20 February 2018
FLASH GORDON [1980 / 2010] [Blu-ray] [30th Anniversary Edition] [US Release] Saviour Of The Universe Edition!
Alex Raymond’s famous comic strip blasts to life in the action-packed sci-fi adventure ‘FLASH GORDON.’ When energy waves pull the moon out of orbit, New York Jets quarterback Flash Gordon [Sam J. Jones] unwittingly finds himself heading for the planet Mongo, where with assistance from beautiful Dale Arden [Melody Anderson] will take on Emperor Ming the Merciless [Max von Sydow] and rescue humankind.
Featuring spectacular thrills, out-of-this-world special effects, and the very memorable music by Queen that is impossible to forget. ‘FLASH GORDON’ is an exciting live-action adaptation of one of the most popular comic book characters of all time!
FILM FACT: According to a 2012 interview in Maxim, Sam J. Jones had disagreements of some sort with Dino De Laurentiis and departed prior to post-production, which resulted in a substantial portion of his dialogue being dubbed by a professional voice actor, whose identity is still a mystery. A sequel was proposed, but the departure of Jones effectively ended any such prospects. The airfield scene at the beginning of the film, although set in the U.S., was actually shot at the Broadford Airfield in Skye, Scotland. ‘FLASH GORDON’ has since become a cult classic with fans of science fiction and fantasy. The film's soundtrack was composed and performed by the rock band Queen.
Cast: Sam J. Jones, Melody Anderson, Max von Sydow, Chaim Topol, Ornella Muti, Timothy Dalton, Brian Blessed, Peter Wyngarde, Mariangela Melato, Richard O'Brien, John Osborne, Philip Stone, John Hallam, Suzanne Danielle, John Morton, William Hootkins, Robbie Coltrane, Peter Duncan, John Hollis, Leon Greene, Tony Scannell, Bogdan Kominowski, George Harris, Deep Roy, Bob Goody, Kenny Baker, Malcolm Dixon, Alan Austen (uncredited), Sean Barry-Weske (uncredited), Richard Bonehill (uncredited), David de Keyser (voice) (uncredited), Kevin Hudson (uncredited), Derek Lyons (uncredited), Ralph Morse (uncredited), Richard Sidoli (uncredited) and John Simpkin (uncredited)
Director: Mike Hodges
Producers: Bernard Williams and Dino De Laurentiis
Screenplay: Alex Raymond (based on the characters created), Lorenzo Semple Jr. (screenplay) and Michael Allin (adaptation)
Production, Costumes and Set Design: Danilo Donati
Composed Music, Produced and Performed: Queen
Composer: Howard Blake (Orchestral Score)
Cinematography: Gilbert Taylor, B.S.C. (Director of Photography)
Image Resolution: 1080p [Technicolor]
Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1 [TODD-AO]
Audio: English: 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio
Subtitles: English SDH, Spanish and French
Running Time: 111 Minutes
Region: All Regions
Number of discs: 1
Studio: Universal Pictures
Andrew’s Blu-ray Review: ‘FLASH GORDON’  is most notable for its rockin’ Queen soundtrack, the sexy Ornella Muti as Princess Aura in a tight red cat suit, it’s very tongue-in-cheek dialogue and campy tone, despite a cast that included major actors like Max Von Sydow and Timothy Dalton pre-007 days.
Unintentionally funny, and outrageously camp, this sci-fi film is based on the 1930’s comic strip that has nonetheless built up a fairly large fan base over the many years since its release in the cinema, even garnering a much copied style of this film very closely. Or perhaps it just copied the original comic strip, because that’s what this 1980 film was intended to do, imitate the original campy style of that strip cartoon and not take itself too seriously, and just like the 1960’s Batman TV series, which shared the screenwriter Lorenzo Semple Jr.
The blond quarterback Flash Gordon [Sam J. Jones], reporter Dale Arden [Melody Anderson], and crazy scientist Dr. Zarkov [Chaim Topol] are stolen away to the planet Mongo where the leader Ming the Merciless [Max Von Sydow] is threatening to destroy the Earth. Flash Gordon and his companions get caught up in the problems of the alien world and must fight to overthrow Ming the Merciless by bringing together the different tribes of Mongo who Ming keeps in his grip, in order to save the Earth. First however, Flash Gordon gains the aid of Ming’s own daughter, the sultry Princess Aura [Ornella Muti], who helps Flash Gordon escape death.
