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Flash Gordon (1980) - Illustrated Reference

Updated on August 31, 2016
Poster art by Renato Casaro
Poster art by Renato Casaro
Flash Gordon's Trip to Mars (1938) poster
Flash Gordon's Trip to Mars (1938) poster

Flash Gordon was directed by Mike Hodges and premiered on 5th December 1980, Starring Sam Jones, Melody Anderson, Max Von Sydow, Topol, Ornella Muti, Timothy Dalton, Brian Blessed and Peter Wyngarde. Screenplay by Lorenzo Semple Jr. Music by Howard Blake, Queen. 111mins.

Flash Gordon was created by artist Alex Raymond in 1934, originally a comic strip it was later adapted into three popular movie serials starring Buster Crabbe – Flash Gordon (1936), Flash Gordon’s Trip to Mars (1938) and Flash Gordon Conquers the World (1940).

Buster Crabbe played Flash Gordon, Jean Rogers was Dale Arden, Frank Shannon – Dr. Zarkov and Charles Middleton – Ming the Merciless.

In the early 70’s George Lucas along with producer Gary Kurtz was interested in remaking Flash Gordon for the big screen “We tried to buy the rights to ‘Flash Gordon’ from King Features but the deal would have been prohibitive,” Kurtz said. “They wanted too much money, too much control, so starting over and creating from scratch was the answer.”"

George Lucas wrote and directed Star Wars instead. When that film became a phenomenal hit in 1977 Italian producer Dino De Laurentiis (1919-2010) snapped up the rights to Flash Gordon and started production on the first big screen movie of the comic strip in August 1979.

Flash: This Ming is a psycho!
Robot: "This Ming is a psycho"
Klytus: Who said that?
Robot: The fair-haired prisoner.
Klytus: Who are you?
Flash: Flash Gordon. Quarterback. New York Jets.

Sam Jones (1954-) / Flash Gordon

Born in Chicago, Illinois, Sam Jones’s films include – 10 (1979), Jane and the Lost City (1987), Maximum Force (1992), Fist of Justice (1995), Earth Minus Zero (1996) and Psychotic (2002).

Dale Arden: Flash I love you, but we only have fourteen hours to save the Earth!

Melody Anderson (1955-) / Dale Arden

Born in Alberta, Canada, Melody Anderson’s films include – Dead & Buried (1981), Firewalker (1986) and Speed Zone (1989).

Zarkov: We are only interested in friendship. Why do you attack us?
Ming: Why not? Pathetic earthlings. Hurling your bodies out into the void, without the slightest inkling of who or what is out here. If you had known anything about the true nature of the universe, anything at all, you would've hidden from it in terror.

Max Von Sydow (1929-) / Emperor Ming

Born in Lund, Sweden, Max von Sydow’s films include – The Seventh Seal (1957), The Greatest Story Ever Told (1965 as Jesus), The Quiller Memorandum (1966), The Exorcist (1973 as Father Merrin), Three Days of the Condor (1975), Exorcist II The Heretic (1977), Victory (1981), Conan the Barbarian (1982), Never Say Never Again (1983 as Blofeld), Dreamscape (1984), Dune (1984), Needful Things (1993), Judge Dredd (1995), What Dreams May Come (1998), Minority Report (2002), Shutter Island (2010), Robin Hood (2010) and Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close (2011).

Topol (1935-) / Dr. Hans Zarkov

Born in Tel Aviv, Israel, Chaim Topol’s films include - Cast a Giant Shadow (1966), A Talent for Loving (1969), Fiddler on the Roof (1971), Galileo (1975), and For Your Eyes Only (1981). TV series - The Winds of War (1983), War and Remembrance (1988-1989).

Klytus: Bring me... the bore worms!
Princess Aura: No! Not the bore worms!

Ornella Muti (1955-) / Princess Aura

Born in Rome, Italy, Ornella Muti’s films include – Tales of Ordinary Madness (1981), Swann in Love (1984), Oscar (1991), Once Upon a Crime (1992), Last Run (2001) and To Rome with Love (2012).

Prince Barin: Freeze! Yer bloody bastards!

