May 11, 2012

[Movies] Flash Gordon (1980)

In trying to figure out what older / potentially classic movie to post a review for, my cursory Google searching had me stumbling on a certain image (I can't even remember what it was now) and then starting to him the classic rock anthem theme song from the Flash Gordon movie. You know - the one by Queen that probably defined the movie a heck of a lot  more than its actual story or actors.

And darn it, I really like Queen. And I'm man enough to admit that on the internet!

So I first caught this movie during some lazy afternoon during that sad period when HBO seems to play the worst movies every. You know what I'm talking about right? Those dead hours in the early afternoon when they shuffle the slow-moving stuff from their archives given most people are still enjoying a late lunch or possibly an afternoon siesta at that time. But despite the lure of a nap, I remember plowing through the movie for the heck of it.

And to this day, this movie remains one of those that remain inanely memorably, although primarily because of the wicked cool soundtrack.

Oh yeah, you go rock on, Freddie Mercury.

Synopsis: Flash Gordon is a 1980 science fiction movie adaptation of the much older comic book the same name. The movie was directed by Mike Hodges based on a screenplay by Lorenzo Semple, Jr. as adapted by Michael Allin.

On the far off planet of Mongo, the evil Emperor Ming the Merciless (Max von Sydow) decides to destroy the Earth by artificially creating a series of natural disasters (see what I did there?) that would slowly ruin life on the planet and ultimately destroy everything. One such attack causes a meteorite to hit a plane carrying football player Flash Gordon (Sam J. Jones) and journalist Dale Arden (Melody Anderson). Flash manages to take control of the plane after the pilots are sucked out and crash lands nears the home of Dr. Hans Zarkov (Topol).

Dr. Zarkov suspects the calamities that they are facing are due to some extraterrestial source, and has thus constructed a small rocket ship to investigate. He manages to get Flash and Dale to enter the rocket and then launches them into space against their will. Thus they eventually find themselves on the planet Mongo and are quickly captured by Ming's forces. Now Zarkov is slotted for brainwashing, Dale will become one of Ming's brides and Flash is to be executed.Who will save the Earth now?

Now given (1) this started as a 1930's comic strip and (2) the writer intentionally wanted to create a movie with a light, campy feel, this movie is a total cheese fest. It's hard to describe just how bad things get, but I suppose the best thing that we can do is to quote a few lines of dialog:

Flash Gordon: I demand to see the governor! I can hardly breathe in this thing!
Klytus: Yes... you don't look well. I'm told you refused your final meal. The chef will be upset...
Flash Gordon: Tell 'em to go to hell!
Klytus: Maybe just as well. Gas works more quickly on an empty stomach.

Klytus: No one - but NO ONE - dies in the Palace without a command from the Emperor.

Zogi, the High Priest: Do you, Ming the Merciless, Ruler of the Universe, take this Earthling Dale Arden, to be your Empress of the Hour?
The Emperor Ming: Of the hour, yes.
Zogi, the High Priest: Do you promise to use her as you will?
The Emperor Ming: Certainly!
Zogi, the High Priest: Not to blast her into space?
[Ming glares at Zogi]
Zogi, the High Priest: Uh, until such time as you grow weary of her.

Dale Arden: Flash, Flash, I love you, but we only have fourteen hours to save the Earth!

I think the "evidence" speaks for itself, wouldn't you agree?

Now I do have a (more than) healthy appreciate for camp, but there are times that the movie really pushes things into a weird area. I guess at times it felt like they were just trying a bit too hard and so the campiness didn't feel quite as "natural" as it could have (or should have?) - the precise nature of it is hard to pin down. This is not to say the movie wasn't fun in its own right - there were just quite a number of bits that felt rather off.

And besides, let's admit that we all get to forget about the cheesy dialog and the hammy acting in favor of the awesome soundtrack. I mean seriously, once you hear the opening title song (and hear it again and again whenever Flash does something heroic in the movie) you just know that it's going to be burned into your subconscious forever.

Which is what triggered this review to begin with - something reminded me of the song and I knew that I would never stand a chance of getting it out of my head until I acknowledged its presence in the world.

Now I admit that I never really read the original comic and thus I don't quite know the original characterization of the character. I did watch a LOT of episodes of the classic cartoon Defenders of the Earth, but I don't think that really counts either. With that show I was more focused on Mandrake the Magician, for obvious reasons.

Still, Flash Gordon is just one of those movies that you have to watch t least once in your life. After all, how can you resist a movie that comes with a tagline like "Pathetic Earthlings...Who Can Save You Now?" AND features the music of the rock legends, Queen? So mainly on the strength of the music along, this cheese ball gets a decent enough 2.5 moments of Flash using his football skills to beat the bad guys out of a possible 5.

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  1. Nung bata ako, kala ko si Flash Gordon member ng Super Friends at kapatid ni Black Vulcan :)

  2. Talk about mixed genres! LOL