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Flash Gordon at 40

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The Flash Gordon movie is 40 years old this year! Below is a short article about the iconic 80s film, and some of the Flash-related deals you can buy to celebrate this milestone!

George Lucas

In 1977 American Graffitti director, George Lucas, unveiled to the world his new space-opera film, smashing box office records everywhere, and creating a new word – blockbuster! And that film was … Flash Gordon!

……or that’s what the headlines could have read if George had been successful in his attempt to buy the rights to Flash from producer Dino De Laurentiis. Instead he went on to make his own little original movie, which found some moderate success at the cinema(!).

And it was the success of Star Wars, that led to Laurentiis finally producing the one that got away from George, Flash Gordon, releasing it in 1980, (40 years ago!), directed by Mike Hodges (Get Carter).

Flashback

Flash started his life 1934 as a comic strip, created and drawn by Alex Raymond, to compete with (and inspired by) Buck Rogers (which had been a strip since 1929).

A Flash Gordon comic strip page drawn and coloured aby Alex Raymond
A scene from one the 1930's Flash Gordon serials with Larry 'Buster' Crabbe.

In 1936 these stories were turned into a series of major-production ‘serial movies’ that would have played for a week at a cinema, ending on a cliff-hanger, with the next episode showing the following week. Flash was played by Larry ‘Buster’ Crabbe, who also went on to play Buck Rogers in another serial movie.

It was these serials that had a the impact on George Lucas, that led to Star Wars.

Strap yourselves down!

Star Wars led to an explosion of Science Fiction movies, some of very B-movie standards, and some with a very strong pedigree (and lots of money) – like Star Trek : The Motion Picture. However, unlike Star Trek, released the year before in 1979, which was very serious (some might say boring – not me, mind you), the tone of Flash Gordon was bright, garish, brash and very much had it’s metaphorical tongue in it’s cheek!

This would have been, in part, due to the script which was written by Lorenzo Semple Jr, who had written the well-loved, colourful, camp 60s Batman TV series. Another major part of the film’s tone was provided by British rock band, Queen, who provided most of the movie’s score, which veered from haunting vocals to full-on rock.

The Flash Gordon soundtrack album by British Rock group, Queen

Conquered by the Empire

This fun, bright tone resonated with British audiences making it the second-most watched film that year (only beaten by The Empire Strikes Back). However, that success wasn’t replicated globally, and no sequels were ever produced. But in latter years it gained a cult following that appreciated it’s humour, the fabulous supporting cast (Brian Blessed, Timothy Dalton, Max Von Sydow, Peter Wyngarde) and awesome music.

Problematic Production – the official story

The cover of Flash Gordon - The Official Story by John Walsh

If you want to dig deeper into they story of the problematic making of this cult classic then there is one book you will need to read – Flash Gordon: The Official Story of the Film – by John Walsh, an author and film-maker, (and expert on film special effects titan, Ray Harryhausen – more on him soon). He has a podcast dedicated to this, which you can listen to here:

The book features interviews with Director Mike Hodges, actor Brian Blessed and Queen guitarist Brian May amongst others, and is out on October 27th.
It can be pre-ordered here:
Amazon.co.uk £21.09
Forbidden Planet £17.14

4K Blu-Ray, Steel books, T-shirts

Flash Gordon 40th Anniversary 4K Ultra HD Collector's Edition

Flash Gordon 40th Anniversary 4K Ultra HD Collector’s Edition

Amazon.co.uk £69.99
This fantastic set includes

  • 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray & 2 Blu-ray Discs
  • Bonus Blu-ray disc of Life After Flash feature length documentary
  • Soundtrack CD
  • 32 Page Booklet
  • 16 Page Titan Mini Book – The Story of Flash Gordon
  • Reproduced Booklet of the original Flash Gordon Comic Strip
  • 4 Art Cards
  • Flash Sew-On Patch
  • Poster of original artwork

4K Blu Ray Steelbook
Amazon.co.uk £49.95
Zavvi £29.99
Features:

  • New Lost in Space: Nic Roeg’s Flash Gordon
  • Audio commentary with Mike Hodges
  • Audio commentary with Brian Blessed
  • Interview with Mike Hodges
  • Interview with comic book artist Alex Ross
  • Interview with screenwriter Lorenzo Semple, Jr.
  • Episode 24 of Flash Gordon (1979-1982): The Survival Game / Gremlin’s Finest Hour
  • Sam Jones’s acting start
  • Bob Lindenmayer discussed deleted scenes and original endings
  • 35th Anniversary Greenroom
  • 35th Anniversary reunion featurette
  • Brian Blessed anecdotes
  • The UHD and 2 Blu-ray discs 
  • and more . . .
Flash Gordon Steelbook

4K Ultra HD & Blu-Ray / Blu-Ray / DVD

Amazon.co.uk DVD £12, Blu-Ray £14.99, 4K £19.99

Zoom DVD £12, Blu-Ray £15, 4K £19.99

Flash Gordon DVD and Blu Ray cover
The Flash Gordon soundtrack album by British Rock group, Queen

Flash Gordon Soundtrack Album by Queen

Amazon.co.uk: £18.99 (Vinyl)

T-shirts/sweatshirts

Iwoot : T-shirts £14.99, Sweatshirts £24.99

Amazon.co.uk : T-shirts from £9.99, sweatshirts from £21.95

Flash Gordon T-shirt

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