I would give the movie itself five stars, but the DVD and Blu-Ray presentation are not as strong. The 1980 Flash Gordon movie is one of the funnest romps in the space opera I have ever experienced. Much more true to the Saturday morning serial kind of sci-fi that Star Wars was paying homage to. There is an inherent camp value that this movie never forgets and it just makes the film a joy to watch. Plus the soundtrack from Queen just ups the fun factor even more. You would think this combination of music and content would make for a very campy film, but not necessarily. While the movie definitely knows it's roots and is having fun with that you really can't call Flash Gordon a cheesy B-movie.
The Savior of the Universe (SotU) Edition DVD lacks the very energetic commentary by Brian Blessed (plus production stills and other static extras) that the European Silver Anniversary Edition DVD and even lacks the commentary by Same Jones and Melody Anderson made for an International Edition (that of course we never saw in the U.S). In spite of that you do get a remastered film with 2.35:1 anomorphic widescreen, 5.1 Dolby Surround and the movie trailer (none of the European releases had that). While the SotU edition was remastered and looked a ton better than the previous releases it wasn't perfect. While background matte effects are noticeable they are easily forgiven considering the sharper picture, but there were certain matted special effects blocks used on the spacecraft that were painfully obvious in the remaster. Either they didn't bother to digitally clean them up or it wasn't technically possible. Audio also sounded rather thin considering this was supposed to be digitally remastered.
Another thing that bugs me is SatU DVD is set in an impressive and slightly oversized case, but when you open it up all you get is the DVD and the pencil art insert from Alex Ross. No booklet detailing any info on the movie... not even a single page chapter list. Yeah, Yeah... most of you would say "but the remastered movie is what's important" but considering the sendup (and packaging) I would expect at least something more than just a disk and a sketch. I have seen movies with far less noteriety get more in their packaging than this.
Where the Savior of the Universe Edition improves upon the previous U.S. release significantly the Blu-Ray edition really stands out heads and tails above the rest. The visual difference is breathtaking. Details and textures come out that I have never seen before (and I was one of those kids who played the VHS of this film to death). Some scenes show so much clarity you would be hard pressed to think they were done recently. I think the sets that were done to be interiors stand out more for some reason so it's not really inconsistent mastering. The special effects problems that were very obvious in the SotU Edition are still there, but the matte blocks are far less noticeable with some cleaned up entirely. Audio is stand out amazing. Don't bother looking for any noticeable surround, but then again this movie was done in stereo. Now it's in crystal clear, deep and full stereo. No more 'thin' soundtrack.
The packaging for the Flash Gordon Blu-Ray is identical to any other single disk Blu-Ray you may find. That makes it a lot easier to fit in with the rest of your collection unlike the SatU Edition's oversized box. You still get nothing special as far as any booklets or liner notes. Also you no longer get the art insert from the previous release. So still nothing really special on that front.
Both the SotU Edition and the Blu-Ray release have identical features with just a little irrelevant extras added to the Blu-Ray What you get on both is two featurettes. One is from Alex Ross (the guy who painted the DVD cover) on how much he loves the movie. He actually does a really good job of making his featurette much like an analysis of the movie and would have worked great as narration for a documentary. Instead you just get Alex in a chair with a few movie clips thrown in here and there. The other featurette is called Writing a Classic by screenwriter Lorenzo Semple Jr.
The Blu-Ray exclusives are just BDLive and some annoying streaming ticker that will give you "news" from Universal Pictures. If your Blu-Ray player isn't connected online you may be able to spare yourself the latest in invasive advertising. The movie case promises exclusive content from the BDLive features, but none of it is related to Flash Gordon. Currently all you get are more promotional tidbits for other movies. You know what guys? This would be a great place to add those freakin' commentaries you keep leaving out.
I can't for the life of me figure out why they didn't just add the European edition commentaries to the Blu-Ray release and maybe add the new things to sweeten the pot. But to have a Blu-Ray missing some cool bonus material that's already out there? Not the smartest move in my book.
So which edition should you get? If you have a Blu-Ray player definitely the Blu-Ray edition. It is the best remaster visually and sonically by far of any edition, European or otherwise. If you REALLY want that Alex Ross pencil insert exclusive to the SotU Edition then you may have to make a choice or double dip. Unfortunately there is no definitive edition for Flash Gordon, but the current winner in at least presentation of the film is Blu-Ray.
on October 21, 2001
Sometimes certain films end up being much better than they have any right to be. Flash Gordon is one of those films. It is, in fact, and I say this in mortal fear of being mocked and shunned by my peers, one of my all time favotite movies. I can watch this film endlessly, and every time I see it I walk around smiling for the rest of the day... it's just that kind of movie.
