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Overall Rating

Worth A Look: 8.33%
Average: 15.63%
Pretty Bad: 5.21%
Total Crap: 2.08%

5 reviews, 66 user ratings

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Flash Gordon
[] Buy posters from this movie
by Jay Seaver

"Fun in spite of its shortcomings, not because of them."
3 stars

SCREENED AT THE 2014 BOSTON SCI-FI FILM FESTIVAL: I'm not really find of the idea of a movie being called a "guilty pleasure" or "so bad it's good", and movies like "Flash Gordon" serve as an example of why: The things people like about it are legitimately entertaining, and if you like them enough to sit through the parts that are frankly terrible, there's no reason to be ashamed. It's not a very good movie, but it's got some impressive parts, and there's nothing wrong with just saying that.

Among the less impressive parts is the story, taken from a newspaper strip that started in the 1920s: That Ming the Merciless (Max Vin Dydow), absolute monarch of planet Mongo, is playing Earth with natural disasters, crashing the plans carrying college football star "Flash" Gordon (Sam Jones) and reporter Sale Arden (Melody Anderson). But they're soon on a ticket built by brilliant-but-eccentric scientist Dr. Zarkov (Topol), where they find that Ming is far from the only potential enemy or ally on Mongo - there Prince Vultan of the Hawkmen (Brian Blessed), Prince Barin of Arboria (Timothy Dalton), Ming's daughter Aura (Ornella Muti), and plenty more.

The plot is a silly thing, thin and complicated and full of reversals because it needed a surprise or cliffhanger every day, and both writers Michael Allin & Lorenzo Semple Jr. and director Mike Hodges opt to keep the kitsch that results when you take that and age it for fifty years in. It's a reasonably defensible decision, because even though bits of this movie are elaborately and impressively constructed, George Lucas had just raised the bar for everyone, and even if this films producers were looking to get some of that Star Wars box office, they could only get so far matching it on screen. And to give credit where it is due, my favorite line is the result of the filmmakers' tongues being firmly in their cheeks, and some moments like a fight scene turning into a football game are admirably peculiar.

Not everybody necessarily know what to do with this sort of atmosphere, though. Brian Blessed does; he sees a ridiculous costume and wings that couldn't possibly support a man of his bulk and knows he's got to make Vultan larger than life even if it takes him right to the edge of playing the fool. Timothy Dalton may not quite be the secret weapon he became after playing James Bond, but he makes Barin more amusing than he might have been. It doesn't quite translate into chemistry with Ornella Muti, which is a shame, because while she's not great, she gets the comic strip character she's playing and has a fine deadpan approach.

Then you get to Flash, and while Sam Jones is an unimpressive hunk of wood, it's not like a really good actor would have avoided falling into the same trap; this character is meant to be a super-capable hero, but he also winds up in the position of the guy the audience can identify with among all the space weirdos, and Jones just isn't up to being both. Melody Anderson has a more straightforward audience surrogate job, and Dale is likable enough (she's also got the previously-mentioned best line), but she still not giving the audience much for the amount of time she's on screen. Topol seems to be in the proper spirit, but his grandiosity is too similar to Blessed's without fitting the character so well.

And that's the trouble with calling Flash Gordon entertaining because of its weaknesses rather than in spite of them. Unless you're a pretty mean-spirited viewer, you're probably not watching this movie to see Sam Jones stumble around attempting something he's not capable of, but because Blessed is a lot of fun or because the music by Queen and Howard Blake is in fact kind of terrific (it's on-the-nose and hyperbolic but works like few soundtracks that singular do). And while there are certainly a few places the look of the film falls short, the bold colors and ambitious scale of some of the action pieces mean that they often hold up better than one might think.

There is also the danger of over-stating the film's appeal; there is charm in its camp but also moments of trying too hard. It's fun in spots, cringe-worthy in others, and in general tilted just far enough toward the former to be thought well of, even if some of the people coming up with rationalizations overdo it.

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originally posted: 03/03/14 03:16:43
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2014 Boston SciFi Film Festival For more in the 2014 Boston Sci-Fi Film Festival series, click here.

