“Let’s not forget Flash Gordon saved the world”
Dino De Laurentiis
Cover story from Issue Two by Robert Lombard
FANTILIGY (THE ART, THE FILM OF THE FANTASTIC)
FantilIgy issue 2: Flash Gordon
By Robert Lombard
Making something as “simple” as 1980’s Flash Gordon has proved problematic to modern Hollywood and whilst the industry may come out with a variety of excuses such as “the audience is far more diverse now,” or “it is a different era” or “we want to bring Gordon into the modern era” the truth is many films are not fun anymore.
An adult and child can see Flash Gordon and remember every scene. There is no filler in Flash Gordon, only one great scene after another. It is as if the film is a mighty sailing ship and at the front is a protruding bow of fun that cannot be loosened and to this producer Dino DeLaurentiis is to thank.
Dino dreamed of an ideal cast and he received it. He wanted the best of sets and he got it, he wanted costumes, he wanted music and he got it. Everyone is on the same page. Even the director, Mike Hodges who has numerously stated that this type of film was not his cup of tea could not steer free of the storm of delight DeLaurentis had summoned. In fact, Hodges even states that Dino had a tear in his eye when he mouthed the words “Let’s not forget Flash Gordon saved the world” during a production meeting. The world may have become cynical but when such a declaration reigns forth from the mouth of the production head, Flash Gordon is destined to be the greatest story ever told. Few films these days would dare to subscribe to such a ribald declaration and that is why they suffer.
Let’s examine the rhythm in Flash Gordon and how every scene builds off the last. It begins with a short sequence of impending doom, a faceless Ming and his underling Kyltus not only promise an end to an obscure body in the SJ system but begin it. This is followed by arguably one of the greatest opening credit sequences of all time; a love letter to the Alex Raymond comic book to lyrics like saviour of the universe/king of the impossible and alas…he is a miracle! We are then shown this alpha male in all his glory, defunct of any faults (Which screenplay 101 holds as one of the greatest cardinal sins) and we love him, his winning ways, the sexy and no nonsense quarterback loving Dale. Appreciate then, how quickly we move from plane disaster to kidnapping by a mad scientist to journey into the atmosphere to meeting Ming and his hordes, then compare that to similar stories.
But perhaps one of Flash Gordon’s most seductive qualities is the sheer optimism and celebration of bravery and hope. Who wants to live in the “hope” themed world of Rogue One or the Last Jedi where there is conflict and politics and corporatisation? In the Mongoverse you can teach an old bird new tricks and have an elitist Prince declare to you “Where you go, I follow?” In fact, even earth looks good, for when Dale is offered residency in paradise she declares, “I’m a New York City girl, I’m afraid this place is a little too quiet for me.” Positive world building such as this is why children used to buy film merchandise, dress in the merchandise and play in the merchandise. In short, Flash Gordon provides you with the dream and does what every good dream should do, leave you wanting more, so much more, even going so far as to promise a sequel which never came.