The cast, first and foremost, is excellent. They work wonders with the material they're given... admittedly this isn't Shakespeare, but it plays remarkably well, with very few cringe-worthy moments. Standout performances include Max Von Sydow as the astoundingly evil Ming, Peter Wyngarde as the almost equally evil Klytus, Brian Blessed as the leader of the Hawkmen, and Topol(?) as an eccentric Dr. Zarkov. Then, of course, there's the absolutely stunning Ornelia Muti as Ming's beautiful daughter Aura... she's wonderful to look at, and has an exotic accent to boot. When I saw this film in the theater as a wee lad, I had quite the childhood crush on Miss Muti... sigh. Anyway, all of the actors seem to be having a grand time with their roles, and it definitely shows.
With all due respect to the actors, however, I really think it's the brilliant soundtrack that makes Flash Gordon stand out most in my mind. Queen, near the peak of their popularity, provided a wonderful, throbbing, highly eccentric collection of songs and instrumental bits that fit the film perfectly. I badgered my poor mother to buy me the 8-track, in fact, and then proceeded to play it at every opportunity... a very patient woman, my mother. She probably still hears "dumdumdumdumdumdumDUMDUM **FLASH!!** ah-AHH!..." in her sleep. Sorry, mom.
The special effects are actually still pretty impressive, as well... bear in mind, however, that I have a soft spot for 1980's effects. I really miss the days when the answer to "How'd they do that?" wasn't always "With computers." There's a certain mystery to these old effects, and I always respect the effort and creativity that went into making things happen with such limited technology. Sigh... Still, the film is very,very colorful, and there are a LOT of costumes, backgrounds, etc. Everything has a very shiny, surreal sort of look to it, in stark contrast to the realistic, worn-out look of the Star Wars films. It's pretty neat in its own way.
In the end, though, Flash Gordon is just plain entertaining. There's hardly ever a dull moment, and the film's almost 2 hour running time goes by in a flash (pun fully intended, with all apologies to the reader). You get a lot of action in those 2 hours... there are laser battles, lots of starships, hand to hand combat on a floating spike disk(?), catfights (in a harem, no less), flame-throwing rings, dominatrix henchladies, evil Space People, a surprising amount of implied sexuality, and the list goes on and on. Just put it in, turn off your brain, and for God's sake HAVE FUN!
On a side note, I have to say that the DVD release is a bit disappointing. The five star rating is strictly for the film itself, not for the disc. Although the video and audio quality is fine (easily the best version currently available), there is absolutely nothing in the way of extras. Zip. Zilch. Nada. Not even a trailer, for crying out loud. Here's hoping that someone, perhaps Anchor Bay (king of the cult classic), will have the good sense to release a Special Edition. I would love to see outtakes, trailers, making of bios, commentary, etc. This film certainly deserves better treatment than it's given here.
Still, this DVD is currently the best edition of Flash Gordon you're going to find (and it's WIDESCREEN!). Plus, it can be picked up pretty cheaply, if you can actually find it. I wholeheartedly recommend that you search it out, watch it over and over, and then join me in waiting patiently for a collector's edition to come along. Even with its shortcomings, Flash Gordon on DVD most definitely deserves a spot in your collection. Just file it under "Guilty Pleasures." :)
on September 21, 1999
This has to be one of the silliest, over-the-top, campest films of all time....but then wasn't the Flash Gordon serial? Just try turning this off once you start watching it!
Sam Jones (as plastic as a Ken doll) is great as Flash Gordon - football star turned space superhero. Max Von Sydow literally oozes evil out of every pore as Ming The Merciless. But as far as I'm concerned, it's Ornella Muti as Princess Aura who steals the show. She literally slinks through every frame like a sex-starved she-devil in the most amazingly foxy costumes I have ever seen.
Watch out for Timothy Dalton as Prince Baron, the fabulous Brian Blessed and a cameo appearance from Richard O'Brien (Riff Raff in The Rocky Horror Picture Show).
"Flash Gordon" is great fun - a definite must-have for your DVD library. Amazingly, this movie has improved with age. It now has crystal clear images and great Digital Surround Sound.
