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Book Review: Flash Gordon: The Official Story of the Film (2020)

Back in December of 1980, my desire to see Flash Gordon was at an almost unbelievable level…and my parents blew my mind and agreed to drive me, and the prettiest girl in the second grade who agreed to be my date, many towns over (yes, I grew up in the literal middle of nowhere) to see the film… but mother nature had other plans; and a nor’easter (to those not in the know; Upstate New York has about 14 months of winter per year… at least it did back then) kept us in town, and Altman’s Popeye was what it had to be (and for the record, that is a charming film and a ton of fun… but it sure as hell isn’t Flash Gordon).

Flash (pun intended) forward a bit to the traditional Sunday dinner at my grandparents, and after an amazing fried fish dinner courtesy of my Nana, we all gathered around the TV to catch the HBO premier of Flash Gordon… and after my nervous stomach calmed down, I had a life changing experience…I had found the greatest cinematic joy of my life!

Still there? Okay here is the long and the short of Flash Gordon; New York Jets quarterback Flash Gordon (Sam Jones) find himself stranded on the distant planet Mongo, along with beautiful travel agent Dale Arden (Melody Anderson), after taking a forced ride in a rickety rocket created by the lunatic genius Hans Zarkov (Topol).

Once there they find themselves balls deep in a totalitarian regime headed by the outrageously evil Ming the Merciless (Max von Sydow), and policed by his metal masked major domo Klytus (Peter Wyngarde).

Soon it’s up to our space-faring trio to unite the various factions of Mongo and it’s surrounding moons, which include the tree dwelling Prince Baron (Timothy Dalton) and his Arborian troops and the winged Hawkmen of Prince Vultan’s (Brian Blessed) flying sky city, to overthrow Ming… if Flash can keep out of the horny clutches of Ming’s outrageously gorgeous daughter Princess Aura (Ornella Muti) that is!

Filled to the brim with colorful and ornate costumes, surreal worlds, and crazy aliens, Flash Gordon is a major treat for the eyes (and let me tell ya, this 4K release makes an already beautiful film even more breathtaking), and that is a huge plus considering this flick is based on the colorful comic strips created by genius artist Alex Raymond. The entire picture is a non-stop phantasmagoria of hand-crafted miniatures, epic sets, and unique creatures that never fail to captivate the imagination!

This brings us to the recent tome from Titan Books; Flash Gordon: The Official Story of the Film!

Written by award winning filmmaker John Walsh, this beast of a book is a Flash fanatics wet dream as it covers every aspect of the film’s production (and marketing) in minute detail and scads of gorgeous photos, many of which were completely new to yours cruelly… and I’ve seen a thing or two when it comes to the making of ol’ FG, let me tell ya!

Now, if this book contained just that material it would be invaluable… but it offers so much more, the best of which is the material detailing the film that might have been… namely original director Nicolas Roeg’s (he was replaced by Get Carter‘s Mike Hodges for those of you that ain’t savvy) vision of the production; which is some jaw-dropping psychotronic goodness through and through!

Speaking of “what might have been”, we also get introduced to some astounding ideas for further films in the series (I’m still waitin’ ya bloody bastards!) which would have adapted material from the Universal Flash Gordon serials of the late 1930’s/early 1940’s… and would have introduced a host of new alien races straight from the pages of Alex Raymond’s syndicated newspaper strip that started the whole shebang!

What else is there to say? Flash Gordon: The Official Story of the Film is absolute perfection in both content and presentation and it should be on the shelf of every fan of the flick!

 

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