Adventures in Ethics and Science

Because I know some of you are better acquainted with late 20th century science fiction movies than I am, I’m asking for your input on this.

Today, I find myself possessed of a serious hankering to track down and watch Flash Gordon — not the Buster Crabbe version from 1936 (which I watched on public television when I was a kid), but the 1980 motion picture.

Netflix doesn’t have it. Possibly this means it hasn’t made it to DVD yet. In the back of my mind, I’m wondering if there could be a good reason for that.

And yet, the cast is so promising. Max von Sydow as Ming the Merciless. Brian Blessed as Prince Vultan. Topol as Dr. Hans Zarkov, formerly of NASA. A movie with that kind of cast couldn’t go completely off the rails, could it?

Plus, there’s the deliciously over the top theme song recorded by Queen.

Should I actually try to locate this movie in a video rental establishment, or will I end up hating myself for watching it? (As a frame of reference, I can live with myself for watching 21 Jump Street, although I would never impose it on others. However, were I to watch more than a few minutes of Xanadu, I doubt that my level of self-loathing would be compatible with my continued biological functioning.)

If your considered view is that I should pass on Flash Gordon, can you recommend a science fiction movie of the same era that better lives up to the promise of the Queen theme song?


  1. #1 JM
    June 7, 2007

    Amazon says it’ll be available for purchase Aug 7, so I would guess it’d appear in Netflix soon thereafter. I’d watch it with you! Except I’ll be far far away then.

  2. #2 Chris Surridge
    June 7, 2007

    “Flash Gordon” is about as good as its porn pastiche “Flesh Gordon”. I’d rather watch “Brasil” ninety nine times first.

  3. #3 Rob Knop
    June 7, 2007

    I have fond memories of the movie, but I saw it in the theater when I was 12. Take that under advisement.

    I will tell you my favorite part. Ming the Merciless is going to force the heroine into marrying him. (I don’t give much away; it’s the sort of thing you’d expect.) As the ceremony begins, some sort of airship flies by trailing a banner, “Let All Make Merry!” It is followed by another airship with a banner, “Under Pain Of Death!”

    Ya know, I’d watch it again. But, then again, I tend to enjoy watching bad movies sometimes. Heck, I even watched the D&D movie, knowing what I was getting into, and didn’t feel like I needed to demand that the 90 minutes of my life be returned.


  4. #4 Blaine
    June 7, 2007

    My whole household loves this movie! Sure it has some bad (really bad) acting and some of the corniest lines ever; it still evokes some deep seated emotional responses. Probably because of Queen’s over the top soundtrack. Or something.

    I had a very worn out VHS and now I have nothing. Awaiting the DVD as patiently as I can….

  5. #5 Scott Simmons
    June 7, 2007

    “A movie with that kind of cast couldn’t go completely off the rails, could it?”

    This movie didn’t have any rails to begin with, I’m sorry to say … The producers didn’t set out to make a good sci-fi movie, I don’t think; they set out to make a tribute to the cheesy sci-fi serials of the thirties-fifties, and probably succeeded. It’s sort of a do-it-yourself Mystery Science Theater 3000–there are no talking robots to make the wisecracks for you, so you’re expected to roll your own.

  6. #6 Transient Reporter
    June 7, 2007

    Can anything beat “Logan’s Run”?
    Buck Rodgers?

  7. #8 Steinn Sigurdsson
    June 7, 2007

    It is bad, but you must watch it.
    It is bad mostly in all the right ways. And the soundtrack rocks.

  8. #9 Hairy Doctor Professor
    June 7, 2007

    I saw this movie as a grad student with a bunch of chums, and made the mistake of going into the theater thinking that it would be an homage to the Crabbe version. About five minutes in I realized that (1) the major actors were just phoning it in to pay the bills, and (2) the main lead was taking it seriously as if it were high drama. He seemed to be too dumb to realize that he was in a live-action cartoon. Queen notwithstanding, I recommend a pass on this one.

