We've been here before.
Flash Gordon. Silly, stupid fun with a kickass soundtrack and score.
With the unreal, murky red sky and Aquaman flying between Cyborg and the Batmobile, I wonder if someone working on Justice League didn't have some love for this film... Hell, given the likely ages of people working behind the scenes on a movie like Justice League, I wouldn't be surprised if they all had some love for Flash Gordon. But--not that I'm reviewing Justice League right now--they could have used a lot more of the sense of fun that Flash Gordon has.
Seriously, even in its quietest, most serious moments, this movie can't help but be fun. From Ming's ridiculously labeled-in-English world-destroying computer to the "football" game to Aura kissing Flash while he's trying to communicate telepathically with Dale to that silly rocketcycle and the sheer beyond-Stormtrooper level of missing the targets by the palaces guns--it's all so damn silly.
And--if such a thing can be, and in a film from 1980, the label would be apt--it's so innocently racist and sexist and macho.
(I will admit, I kind of wanted a color-coded little person as a pet like Aura has. But, well, that would be wrong. Or, as I got older, I wanted to be that little person, perhaps.)
But, Flash Gordon just doesn't care about that stuff. It's too busy just being itself.
Like Flash (Sam Jones) and Dale Arden (Melody Anderson) have matching outfits for some reason--white and red. I think Zarkov (Topol) and Munson (William Hootkins) are wearing identical shirts, too... Close anyway. They're outfits are the same beige and white shades (except for Munson's jeans) but in slightly different combinations. I imagine that someone from Mongo actually made the film. When the various tribes come to the palace, they have obvious styles that make them distinct. So, someone in the costume department, who happened to be from the real Mongo, made Munson and Zarkov match because they're the scientist tribe. And, Dale and Flash match because they're in the passenger tribe.
(The inversions are the interesting thing. Flash is earring white with red cuffs and red lettering. Dale is wearing a red dress with a white coat. (Additionally, Jones' dark hair was lightened for the role of Flash and Anderson's lighter hair was darkened for the role of Dale.) Zarkov has a lighter shirt with a darker jacket, Munson a darker shirt under a lighter coat.)
And, I just learned that John Hollis, who plays Lobot in The Empire Strikes Back, also plays one of Klytus' observers--meaning, before he had a cybernetic implant around the back of his head, and now he's got one around the front. I swear I used to joke (possibly just in my head) that the observers were related to Lobot, and it's the same actor. With no IMDb when I was a kid--and I wouldn't have a subscription to Starlog magazine until the back half of the 80s--I didn't know how right I was.
Another thing I just learned: probably a big reason for the film being so... Simple, painted in such broad strokes, aiming for fun more than depth. Producer Dino De Laurentiis, while he could read English, liked to have his commissioned scripts translated into Italian (and his translator wasn't that good) because he didn't "want to be fooled by the words," screenwriter Lorenzo Semple, Jr explains to io9. (A foreign crew working with American actors--a combination that when horribly for Troll 2.) De Laurentiis told Semple, "I do want to be fooled by written words. I want to know the story." On the one hand, that is an awful, awful way of making a film. But, you just might get a ridiculously fun movie out of it as long as someone fixes the dialogue later, and your actors improvise, and no one thinks too deeply about how a comic book might work in live action.
I get that the lizard people are odd, what with the eyes inside their mouths. But, it feels like no one likes them in this film. One dares to cross a hallway and is vaporized by that floating head robot thingy. We see more in the dungeon. Two are in the cage with Flash when he's lowered into the swamp. In the comics, they were actually even less lizard-like. And, they ate people, apparently. And, they were led by a "Grand Dragon"--and this was in 1936... well after the KKK was using that term. Maybe it's better that no one was offering any respect to the followers of the Grand Dragon in this film. We've already got both a Yellow Menace stereotype as the villain and a whitewashed casting of said menace. There was already enough potential for offense.
Flash sets the final timer in the Ajax. Except, he hasn't talked to Zarkov in a while, so how can he be so precise, setting minutes and seconds? Nevermind that killing Ming doesn't necessarily save the Earth from the Moon crashing into it. I mean, Ming's world-destroying computer thingy could easily still be operational, and the Great God Dyzan might want Earth destroyed anyway, maybe even because Flash killed Ming.
And, oh how young me wanted a sequel. Give me a THE END? and I want more.
Also, I just noticed after all these years, the graffiti on the big Ming heads. (I'd noticed long ago the LONG LIVE FLASH graffiti in the dungeon.) One head has painted on it MING IS DEAD. The other one had three tears painted beneath one eye. Part of the fun of revisiting all these movies I've seen so many times is the familiarity, cinematic comfort food. But, finding something new is wonderful, too.