What is a cult classic? The term gets bandied about quite a lot these days but it’s generally considered as a film that has a dedicated following. 1980’s Flash Gordon certainly is a cult classic in that sense – Flash fans are as dedicated as they come, which is clearly seen in the immense queues for the film’s cast and crew at comic cons and the like. It’s evident in the catchphrases you may have heard over the years: the “Go Flash Go!” or the “Gordon’s Alive!”. Or in its everlasting, catchy soundtrack by the incomparable Queen. It’s also clearly seen in the appeal of documentaries such a Life After Flash and for this very 40th-anniversary restoration DVD and Blu-ray edition of the film.
However, in addition to all of that, the term ‘classic’ really works for Flash. A movie that, 40 years later, still has those queues, those documentaries, this – quite frankly – immense new DVD and Blu-ray edition that StudioCanal has painstakingly restored in 4K Ultra HD. This endurance has pushed Flash Gordon not only into its cult classic status but propelled it into a genre entity of its own – an example of what a cult classic truly means.
Speaking of which, it’s this endurance that means the movie still appeals today and for those who haven’t seen it, this is the way to watch it. It’s the story of all-American hero Flash Gordon (Sam J Jones) who – along with love interest Dale (Melody Anderson) and scientist Zarkov (Topol) – gets unwittingly transported to the planet of Mongo, ruled by the evil Ming (Max von Sydow). Bored, Ming has decided to play with Earth by causing natural disasters and when Flash and co are brought to him, he immediately sets sight on Dale to use for his pleasure, orders Flash to be killed and decides to brainwash Zarkov. It’s up to Flash to save the Earth, his love and his friends, and perhaps along the way try to find a way to take down Ming and his dictatorship…?
Based on the original comic strip of the same name created by Alex Raymond and directed by Mike Hodges (Black Rainbow, The Terminal Man), Flash Gordon takes its comic book lineage seriously, creating a colourful, fun, action-packed movie that has enough thrill for young audiences and more than enough double entendres for the older folks. It’s about as far away from the MCU as you can get and so you can’t really compare it to the comic book movies of today. In fact, there isn’t much out there that you can compare it to – managing to balance cheesiness with a genuine sweetness, and with production sets and costumes that are a – er – marvel to behold, Flash Gordon needs to be seen to be believed.
Furthermore, this wouldn’t be a decent cult classic if there weren’t just as many stories behind the camera as in front. Flash was originally intended to be directed by Nicolas Roeg (Don’t Look Now, The Man Who Fell To Earth), who put in considerable work during pre-production before its producer ‘Dino’ De Laurentiis reportedly wasn’t happy with the way the movie was going and Roeg was replaced by Hodges. In fact, you can see some of the original ideas for the film in one of the many excellent extras included on this new edition. This includes an interview with writer Michael Allin and some of the other key people behind the original production who discuss what Roeg’s film was going to be like – including key themes and original sketches of costumes. Allin – who considered Roeg not just as a colleague but as friend and brother – gives us some insight into what it was like to work with the director and his feelings on how the final version of Flash came out.
Speaking of extras, this special edition has some other absolute gems where you can look at original behind the scenes footage or listen to audio commentaries from Hodges or star Brian Blessed who played the winged Prince Vultan. Speaking of the great Brian Blessed – make sure you check out his anecdotes on the new special edition for some truly hilarious stories from filming.
Whether you’re a die-hard Flash fan or you’ve heard the casual ‘GORDAN’S ALIVE!’ and want to know what all the fuss is about, this new 4k Ultra HD restoration is a must.