    There are a few “fun and cheesy grade B science fiction movies with good actors” from the early 1980s I could recommend, though: Outland (Sean Connery), The Thing (Kurt Russell), Tron (Bruce Boxleitner & Jeff Bridges), and The Last Starfighter (Robert Preston). None with a Queen soundtrack, sorry…..

  9. #10 afarensis
    June 7, 2007

    As long as you don’t go in expecting serious science fiction, it is a fun movie…

  10. #11 dan
    June 7, 2007

    “Flash, Flash, I love you… but we only have minutes to save the earth…”

    Good Grief… Don’t do it!!!

    Go and watch Real Genius or Brainstorm instead!!
    Much better movies indeed!


  11. #12 Jono
    June 8, 2007

    Flash Gordon is great entertainment, turn off the brain and pass the popcorn!

    And Queen’s soundtrack, well, rocks.

    To the people advising you not to see it–lighten up! It’s a B-movie schlock-fest on purpose.

  12. #13 Dunc
    June 8, 2007

    The producers didn’t set out to make a good sci-fi movie, I don’t think; they set out to make a tribute to the cheesy sci-fi serials of the thirties-fifties, and probably succeeded.

    Yes ideed – and it’s brilliant! I can’t help smiling when I think of Brian Blessed’s incredulous exclamation: “Gordon’s alive!!?” You can actually hear the exclamation marks.

    If you haven’t seen it, you’re really missing an essential pop-culture sci-fi experience.

    Oh, and it’s “Flash, Flash, I love you – but we only have fourteen hours to save the Earth.” You can’t tell me that’s not a brilliant line.

  13. #14 Ruth
    June 8, 2007

    “Flash, Flash, I love you… but we only have minutes to save the earth…”

    Actually, it’s ’14 hours to save the earth’.

    (It’s included in the Flash Gordon track on the Queen album)

    Incidentally, it’s out on DVD in the UK, and has been for years, since we have a copy.

  14. #15 Jenn
    June 8, 2007

    If you are looking for science fiction B-movies, I recommend Evolution starring David Duchovny, who manages to act serious in an ironic way.

  15. #16 Donalbain
    June 8, 2007

    Gordon’s Alive!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  16. #17 Claire
    June 8, 2007

    Flight of the Navigator! It’s great for the sprogs too.

    Never seen Flash all the way through, but I have passed by it on cable a number of times. It shows up at the strangest times in the strangest places. I swear I’ve even seen it on AMC. Check your local listings.

  17. #18 ceresina
    June 8, 2007

    I saw it a long time ago also, but I remember it being ex.tre.mely cheesy — like worse/better than Clash of the Titans. And while I never saw Xanadu, I think they’re similarly drenched in the mozzarella.
    On the other hand — Brian Blessed! the original Old Deuteronomy!
    (And who doesn’t love a whole cauldron of cheese to throw popcorn at?)

  18. #19 JM
    June 8, 2007

    I will second the “Evolution” rec. It’s hilarious.

  19. #20 Blair
    June 8, 2007

    The movie is campy as all get out and may be considered an acquired taste. Imagine “Barbarella” without the nudity and you have it. A smidgeon worse than the Madonna version of Dick Tracey…although when you get to those levels you just have to smile and nod a lot.

    To summarize you will either like it or hate it…there is little middle ground.

    As for the music…well Queen shows the type of music that made it famous (I’m more partial to their Highlander work).

  20. #21 josie
    June 11, 2007

    Cheesy, B-movie. It almost looked like an animation (totally sub-standard effects). Although, in that case, it might appeal to the sprogs and you might still all have a great time w/lots of popcorn and soda.

    If you want an excellent Queen soundtrack, try Highlander (I think it went on to 3 episodes), not really sci-fi but fantasy nonetheless. Fantastic premise, good story, but not for the sprogs though.

New comments have been temporarily disabled. Please check back soon.