Flash Gordon (film): Wikis



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Flash Gordon

Film poster by Richard Amsel
Directed by Mike Hodges
Produced by Bernard Williams
Dino De Laurentiis
Written by Characters:
Alex Raymond
Michael Allin
Lorenzo Semple, Jr.
Starring Sam J. Jones
Melody Anderson
Chaim Topol
Timothy Dalton
Max von Sydow
Ornella Muti
Brian Blessed
Music by Queen
Howard Blake
Cinematography Gilbert Taylor, BSC
Editing by Malcolm Cooke
Distributed by Universal Pictures (theatrical/DVD rights)
Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (TV rights, MGM HD, and all other international rights through StudioCanal)
Release date(s) United States:
December 5, 1980
Running time 111 min.
Language English
Budget $35,000,000 (est.)
Gross revenue $27,107,960[1]

Flash Gordon is a 1980 science fiction film, based on the eponymous comic strip character Flash Gordon, created by Alex Raymond. The film was directed by Mike Hodges and produced and presented by Dino De Laurentiis. It stars Sam J. Jones, Melody Anderson, Chaim Topol, Max von Sydow, Timothy Dalton, Brian Blessed and Ornella Muti. The screenplay was written by Lorenzo Semple, Jr., and adapted by Michael Allin. It intentionally uses a camp style similar to the 1960s TV series Batman (for which Semple had written many episodes) in an attempt to appeal to fans of the original comics and serial films. The film is notable for its soundtrack composed, performed and produced by the rock band Queen.



The story opens with the voice of Emperor Ming the Merciless (Max von Sydow) indicating he will destroy Earth with a variety of natural disasters.

Sometime later on Earth, New York Jets football star “Flash” Gordon (Sam J. Jones) boards a small plane when the “hot hail” begins. Onboard, he meets travel journalist Dale Arden (Melody Anderson) who is also flying back to New York City. Mid-flight, the disasters become progressively worse and the pilots are sucked out of the cockpit. Flash takes control of the plane, but it promptly crash lands in a greenhouse owned by Dr. Hans Zarkov (Chaim Topol). According to Dr. Zarkov's research, the disasters are being caused by an unknown physical source in space which is sending the moon out of orbit and toward the Earth. Zarkov had been secretly working on a rocket ship for several years to test his theory, and now intends to go to the coordinates for the source of the attacks. He launches the rocket with all three on board and it flies off into space, even sailing into the black hole where they finally land on the planet Mongo; there, they are promptly taken prisoner outside a grand city.

Flash, Dale and Zarkov are brought before Ming the Merciless. Ming orders Dale to be removed and prepared for his pleasure, but Flash openly defies Ming and picks a fight with his men, adapting his athletic skills from American football. Ming orders Zarkov into Klytus’ custody for reconditioning and orders Flash's execution. Following Flash's disposal, Princess Aura (Ornella Muti) and Ming’s Chief Surgeon, one of her numerous lovers, open Flash’s casket and resurrect him. Aura and Flash quickly retreat to Arboria, kingdom of Prince Barin (Timothy Dalton), yet another lover of Aura’s.

En route to Arboria, Aura teaches Flash to use a telepathic communicator so that he can contact Dale and let her know he is still alive. Relieved, Dale informs Flash that she is locked in Ming's bedchamber. She later escapes and tells a reconditioned Zarkov (who managed to resist Klytus’ reprogramming) that Gordon's alive. The two subsequently escape, but they are quickly captured by Prince Vultan (Brian Blessed)’s Hawkmen and taken to his kingdom, Sky City.

Aura and Flash arrive at the forest moon Arboria. When Aura leaves, Prince Barin throws Flash into a cage and lowers him into a swamp, despite promising Aura that he would aid Flash. Barin decides to lure Flash into a trap by sending one of his Tree Men into the cage with a key to get out. Flash eventually tricks Barin and escapes into the swamp. Barin catches up with Flash, but before he can kill him, the two are taken prisoner by more of Vultan’s Hawkmen.

General Klytus (Peter Wyngarde) informs Ming of Flash's resurrection and requests Ming's authority to pursue the investigation; Ming agrees. Aura returns alone to Mingo City only to be taken prisoner and violently interrogated by Klytus and General Kala. They eventually get a full confession and Ming orders Aura to be banished to the ice world Frigia after his wedding.

Flash and Barin are taken to Sky City, where Flash and Dale are briefly reunited. Flash is forced to fight Barin to death, however, they decide to stop fighting and they make peace. Klytus later arrives to arrest Barin and Zarkov for treason, but Flash and Barin double-team Klytus and kill him. In a panic, Vultan orders all the Hawkmen to evacuate, leaving Barin, Flash, Dale and Zarkov behind. Ming’s ship arrives shortly afterwards and he orders Barin, Zarkov and Dale to be taken aboard his ship. After a casual talk with Flash, Ming returns to his ship and gives the order to destroy Vultan’s kingdom with Flash still on it. But once again, Flash cheats death by Ming, finding a rocket cycle in the city and escapes before Sky City is destroyed.

