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Something is causing all kinds of natural desasters, and scientist
Doctor Zarkoff (Topol) thinks it's aliens from the planet Mongo ... so he
kidnaps Flash Gordon (Sam J.Jones) and Dale Arden (Melody Anderson), who
have just emerged from a plane wreck, and takes them to Mongo in his
rocketship he conveniently keeps in his backyard.
On Mongo, our trio immediately falls into the clutches of evil tyrant
Emperor Ming (Max von Sydow), and while Ming chooses Dale as his bride and
wants to brainwash Zarkoff to use his scientific mind, he orders Flash to
be executed ... but Flash is saved by Ming's daughter Princess Aura
(Ornella Muti), who has fallen in love with him and who takes him to
Arboria, the land of the tree people led by one of Aura's lovers, Prince
Barin (Timothy Dalton).
Prince Barin is less than pleased to babysit Aura's lovetoy and now and
again tries to get rid of him, but after much to and fro (which also
includes an escape attempt by Dale and Arkoff) Flash convinces the treemen
to unite with their arch enemies, the hawkmen led by Prince Vultan (Brian
Blessed) and mount an attack against Ming - which culminates in Flash
driving a rocketship right into the center of Ming's imperial palace and
staking Ming with it (really !).
Earth is saved, and Flash naturally gets the girl - Dale of course -
while Prince Barin gets Princess Aura, who in the course of the movie has
become one of the good guys.
It is rumoured that George Lucas originally wanted to make a series of Flash
Gordon movies and only when he couldn't get the rights to Alex
Raymond's character did he create his own Star Wars series -
which makes perfect sense given the parallels of the Flash Gordon
comic strips and serials and especially the first three parts of Star
Wars (you know, the ones produced in the 1970's and 80's, not the
ones that confusingly have the numbers 1 to 3 attached to it). Ironically,
with the success of the Star Wars series, producer Dino De
Laurentiis decided to revive the Flash Gordon-property to
cash in on the new sci-fi-trend.
Die-hard Star Wars fans will of course point out that the
resulting film is highly derivative of Star Wars (it is not,
Star Wars is highly derivative of the Flash Gordon
comic strips and serials) and is vastly inferior in special effects (which
might be true, but then it's very hard these days to even see an original
version of Star Wars, not the awful CGI-beefed up 1990's version).
People who are not really into Star Wars and who like to
take their trashy science fiction with a grain of salt however will
probably enjoy Flash Gordon much more though, a self-consciously
cheesy celebration of out-dated sci-fi-clichés filled up with
unintentional humour and schmaltzy music by glam-rockers Queen (which is
not nearly as schaltzy as John William's terrible Star Wars score
That said the film of course has many shortcomings, like sub-par
acting, especially by leads Sam J.Jones and Melody Anderson, a plot that
is dumbed down even from the Flash
Gordon serials of the 1930's and 40's, and the special effects
are certainly not up to the technical standards of a big budget production
from 1980 - actually there were much better and more impressive effects in
the sex spoof Flesh Gordon
from 1974, which is the better film anyways ...
In all, no, Flash Gordon is not a good movie, but if you don't
take your sci fi too seriously and are prepared for a good laugh, you
might still find it entertaining in a guilty pleasure sort of way.