Flash Gordon (1980)

flash gordon poster 1980 movie
7.0 Overall Score
Story: 5/10
Acting: 6/10
Visuals: 8/10

Like the love-them-or-hate-them visuals, fun supporting characters

Flash and Dale are bad, weak nonsense story

Movie Info

Movie Name:  Flash Gordon

Studio:  Dino De Laurentiis Company

Genre(s):  Sci-Fi/Fantasy/Action/Adventure

Release Date(s):  December 5, 1980

MPAA Rating:  PG

flash gordon ming general klytus max von sydow peter myngarde

My assistant Dr. Doom will kill you now!

Ming the Merciless (Max von Sydow) is targeting Earth for his pleasure and threatening to crash the moon into the planet.  When Dr. Hans Zarkov (Chaim Topal) suspects the truth, he is considered a madman on Earth.  Zarkov kidnaps New York Jets quarterback Flash Gordon (Sam J. Jones) and Dale Arden (Melody Anderson) to pilot his plane in the hope that he can stop the disaster.  Travelling to the planet Mongo, Flash, Zarkov, and Dale find a planet at war and must rally the people to rebel and stop Ming once and for all.

Directed by Mike Hodges, Flash Gordon is a science-fiction action adventure film.  The movie was released to average reviews and faired poorly at the box office.  The film’s soundtrack was provided by Queen, and since its release, Flash Gordon has become a cult classic.  The film received a Razzie nomination for Worst Actor (Jones) at the first Razzie Awards.

flash gordon dale arden melody anderson sam j jones

Dale…It hurts to be this fit but one dimensional

Flash Gordon is an interesting character.  Created in 1934 as competition for Buck Rogers, the character was created for the comics and made it to the big screen in serials.  Here, the stylized film plays up the camp nature of the characters and the story, and this polarized the audience.

Flash Gordon’s plot is full of random occurrences that don’t really seem to have much merit.  The Earth is attacked for no reason other than boredom, Flash and Dale happen to crash into Zarkov’s lab, and Zarkov happens to need a pilot…the film is full of coincidences and lucky breaks with near death adventures (much like a serial).  Even the last “battle” between Gordon and Ming is rather random and anticlimactic.

flash gordon brian blessed prince vultan

I can fit a human head in my mouth like a snake!

Acting the movie also suffers.  Jones is pretty terrible as Flash Gordon who doesn’t have much personality anyway.  He’s teamed with the equally bad Anderson, and they both struggle in scenes like the football scene (“Go, Flash, go!”).  Fortunately, they are backed up by better actors like Topal as Doctor Zarkov and the great Max von Sydow and the perfectly cast Ming the Merciless…both actors seem to have fun with the roles.  In addition to them, you get Timothy Dalton as Prince Barin and Brian Blessed as the great winged warrior Prince Vultan.  There are a couple “blink and you’ll miss them” appearances by Robbie Coltrane (as a man working at the airport at the beginning), Deep Roy (as Princess Aura’s “pet”), and Downton Abbey’s butler extraordinaire Jim Carter as one of the Azurian men.

flash gordon sam j jones

Call me Barin…Prince Barin

What really stands out about Flash Gordon is the art of the film…love it or hate it.  The movie has a real style to it with flashy over the top visuals.  The writer of the film (Lorenzo Semple, Jr.) also wrote episodes of Batman which had a similar feel.  When I watch Flash Gordon however, I’m reminded of Barbarella (minus the sex stuff) which had a similar look and was created as a bit of riff on Flash Gordon and Buck Rogers style sci-fi.  Personally, I like the over the top look and think the movie’s visuals (plus the Queen music) are what is memorable about it.

Flash Gordon isn’t a great movie, but it is a fun, campy film.  Over the top, overblown, and over indulgent could be attached to the film and it wouldn’t be a lie…but it is still fun to watch.  Even the poor acting by Jones and Anderson add to the mix and create this odd outing.  The movie was intended to be the start of a new series of films, but due to the mixed reception, no sequels ever were films…It is too bad, I would have like to see Flash take out more enemies with a football.

Author: JPRoscoe View all posts by
Follow me on Twitter/Instagram/Letterboxd @JPRoscoe76! Loves all things pop-culture especially if it has a bit of a counter-culture twist. Plays video games (basically from the start when a neighbor brought home an Atari 2600), comic loving (for almost 30 years), and a true critic of movies. Enjoys the art house but also isn't afraid to let in one or two popular movies at the same time.

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