Flash Gordon

Year: 1980
Production Co: De Laurentiis Entertainment Group
Studio: Universal
Director: Mike Hodges
Producer: Dino De Laurentiis
Writer: Lorenzo Semple Jr
Cast: Sam Jones, Melody Anderson, Max von Sydow, Topol, Timothy Dalton, Brian Blessed
Like Star Wars in so much more than just the genre, Flash was himself a matinee serial character from the 1940s whereas the films of Spielberg and Lucas merely referenced those heroes, villains and exploits.

Given breathtaking new life (by the standards of late 70s/early 80s special effects technology), it transported the titular New York Jets quarterback (Jones) across the galaxy with the beautiful Dale Arden (Anderson) and egghead scientist Dr Zarkhov (Topol) where he deals with a bizarre assortment of creatures, monsters, despots and aliens, including the iconic Ming the Merciless (von Sydow).

I've forgotten much of the plot, it's sequences that stand out in my memory; Flash's climactic flight down the mountainous landscape towards Ming's palace aided by the armies of the flying men. The fight against the golden-faced villain on the platform that goes from bad to worse - first tilting, then emitting blades from the floor. The Russian Roulette of sticking your hand into a gnarled tree trunk with a venomous animal living down one of the holes (and that's Timothy Dalton as the prince against whom Flash plays).

It also predated the practice that would become a marketing bonanza ten years hence with Batman, of tying a popular rock band to a cinematic release and enjoying not just cross-media promotion but a cool hook. Even non-Queen fans instinctively know Freddy Mercury's cry of 'Flash, ah-ahhhh!'

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