Flash Gordon: Saviour of the Universe Edition (1980)

Universal

Cast: Sam L. Jones, Melody Anderson, Timothy Dalton, Max Von Sydow.

Rating: PG

Run time: 112 mins

Genre: Science Fiction

Verdict: Beautiful (see rating system)

Well, here it is in all its gaudy, over-the-top, campy greatness - a cult favourite that plays even better than when it hit the eyes of disbelieving theatregoers almost 30 years ago.

Talk about a bunch of space cadets...

Unaware they were really making a comedy, the cast played it mostly straight and the result is a very funny space saga that knocks the wind out of those preposterous Star Wars movies that people take far too seriously.

Muscular hunk Sam L. Jones is Flash Gordon - quarterback for the New York Jets - who somehow finds himself on a mission to save the Earth. Aboard a home-made rocket constructed by the nutty Professor Hans Zarkov (Topol), Flash and the lovely Dale Arden (Melody Anderson) zoom into the lair of Ming the Merciless, despotic ruler of the planet Mongo.

Ming plans to toy with Earth's inhabitants for a while to amuse himself before destroying the planet. . Before they can stop him, Flash, Dale and the professor are captured and Flash is sentenced to death. The professor is scheduled to have his memory wiped and Dale is destined for Ming's harem. How Flash comes back from the dead and helps spark a rebellion among Ming's terrified subjects is the stuff of screenplay legend.

(Speaking of the screenplay, writer Lorenzo Semple Jr. offers some candid, amusing recollections of making the film, including the set designer who was obviously on another plant when he ignored the story at hand and produced unrelated sets, to the lack of input on the script. They basically filmed what he wrote!)

With special effects that just about work, amazing, bizarre sets and costumes and good action sequences - not to mention a soundtrack by rock group Queen - this is no flash in the pan effort.

Universal has done a great job of remastering the movie, which now also boasts 5.1 Surround Sound. The extras include the first episode of the 1936 Flash Gordon serial.

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