Cult Classic: Flash Gordon

Stars: ★★1/2☆

“Flash!  A-ah!  Savior of the universe!”

Thats just amazing.

That's just amazing.

Review:  So the universe… er, actually, just Earth, is in big trouble.  The devious Emperor Ming of the planet Mong has decided to arbitrarily screw with Earth’s inhabitants, with the ultimate goal of destroying it.  “Pathetic Earthlings!” He gloats, “Who will save you now?”

Well, gee, Mister Ming, that’d be a dimwitted blond football player named Flash (A-ah!).  Be afraid!

So while Ming is screwing with Earth by dumping bizzare phenomena on them, such as hot hail, Flash is getting ready to fly Somewhere Else, with a reporter named Dale (who happens to be a girl).  Ming inexplicably vaporizes the pilots of the jet, and Flash crashlands it in a mad scientist’s greenhouse.  Dr. Zarkov, it so happens, has “figured out” that aliens are causing the disasters, through some contrived explanation involving shifting the moon’s orbit.  So he prepares a rocket he appearantly has lying around so he can blast off and tell the aliens that they are silly for messing with the moon.  Yeah, you tell ’em, Doc.  He wanted his assistant to go with him, but the guy freaked out when Dr. Zarkov pulled a gun and tried to force him into the rocket (like most sane people would).  When the jet crushes the greenhouse, it seems to kill Zarkov’s freaked-out buddy, which nobody acknowledges.  Ever.  So, anyway, Flash and Dale are tricked oh-so-cleverly by Zarkov into the rocket, and they all end up blasting off into deep space. Where, we find out later, you can breath.  Rules do not apply in ‘Flash Gordon’.  Common sense and logic?  What’s that?

So all kinds of ridiculous plot goes down.  Flash beats up Ming’s imperial guards with football (and teamwork!) and even dies and is brought back (by Ming’s daughter!).  Dale is taken to Ming’s harem and prepared to, well, you know.  She escapes and kicks more butt than Flash does in this entire movie (!).  Meanwhile, Ming’s daughter flies Flash to meet Prince Barin on a forest, er, planet (if you can call it that, it’s more like a floating, flat-topped rock.)  Prince Barin, incidentally, is played by Timothy Dalton,  who played James Bond for two movies, which arguably are some of the best of that long-lived series.  It’s completely odd that he’s in this movie, but there he is, swearing and stabbing away.  While we’re on the subject, it seems that everybody in this movie is more awesome than Flash, but inexplicably they all think he’s great.  The soundtrack (by Queen!) doesn’t help, either.  You have this awesome anthem for a character who… does… nothing.  Flash!  A-ah!  He’ll save every one of us!

So some stuff goes down on Barin’s forest world, which further cements how useless Flash is.  He then meets with Prince Vultan (BRIAN BLESSED!) of the Hawkmen, yada-yada-yada.  This movie just drags.  If you can’t tell already, this is a bad movie. As long as you expect nothing more, that isn’t a bad thing.  That’s why it’s a cult movie, especially in Britain.

So after all kinds of ridiculous stuff, Flash accidentally (yes, accidentally) skewers (yes, skewers) Emperor Ming with a spaceship (yes, a spaceship).  He then climbs out and threaten the wounded villain with a sword.  Ming just disappears, leaving Flash wondering what to do next.  A little floating robot shows up, and announces “Long live Flash!  You’ve saved your Earth.  Have a nice day.” and Flash answers, “YEAH!”  How’s that for dialog and plot resolution?  Hitchcock, eat your heart out.

This movie is just nuts.  Incidentally, it was written by Lorenzo Semple Jr., who was responsible for several episodes of the 1960s ‘Batman’ TV series and the subsequent movie, which is itself a camp classic.

“Flash!  A-ah!  You never did anything!”

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