Jarv’s Schlock Vault: Flash Gordon

“Flash I love you, but we’ve only got 14 hours to save the Earth”

Jarv’s Rating: 4 Changs- wonderful.

Watching that utter rubbish the other night inspired me to do a few things. Firstly, it inspired me to never watch another Lenzi film, secondly it made me trepiditious of the remaining Shameless films I’ve got sitting at home, and finally and most importantly it pushed me into watching one of my favourite films of all time. I’ve actually been wanting to do this one for a while, but couldn’t work out how to categorise it. It’s not underrated, so that was out.

However, when I rewatched it last night, I came to the conclusion that not only is Flash Gordon schlock, but it’s probably the most awesome piece of schlock ever made. It’s got a preposterous plot, terrible acting, an unintenionally hilarious script, actors who should know better slumming it in material that’s clearly (and in a few cases hugely so) beneath them, cheesy special effects, a completely OTT soundtrack and outrageous costume design.

Therefore, it’s schlock.

I’m pretty certain everyone on the planet knows the plot of this film, but nonetheless, Flash is quarterback for the NY Jets (I’m pretty certain they sucked back then as well), and through a series of coincidences that border on the outlandish, travels into space to Mongo and eventually overthrows the nefarious Ming the Merciless, who was destroying Earth for something to do.

This film is fucking golden. When it opens with the simply magnificent Max von Sydow drawling “Klytus, I’m bored” you know you’re in for a treat- and watching him stab buttons to inflict various disasters on the Earth while the noise builds into the awesome soundtrack is electrifying. When Queen (who I normally detest) start their big number and the comic book inspired images flash (no pun intended) across the opening credits, a young Jarv was captivated, and watching it again as a cynical adult still makes me smile.

The film never lets up after that. It heaps preposterousness on preposterousness, covers it with lashings of bad acting, and seasons the mix with a script that delivers gem after gem. “Klytus! Are all your men on the right pills? Maybe you should execute their trainer!” being a notable example. To be fair, Ming gets a huge amount of brilliant lines, and von Sydow delivers them all with a moustache twirling, lip smacking relish. It’s a wonderfully over the top villain’s performance, and is so hammy you’d think he’d been eating nothing but GIANT PIG! in preparation for the role. He’s ably assisted by Peter Wyngarde as Klytus- a henchman with style.

This brings me to the next point- this film is stuffed full of actors that really shouldn’t be there. Aside from Von Sydow himself, RSC alumnae Brian Blessed grins his way through the film despite wearing plastic wings, Timothy Dalton swashes a few buckles long before James Bond as Prince Barin, Ornella Muti vamps as Princess Aura, Topol puts down his fiddle to play genius scientist Zarpov, Richard O’Brien appears in a cameo, and one of the 20th Century’s finest playwrights, John Osborne, makes a strange appearance. All these people give great performances, and all of them are rewarded with their share of ridiculous lines and fun set pieces.

However, the acting is not all good. Melody Anderson is a terrible actress, but her performance as Dale Arden is strangely fitting. Nevertheless, the real plank is Sam Jones as Flash. These two are the leads and some of their exchanges are unintentionally hilarious. There’s an absolute belter at the beginning where Dale says “Say something to distract me” which prompts Flash to relate an interminable anecdote about seeing her in the restaurant, which she responds with “You’re only saying that to distract me”. Fucking genius.

I’ve briefly mentioned the script, but it must be one of the most quotable scripts ever written. Off the top of my head without looking it up on IMDB I can think of at least 20 lines that are all priceless. This in itself has given rise to a life threatening drinking game. You need at least 4 people to do it, everybody draws a character from a hat, and anytime one of your characters says something ridiculous, you have to drink. The person that draws either Ming or Klytus is in deep shit.

This film was directed by Mike Hodges, who made the unarguable classic Get Carter, and it couldn’t be more different. Whereas Carter was a grey and gritty film, Flash is a splash of fluorescent colour. Carter was realistic, Flash is cartoonish. They’re totally different films. It’s a strange progression, and one that’s shared by Donati (the designer) who went from working with Fellini to this. My three minutes of research tells me that Lucas the merciless tried to get his grubby paws on this, and can you imagine the glum and over-serious Flash he’d have made? It certainly wouldn’t be anywhere near as much fun.

Overall, would I recommend it? I have to say 100% yes. It gets a spin every Christmas at Casa del Jarv, and every time I enjoy it again. It’s a blend of comedy and excitement, and arguably the greatest “bad” movie ever made. Flash Gordon really is lightning in a bottle- a director, designer and cast assembled to work on material that’s totally alien to them, and that they may believe to be beneath them. Nevertheless, they threw themselves into it wholeheartedly and the resulting film is simply hugely entertaining.

And where else are you going to see a Blue Peter (a terrible British children’s TV programme) presenter stung to death by a tree-dwelling squidgy green venomous blob? Or American football played between fetish-gear wearing weirdo’s while  giggling hawkman hits a jester on the head with a mace and a terrible actress cheerleads by sidestepping, clapping her hands and yelping “go Flash go”?

Until next time- “FLASH, AH-HA, SAVIOUR OF THE UNIVERSE!”

Jarv

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About Jarv

Workshy cynic, given to posting reams of nonsense on the internet and watching films that have inexplicably got a piss poor reputation.

45 responses to “Jarv’s Schlock Vault: Flash Gordon”

  1. Droid says :

    “through a series of co-incidents”

    Coincidences?

    I’ve never seen this. Not sure why. Just haven’t crossed paths with it. Guess I’ll have to give it a watch.

    Queen rule you cretin.

