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"Strangers in the temple must try /
Have you ever been to the San Diego Comic Con? No? You've got to see it at least once in your life because it's a magical geek wonderland. Things happen there that would never happen anywhere else. For example, Feo and I were walking along at Comic Con, talking about FLASH GORDON, a movie well known for its music (by QUEEN!). Feo sang out "FLASH!", the opening line to the signature song.
Two girls walking past us – two total strangers – responded with the chorus ("AI-YAH!"). It was awesome!
But I'm getting ahead of myself. FLASH GORDON - 1980 is a Dino De Laurentiis movie, written by Lorenzo Semple, Jr. (KING KONG ) and directed by Mike Hodges (THE TERMINAL MAN, DAMIEN: OMEN II). It's a very campy, over the top story based on the old Flash Gordon comics of the 1930's.
"Klytus, I'm bored…" begins the voice of Ming the Merciless (Max Von Sydow: THE EXORCIST, DUNE, NEEDFUL THINGS, MINORITY REPORT). Ming entertains himself by visiting earthquakes, hurricanes, hot hail and other assorted disasters on Earth.
Meanwhile, football star "Flash" Gordon (Sam J. Jones: EARTH MINUS ZERO) gets on a small plane, heading home from a vacation. Onboard he meets lovely travel agent Dale Arden (Melody Anderson: DEAD & BURIED).
Ming's attack on Earth results in a plane crash. Flash and Dale emerge from the wreckage and find they've crashed into the home / lab/ greenhouse of disgraced NASA scientist Hans Zarkov (Topol: FOR YOUR EYES ONLY) and his assistant Munson (the late William Hootkins: DEATH MACHINE, THE ISLAND OF DR. MOREAU , THE BREED, THE OMEGA CODE). Zarkov is widely regarded as a crackpot because he believes these recent disasters are part of an alien attack.
I'd guess the people who thought he was nuts were having doubts this particular day, because the moon was moved, creating a solar eclipse. That ain't natural. And Zarkov wants to do something about it.
Like any good mad scientist, Zarkov has a rocket in his lab. Flash and Dale blast off with Zarkov, heading for the source of the attack.
The source being Ming the Merciless, Ruler of the Universe. Ming is pure cartoonish evil, delights in the suffering and misery of others, and controls all he surveys. His empire is an odd mix of super high tech and medieval accoutrements, filled with decadent architecture and amazing costumes. Costume designer and set decorator Danilo Donati (RED SONJA) is responsible for the look and had more input into the story than is usual.
Ming rules with the help of his right hand man, Klytus (Peter Wyngarde: THE INNOCENTS, BURN WITCH BURN!), the beautiful General Kala (Mariangela Melato) and Ming's lustful daughter Princess Aura (Ornella Muti: LAST RUN, THE UNSCARRED).
The immediate empire consists of a variety of kingdoms on the various moons of the planet Mongo, all kept constantly at war with each other. Prince Barin of Arborea (Timothy Dalton: HOT FUZZ) and Prince Vultan of the Hawkmen (Brian Blessed: DAY OF WRATH, DEVIL'S HARVEST) nearly come to blows during an audience with Ming.
Which all sounds fine but tells you nothing. So before I tell you something, let's have a quick
And the movie itself? It's more than just fine: It's freaking awesome! Alien monsters! Bad guys dying gory deaths! You've got to be the right kind of movie geek to really get into it, I admit, but if you are then you'll love it! The absolutely amazing, fun, over the top story mixed with a variety of talented actors is genius. And the geek essential, quotable lines, are everywhere! "Bring me the bore worms!"
!!!UNFAIR RACIAL CLICHE ALERT!!!:
Continued - but beware of Spoilers at - the UNFAIR RACIAL CLICHE ALERT/Flash Gordon.
The new DVD ("Savior of the Universe" edition) is high quality but the only extra that stands out is the interview with screenwriter Lorenzo Semple, Jr. He talks about the casual nature of this writing assignment from Dino de Laurentis and seems to have a few regrets about some of his choices. Respectfully, I must disagree. I think it came out perfect. That's why FLASH GORDON gets the big five. Five shriek girls all the way.
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