British director Mike Hodges, wanted to create a film aesthetic that directly reflected its origin, and opening credits use illustrations from the early comic strips, along with Queen’s now famous theme song and, throughout the film, Mike Hodges chooses film angles, framings and colours to evoke the comics. Mike Hodges said about the film “I turned it down because I thought it wasn’t my kind of film, because it was totally different from what I had previously done. Our ‘FLASH GORDON’ is not really science fiction, but it is a comic strip in another galaxy, not in the region of the ‘Star Wars’ franchise films.” “It looks almost exactly like Alex Raymond‘s cartoon story. This film is much bigger than the Buster Crabbe features and they were fun to watch but they had primitive special effects and this film has fantastic special effects, is shown on the wide screen and in colour. For example, we had to design laser beams that had different ways of disposing of villains. We wanted them to be more like the cartoons, with different skies and colours. We wanted each of Ming’s outposts surrounded by a different atmosphere; it was really daunting to begin.”
Brian Blessed, while attached to huge ridiculous looking wings is fantastic to watch as he bellows just about every line, “You impetuous boy!” thanks to Lorenzo Semple Jr.’s corny but affable screenplay. Prince Barin, played by the charismatic Timothy Dalton, is another enjoyable character we are introduced too as well and he displays heroic Robin Hood type tendencies that are so off the wall that it is completely. There are rocket cycles, sky cities, stylized football fight scenes, force fields and wing barbarian attacks that are bountiful and ludicrous to behold.
‘FLASH GORDON’ is truly over the top camp silliness from start to finish, which to me is not a bad thing. It is quirky, foolish, and sexy at the same time, with very lavish over-the-top costumes and a brilliant soundtrack from Queen that is really at the heart of the film, especially as it is not to some a cinematic masterpiece, but to my mind it is the best ultimate camp sci-fi film ever made.
FLASH GORDON MUSIC FILM TRACK LIST
FLASH’S THEME (Written and Produced by Brian May and Mack Mack) [Performed by Queen]
IN THE SPACE CAPSULE (The Love Theme) (Written by Roger Taylor) (Orchestra arranged and conducted by Howard Blake) [Performed by Queen]
THE RING (Hypnotic Seduction of Dale) (Written by Freddie Mercury) (Orchestra arranged and conducted by Howard Blake) [Performed by Queen]
FOOTBALL FIGHT (Written by Freddie Mercury) (Orchestra arranged and conducted by Howard Blake) [Performed by Queen]
IN THE DEATH CELL (Love Theme Reprise) (Written by Roger Taylor) (Orchestra arranged and conducted by Howard Blake) [Performed by Queen]
EXECUTION OF FLASH (Written by John Deacon) (Orchestra arranged and conducted by Howard Blake) [Performed by Queen]
THE KISS (Aura Resurrects Flash) (Written by Freddie Mercury) (Orchestra arranged and conducted by Howard Blake) [Performed by Queen]
ARBORIA (Planet Of The Tree Men) (Written by John Deacon) (Orchestra arranged and conducted by Howard Blake) [Performed by Queen]
ESCAPE FROM THE SWAMP (Written by Roger Taylor) (Orchestra arranged and conducted by Howard Blake) [Performed by Queen]
FLASH TO THE RESCUE (Written by Brian May) (Orchestra arranged and conducted by Howard Blake) [Performed by Queen]
VULTAN’S THEME (Written by Freddie Mercury) (Orchestra arranged and conducted by Howard Blake) [Performed by Queen]
BATTLE THEME (Written by Brian May) (Orchestra arranged and conducted by Howard Blake) [Performed by Queen]
THE WEDDING MARCH (Written by Brian May) (Orchestra arranged and conducted by Howard Blake) [Performed by Queen]
MARRIAGE OF DALE AND MING (And Flash Approaching) (Written by Brian May and Roger Taylor) (Orchestra arranged and conducted by Howard Blake) [Performed by Queen]
CRASH DIVE ON MING CITY (Written by Brian May) (Orchestra arranged and conducted by Howard Blake) [Performed by Queen]
FLASH’S THEME REPRISE (Victory Celebrations) (Written by Brian May) (Orchestra arranged and conducted by Howard Blake) [Performed by Queen]
THE HERO (Written by Brian May) (Orchestra arranged and conducted by Howard Blake) [Performed by Queen]
Blu-ray Image Quality – Universal Pictures has given us a stunning 1080p image presentation that has been digitally remastered, and with an equally impressive 2.35:1 aspect ratio. The presentation manages to hold up here surprisingly well on this Blu-ray disc, and may have even been spruced up further for this release. Despite some minor edge enhancement, occasional moments of softness and noise, particularly in the heavily processed special-effects shots, this version is notable for its sharpness and detail. The colouring seems to be red-shifted just a bit, giving the skin tones a ruddy look, but the picture is clean and polished, and the deliciously garish and gilded colours leap from the screen. Overall, Universal Pictures has done an absolutely fantastic job delivering this older catalogue title and fans will be more than pleased with the result.
