Monday, July 20, 2009

Flash Gordon Review

I recently had the opportunity to see one of the campiest films ever made, 1980's "Flash Gordon" which represented a low point for international acting legend Max Von Sydow. This film also marked the end of the road for the rock band Queen, which did the soundtrack (with the familiar "FLASH--Ah-ah!" theme tune), and sadly the film did not prove to be the breakout hit for lead actor Sam J. Jones.

For those of you unfamiliar with the Flash Gordon legend, apparently some evil universe overlord named Ming (played by Von Sydow), who isn't even Chinese, is subjecting Earth to various punishments, including "Hot Hail" and "Tornados" and "Jimmy Carter's Economic Policy". New York Jets Quarterback "Flash" Gordon is on a plane with Dale Arden, a comely travel agent ("comely" by 1980 standards, which means polyester and disco colors) when the "hot hail" causes them to crash into a crazy scientist's lab, where he then at gunpoint makes them get into his rocket and take off to escape the hot hail and frankly, hey, free rocket, am I right? Who's not going to want to jump in that thing?

So they take off, and end up at Ming's palace in space where they immediately decide that the Emperor's minions want to overthrow him (apparently Flash Gordon and the mad scientist are both astute interstellar political analysts who can size up a situation in a split second). One thing leads to another, and Flash is fighting with Ming's guards. This fight involves some football moves, but since Flash plays for the Jets the moves involve a lot of fumbles and interceptions. Then, Ming has Flash executed and Dale becomes his concubine because he has a thing for travel agents in disco outfits.

Of course, Ming's sultry daughter Aura takes a liking to Flash, and brings him back to life, helping him escape, where he then wins over Prince Barin (played by future James Bond, Timothy Dalton) in a fight that involves several bullwhippings to the face and surprisingly no welts, scratches or moments of extreme discomfort that one might expect from a bullwhip to the face. Once allied (because after all, nothing wins over another man's respect like a bullwhip to the face) they manage to convince the Hawkmen (don't ask!) to join them in attacking Ming's forces, at the exact moment Ming is about to force Dale (his concubine) to marry him. Sadly, it sort of looks like Dale was kind of looking forward to married life! After all, at one point Flash tells her "save it for our kids"--implying that the two of them will be having kids someday--and Dale says "oh Flash, I accept!" which is kind of weird because it wasn't really a marriage proposal. So one could understand why she wanted to be Mrs. Ming.

Much senseless destruction later, Ming is overthrown, Flash saves the Earth from haivng the moon crash into it (and he does a literal freeze-frame yelling "YES!"), and millions (okay, thousands) of disappointed theatergoers said to their dates "we skipped Empire Strikes Back for THIS???"

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