It’s one of the stupidest films ever made. It has sub-pantomime costumes, Brian Blessed with wings and utterly, utterly daft dialogue (“Flash, Flash! I love you, but we have only 14 hours to save the Earth!”). Still...
Given just 11 days to stop Ming The Merciless (couldn’t he have called himself something a bit less... conspicuous?) from destroying his home, “Flash Gordon, quarterback, New York Jets” actually manages to influence the entire political make-up of Ming’s planet, Mongo. Not bad for someone helmer Mike Hodges, on his frank yak-track, says is “as dumb as American foreign policy”. The thinking was simple: take the bumbling charm of the cult TV series (the first episode of which is included here), anchor it with Queen’s operatic “Dum, dum, dum... FLASH!” soundtrack and then bathe the mayhem in glorious psychedelic colour (the swirling kaleidoscopic skies still look astonishing).
In a DVD interview, Hodges says George Lucas had wanted the franchise himself before he became preoccupied with some other space adventure. Released just months after The Empire Strikes Back, Flash is the ideal antidote to Lucas’ weighty solemnity. There may be vague comment on the “all creatures will make merry... under pain of death” communism of totalitarian Ming, but pretty much nothing else is taken seriously.
It’s outrageously camp, the never-seen-again Sam Jones is woeful as Flash and, as Hodges admits, many of the effects look “naff”. But there’s a unique ’30s comic-book spirit and vivacity here which ensures, 25 years on, and against all the odds, Gordon’s still very much alive.