Blu-ray Audio Quality – Universal Pictures has unfortunately only supplied one limited original soundtrack of 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio experience, but despite this, let’s be honest, it's not the cheesy dialogue or the exaggerated audio effects that matter with this film, though both of those come across just fine, because it is the awesome classic Queen soundtrack that adds to the ambience sound experience and a truly added bonus from one of the greatest group that was ever produced in the United Kingdom. Here every powerful chord and the soaring voice of Freddy Mercury come through with the appropriate force and not a hint of distortion. Even the use of the surround channels may be sparse, but when it kicks in, particularly during the action scenes, it adds a level of drama to the big set pieces. Once again, this Blu-ray disc defies expectations and does the film 100% justice.
Blu-ray Special Features and Extras:
Special Feature: Alex Ross, Renowned Comic Artist, on ‘FLASH GORDON’  [480i] [1.37:1] [13:27] Learn how the film ‘FLASH GORDON’ greatly influenced this legendary artist Alex Ross, both personally and professional. This is a brief interview with Alex Ross, intercut with a plethora film clips from the film. We also get shots of him working on the illustrated sketches and artwork that eventually appeared on the DVD cover packaging and eventually transferred to the superior Blu-ray cover. When Alex was 8 years old, his sister introduced to him the group Queen and has been a massive fan ever since and was excited when he heard their music for the film ‘Flash Gordon.’ As you will see that Alex Ross is clearly a massive big fan of the film, and has viewed the film many, many times, and over the past 25 years has lost count how many times he has viewed the film and some would say he is obsessive about the film, and says he feels the film is more like a rock opera. The only issue here is that Alex Ross has no real connection to the film other than drawing the artwork for the film’s release, so all he can offer is his praise about the film. It is nice to see the footage of him working. Alex Ross over time found out that the film ‘Flash Gordon’ was a massive hit in Great Britain and Europe, but was very upset that it was not a box office hit in America, because at the time of the film’s release, there were released other blockbuster films were being shown in cinemas throughout the United States of America. Alex Ross has now gone into business of making toy models of character of the characters in the film ‘Flash Gordon.’ Alex Ross feels the end of the ‘Flash Gordon’ film is one of the greatest moments in sci-fi cinema history, but nearly didn’t happen, as he had heard a rumour that they initially did not know how to end the film, but when Flash Gordon jumps up at the camera, Alex Ross gets a complete shot of adrenaline with excitement. Despite the limited amount of viewing time, it is still very insightful into Alex Ross’s love of the film ‘Flash Gordon,’ but still a shame it was not longer.