User Comments

4/23/14 Avery Hemming Great movie sadly without a sequel 5 stars
12/27/12 fwyook Am I the only one who thought Clytus was a bad-ass #2 (the mask, the hood, the voice!)? 5 stars
9/30/12 The Big D Light years ahead of Star Wars--more action, more humor, and cooler characters! 5 stars
8/17/12 Mark Vanselow They don't make them like this anymore. Not a "great bad film", just great, period. 5 stars
3/18/11 Onyx2626 Just saw and loved it. Now I know why my sisters came home singing "Flash,aa aaa!" 5 stars
1/25/10 art I WALKEd or should i say DROVE out on this at a DRIVE-IN! 1 stars
1/16/10 CJ A fabulous piece of escapism. Want a 'serious' piece of science fiction? Watch Blade Runner 5 stars
7/07/09 gc One of those "so bad its good" movies 4 stars
1/14/09 Shaun Wallner Thought this was a good film. 5 stars
11/26/08 Leo T Ahhhh... he'll save everyone of us !! 2 stars
7/19/08 sebastian Campy fun..the comic strip brought to life! 3 stars
6/05/08 Knowa Billiant on several levels! A true classic! 5 stars
12/16/07 Jason One of the greatest movies ever! A true sci-fi classic. 5 stars
7/25/07 Mike Wilson The best "bad" movie of all time... not the bore worms!!! 5 stars
3/23/07 David Pollastrini Not great not terrible 3 stars
3/20/07 Dez The cheese n' camp went over my then 12 year old head, but I loved it! Still do. 5 stars
12/15/06 Richard Paquette so, so 3 stars
12/05/06 David Cohen I liked it 4 stars
8/25/06 Al Guy You have to love the 80s! Flash! AHHHHH! 4 stars
8/15/06 Sugarfoot Flash, AHH! He's our miracle! 5 stars
5/11/06 dionwr VERY silly--but still enjoyable 3 stars
5/05/06 Uri Lessing Defender of the Universe. (GoSS!!! See it asap!) 5 stars
5/02/06 Ryan_A He'll save every one of us, you know. 5 stars
5/02/06 David Cornelius What do you mean, "Flash Gordon approaching?" 5 stars
5/02/06 William Goss Haven't seen it. 3 stars
5/02/06 HBS-SH de palma's drill 5 stars
4/18/06 AJ Corny as hell, but ya gotta love it!! 5 stars
12/11/05 Joel I have seen this movie 50+ times 5 stars
8/12/05 ES I was 4 years old and embarassed that someone would see me watching this movie= not good 2 stars
4/02/05 Julian So much fun!! 5 stars
3/13/05 Danny A classic! And the soundtrack by Queen is killer! 5 stars
11/17/04 Mike E This is a masterpiece!!!!! 5 stars
10/13/04 M. Moore Peter Wyngarde is awesome as Klytus 5 stars
5/08/04 R.W. Welch No match for the classic 30's serial but has cult following. 3 stars
2/09/04 Thomas somes parts of the movie is ok some parts not so good but overall the movie is good. 4 stars
1/20/04 Terry Sarmento Great Movie!!! 5 stars
9/28/03 Kyle Jones' acting is laughable, but I can forgive that cause this movie rocks! 5 stars
8/25/03 April camp at its best!!!!! 4 stars
8/22/03 REBLYELL This film was done in a perfect manner for the material involved. 5 stars
8/17/03 3man I think this is more geared for older folks who watched the original Flash shows. 3 stars
7/01/03 Mike I'm only 22 but I've seen this movie tons and it's great! 5 stars
6/20/03 Sammy soundtrack by Queen??? 2 stars
6/09/03 Brendan Foster One of the best examples of a comic book brought to life 4 stars
5/16/03 Andrew Carden Campy and Fun, but Ultimately Overblown (and Stupid) Update Of The Comic Book. 3 stars
3/18/03 Doug Greatest. Movie. Ever. 5 stars
1/18/03 David Psychedelic! The He-man's Xandu! 4 stars
11/23/02 Trella Ocelot Silly movie! "All creatures shall make merry...on pain of death!" 4 stars
10/24/02 Charles Tatum Very campy fun 5 stars
10/23/02 fandom stranger All-time top 10 fave! Ornella = Most gorgeous woman ever! Pure fun, eye-candy flick! 5 stars
7/14/02 R.W. Welch Campy treatment of the old strip, doesn't equal the '30's Saturday matinee serial. 3 stars
3/25/02 Tomas Rosenberg Absolutely wonderfull movie ( Im 25 : ) ) 5 stars
1/16/02 David A. Corny, SIlly, and Comic-book style, but it's just oodles of fun! 5 stars
10/19/01 SirJaredG Best Movie of All Time!!! Pay special attn. to all of Sam J. Jones' quotes, and song lyrics 5 stars
9/20/01 Butterbean Unintentially funny as hell!! Watch it with friends! 5 stars
6/17/01 Tina Bate Completely Brilliant!!!! 5 stars
4/18/01 Cygnus Great, Anderson & Jones 5 stars
12/03/00 The Shrieking Ape Blasphemy MY EYES!!! AIIIIEEEEEEEEEEEE!! Fear this movie like you would the thousand eyes of Zoth! 5 stars
11/07/00 Charles Heppenstall Dale...what a damn shame. 5 stars
7/09/00 Anil Sharma The Great movie of all time 5 stars
4/10/00 Matthew Bartley Gordon's Alive!! 5 stars
10/26/99 Karahde Khan Alex Raymond should be rolling in his grave. The only really good thing: the Queen score. 2 stars
10/21/99 bullit17 I loved this movie when I was seven, 19 years later it still holds up. 5 stars
10/20/99 Stu Totally wunnerful. Just so much fun. Gordon's Alive! etc. 5 stars
10/19/99 The Bomb 69 hilarious 5 stars
7/04/99 randy grubbs campy crap, even the queen soundtrack is bad 2 stars
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  05-Dec-1980 (PG)
  DVD: 06-May-1998

  02-Jul-1980 (PG)

  02-Jul-1980 (PG)

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