Flash Gordon
Silver Anniversary Edition

Starring: Sam Jones, Topol, Max Von Sydow, Brian Blessed and Timothy Dalton
Momentum Pictures
RRP: 19.99
Certificate: PG
Available 10 October 2005

For no other reason than to alleviate boredom, an unknown aggressor toys with the Earth prior to its planned destruction, by directing freak weather conditions and laughing uproariously like the egotistical megalomaniac he is. American football star Flash Gordon and Dale Arden are hit by the sudden conditions, causing their pilot to be lost, and obliging Flash to crash land the light aircraft... on the laboratory of ex-NASA scientist Dr Hans Zarkov. The seemingly mad Zarkov manages to get them on his rocket which he aims at an anomaly in space he believes is attacking the Earth. They are soon arrested and taken to a palace where different races are paying fealty to Ming the Merciless, Emperor of the Universe. When Ming heartlessly kills a man, Flash disrupts the proceedings and for his troubles is sentenced to death in a gas chamber. Not a good day for anyone ... even a square-jawed hero. Can he escape and rescue the doctor from his mind conditioning and Dale from her fate as a concubine? Stay tuned, same time, same DVD to find out!...

There are two ways the making of this film could have been approached. One was to play it serious and hard-hitting, to reinvent the old comics and serials from the 1930s, the other to pay tribute to the serial's regular slices of ham and drama. With the former idea the format would have had to be spot on to succeed, but thankfully they chose the later.

This loud and colourful tongue-in-cheek version throws an open nod and wink in homage to the black and white days of Saturday morning kids cinema, with thrills, spills and kills. The balance is just right. The characters are all played purposefully over-the-top (particularly Brian Blessed's portrayal of Prince Vultan of the Hawkmen, which is like a cross between Santa Claus and the Jolly Green Giant), and Melody Anderson's Dale Arden flits between helpless girly and action heroine. Who can forget the immortal line, "Flash, I love you, but we only have fourteen hours to save the Earth!" Believe it or not Max Von Sydow's Ming is the most intelligently understated acting, even though he's supposed to be the evil villain.

Watching this movie is like a game of Who's Who. Aside from the aforementioned, there's Timothy Dalton, Topol, and shorter appearances by Peter Wyngarde, Susan Danielle, Robbie Coltrane, Peter Duncan, and the excellent Richard O'Brien.

The accompanying soundtrack by rock giants Queen fits the mood of the piece exactly, being both quirky and dramatic. You can tell that they all fully entered into the spirit of the thing to achieve a piece which undoubtedly enhances the whole.

DVD extras include a trailer, a Mike Hodges interview, photo gallery, and an episode of the original Flash Gordon series, starring Buster Crabbe (which gives you an inkling of just how well this film has captured the mood).

I doubt very much that this is a film people will want to watch over and over, but it is great fun. All together now, "Flash! Ah, ah ..."

Ty Power

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