Friday, 28 September 2007
Graeme’s Retro Classics! ‘Flash Gordon’
It was my birthday last week and one of my presents was ‘Flash Gordon’ on DVD. I rang one of my brothers and, during the conversation, told him that I now had this film. His immediate reply was, “Gordon’s alive??” He even managed a passable impersonation of Brian Blessed. Bearing in mind that my brother really cannot stand science fiction, doesn’t it tell you something about this film?
I was about five or six when I first saw ‘Flash Gordon’. It’s one of the first films I can remember seeing at the cinema and I’m pretty sure my Dad used me as an excuse to get into a film that he really wanted to see (“oh go on, Graeme will love it!”). I did love it; I loved it to pieces, put the pieces back together and loved it some more. I watched it again a couple of days ago and, through the eyes of someone a lot older than five, much has changed. The script is wooden and some of the main character’s acting is clunky to say the least. Sam J. Jones, in particular, displays why he was never seen again in any film of real note. I even cringed a little when Dale Arden called out, “Flash! I love you but we only have fourteen hours to save the earth…” And despite everyone’s best efforts, a certain swamp monster just looks like an oversize beach ball…
Despite all of that, there is still something about this film that reaches out to both the adult and the child in me saying, “you still love this film, don’t even try to deny it…”
Dino De Laurentis delivers a film that is brimming with colour and spectacle. A trip through space (or across an alien planet) is just the way you imagined it as a kid and the spaceships are what you always wanted to fly. Ming’s palace could be the very definition of opulent while Arboria captures the spirit of an alien jungle. Everything about this film pays homage to the comic strips and Saturday morning serials that inspired it in the first place.
Despite all the pomp and splendour, ‘Flash Gordon’ doesn’t take itself too seriously and is all the better for it. Perhaps you need a couple of drinks before watching Flash play American football in Ming’s palace but any film that puts Brian Blessed in a leather nappy and straps golden wings on his back is going to take some beating in terms of sheer camp value.
Talking of Brian Blessed, he manages to encapsulate the spirit of the entire film in a performance that is loud, verbose and full of manic energy. This is surely the sci-fi film that he will be remembered for, not a Star Wars film that was well below par.
If any film ever deserved the title of ‘retro classic’, ‘Flash Gordon’ would surely take it. It’s truly retro both in age and spirit and it will be interesting to see how the new Flash Gordon TV show shapes up in comparison.
And there I was, so nostalgic that I almost went an entire post without mentioning the musical score by Queen. Best film score ever? Maybe…