Flash Gordon (1980)
Main Menu Introduction
Menu Animation & Audio
|Year Of Production||1980|
|RSDL / Flipper||RSDL (55:45)||Cast & Crew|
|Start Up||Language Select Then Menu|
|Region Coding||2,4||Directed By||Mike Hodges|
Universal Pictures Home Video
Sam J. Jones
Max Von Sydow
|Pan & Scan/Full Frame||None||English Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s)|
|Widescreen Aspect Ratio||2.35:1|
|Video Format||576i (PAL)|
|Original Aspect Ratio||2.40:1||Miscellaneous|
|Annoying Product Placement||No|
|Action In or After Credits||No|
There are some movies that you know you've seen, but you can't remember when or where. And then there are others that, despite the passing of time, you can still remember which cinema and which session you attended, and perhaps even which seat you sat in. For me, Flash Gordon is one of those movies. In 1980 I was transfixed in the cinema aged nine, and watching it again last night for the first time in almost 25 years, I was again transfixed. A cult 1980s favourite, Flash Gordon has to be one of the all-time greatest B-Movies ever made with an A-budget. It's fun, light, entertaining, and packed with plenty of action, adventure, and romance. It also features an exhilarating score by Queen and plenty of bikini-clad 'alien' girls. It's the perfect Friday night escapist romp - what more could you want?
Through Alex Raymond's beautifully detailed and lush artwork, Flash Gordon made his first appearance in a comic strip for King Features in January 1934, to compete with Buck Rogers, which was distributed by a rival syndicate. Set on (and around) Planet Mongo, three humans, Flash Gordon, Dale Arden, and Dr. Zarkov battle against the powers of Ming the Merciless, Emperor of the Universe. Through the many story cliff-hangers and wild adventures, the three meet Princess Aura, Ming's daughter, Prince Barin, the rightful ruler of Mongo, Thun, Prince of the Lion Men, Vultan, King of the Hawk Men, Azura, the Witch Queen of the Blue Magic Men, and Fria, Queen of the frozen kingdom of Frigia.
An immediate success, King Features quickly capitalised on Flash Gordon's growing popularity. Flash's exploits were adapted for radio in 1935, and the first novelisation of Flash's adventures, Flash Gordon in the Caverns of Mongo appeared in 1936. Also in 1936 came the publication of the Flash Gordon Strange Adventure Magazine. It was during this time that the filming of the first of three Flash Gordon movie serials starring Buster Crabbe began. These were to influence many filmmakers, most notably George Lucas, who credits Flash Gordon as his inspiration to write his own Space Opera - the Star Wars series.
The comic strip spread universally, and a West German television series of Flash Gordon appeared in 1954, followed by Filmation's The New Animated Adventures of Flash Gordon in 1979 (following the success of Star Wars). Hearst Entertainment provided us with an animated, teenage, skateboard-riding Flash Gordon in 1996, and there is currently a new movie in production, due for release in 2006, to be directed by Stephen Sommers. As the writer/director of The Mummy and the writer of The Mummy Returns and Van Helsing, Sommers seems to be the perfect person for the job.
Most people, however, would be familiar with Dino De Larentiis' 1980 (post-Star Wars) feature movie of Flash Gordon, the story of which remains very faithful to the original comic strip: NY Jets Quarterback Flash Gordon (Sam J Jones), and gorgeous NY Travel Agent Dale Arden (Melody Anderson) are the only passengers on a small plane which crashes near former NASA scientist Dr. Zarkov's (Topol) secret laboratory. The well-meaning but unstable Zarkov kidnaps the pair, forcing them onto his rocket ship. Believing the Earth is about to be destroyed by an evil force, Zarkov's spaceship blasts off and hurtles towards the source of this evil, in a desperate attempt to initiate peace talks.
Upon arrival, the three meet the evil Emperor Ming (the brilliant Max von Sydow), his deliciously vile crony, Klytus (Peter Wyngarde), the overly serious and truculent Prince Barin (Timothy Dalton), leader of the Hawk Men, Vultan (Brian Blessed), and the breathtaking Princess Aura (Ornella Muti).
