I Saw A Film!
Considering the original Buster Crabbe serials were made in the era my parents were born in, which is to say just prior to WWII, you’d have to be one seriously old person (100?) to have really any inkling of what this is four decades since this DeLaurentis spectacle was exposed to film. I suppose the beauty of this big money ode to the oldies is in the fact that they did their best to maintain a certain kitsch of the giant stagey parades of costume and acid inspired animated backdrops, and they are occasionally breath-taking even for being 40 years old, mimicking something 80 years old, and putting serious work into creating shot by shot weirdness that looks nothing like the science fiction gold standard Star Wars. To be fair to all involved, as well as the beloved Star Wars and Alien franchises, I didn’t see Flash Gordon when it arrived back in the day. My benchmark for serious sci-fi was about to be Blade-Runner mixed with certain elements of Star Wars and Dune. At fifteen Flash Gordon meant nothing to me and I suspect the adults who would have been amused by this product probably didn’t flock to see it.
And so we have the premise, a footballer and ladyfriend end up accidentally launched into space. Lucky for them they immediately encounter a universe of kingdoms lorded over by the likes of Hawkmen, lead by Brian Blessed (Amazing!), the followers of Ming the Merciless played by the great Max Von Sydow, who have the best stage costumes, and an ego bruised prince played by a baby-faced Timothy Dalton. I don’t recognize the tow-headed footballer who wears a shirt that says Flash on it so that you don’t forget he’s the main character. What ensues is something like a couple of old Star Trek episodes mashed together, and by that I mean it’s great fun, and while it’s clear these folks are doing their best to move and respond like the world around them is an ever-changing sea of eye-ball delights, occasionally, just like in the original series, the characters sort of underwhelm with their reactions and bumps and bruises.
I won’t spoil the events except to say that for the most part they could be anything. The kooky alien worlds along with their perils are likely direct lifts from the old serial and our modern actors do a magnificent, if super-imposed, job of getting across that even in the most unusual of fantasy world’s a dumb jock can still throw himself around and occasion the results of undermining evil and converting certain elements to his cause. The ladies all look amazing in their costumes, and by far, for my money, Brian Blessed hawkmen steal the show. But don’t be watching this mess for something like a modern Arthur C. Clark vision of the universe, watch it for a nearly Victorian era, possibly HG Wells vision of what was expected from the other planets. Which is to say, basically a kind of “From Beyond” wide open imaginarium!
This costs 4 bucks on Prime and is well worth the effort, especially if you might have some psilocybin around and a large flatscreen. Queen did the soundtrack and are a delight but the overused fanfare of “Flash! Ahhh-ahhh!” gets very worn out. Still this extravaganza is well worth the entertainment investment. It’s interesting that the main stars here are unknown to me, and I think it lends a bit of fun to the project.