Thursday, April 16, 2020

Flash Gordon (1980) was intended to be campy romp

Flash Gordon, the story of a hero fighting a dictator, Ming the Merciless, of the distant planet Mongo, was a  comic strip created in 1934. Since that time, it has been the subject of many movies, television shows, and cartoons.

But I don't think any could top the 1980 movie in terms of abject campiness. From the dialogue to the characters, to the  cinematography,  the movie practically screeches ludicrous.  And notice I didn't even mention the costumes, which I can't begin to adequately describe. The phrase "extremely vivid" comes to mind. They look like they were made by a bunch of drunken drag drag queens. But that's not a bad thing. Lastly to top it off, the soundtrack was done by the legendary group Queen.

 And none of it was accidental. The makers intended for it to be this campy. I think they were attempting to capture the spirit of the original comic strip. It wasn't as if  they were treating it like a B-movie. Even though the star of the movie, Sam J. Jones, was basically unknown, other members of the cast - Topol, Brian Blessed, Max Von Sydow - were respected in the industry.  Flash Gordon was a minor hit and, as those who saw it can tell you, a sequel was in the works. However, disagreements during the making of the movie between Jones and the producer, Dino De Laurentiis, prevented it from happening.  

Now onto my favorite character. If there was one person who greatly typified just how wild and absurdly ludicrous the movie was, it had to be General Kala. Portrayed by Mariangela Melato, Kala can only described as perfectly too much in terms of scene stealing. Faye Dunaway as Joan Crawford in Mommie Dearest wouldn't have been able to compete. Her black and gold outfit  and boots is something I would kill to wear. I would look fantastic in it.  And her accent provides the final perfect touch.