The evil Ming has very effectively adopted a divide and rule strategy, subjugating his warring subjects. What's needed is an outsider, someone who can unite the warring clans and lead them in revolt! Furthermore, the Moon has been pushed off its orbit and it will soon crash into Earth, so Flash only has a few hours to lead a revolt, win the love of Dale (and rescue her from her forced marriage to Ming), and save the Earth from destruction.
With a great ensemble cast, and wonderful costumes and lavish sets (very true to the original look of the comics), Flash Gordon is a great escapist adventure. One of the aspects I really like is that Flash is a genuine hero. Unlike many films, such as Gladiator, where the hero is primarily motivated by selfish revenge, here Flash is a selfless hero, a natural leader of men, and a genuinely all-round nice guy just trying to do the right thing.
For its age, the transfer is very good.
The transfer is presented in a widescreen aspect ratio of 2.35:1, 16x9 enhanced.
The sharpness, black level, and shadow detail are all good considering the age of the source material. For example, the sharpness is good enough to see the strings attached to some of the 'floating' objects.
The colour does suffer at times (appearing a little washed-out), yet overall it retains the original, lush comic-book look of the film.
There are no problems with MPEG artefacts, but film-to-video artefacts do appear with some very slight aliasing and occasional telecine wobble, such as the slight wobble at 101:09. Neither of these is very noticeable, and if you're not looking for them, you probably won't pick them up.
Sadly, film artefacts, especially those caused by dust, appear throughout, and some are large and very noticeable. I also did spot some edge enhancement at times, but it was never distracting.
Only Portuguese subtitles are provided.
This is a dual-layered disc, with the layer change placed at 55:45. It is very smooth and as it is between scenes, it is not disruptive.
Originally released theatrically in Dolby Stereo, and remixed into Dolby Digital 5.1 for this DVD, the audio retains some of its original Stereo feel, and occasionally sounds a little flat.
There is only one audio option on this DVD: English Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s).
The dialogue quality is variable, as sometimes it appears a little buried in the mix. Interestingly, occasionally the dialogue is directional, moving between the front three speakers. The audio sync also has some problems. I assume much of the dialogue is looped, and some scenes appear to be badly dubbed, such as when Topol speaks at 14:20.
The musical score is credited to Queen, and it is a mixture of classic Queen Rock/Pop and instrumentals. Fortunately for me, my older sister bought this soundtrack on vinyl when it was originally released, and I played it to death.
There is some surround presence and activity, but the mix is quite front-heavy. While there are no strong directional effects or panning between the rear speakers, the rears are used effectively to help carry the score and provide some ambience, such as during the plane crash at 11:30, or during the prominent use of the score at 32:41.
The subwoofer is also utilised to support the score, for example the bass at 17:46, and the drums at 33:14, but is not so prominent with the sound effects.
|Surround Channel Use|
As with the R1 release, there are no extras.
An animated menu with audio, presented in comic-book style.
NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.
Flash Gordon was released on DVD in Region 1 way back in 1998.
The Region 4 DVD misses out on:
The Region 1 DVD misses out on:
I also understand that the R1 has a number of serious problems with the transfer, so our version easily wins.
Okay so almost 25 years later, the SFX are a little cheesy (the blue-screen and matte work is obvious), but Flash Gordon boasts a great story with great characters, plenty of action, adventure, and romance.
The video quality is great considering the age of the movie.
The audio quality is good overall, albeit quite dated and front-heavy.
There are no extras.
|DVD||Pioneer DV-535, using S-Video output|
|Display||Grundig Elegance 82-2101 (82cm, 16x9). Calibrated with Video Essentials. This display device is 16x9 capable.|
|Audio Decoder||Built in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Video Essentials.|
|Amplification||Sony STR DE-545|
|Speakers||Sony SS-V315 x5; Sony SA-WMS315 subwoofer|