Monday, 31 August 2020

Review: Flash Gordon

Flash Gordon
Cert: 12A / 111 mins / Dir. Mike Hodges / Trailer

In the run-up to 2015's The Force Awakens, I inserted a feature into the seven-question-roundup section of my film reviews. It simply asked 'what's the Star Wars connection?'. It's based on the Six Degrees Of Separation (aka Nick Cage) game of course, where the aim is to link the subject of the review to Star Wars in as few moves as possible.

It breaks down like this: Level 0 is Star Wars itself, there's no further link to be made because we're discussing the Galaxy Far, Far Away to begin with. Level 1 is where the film in question stars someone who's been in Star Wars, usually in front of the camera or microphone, but I also extend this to notable production crew members. Level 2 is where the film stars someone who's worked with someone from Star Wars on a different project.

Flash Gordon: What's the Star Wars connection?

Now for the most part this is very straightforward, and the sheer breadth of casting since 'the Disney era' opened has made it easier still. Even if the cast of a movie doesn't feature someone who's rocked up in the GFFA, there's a good chance they've worked with 'busy actors' Harrison Ford, Liam Neeson or Samuel L. Jackson at some point in the past. It's a rare thing to have to go past Level 2 when looking for a link.

But some movies occasionally have such a strong connection to Star Wars that it's worth highlighting in and of itself, and 1980's Flash Gordon is one such contender. Screening partly as a 40th anniversary celebration and partly as part of the programme of legacy content to get bums back onto cinema seats, it wasn't until the movie began in my local that I realised I'd never actually watched it from start to finish before, having only seen disparate sections on the TV over the years...

But before we get to my reactions to the film itself, let's answer the important question you're all here for: Flash Gordon: what's the Star Wars connection..?

Flash Gordon: Level 2 connections

While they haven't been in Star Wars, the following performers have starred in productions with actors who have (I mean other than this Flash Gordon, of course):

• Sam J. Jones was in Ted with Seth 'voice of Palpatine in Star Wars Detours' McFarlane.

• Melody Anderson was in Firewalker with Ian 'voice of Palpatine in Clone Wars' Abercrombie.

• Richard O'Brien was in The Rocky Horror Picture Show with Tim 'the other voice of Palpatine in Clone Wars' Curry.

• John Hallam was in Dragonslayer with Ian 'the actual Palpatine' McDiarmid.

• Topol was in For Your Eyes Only with Julian 'Veers' Glover.

• Ornella Muti was in Somewhere In The City with Bai 'Breemu' Ling.

• Timothy Dalton was in Hot Fuzz with Simon 'Unkar Plutt' Pegg.

• Peter Wyngarde was in a 1985 episode of Bulman with Don 'Tagge' Henderson.

• Phllip Stone was in Indiana Jones & The Temple Of Doom with Harrison 'Solo' Ford.

• Suzanne Danielle was in Carry On Emannuelle with Bruce 'Rieekan' Boa.

• Robbie Coltrane was in From Hell with Ralph 'Garmuth' Ineson.

• Peter Duncan was in 1974's Stardust with Richard 'Motti' LeParmentier.

• George Harris was in Layer Cake with Daniel 'duped First Order Stormtrooper' Craig and Tom 'chatty First Order Stormtrooper in elevator' Hardy and Sally 'Naboo citizen' Hawkins.

Flash Gordon: Level 1 connections

Many of these performers are from the same cinematic era as the Original Trilogy so were generally busy around that time, but it's also worth noting that this movie is also a rarity in featuring actors from the Classic, Prequel and Disney-eras of star Wars.

Flash Gordon stars...

• Kenny 'R2-D2' Baker

• William 'Jek Porkins' Hootkins

• Rusty 'Kabe' Goffe

• Derek 'Yavin Temple Guard' Lyons

• Burnell 'Del Goren' Tucker

• Alan 'Bossk' Harris

• John 'Lobot' Hollis

• Mike 'Ugnaught' Edmonds

• Terry 'Wampa' Richards

• John 'Dak Ralter' Morton

• Richard 'Nien Nunb' Bonehill

• Alan 'Stormtrooper' Austen

• Deep 'Droopy McCool' Roy

• Malcolm 'Ewok Warrior' Dixon

• Peter 'Ewok' Burroughs

• Brian 'Boss Nass' Blessed

...and last, but by no means least:
• Max 'Lor San Tekka' Von Sydow


Flash Gordon: The Level 0 connection...
Why yes, Level 0. In a very real sense, Luke Skywalker is Flash Gordon. It's been written about many times over the years - George Lucas originally wanted to make an updated version of the matinee serial he loved as a kid, but couldn't afford the film rights from De Laurentiis. Rather than abandon the idea, George thought 'well okay, I'll make my own version then', and the space opera swashbuckling slowly morphed its way to our screens in 1977 as Star Wars. That determination would turn out to be one of the most inspired decisions Lucas ever made of course, and even though he went above and beyond a love-letter to pulp sci-fi, George has always worn his love for Flash Gordon on his sleeve.

There are stylistic references from the old serials which echo particularly across the Prequel Trilogy, and locations even in the 1980 Flash Gordon movie which are oddly reminiscent of Cloud City and Dagobah*1. But at the heart of it all, Luke Skywalker is Flash Gordon...

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Oh, the film itself is awful, by the way.
Not kitsch, not camp, not ironic, just bad.

Don't @ me.

So, what sort of thing is it similar to?
I never thought I'd type the words "a shit Buck Rogers", but here we are.

Is it worth paying cinema-prices to see?
**looks over spectacles**.

Is it worth hunting out on DVD, Blu-ray or streaming, though?
I'm seriously considering it, just to watch it again and write a more detailed review of what a grade-A travesty the whole thing is..

Is this the best work of the cast or director?
**keeps looking over spectacles**.

Will we disagree about this film in a pub?
That's likely.

Is there a Wilhelm Scream in it?
Which is probably the most amazing thing about the whole film

Yeah but what's the Star Wars connection?
I think we've covered that...

And if I HAD to put a number on it…
No really, this film is fucking dreadful.

*1 Even though The Empire Strikes Back came out in the same year (albeit seven months later), so director Mike Hodges can hardly be said to be ripping things off his competitor and (ironically) inspiration. [ BACK ]

• ^^^ That's dry, British humour, and most likely sarcasm or facetiousness.
• Yen's blog contains harsh language and even harsher notions of propriety. Reader discretion is advised.
• This is a personal blog. The views and opinions expressed here represent my own thoughts (at the time of writing) and not those of the people, institutions or organisations that I may or may not be related with unless stated explicitly.

1 comment:

  1. I'm sorry, you are wrong, it's great!

    (We're still pals, right?)