultan's kingdom explodes, and the lead wants desperately to escape, he SUDDENLY finds a rocket cycle, which he SUDDENLY knows how to drive?!! While the heroine - who knew the lead since hours ago - wants to tell him a story, he interrupts her saying fondly: "Save it for our kids"??!! So he SUDDENLY loves her now, wants to marry her, and she SUDDENLY accepts?!!! I won't say more, I'll only add: "..and so on"!

For the second accused, I must recall the scene of defeating the evil guy. It doesn't exist in the first place, since the mighty and merciless Emperor Ming is finished without a proper fight. It's shown as random as a sneeze! Later I knew that there was a swordfight between Flash and The Emperor, however due to numerous production problems that plagued the movie-it was canceled. This explains also the abundance of primitive smoky backgrounds, mostly terrible green screen effects, and obvious - 1950s movies like - miniature models. Clearly, there wasn't a budget for any Star Wars kind of respectable, or acceptable, visual effects!

I believe producer Dino De Laurentiis wanted a cheap Star Wars saga, and with the matters getting worse, the ambition changed to campy fun, especially with customs recycled from his previous movie Barbarella (1968), fisheye lens from director Mike Hodges's side, all covered with tons of gloss provided by director of photography Gilbert Taylor (who was the DOP of Star Wars itself!).

So, as you see, poor writing, as well as poor production, killed the movie's seriousness, even as entertaining action adventure, and randomness just ruled. You read things like how Sam J. Jones, as Flash Gordon, improvised the moment where he jumps into the camera screaming "YEAH!", as nobody could figure out how to end the movie. That's why Hodges called it eventually "The only improvised $27-million movie ever made"!

Speaking of that $27-million, where did they go?? I'll tell you. To the sole perfect thing in this movie: The Colors. They mastered that element to the max, where the viewing turned into a journey into huge sparkling diamond, filled with seas of glittering red and yellow. To my surprise, I discovered that the psychedelic color effects throughout the Ming universe were accomplished by swirling multicolored dyes through creatively-lit tanks of water. OK, they should have called it "Flashy Gordon" instead!

As for more pros, I loved watching the all serious Max von Sydow as an over the top cartoon-ish evil guy. Melody Anderson and Ornella Muti both got great charisma. Despite not having a long screen time, Timothy Dalton as Prince Barin stole the show from Sam J. Jones as the title character. The idea of enthusiastic and hip "Queen" songs is so creative, but they looked strange in the middle of that camp festival which enhanced the movie's campy nature though! And I won't lie, some of the adventurous spirit, which the movie apparently was based on and dreamed of, attracted me despite how that dream wasn't completely fulfilled after all.

Flash Gordon (1980) couldn't score highly at the box office, hence so long to the whole six sequels franchise which all the main actors were signed for, or at least part 2 which the last shot hints at. It is a mix of bright colors and loud naivety, and the real criminal is disappointing poorness. It feels like very dazzling suit, that when you approach it, you'll see how it's shabby, to the extent of having holes in it!
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