Timothy Dalton (1944-) / Prince Barin

Born in Colwyn Bay, Wales, Timothy Dalton’s films include - The Lion in Winter (1968), Cromwell (1970), Wuthering Heights (1970), Mary, Queen of Scots (1971), The Living Daylights (1987), Licence to Kill (1989), The Rocketeer (1991), Looney Tunes Back in Action (2003), Hot Fuzz (2007) and The Tourist (2010).

Prince Vultan: Gordon's alive?!!

Brian Blessed (1936-) / Prince Vultan

Born in Yorkshire, England, Brian Blessed’s films include – Henry VIII and His Six Wives (1972), Man of La Mancha (1972), High Road to China (1983), Henry V (1989), Robin Hood, Prince of Thieves (1991), Much Ado About Nothing (1993), Hamlet (1996), Star Wars I The Phantom Menace (1999), Disney’s Tarzan (1999), Alexander (2004) and As You Like It (2006).

Ming: Klytus, I'm bored. What plaything can you offer me today?
Klytus: An obscure body in the S-K System, your majesty. The inhabitants refer to it as the planet Earth.

Peter Wyngarde (1933-) / Klytus

Born in Marseille, France to an English father and French mother, Peter Wyngarde’s films include – The Innocents (1961), Night of the Eagle (1962) and Tank Malling (1989). TV series – Department S (1969-1970), Jason King (1971-1972).

Ming: Every thousand years, I test each life system in the Universe. I visit it with mysteries, earthquakes, unpredicted eclipses, strange craters in the wilderness... If these are taken as natural, I judge that system ignorant and harmless - I spare it. But if the Hand of Ming is recognized in these events, I judge that system dangerous to us. I call upon the great god Dyzan, and for his greater glory, and for our mutual pleasure... I destroy it utterly.
Zarkov: You're saying... it's my fault the Earth is being destroyed?
Ming: [grinning] Precisely... Doctor!

Dino De Laurentiis had hoped Federico Fellini would be interested in directing Flash Gordon. As an injoke Princess Aura’s pet is named Fellini.

Nicolas Roeg was also considered for directing.

Kurt Russell was considered for the part of Flash Gordon.

Sam Jones voice was dubbed by another actor, though Jones has said in interviews that his own voice can still be heard in some parts of the film.

The swirling clouds of Mongo were created by pouring coloured dye into specially lit tanks of water and optically combining it with model work of Mongo's cities and moons.

Director Mike Hodges had hoped to get Pink Floyd to work on the soundtrack, rock group Queen ultimately got the job.

Was Ming the Merciless a Freemason? There are what looks like Masonic symbols in Mings palace and chief henchman Klytus has the symbols on his clothing.

Look out for Robbie Coltrane (Hagrid in Harry Potter) waiting by the plane in the opening sequence.

High Priest: Do you, Ming the Merciless, Ruler of the Universe, take this Earthling Dale Arden, to be your Empress of the Hour?
Ming: Of the hour, yes.
High Priest: Do you promise to use her as you will?
Ming: Certainly!
High Priest: Not to blast her into space?
[Ming glares]
High Priest: Uh, until such time as you grow weary of her.
Ming: I do.
Dale Arden: I do NOT!

An X-rated spoof of Flash titled 'Flesh Gordon' was released to theaters in 1974,

it was directed by Howard Ziehm and starred Jason Williams as Flesh, Suzanne Fields as Dale Ardor and William Hunt as Emperor Wang the Perverted , the film featured stop-motion monsters by Jim Danforth.

Flash Gordon was nominated for 3 Saturn Awards – Best Science Fiction, Best Supporting Actor (Max Von Sydow), Best Costumes.

Nominations for 3 British Academy Awards – Best Production Design, Best Costume Design, Best Music Score (Queen, Howard Blake)

Hugo Award nomination for Best Dramatic Presentation.

Golden Raspberry Nomination for Worst Actor (Sam Jones).

The Soundtrack Album by rock group Queen peaked at #10 on the UK charts and #23 on the US charts. Howard Blake’s orchestral score is represented by two tracks.

Queen released a single – Flash – which peaked at #10 in the UK and #42 in the US.

Flash Gordon cost $20m to produce and did very well in the UK grossing £13m but it was not a hit worldwide, the film grossed $27m in North America.

By contrast The Empire Strikes Back released the same year cost $23m to make and grossed $183m at the US boxoffice that summer.

Sequels were planned but when the film underperformed at the box office all plans were scrapped.