  2. Tom_Bando says :

    Ah! Noted_Sage Me said, not long back-Jarv-REVIEW FLASH!

    And he DID. This was fun reading.

    Jarv, now—do Forrest Gump. Yew Kin Do it. We’ll read it.

  3. Tom_Bando says :

    The question arises-has Mr. Marmoset seen this? if not—-

  4. just pillow talk says :

    Now why you gotta take another poke at the Jets for? Completely uncalled for, no matter how true.

    This is hilariously bad. I love when he’s got the football running over all the guards in the palace room when they are first taken.

  5. Toadkillerdog says :

    YES! YES! YES! I love this movie! Love it love it love!

    Ornella Muti tied up legs spread on a table and Klytus says”
    “Bring me the Bore worms!” Aura: “No not the bore worms!”

    Every man and quite a few women wanted to be a bore worm for just one minute

    Ornella Muti sitting on Flash’s dick, and he does not even touch her?

    Flash was obviously gay!

    • Jarv says :

      No- because he accidentally uses the telepathy machine to tell Dale Arden that “this girl’s turning me on”

      Flash ain’t no sausage jockey.

  6. Hawaiian Organ Donor says :

    Probably in the top 5 of all time quotable movies. I don’t throw around lines from this one very much in my daily interactions, but I sure do rattle around lines like “Oh well, who wants to live forever? DIVE!” in my head when the situations calls for it. Great review Jarv.

  7. Toadkillerdog says :

    Ya, great review Jarv – I should have mentioned that too!
    I love this movie. I own the *gulp* Portuguese subtitled version on DVD, because Brazil was the only place i could get the dang movie from for a very long time!

    Don’t hate!

  8. koutchboom says :

    Queen need to do more soundtracks. Too bad I didn’t review Highlander yesterday instead of Give’em Hell.

  9. lordbronco says :

    Also-don’t forget Metalstorm: The Destruction Of Jared Syn 3-D, or perhaps also Rowdy Roddy Piper in Hell Comes To Frogtown…
    …I’m just saying…

  10. jarv says :

    Hell comes to frogtown is coming soon. It’s one of the films I obtained before the PC committed seppuku

  11. MORBIUS says :

    Once again, I see, you’ve managed to insert GIANT PIG in your review! Nice work Jarv, rewatched FG a rew months back, it’s everything you said….and more…

    How about FLESH GORDON as a follow up?

  12. Continentalop says :

    One question Jarv, what’s “Americn” football? You mention it in the last paragraph of your review.

    • MORBIUS says :

      Conti, in case you were wondering, up above was my Scooby Doo impression, where I wrote ‘a rew months back’. Rat’s right Shaggy!

      • Continentalop says :

        Don’t worry Morbius. I never hold a poster to the same high standard as a reviewer.

        Which explains why I rarely dare to write a review.

    • Jarv says :

      American Football, as opposed to actual football, is a game played almost exclusively in America which involves roid addled goons throwing a ball rather than kicking it.

      Football, or “Soccer” if you’re from the colonies, is game entirely designed to humiliate the English at the hand of the Germans by having us continually lose on penalties every 2 years.

      • Continentalop says :

        Not “American” football. “Americn” football. That’s what you wrote.

        And yes, I’m being pretty anal…

      • koutchboom says :

        You boner.

      • Jarv says :

        Quick confession time. I was hung over to fuck when I wrote this, and accidentally hit publish instead of preview. As a result it was full of typos- I tried to edit it really quickly and got most of them. I did, however, miss some.

  13. Continentalop says :

    Whatever you do, don’t watch Solar Babies as a follow up.

  14. herrmilflover says :

    I’m pretty sure I’ve seen this as a kid when it came out, but I apparently dont remember shit about it….
    like… Flash Gordon was a football player?!?
    I’m putting it on mt to-see list, which is getting ridiculously long thanks to you all….

    How about a Condorman review? Havent seen that one since it came out either…. does that even fucking exist on dvd?

  15. lordbronco says :

    Our friend and general all-around good movie reviewer has been busting his hump over on wordpress for the last year, probably writing the most even-handed and dare I say professional reviews of our splinter sister sites: Cinematropolis.

    Just this week he has achieved posting status on a much more developed website: Atomic Popcorn.

    Echo/Jonah/Nathan Has just gotten promoted!

    It is highly recommended and suggested that you support our fellow All-Star Talkbacker by checking out and commenting on his first round of new reviews which just hit the site a couple days ago.

    I posted my first response, so i will give a heads up that atomic popcorn is annoyingly embedded with social networking links and apps. Goddamn twitter….

    My workaround, is to log in as guest, install the annoying application that monitors logins and *not* tie my responses to anything like twitter.

    See you all in the Centurion talkback-at least I hope so.

  16. Tom_Bando says :

    So today saw this during a bad movie marathon w/ some cronies-the others were episodes of Rat Patrol (Okay, nothing special-Lou Grant as a Cherman Doktorr in one) and an Ultra Man thingie called The Iron King, which mixes a Japanese Roy Rogers, a Token ‘Indian’ (Japanese again) gal, and a goofy guy who turns into Iron King and chop-sockies his way thru all manner of rather lousy but hilariously over-the top Giant Robots(Power Rangers level at best).

    But Flash takes the cake. Had NOT watched all of Flash, beginning to end before, just diced up slices on the idiot box thru the years.

    Wow. That was Tevye as Zarkhov?! Who was Brian Blessed’s #2 Hawkman there? w/ the Beatle wig? I thought he was familiar.

    This is by far the most fun you will have sitting thru a series of goofy throne room scenes. Queen’s music fits this to a T. By all means Jarv your review hit it on the head.

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