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Flash Gordon (1980) Poster

(1980)

Trivia

Jump to: Cameo (2)  | Spoilers (3)
Flash jumping towards the camera screaming "YEAH!" was improvised by Sam J. Jones. Nobody could figure out how to end the movie.
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All of the main cast members were signed for multiple films. The first movie didn't do as well as expected, so the sequels were never made.
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Max von Sydow's Ming costume weighed over 70 pounds. He could only stand in it for a few minutes at a time.
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George Lucas loved the old Universal Flash Gordon serials as a kid, and wanted to make a modern version based on the original comic strips. Federico Fellini was optioning the rights at the time, so Lucas wrote Star Wars: Episode IV - A New Hope (1977) instead.
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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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Sam J. Jones' dark hair was bleached blonde, and Melody Anderson's blonde hair was dyed brown. Flash was supposed to have blue eyes, but Jones couldn't wear the contact lenses.
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In the finished film, George Harris' dialogue as Prince Thun of Ardentia was dubbed. His voice is on the Queen soundtrack album, indicating that the change must have been made fairly late in post-production.
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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. 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's t-shirt was a gift from an anonymous female fan. Flash wore it a lot, hoping he would eventually meet the woman.
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Klytus was not in the original comic strips, nor the 1930s serials, and was created for the film.
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Thirteen actors from the James Bond movies appeared in this movie: Max von Sydow (Blofeld, in Never Say Never Again (1983)), Topol (Milos Columbo in For Your Eyes Only (1981)), Timothy Dalton, (James Bond in The Living Daylights (1987) and Licence to Kill (1989)), Andy Bradford (009 in Octopussy (1983)), Robbie Coltrane (Valentin Zukovsky in The World Is Not Enough (1999)), Philip Stone (Spectre #5 in Thunderball (1965)), Burnell Tucker (Hawaii Control Room Technician You Only Live Twice (1967)), John Hollis (Blofeld in For Your Eyes Only (1981) and Fred in Casino Royale (1967)), Bogdan Kominowski (Klotkoff in A View to a Kill (1985)), Peter Brace (Cowboy in Casino Royale (1967), also stunts in several movies), Leslie Crawford (Waiter in On Her Majesty's Secret Service (1969), also stunts in several movies), Terry Richards (Carver's Thug in Tomorrow Never Dies (1997), Scottish Strongman in Casino Royale (1967), and stuns in several movies), Eddie Powell (Man in Casino in Casino Royale (1967), also stunts in several movies). In addition seven men in acting parts in this movie did stunts for various Bond movies; Graeme Crowther, Eddie Stacey, Mike Potter, Terry Forrestal, Roy Scammell, Chris Webb and John Gallant, bringing the total to 20 members of the cast with links to the Bond universe.
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One of the feast items in the Hawkmen's Kingdom was Twinkies colored with food dye.
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Director Mike Hodges, referring to the production problems that plagued the film, once called it "the only improvised $27 million movie ever made."
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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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Melody Anderson came up with Dale's cheerleading during the football fight.
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For the scene in which 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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In the comics, Flash was a polo player, but that was a less popular sport by 1980.
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There was a considerable language barrier on-set, due to having English and Italian crews.
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Sam J. Jones had a falling out with Dino De Laurentiis over a perceived lack of payment, and was not called back to work during the second unit shoot and post-production. Most of Jones' dialogue was dubbed: for years, the identity of the voice actor who provided the voice was unknown, even to Jones himself. In October 2017, a user on on a Science Fiction & Fantasy Stack Exchange forum suggested that the voice actor was likely Peter Marinker, based on a compilation of samples of Marinker's work in anime dubs for Manga Entertainment. Based on this evidence, the credit was added to various film credit databases, and mentioned in other sources and reviews. In a 2020 interview with filmmaker Dominic Hailstone, Marinker confirmed that he was indeed responsible for looping most of Jones' dialogue in secret, but that some of Jones' lines were left intact based on the strength of his performance of them.
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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".
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John Hollis played one of Klytus' Observers, who was fitted with an electronic "imager" device in place of his eyes. Hollis also had a role in Star Wars: Episode V - The Empire Strikes Back (1980) as Lando Calrissian's aide, Lobot, who had a similar distinguishing feature: a cybernetic device installed over his ears.
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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 pew's"
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Brian Blessed improvised the scene where Vultan gooses Dale. Melody Anderson's reaction is genuine.
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According to an August 1981 interview in Starlog magazine, Dino De Laurentiis really wanted Kurt Russell to play Flash Gordon. Russell turned the part down because he thought the character lacked personality.
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Brian Blessed revealed in his autobiography, "Absolute Pandemonium", that he was paid thirty thousand pounds for his role as Prince Vultan.
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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.
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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.
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Brian Blessed was an avid fan of Flash Gordon since childhood. His favorite character was Vultan.
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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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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 the first film. It also featured 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: Episode VII - The Force Awakens (2015).
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Sam J. Jones was cast after Dino De Laurentiis's mother-in-law saw him on an episode of The Dating Game (1965)
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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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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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Dino De Laurentiis originally hoped that Federico Fellini would direct this film. The director had contributed to the original Flash strip cartoon during World War II.
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CRAZY CREDITS: During the opening credits, each cast member's credit is accompanied by artwork of his or her character from the original comic strip. Therefore, you see all of the major characters as cartoons before you see the cast members who play them.