32 years later Flash Gordon has more fans now than it ever did at the time. A colourful, campy, hugely enjoyable sci-fi fantasy.

The Critics Wrote –

"The expensive new version of Flash Gordon is a lot more gaudy, and just as dumb, as the original series starring Buster Crabbe. Sam J. Jones in the title role has even less thespic range than Crabbe, but the badness of his performance is part of the fun of the film. This film cost around $20 million, a hefty outlay of money for such frivolity. The big differences between this film and the old serial are the lavish sets and costumes, and the colorful lensing by Gil Taylor, who also did Star Wars." (Variety)

“It’s like a fairy tale set in a discotheque in the clouds... This picture has some of the knowing, pleasurable giddiness of the fast-moving Bonds. The images are flooded with the primary colors of comic strips—blue and, especially, red at its most blazing; the designer, Danilo Donati, and the cinematographer, Gil Taylor, make the colors so ripely intense that they’re near-psychedelic... The director, Mike Hodges, gets right into comic-strip sensibility and pacing.” (Pauline Kael)

“Stunning production and costumes by Donati and a fun score by Queen. Director Hodges and writer Semple get it just right.” (Winnert)

"Flash Gordon" is played for laughs, and wisely so. It is no more sophisticated than the comic strip it's based on, and that takes the curse off of material that was old before it was born. This is space opera, a genre invented by Edgar Rice Burroughs and Hugo Gernsback and other men of unlimited imagination harnessed to definitely limited skills. It's fun to see it done with energy and love and without the pseudo-meaningful apparatus of the Force and Trekkie Power." (Roger Ebert)


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    • Steve Lensman profile image

      Steve Lensman 5 years ago from London, England

      It's an acquired taste Jools, I know people who cringe at the mere mention of Flash Gordon. But the director knew what he was doing, he couldn't compete with George Lucas and made it an homage to the cheesy serials of the 1930s with a maximum dose of camp. Mike Hodges had earlier directed one of Michael Caine's best films - Get Carter.

      Thanks for posting.

    • Jools99 profile image

      Jools99 5 years ago from North-East UK

      I think I might have seen this at the cinema Steve but I remember not being that fussed. I've watched it since then with hubby and have not changed my views but I loved all of your photos nonetheless. it was incredibly kitsch I think but I did love the soundtrack.

    • Steve Lensman profile image

      Steve Lensman 5 years ago from London, England

      nothuk, LaThing, thank you for the comments and kind words! Glad you enjoyed the hub.

      I missed seeing Flash Gordon at the cinema in 1980 and caught it later on a video rental, I was surprised at how much I enjoyed it. I bought it on Blu-ray a few months ago, excellent picture and sound.

    • LaThing profile image

      LaThing 5 years ago from From a World Within, USA

      Wow, what a Flash back, lol! I forgot about this one..... How could I have?!! Thanks for the memory..... You won't believe how many time I watched this, it's embarrassing, lol, lol..... Great pictures, enjoyed reading your hub! Awesome!

    • nothuk profile image

      nothuk 5 years ago from Varna, Bulgaria

      This is a real favorite of mine and besides the epic story and the wonderful characters of the movie there was another awesome thing about Flash Gordon - the music by Queen. Thank you for reminding me about a great movie :)

    • Steve Lensman profile image

      Steve Lensman 5 years ago from London, England

      Flash! aa-- aah! Hi Bruce, thanks for commenting amigo. I thought this would make a colourful hub and I had a couple of hundred screenshots to choose from.

      I looked for really negative reviews and couldn't find any, I'm sure they exist. I always look for reviews from well known critics. I thought Pauline Kael would hate Flash Gordon, she surprised me, she was less kind to Star Wars.

      Thanks for posting!

    • Cogerson profile image

      Cogerson 5 years ago from Virginia

      I loved this movie as a kid. I actually saw it twice in the theater 32 years ago(I must be getting old). Actually stunned that the reviews you included are so favorable.....I got a kick out of the Kael review that mentions Bond movies.....with Dalton so close to playing James Bond.

      I wonder if the movie would have been a bigger hit with Kurt Russell as Flash? I loved the soundtrack as I was a huge Queen fan back then.

      A fun movie to watch as well as a fun hub to read...voted up, interesting and awesome. Your friend from somewhere in the state of New York.