And yet it works, and it works stupendously well. There is so much to enjoy about the 1980 version of FLASH GORDON. After a very dull first ten or so minutes involving the aforementioned unengaging leads, we take a plane to meet Topol’s Dr Hans Zarkov and the pace, and sense of fun, never lets up until the end. Its extraordinary stuff with so many memorable set-pieces: Ming’s first on-screen appearance to Queen’s menacing synth music, Flash’s ludicrous game of “American Football” in Ming’s throne room, the tree- stump monster, the whip battle on the tilting platform (with retracting spikes, naturally), the hawkmen attacking a rocketship. And so many brilliant, fun lines: “Flash, flash I love you but we only have fourteen hours to save the earth!”, “Dispatch war rocket Ajax to brrring back his body!”, “Gordon’s alive?!!”
Incredibly for a film with two such poor lead performances everyone else is brilliant. Topol is in great form as Zarkov, Timothy Dalton plays the whole thing utterly straight as chiseled Prince Barrin, Brian Blessed is essentially just playing himself but it would be half the film without him, Peter Wyngarde manages to give Klytus an air of upper-class menace from behind a metal mask and Max von Sydow portrays Emperor Ming so well that he manages to make an essentially 2D B-movie type villain into someone who comes across as complex and interesting.
I hesitate to use phrases like “popcorn movie” or “leave your brain at the door” about FLASH GORDON because that’s doing it a massive injustice. This is a brilliant, funny, clever, outrageously camp and even slightly subversive film hiding in the most commercial of genres. We will never see its likes again and that’s a shame. Now you’ll have a chance to see FLASH GORDON on the big screen again when it plays this weekend as part of the Reel Late at The Tivoli midnight series.
I’ll be there Friday night with some custom FLASH GORDON trivia with prizes.
A facebook invite for this event can be found HERE
The Tivoli’s website can be found HERE
Here’s the Reel Late at the Tivoli Line-up for the next few weeks:
Sept 25-26 PLANET OF THE APES (1968)
Oct 2-3 LET THE RIGHT ONE IN
Oct 9-10 WHAT WE DO IN THE SHADOWS
Oct 16-17 MONTY PYTHON AND THE HOLY GRAIL
Oct 23-24 and Oct 31-Nov 1 ROCKY HORROR PICTURE SHOW with live shadow cast with the Samurai Electricians.