Flash Gordon (1980) – So Bad, It’s Almost Good
I remember being very excited about seeing this movie when I saw the first trailer. I was either 10 or 11 years old at the time when I saw it. I was so excited that I think I may have convinced myself I wasn’t disappointed, because years later I remember looking upon it with derision when thinking about it. I watched it again tonight, not expecting much and I wasn’t disappointed.
This 1980 sci-fi send up of the classic comic strip/radio/movie serial of the same name is a silly thing – very silly. I think that we definitely have to take in to account that Flash Gordon himself, as a character and his adventures were silly – a product of silly times – so I guess a silly movie is what one should expect. Unfortunately, the makers of this film skipped silly and went straight to stupid, completely skipping silly.
The movie starts with Ming the Merciless (portrayed by Max von Sydow) playing with the fate of an insignificant planet – Earth.
American Football star Flash Gordon (Sam J. Jones )is on a small, private air plane where he meets female reporter Dale Arden (Melody Anderson) when the plane finds itself in the middle of a beam from the evil Ming the Merciless. The plane is violently buffeting when Flash goes forward to the pilots cabin to inquire if all is ok – there he finds that the pilots have been sucked out the window and the cabin is empty. Flash takes the yoke and is able to bring the plane down in a controlled crash landing – into a scientists home/lab. That scientist, Doctor Zarkov ( quickly forced Flash and Dale into his rocket ship he just happens to have ready to go to save the Earth from the new, evil forces that are causing the moon to movie out of it’s orbit causing havoc and threatening the Earth. Blindly, the three hurtle towards Ming’s fortress. Soon captured, they are brought before the spectacle that is Ming’s fortress. Once there, Flash starts fighting Ming’s men – he sucks until he manages to get ahold of something vaguely football shaped object, then suddenly he can kick ass. He does a cheezily good job of taking out a number of Ming’s guards/minions (with a little discreet help from the leader of the Hawkmen. Eventually Flash is overpowered due to sheer numbers of enemies and is captured again. The three are separated – Dale to be Ming’s new wife, the scientist to have his mind wiped and Flash to be executed for his show of defiance in Ming’s court. During his little act of defiance, Flash managed to capture the eye of Ming’s daughter, the Princess Aura, who manages, with the help of a scientist that is infatuated with her, to fake Flash’s death, having him woken up once away from Ming. She then leaves with Flash and heads to, Arboria, the kingdom of Prince Barin (played by Timothy Dalton). Barin, unhappy about this, as he has eyes for Princess Aura – is hell bent on making life crappy for Flash. He soon forces to make Flash take part in some potentially deady rite of passage that involves thrusting one’s hand into holes in a large tree trunk where one may or may not be stung by some venomous creature that lives within. Flash fakes him out – they fight Flash flees and Barin follows. They are soon caputred by the Hawkmen – long time rivals of the people of Arboria.
Meanwhile, Zarkov (who managed to foiled Ming’s scientist’s attempt at brainwashing, escapes with Dale, but are soon captured by the Hawkmen and brought before their leader, Prince Vultan (Brian Blessed who portrayed the Emperor Augustus in the great I Claudius mini series). Any way, Flash and Barin are forced to fight to the death, on a weird disc shaped platform that moves and has spikes. Flash gets the best of him, but spares his life gaining his fealty. Ming’s forces find out where they have escaped to and soon recapture the group – the Hawkmen taking off to Arboria instead of helping fight Ming’s forces.
Ming tries to offer Flash control over Earth, as he is impressed by Flash’s defiance. Flash refuses of course, manages to escape and contacts Prince Vultan who has had a change of heart and is ready to join the battle against Ming.
A big, cheezy battle between good and evil soon takes place, and of course all the good people live happily ever after.
This movie, if you are expecting a well made, comic based adventure, can be brutal. Bad acting, bad writing and a low budget does not a good movie make. Still, if you go into it expecting a cheezy spectacle of nonsense, then you might actually enjoy it. I have to say, this time, I liked it. Recommend it? No… warn you away from it? No. If you can put up with the lion’s share of the movies I post about here, you might have some fun. Oh yeah: and the entire sound track is done by the british rock band Queen.
Check out the Trailer: