Golden Age of Science Fiction - Flash Gordon
Flash Gordon - The Final Chapter of an Era
Science Fiction has been through several eras of movie making. Early science fiction movie production had to work with low budgets, poor scripts, and a general lack of science knowledge. But what directors lacked in resources, they made up for it in creativity and fun.
When you look at an old movie prior to the Star Trek generation, everything seems totally tongue in cheek with nothing taken seriously. Oh, there were a few rare exceptions. Forbidden Planet was made in 1956 and tried to show the dark side of the human subconscious when combined with an alien technology. Replace the poor props (like protractors for navigation) with modern props and you would have a decent movie even by today's standards.
Eventually though, more serious shows like Star Trek started to replace the silliness that abounded in Lost in Space. A few episodes of Twilight Zone brought out a desire for more substantive science fiction, but low budgets were still the norm.
In the late seventies, we started to see more serious big budget films. George Lucas started the Star Wars trilogy and in 1979 we saw Alien and Superman.
These successful movies brought out more investment and the script for a Flash Gordon movie was born. A $35 million dollar budget would back it up. Even Star Trek: The Motion Picture didn't have a budget that big.
When the Flash Gordon movie hit the theaters it was a flop. It had tried to retain the campy style of the fifties and early sixties, while science fiction had moved onto more serious fare. The movie was too late for the times. If it had come out five years earlier it would have been a major hit. Flash Gordon was the right movie, but at the wrong time.
But as much as Flash Gordon failed at the box office, it succeeded as a tribute to the old movie industry. Today, it is considered a cult classic, scoring an 83% rating on Rotten Tomatoes and listed as #88 of the 100 top classic science fiction movies by them.
If I found myself a thousand years in the future and asked to give a lecture on the history of early science fiction movies, I would select the Flash Gordon movie as a reference point and a tribute to a great era.
For in my memories, I will never forget the laugh of Emperor Ming the Merciless.