Flash Gordon has just reappeared on our screens with a new series on the Sci-Fi channel, which reminded me of all the fun to be had from a viewing of the 1980’s Flash Gordon film.
Flash Gordon was originally created way back in 1934 by Alex Raymond, and in it’s first form was as a comic strip syndicated in newspapers. He was created in answer to another famous Sci-Fi character, that of Buck Rogers, and over the years has been immortalised in both print, film and cartoon. Aside from the 1980’s film probably the best known version of Flash Gordon is that of the old serialised versions originally shown in cinemas, with Flash portrayed by swimmer turned actor Buster Crabbe (who interestingly also played Buck Rogers in another serialisation).
Anyway, back to the film version. Here, Flash Gordon was played by Sam J. Jones (an ex-US Marine). The film didn’t do well at release, but is now looked back on fondly as being cheesey no-nonsense fun. In the film Flash is an American Football player who ends up accompanying mad scientist Dr. Hans Zarkov (Topol), who has detected a strange planet having entered the solar system and believes it spells the end of life on Earth. Luckily Dr. Zarkov just so happens to have his own space ship, so takes Flash, and Flash’s love interest Dale Arden, off into space to investigate.
The planet turns out to be called Mongo, and is ruled over by the crazily named (and even more crazy looking) Ming the Merciless (Max von Sydow). Ming is hell bent on destroying the Earth by causing “natural disasters” such as earthquakes and storms of fire. Flash goes about putting an end to Ming’s plan, and does so by enlisting the help of the leaders of the various other civilisations that also live on Mongo, getting Prince Barin (Timother Dalton) and Prince Vultan (Brian Blessed) on his side.
Barin is the leader of a people who live in treehouses and have something of the Robin Hood air about them. One particularly memorable scene involves Flash proving his bravery by putting his hand in a giant nest belonging to a weird beetley thing. This creature has a deadly sting, and indeed Barin’s own son is used to demonstrate this (Barin’s son was played by Blue Peter’s Peter Duncan, in one of his few acting roles!).
Vultan is leaded of the Hawkmen, who are a viking like race who just so happen to have wings and can fly about. Brian Blessed was born to play this role, as he hams it up bashing people over the head with his club and uttering his two most famous lines, which can only be said by shouting at the top of your voice. The first is “Gordon’s Allliiiivveee!”, and the other is the repeatedly issued command to his fellow Hawkmen to “Diiiiiiiivvvvvveeeeee!”.
The film was also accompanied by an impressive soundtrack provided by no less than Queen. Whenever you hear the distinctive “dum dum dum dum dum dum dum dum” beat of the title song you can’t help joining in by shouting “Flash! Aaaaa-aaahh! He’ll save every one of us”. Certain quotes from the film are dropped in here and there, including “Flash, I love you, but we only have 14 hours to save the Earth” and “Dispatch War Rocket Ajax to bring back his body”. Check it out below and I defy you not to get your foot tapping…