Top critical review
An over-decorated Christmas tree of a movie!
15 December 2006
NB: As is Amazon's wont, they've bundled together reviews for all the various editions of this film on DVD and Blu-ray together. This review refers to Momentum's Silver Anniversary special edition DVD.
Flash Gordon has aged surprisingly well, possibly because it seemed so disappointing when it came out. Boasting ultra-vividly colourful production design from Danilo Donati that makes it look like an over-decorated Christmas tree and with Brian Blessed dressed up as a Turkey (well, a Hawkman) to complete the Yuletide effect, not to mention dialog that's as camp as Christmas, a pet dwraf called Fellini and an obviously dubbed Muscle Beach hero who looks more likely to appeal to confirmed bachelors than the ladies (though they can swoon over Timothy Dalton's charismatically bad-tempered Prince Barin, doing his best Errol Flynn matinee idol turn in Lincoln green), it's an ideal Christmas panto of a movie. At the time the silliness seemed clichéd and wearing since so few sci-fi fantasies took themselves seriously, but with the scales weighted in the opposite direction these days with increasingly humourless sci-fi dominating, it's developed a charm. Lord knows what it would have been like had Nic Roeg not been fired, and aside from the appearance of playwright John Osborne as a tree priest there's little to link this to Mike Hodges' career high watermark Get Carter - it was only a short step from this to Hodges completing his fall from grace with Morons From Outer Space and those terminally dreary Clive Owen movies - but as utterly disposable over the top entertainment it more than passes muster, and in Max Von Sydow it has a Ming the Merciless who is a worthy successor to the great Charles Middleton.
Momentum's DVD collector's edition is a decent set, including commentaries by Hodges and Brian Blessed, an on-camera interview with Hodges, stills gallery, the excellent theatrical trailer and the first chapter of the last Flash Gordon serial, Flash Gordon Conquers the Universe. Unfortunately the UK Blu-ray release from StudioCanal is a poor transfer, so you're better off tracking down Universal's Region-free US Blu-ray which has a superior transfer with much better colour (though there is some noticeable edge enhancement in places) and different (but non-anamorphic) extras - a fun interview with writer Lorenzo Semple Jr., a less interesting one with comic book artist Alex Ross, original trailer and the first episode of the first Flash Gordon serial.