Special Feature: Writing A Classic: Screenwriter Lorenzo Semple, Jr.  [480i] [1.37:1] [9:14] Here we meet the man who wrote the screenplay for the film ‘Flash Gordon,’ that would live on as a cult movie, in his home and talks about the fans who call the film ‘Flash Gordon’ a cult classic. Lorenzo Semple, Jr. (1923 – 2014) is interviewed about the script in this brief special feature. Lorenzo Semple, Jr., talks about working with Dino de Laurentis, and the challenge of writing an English script for an Italian producer who would wind up reading Lorenzo Semple, Jr.’s work via a bad translation. The one factor to this interview is that it makes it a bit more interesting is that Lorenzo Semple, Jr. has a fairly acerbic personality that is at times very sharp and forthright. Rather than offer the usual platitudes of affection for the project or the filmmakers, Lorenzo Semple, Jr., very plainly says what he thinks and feels about the process of writing this script and not all of it is totally complimentary, but it feels Lorenzo Semple, Jr. is just calling it how forth right he sees it. One thing that is not mentioned is a quote he once said, where he states, "I think 'Batman' was the best thing I ever wrote, including those big movies. As a whole work, it came out the way that I wanted it to and I was excited by it. I once down to a fancy wine tasting benefit in Princeton and when people found out I wrote 'Batman' and they mobbed me and I was astounded, but that was the way it was." Lorenzo Semple, Jr., comments on the cultural impact of the Batman TV show and outlines his successful subsequent career in feature films such as ‘Papillion,’ ‘The Parallax View’ and ‘Three Days of the Condor,’ as well as the cult classics ‘Pretty Poison’ and ‘Flash Gordon.’ Lorenzo Semple, Jr., praises all the theatrical actors that appeared in the film, but was at the time totally mystified why thy gave the part to Sam J. Jones as Flash Gordon, but after viewing the film he realises why they hired that sportsman to play the part of the hero. Lorenzo Semple, Jr., personally feels the film is very silly, but now realises why it is a big classic sci-fi cult film, and with the fan magazines that were published at the time of the film’s release and his scathing comments about the film, he got swamped with abusive comments from the fans of the film, in not taking the film serious, as he feels the film should not be taken so serious, instead, the fans should chill out, as it is just a lot of harmless fun.
Special Feature: First Episode of the Flash Gordon 1936 Serial  [1080i] [1.33:1] [20:42] See where the adventure began in Chapter One: Planet of Peril. The episode we view is the first episode of the first Flash Gordon serial. It is a lot of fun, and there are a surprising amount of plot and style that are echoed in the 1980 film. So here is a synopsis of what you get to view: The planet Mongo is on a collision course with Earth. Dr. Alexis Zarkov takes off in a rocket ship to Mongo, with Flash Gordon and Dale Arden as his assistants. They find that the planet is ruled by the cruel Emperor Ming, who lusts after Dale Arden and sends Flash Gordon to fight in the arena. Ming's daughter, Princess Aura, tries to spare Flash Gordon's life.
Theatrical Trailer  [480i] [1.37:1] [1:59] This is the Original Theatrical Trailer for the film ‘FLASH GORDON.’ What a shame it is not in HD, as it is of very poor grainy quality and also has been cropped to the 1.85:1 aspect ratio, but despite this, the presentation is really good and exciting, plus a good bonus is having a Queen soundtrack in the background.
Special Feature: My Scenes: This special feature is only available while the film is being viewed, and if you press the Green button on your remote control, in that way you bookmark will be added to your favourite list of scenes to view again. You can return to My Scene at any time during the film to access your favourite chosen scene in the film.
Finally, ‘FLASH GORDON’  is definitely the ultimate cult classic camp sci-fi film that deserves this loving treatment in its transition to high definition, and we are very glad to see this Blu-ray disc deserved the upgrade to the 1080p image presentation. If you turn off your brain and stop listening to your inner critic for ninety-minutes, Flash Gordon will offer up a pleasurable enough experience. It’s a popcorn movie, so get out you kernels of choice and throw them in the microwave, and get ready for some laughs, because this is one sci-fi film that doesn’t take itself seriously at all, and that is something very different for these times. This Blu-ray release from Universal Pictures is quite sparse for a 30th Anniversary Edition, in what is otherwise a totally spectacular Blu-ray catalogue release. Highly Recommended!
Andrew C. Miller – Your Ultimate No.1 Film Aficionado
Le Cinema Paradiso