Flash contacts Vultan, whose people have found refuge on Arboria, and plot an attack on Mingo City. General Kala (Mariangela Melato) learns of Flash's solo attack on the city and orders weapons to open fire at him. Kala dispatches the war rocket Ajax to bring back Flash's body; but the Hawkmen army intercepts and, after a huge battle, Flash and the Hawkmen seize control of the rocket. In Mingo City, Princess Aura overpowers her guard and makes her way to the execution chamber, freeing Barin and Zarkov. Kala orders the city's weapons to fire upon Ajax (with Flash at the helm and Hawkmen in tow), as Ming and a defiant Dale’s wedding has just begun.

The lightning field deactivates and Ajax plummeting into the city; the ship's bow impales Ming as all others flee to safety. The impact throws Flash clear of the rocket, dazed but uninjured, and Ming attempts to kill him, but is unable to. He then aims his ring at himself and seemingly destroys himself with its powers. Ming's robot servant declares that Flash has saved the Earth and a huge victory celebration ensues. Barin is announced as the rightful heir to Ming's vacant throne. The newly-appointed King Barin shows his gratitude to Flash, appoints Vultan as the new Army General, and decrees that all the kingdoms of Mongo shall live together in peace. Flash and Dale embrace, their future (and Zarkov's) left open for either a return to Earth or continuing adventures on Mongo.

The last scene focuses on Ming’s empty power ring, as an unidentified individual picks it up. “The End?” fade onto the screen, followed by an echo of Ming’s evil laughter...



With its camp style, outlandish costumes and synthesized music, Flash Gordon had a poor box office performance, with the notable exception of the United Kingdom, where it is still one of the top 100 films of all time when adjusted for inflation. The film did find appreciation with a few "hip" critics, notably The New Yorker's Pauline Kael. Max von Sydow (Ming) received a good deal of praise for his performance, despite Jones (Gordon) being nominated for a Golden Raspberry Award for worst lead actor (according to Empire magazine, Sam J. Jones had disagreements of some sort with director Hodges and producer De Laurentiis and departed prior to post-production, which resulted in almost all of his dialogue being dubbed by a professional voice actor whose identity is still a mystery).

The film went on to become a cult classic; many of the film's lines are intentionally tongue-in-cheek, and this knowing sense of humor contributes to the collective affection with which the picture is remembered by its fans. Despite the film's perceived shortcomings, it maintains an 83% Fresh rating at RottenTomatoes.com and is ranked #88 on the Rotten Tomatoes Journey Through Sci-Fi List (100 Best-Reviewed Sci-Fi Movies).

A sequel was also considered and according to Brian Blessed on the Region 2 DVD commentary for Flash Gordon - Silver Anniversary Edition, the sequel was going to be set on Mars, as a possible update of the Buster Crabbe serials.


The film's soundtrack was composed and performed by the rock band Queen. Flash Gordon was one of the earliest high-budget feature films to use a score primarily composed and performed by a rock band. (Later ones included De Laurentiis's productions of Dune, scored by Toto, and Maximum Overdrive, scored by AC/DC). An orchestral score was also composed by Howard Blake.


The film was originally released worldwide via Universal Pictures. Universal has retained the domestic theatrical and home video rights, while the international rights passed on through different companies, eventually landing with StudioCanal, with Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer representing. MGM now also owns the television rights under license from StudioCanal, which explains why the MGM logo appears before television airings of this film.

A comic book adaptation, written by Bruce Jones and illustrated by Al Williamson, was released by Western Publishing to coincide with the film's release. It was serialized in three issues of the Flash Gordon comic book and released in a single large format softcover edition.

It was released on VHS and, in 1998, on DVD in Region 1 via Universal. It was released in Region 2 in 2001 (Japan) and again in 2005 (UK/Europe); with the 2005 release including commentary by Brian Blessed winning the "Commentary of the Year" award from Hotdog Magazine for his humor and enthusiasm. On August 7, 2007, Universal Studios Home Entertainment released a "Saviour of the Universe Edition" DVD in North America to coincide with Sci-Fi's new television series. This special edition does not include the cast and crew interviews of the Region 2 release.

In October 2007, a high definition transfer of the film premiered on the MGM HD cable/satellite channel.

In November 2007, Sam J. Jones and Melody Anderson together created a new commentary track for the international (non-USA) DVD edition of the film.[2]


In 1981, the film got Saturn Award nominations in the categories: Best Costumes, Best Science Fiction Film and Best Supporting Actor (Max von Sydow). In the same year it was also nominated in 3 categories for the BAFTA Film Awards: Best Costume Design (Danilo Donati), Best Original Film Music (Queen) and Best Production Design/Art Direction (Danilo Donati). Sam Jones was nominated for a Golden Raspberry Award for worst actor in 1981.


Breck Eisner has signed on to direct a 3D film version of Flash Gordon. "The film's story is in place and the screenplay is now being worked on."[3] It will, he says, go right back to the comic-strip roots of the character and ignore the 1980 film as well as the old Buster Crabbe TV serials.

See also


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