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Blu-ray Review

DVD cover

Flash Gordon
30th Anniversary Edition


Starring: Sam J. Jones, Melody Anderson, Chaim Topol, Timothy Dalton, Max von Sydow, Ornella Muti and Brian Blessed
Optimum Home Entertainment
RRP: £24.99
Certificate: PG
Available 23 August 2010

When Ming the Merciless casts about the universe for a new planet to play with and destroy, his evil eye falls on a pale blue planet, the earth, visiting it with all forms of natural disaster. Caught in this deluge, football hero Flash Gordon boards a plane with Dale Arden, enroute to New York. The plane is forced down into the laboratory of Dr Zarkov, who forces them to join him on a quest to save the earth, but none of the passengers have any idea just how dangerous the universe is beyond their small lonely planet...

Flash Gordon: 30th Anniversary Edition (1980 - 110 min) is a camp science fiction film directed by Mike Hodges. The movie was nominated for ten awards and won one.

The character of Flash Gordon began life as a comic strip in 1934, quickly gaining popularity which only increased with the film serials staring Buster Crabbe. The character returned again in various guises in the following fifty years, in almost every type of media. The 1980 film was produced by Dino De Laurentis, a man known for his occasional excesses, and Flash is Laurentis at his most over the top.

The soundtrack by Queen enlivens a world of camp visual excess, not surprisingly as the script was written by Lorenzo Semple, Jr, who had contributed many stories to the equally camp 1960’s Batman. But even the splendour on show cannot overwhelm some of the great performances from the actors. Flash is played by Sam J. Jones, who was an unknown prior to the film and though he plays his part straight, as he should, the lack of experience tends to shine through.

Where things get good, on the acting front, is with the introduction of Max von Sydow as Ming, playing the Emperor as a slightly perverted, salacious, megalomaniac and obviously loving every minute. An early Bond pops up in the form of Timothy Dalton playing Prince Barin the leader of Arboria and potential lover of the beautiful Princess Aura.

Although hidden for the whole film behind a mask the recognisable sonorous tones of Peter Wyngarde can be heard giving life to Klytus, Ming's right hand man. Even with this surfeit of talent the one character who shines out by dint of pure exuberance and decibels is Brian Blessed as Prince Vultan (all together now, GORDON'S ALIVE!!!).

So, the cast is talented, the sets and costumes are delightfully camp and colourful, but what does let the film down a bit is the script, which if you’re a Gordon fan, gives you a whistle-stop tour of some of the comic strips most famous locations, Mongo, Arboria and the flying city of the Hawkmen, but fails to really come together as a dramatic whole. All the characters get their time in the spotlight, but ultimately the film feels a little stitched together. However, this is saved by the deliberately tongue in cheek dialogue, in fact the whole crazy film is played for laughs.

With so much invested in the visual style of the film it is gratifying to see that the Blu-ray does the film justice, this opulent film is so bright and colourful you may have to watch it wearing shades, the previous DVD release pales in comparison.

For a 30th Anniversary special the disc is woefully short on extras, first up is a full length commentary by the Director, but as he references Bush, this has obviously been pulled off an existing DVD version. The only other extra is a short interview (1 min, 57 sec, not HD) which is more of an introduction to the film.

So the movie is gloriously silly and looks great on Blu-ray, it’s a shame that the disc is so short of extras, in fact it has less than some previous DVD releases.


Charles Packer

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