Flash Gordon (1980)

MIKE HODGES

Bil’s rating (out of 5):   BBBUnited Kingdom/USA, 1980.  Starling Films, Famous Films.  Screenplay by , adaptation by , based on the characters created by . Cinematography by .  Produced by .  Music by , .  Production Design by .  Costume Design by Danilo Donati.  Film Editing by .

Sam Jones in Flash Gordon.

The popular serial of the 1930s is turned into a film that features terrific special effects, rich production design and an even more unabashed sense of kitsch than the movies whose footsteps it follows (Superman comes to mind).  , his dialogue dubbed due to salary disputes with producer Dino De Laurentiis, is appropriately wooden as a football player who manages to escape Earth in a rocket ship right at the point that an intergalactic villain (Max von Sydow) is destroying the planet.  Jones is accompanied only by a brilliant scientist () and a gorgeous reporter () and, upon arrival at von Sydow’s planet, becomes a hero who frees an oppressed people from their evil leader (which begins with a football game in space).  Most of the dialogue literally makes no sense, though it does stay well in line with the kind of cliffhanger movies it is a simultaneous tribute and parody of.  It’s all an excuse for skimpy costumes (beefcake Jones looks great in a loincloth) and eye-popping sets that link it to the tradition of older Mario Bava spectacles, science-fiction and horror with visual aesthetics as a religion.  Danilo Donati, more famous for his work on Fellini films, contributes his skills to both the sets and clothes, while Queen takes care of the superbly corny musical score.  Make no mistake, this is not a good movie, but it’s so unashamed and self-aware that it is impossible to hold anything against it (well, maybe the fact that it’s not particularly exciting is something you can hold against it).   Lina Wertmuller superstar is hilarious as a henchwoman on the bad guy’s planet.

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