Flash Gordon

By Sweeney, Kenneth | American Cinematographer, November 2007 | Go to article overview

Flash Gordon


Sweeney, Kenneth, American Cinematographer


Flash Gordon (1980)

Saviour of the Universe Edition

2.35:1 (16x9 Enhanced)

Dolby Digital 5.1

Universal Home Entertainment, $26.98

Hulking New York Jets quarterback Flash Gordon (Sam J. Jones) is returning from vacation and boards a semi-private jet back to the city. Strange weather patterns have begun to develop in the skies, but Flash ignores this and focuses on attractive Dale Arden (Melody Anderson), his companion on the flight. He is wholly unaware that the planet is falling prey to the tyrannical Ming the Merciless (Max Von Sydow) of the planet Mongo; Ming has targeted Earth with inclement weather and natural disasters because he likes to "play with things before destroying them."

While the jet carrying Flash and Dale heads into turbulent skies, disgraced former NASA scientist Dr. Zarkov (Topol) wakes to find his prediction of destructive moon fragments falling to Earth is coming true. As Zarkov prepares to take off in his rocket, which will hone in on the extraterrestrial source of the lunar disturbances. Flash and Dale's jet makes an emergency landing on his property. With moments to spare, the crazed Zarkov forces Flash and Dale to accompany him to deep space. The three unlikely astronauts awake on the planet Mongo, where they are brought before Ming, who instantly orders Flash to be executed, Zarkov to be lobotomized, and Dale to be his bride. When Ming's conniving daughter, Princess Aura (Ornella Muti), spies the handsome Flash during his public execution, she decides to resuscitate him with a mysterious serum and steal him away to a neighboring moon ruled by Prince Barin (Timothy Dalton), her former flame. Barin reluctantly agrees to help Flash rescue Zarkov and Dale and overthrow Ming the Merciless.

Alex Raymond's comic strip Flash Gordon debuted in 1934, and its popularity quickly catapulted it onto the silver screen, where it appeared as a serial starring Buster Crabbe in the title role. After being produced as a liveaction TV series in 1954 and an animated series in 1979, Flash Gordon was reinterpreted as a lush, feature-length film by prolific producer Dino De Laurentiis and director Mike Hodges. The picture, a quirky science-fiction fantasy best known for its epic score by glam-rock band Queen and the cardboard lead performance by former Playgirl model Jones, is a largely reverent and campy homage to the comics and serials. …

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