OK, so the sets and special effects are cheesey by today's standards, but this is sheer escapist fun from go to whoa. It's worth the price just to see the glittering costumes, amazing set designs and to listen to the great soundtrack by Queen.
on January 3, 2000
FLASH GORDON is a hoot. I'd forgotten how hilarious the script was. There are some great lines in the film. It is also sexy, with some great-looking actors in tight-fitting clothes. And it actually captures the fun, movie serial mood of the old FLASH films. There's an excitement in seeing those rocket ships flying from moon to moon on Mongo.
On the whole, though, the film is a bit cheesy. Of course, that's the appeal of it, too. It's 1980's special effects look more like they're from the 1960's! The costumes are glittery, gold, and shiny with tight, hot pants on everyone from Flash to Aura (Ming's daughter). And some of the sets rival the celephane corn stalks and plastic Munchkinland flowers from THE WIZARD OF OZ (although I am particularly fond of the Arboria sets...)
Technically, I was disappointed with the DVD film transfer. Right from the opening credits the film looks VERY grainy. Granted, it is nice to see FLASH in widescreen. However, it's hard to tell if all the special effects blue screen shots simply look grainy or if this is a problem with the film transfer. I can point out a scene in the dungeon where the hour glass (with sand pouring "up") is in the foreground and a prisoner appears in the dark background ... the black looks terrible and grainy. Surely the film transfer is to fault here? This film couldn't have been photographed that badly.
Also, there are no extras whatsoever. All we get is a scene menu. I have problems with paying for a DVD in the $20-24 range that has no extras and such a bad quality film transfer. Come on, guys! FLASH could be fun in full, vivid, crisp color. That's one thing it's got going for it: the comic book colors and production design.
on May 22, 2007
A fantastic sci-fi camp masterpiece! I've loved this movie since it was originally released in 1980 and it certainly deserves this re-issue DVD!
I've seen a few reviewers complaining that this new release doesn't contain the same "special features" as the "silver anniversary" edition (region 2, released a few years ago). While this is true, I honestly don't think we're losing anything of real importance. Let's compare:
* The Silver Anniversary Edition (region 2) contains:
- Two audio commentaries:
Mike Hodges (Director) / Brian Blessed (Actor).
- An original Flash Gordon serial
- A 30 minute interview with Mike Hodges
(Redundant considering the commentary)
- Theatrical trailer and photo slide show
* This new release contains:
- Two featurettes:
Alex Ross (Artist) / Lorenzo Semple Jr (Screenwriter).
- An original Flash Gordon serial
- Theatrical trailer
You must remember that this film has been "lost" for YEARS to the majority of region 1 consumers. Most would never pay the high pices for the old "out of print" edition, and most are not able to play DVD's from other regions. I feel that the importance of having this film once again available to region 1, at a decent price, far outweighs any argument over special features.
But, if you want to argue about special features, that's fine. I don't think EITHER version has the EXTRAS that long time fans would want. The perfect DVD release would contain deleted scenes and interviews with cast members, especially Sam Jones and Melody Anderson (who would also supply commentaries). We can all still hope for the perfect MEGA release of this classic film, but let's not judge this re-issue unfairly and harm the overall success of the release (which could help to determine the fate of future releases).
I'm actually looking forward to watching the new feature on Lorenzo Semple Jr. (Legendary Screenwriter of Flash Gordon, and also one of the original writers of the 60's Batman TV series with Adam West).
While I certainly would have hoped for the perfect, feature packed re-release, I'm still THRILLED that this 80's sci-fi adventure will once again be available at a decent price! If you've never seen this film before, now is your chance to get it! It's truly one of a kind!
Re-mastered, 2.35:1 anamorphic wide screen, 5.1 Dolby Surround.
on February 22, 2000
This is one of the greatest early 80's flicks of all time. A real comic book fantasy come to life on the big screen. It's is filled with wonderful performances, from the energetic Sam J. Jones as Flash, the beautiful Melody Anderson as a very convincing Dale Arden, the young Timolthy Dalton (one of the James Bonds) as the Baron, and the unforgettable Max Von Sydow as the pure evil Ming the Merciless. The special effects, even in this day of computer animation, still blow me away. There is a wonderful score by Queen which keeps the movie in full motion. This movie is from my youth and my friends and I always seem to come up with some great quotes from this movie. "Klytus, I'm bored. What play thing can you offer me today?" "Prepare her for our pleasure! " One quick question: Why on earth did they pick Flash to be the quarterback of the NEW YORK JETS?