A and A's Movie A Day

Watching movies until we run out.

Movie 355 – Flash Gordon (1980)

Flash Gordon (1980) – February 18th, 2011

Somehow, and I have no clue how, I had never seen this movie before. I know, right? Bizarre! I’ve seen Barbarella a dozen times or more and somehow this just never made its way to my screen. I know there were times when people I knew were watching it, or it was on, and the universe just seems to have conspired to always make me busy at the time, or focused on watching something else already. It just strikes me as odd. I even had a friend in high school whose nickname was based on this movie (not that he chose it, but that’s how it is with nicknames). You’d think I’d have made a point of checking it out just to see what he’d been saddled with. And no. I never did. Thank goodness that’s been rectified.

I really am baffled by it. This is a movie starring Brian Blessed, with Richard O’Brien and Deep Roy in bit parts, with a soundtrack by Queen, and I’m only just now seeing it. Also, it’s got Lobot. You know, the cyborg dude with the headset in Empire Strikes Back? This time he’s got cyborg eyes instead of ears. Try to spot him! It’s just amazing. I’m still kind of stunned by it. It’s precisely the kind of sci-fi cheese I adore, full of scenery chewing and sparkly costumes and psychedelic special effects. There are lizard men! and hawk men and tree men and oh, it’s just lovely.

Coming into this movie, all I really knew was that it was going to be cheesy and Brian Blessed wore a helmet with pointy bits. That was really it. Oh, I knew character names, but how everything came together? Nope. It’s established early on that Flash Gordon is a bit of a celebrity and plays football and is hunky, and also that a villain named Ming the Merciless is bent on destroying Earth by ramming the Moon into it. Flash, a woman named Dale, and a scientist named Dr. Zarkov, who’s been predicting an alien attack on Earth, end up in a rocket and arrive at Ming’s planet, Mongo. Turns out Ming’s an all-around asshole who has a bunch of moons (sort of) where various Mongo races live in warring kingdoms. You’ve got your ice moon (Frigia), your foresty swamp moon (Arboria), etc. His daughter’s all over the men, which is fine and all, but she’s also all over her dad, which is creepy like ew. Anyhow, Flash, Dale and Dr. Zarkov are taken prisoner and then there’s a football game.

I wish I was joking. This is the point in the movie where my jaw literally dropped open and stayed that way until the scene was over. Flash Gordon seriously defeats a troop of Mongo soldiers by playing football (with a giant green and gold Fabrege egg – cause apparently unless he’s holding something approximately the size and shape of a football he can’t tackle or anything). The scene even has some cheerleading moves from Dale. Fortunately for me, since I’m not big on football, they don’t use that tactic again. The closest the movie comes to it is having Flash espouse teamwork to the two princes he ends up dealing with (Timothy Dalton as Prince Barin of Arboria and Brian Blessed as Prince Vultan of the Hawk People or something like that – they have wings and he’s Brian Blessed, who cares what they’re called). Ming takes a liking to Dale and sweeps her away to be made one of his concubines and Princess “Handsy With Daddy” Aura takes a liking to Flash and rescues him from being executed.

And here is where we get some sadly unfortunate bits. Because you know, I’m just not down with the whole unwelcome sexual contact thing. I’m especially not down with the bit where Ming’s folks try to get Dale drunk so she won’t care when he forces himself on her later. And while Flash certainly doesn’t hit the same level of sleaze as whatshisface in Beastmaster did, he’s got one moment where I wanted to slap him. Cause it’s totally a good idea to compliment your female companion for being hot after she was forced to act all sensual without her consent. Not douchey at all! But for all that? He later has some good moments, and ends up having to fend off some unwelcome advances himself, and Dale gets to kick a whole lot of ass. I’d read in the trivia that George Lucas wanted to make a Flash Gordon movie and then made Star Wars instead when he found the rights had been sold already. And really, it’s impressive how many little moments of similarity there are, but the one that stood out the most to me is Dale’s escape scene. It’s so Princess Leia. She kicks, she punches, she steals guns and uses them to shoot and smack baddies. Dale has some damsel in distress moments, but she is far from helpless, and I appreciate that in a female lead.

Really though, the movie is camp and cheese and ridiculousness and a whole lot of fun. It’s got elaborate costumes and sets. It’s got eye candy for pretty much everyone (scantily clad men and women, showing off legs-a-plenty). It’s got women kicking ass and men working together. It’s got Richard O’Brien playing a huge set of pipes with a golden snake on them. And it has a line that caused me to weep a single tear of pure joy: With Queen playing in the background, Brian Blessed hollers “WHO WANTS TO LIVE FOREVER, EH?!” What the hell more could I ask?

February 18, 2011 - Posted by | daily reviews | , , , ,

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