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Prince Vultan says "Who wants to live forever?" This was the first movie for which Queen did the soundtrack. The other was Highlander (1986) for which they wrote and recorded a song titled "Who wants to live forever?"
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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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This movie was photographed by veteran British cinematographer Gilbert Taylor, who had been the director of photography 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 this movie.
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During the football battle, in the background are a group of bikini-clad women wearing plastic helmets and plastic coats, these are Queen Fria's entourage from the Mongo ice kingdom of Frigia, where it is too cold not to wear the plastic suits.
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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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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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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).
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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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The psychedelic color effects throughout the Ming universe were accomplished by swirling multicolored dyes through creatively-lit tanks of water.
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Mike Hodges considered commissioning Pink Floyd to compose the music.
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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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All the kingdoms and continents on Mongo are floating islands.
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Because of his height, the 6'3" Sam J. Jones choreographed and did most of his own stunts.
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Mike Hodges was the eighth director chosen.
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There is a rumor that the monitor behind Hans Zarkov (Topol) as he is having his memory dumped shows scenes from Topol's previous movies.
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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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Dr. Zarkov's backstory was that he was a N.A.S.A. scientist, who was fired for his paranoid fantasies that Earth was going to be attacked from outer space. Sixty Minutes (1983) derided him as "A Poor Man's Billy Mitchell".
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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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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.
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Princess Aura's "pet" is named Fellini. Production designer Danilo Donati worked on several Federico Fellini films.
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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.
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According to to the movie bio book "Easy Riders, Raging Bulls", Star Wars happened because George Lucas really wanted to do a Flash Gordon update. A souped up version with great production values, but he couldn't get the rights to it, so he did he did his own poor man's version of it (which wound up being much more successful than any Flash Gordon version that had come out before it.) Ironically the success of Star Wars led to this 1980 Flash Gordon reboot getting made.
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Dennis Hopper was considered for the role of Dr. Zarkov.
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Max Von Sydow shaved his head for the role of Ming the Merciless as Ming the Merciless is bald in the comic strip.
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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.
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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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The UK 2020 cinema reissue is rated 12A with a warning at the start about the time when the film was made that attitudes were different. The 40th Anniversary Blu-Ray release which was released two weeks later, has the film rated PG with no warning.
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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 personalized chairs of the principals. His impish behavior wasn't curbed at all. He knew Mike Hodges very well, much to the consternation of the stars, who regularly complained about him on-set.
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At the beginning of the film, as Ming is sending Rays to destroy the Earth. He did not know what the planet he was destroying was called. However one of the buttons on his destruction console said earthquake.
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After production was completed, Max von Sydow made a cameo in Conan the Barbarian (1982), as King Osric. Arnold Schwarzenegger, who plays Conan in that film, was originally cast as Flash Gordon, but was turned down, due to his accent.
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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.
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Prince Vultan (Brian Blessed) says, "Who wants to live forever?" This is highly similar to the line, "You cowardly kitten! You want to live forever?", spoken by the Penguin (Burgess Meredith) to Catwoman (Lee Meriwether), in Batman: The Movie (1966). Both films were written by Lorenzo Semple Jr..
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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".
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Kurt Russell turned down the role of Flash Gordon because he disliked the slapstick carefree nature of the film and he did Escape from New York (1981) instead.
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The music that plays when Vultan's men begin their attack was later used in the arcade video game Vanguard.
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First film of Jim Carter.
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Leon Greene was dubbed by David de Keyser.
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In the airplane scene with Dale and Flash, just as the lunar meteorites strike the cockpit, you can see Ming's face in the sky.
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After working on this movie, Max Von Sydow made a cameo in Conan the Barbarian (1982) based on the fantasy stories by Robert E. Howard as King Osric.
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Mike Hodges had previously cast John Osborne in Get Carter (1971).
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Cameo 

Kenny Baker: as dwarf in torture chamber.
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Peter Duncan: As a young tree man.
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Spoilers 

The trivia items below may give away important plot points.

Early in the film, Ming is always shot from below, putting him above the audience. Later, as Flash begins to unite forces, he's shot level with the audience. Towards the end, we start seeing Ming shot from above, symbolizing his defeat.
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According to Peter Wyngarde, the hand that picks up Ming's ring at the end of the film is from Klytus. Despite dying in the film, it was planned to "revive" him for a possible sequel.
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A scene from Doctor Who: Last of the Time Lords (2007), which a unidentified hand is seen picking up the ring of the Master (John Simm) at his funeral pyre. The Master's evil laugh is heard, mirroring the final scene of this film.
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See also

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

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