Flash Gordon rockets its way to the Palace
It's hard to imagine a time when comic book adaptations were rarity in cinemas. When they first appeared on screen, they were merely treated as matinee draw for the kids and rarely paid attention to the source material. However, the efforts of Universal Pictures' trilogy of serials based on the Flash Gordon comic strip broke that mold and went on to became memorable pieces of the genre. Their influence played an important part in the creation of the science fiction film genre, notably for Star Wars.
Forty years after the original Flash Gordon conquered the universe from the oppressive Ming the Merciless, a new lavish and expensive adaptation of the character, courtesy of famed movie mongrel Dino De Laurentiis, came back to the movies with a killer Queen soundtrack. Despite this, Flash Gordon didn't make much of an impact with wider audiences upon its 1980 release, but it went on to gather a loyal following and became a cult hit. This upcoming weekend, Wichita film goers will be given the opportunity to see the perils of planet Mongo on the big screen at the Palace Theatre, which is a treat for the young and old who shall marvel at the sights and sounds of this classic.
Although the "camp" nature of Flash Gordon is often sighted as a drawback to this film and severely dates it, the style and approach fits rather well at evoking the equally lavish work of Flash Gordon's creator, Alex Raymond, whose artwork appears in the opening credits sequence. Although the lead actor, Sam Jones, can't quite compare to Christopher Reeve's performance as Superman, he's believable as the all-American football player who's thrust into a war torn planet and inspires its people to work together to beat their oppressive Emperor, played excellently evil by Max von Sydow. The supporting cast of fantastic inhabitants of planet Mongo are a huge part of the appeal of the piece. Timothy Dalton and Brian Blessed completely sell their respective prince characters with enough boldness and finesse that complements their surroundings.
Flash Gordon is defiantly from another era of filmmaking when major studios dismissed comic based material wasn't as commercial as it is now. Some might find it cringe worthy in terms of displaying special effects that weren't as cutting edge as Star Wars or Superman did, but its main appeal is the fun of it all.