Flash Gordon (1980) is one of those films that I constantly come back to, between the inspired costumes, the great Max von Sydow as Ming the Merciless, and Doctor Zarkoff’s memory erasure which is visualized as a minute-long flashback that is an unbelievable montage, I can’t even begin to explain the influence this film had on a my imagination as a young boy. In fact, it was almost as wonder-filled as looking at the Sear’s Christmas Catalog in late November of 1980. When I think of this film in retrospect I can’t help but be amazed at how intentionally camp it was, and how entirely lost this was on me in as a 10 year old in 1980. I took it all in as straight. I was entirely sold on the Hawkmen; Arborea’s tree monster had me absolutely frightened and intrigued; and the whole idea of Flash as the space-marooned quarterback of the NY Jets appealed to my other fascination at the time which was the NFL.
I suspect much of the genius in this film owes itself as much to the legendary producer Dino De Laurentis who let it happen (check out that guy’s career—phenomenal), as it does any of the actors or its minor director. Making this film so tongue-and-cheek was the best and only way to approach it, and may explain why it is far more memorable than Buck Rogers in the 25th Century (1979) and the numerous Battlestar Gallactica attempts. There were so many Star Wars rip-offs at this time, but this is the only one that actually came to an expectant audience on its own terms. And the scene included above wherein Flash momentarily exhibits both his prowess and weakness was one of my favorites because it married the most ridiculous stormtroopers knock-offs ever (most of which is attributable to their outfits) with a quite simple and effective football drill. And when you add into all this the first major rock band film soundtrack by way of Queen what you get is a classic through and through.