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FLASH! AH-AH! HE'LL SAVE EVERY ONE OF US!
The 1980 Flash Gordon film from Universal is considered to be one of the most faithful movie adaptations ever made, an impressive feat considering the large gap between the classic Flash Gordon comics and film serials and this adaptation. The keys to its success in this was simple: high glorious Camp and a soundtrack by Queen. It recognised the dubious quality of the originals and their cheap and cheerful approach to storytelling and took what they pretty much would have made in the 1930's if they had had the money and technology, placed tongue firmly in cheek and got high quality theatre actors to give deliciously hammy performances, and had a soundtrack by Queen.
Its actual financial success was pants. The only country where it really made it big was the UK, the same country that invented Pantomime, wry humour and the band Queen, who did the soundtrack. It will probably remain the most well remembered version of Flash Gordon due to its enduring cult classic status helped heartily by its sense of humour and the soundtrack by Queen.
Herewith a rundown of the plot, courtesy of the dialogue sampled for the title track of the soundtrack album (by Queen):
"Seemingly there is no reason for these extraordinary intergalactic upsets. Only Dr Hans Zarkov, formerly at NASA, has provided any explanation... This morning's unprecedented solar eclipse is no cause for alarm."
"What's happening, Flash?"
"Strange object imaged in the Imperial Vortex."
"General Kala -- Flash Gordon approaching."
"What do you mean, 'Flash Gordon approaching'?! ...Open fire! All weapons! ...Dispatch War Rocket Ajax to bring back his body!"
"GORDON'S ALIVE?!!" (...ive...ive)
"Flash! Flash, I love you, but we only have fourteen hours to save the Earth!"
However, merely reading the above cannot do it justice. Watch the music video and stand in awe.
Important trivia. George Lucas wanted to direct this years before, but producer Dino De Laurentiis turned him down. Thus Lucas decided to make his own space adventure series. Although some fans actually prefer the camp of this movie to Star Wars anyway. Star Wars didn't have Queen as it is.
The 1980 movie provides examples of:
- Agony Beam
- Alien Blood:
- Ming bleeds green, although his daughter Princess Aura doesn't.
- General Kala has black blood.
- After he stabs Prince Thun, bright blue blood can be seen on the sword.
- Aliens Speaking English: Apparently Mongo is an english speaking world group.
- The novelization explains that the Mongian language was beamed into our heroes' heads during their trip through the vortex.
- And Now You Must Marry Me: Emperor Ming to Dale Arden.
- Anything But That: "No! Not the bore worms!"
- Badass Beard: Vultan.
- Badass Damsel: Dale, who briefly graduates to Action Girl territory in her escape from Ming.
- Badass Mustache: Barin.
- Bald of Evil: Ming.
- Bathe Her and Bring Her to Me: Both male and female examples.
- Beam Me Up, Scotty: Ming never actually says "Pathetic earthlings, who will save you now?" Except in the trailer.
- Ming does say "Pathetic earthlings", a lot. (ie. "Pathetic earthlings, hurling yourself out into the void...")
- Beard of Evil: Ming, of course.
- Big Damn Heroes
- Big Red Button: Hans Zarkov's spaceship has a Big Red Launch Button.
- Black Dude Dies First: Prince Thun.
- Blood Sport: Vultan's wobbly arena equipped with Spikes of Doom.
- B-Movie: Nothing more need be said than "Flash, I love you! But we only have fourteen hours to save the Earth!"
- Still you've got to admire Dale's priorities.
- Boisterous Bruiser: Vultan is probably the most famous example. Not surprising, since he's played by Brian Blessed.
- Bond Villain Stupidity: A crowning example: Ming personally meets with Flash after he kills Klytus and, instead of dragging him off, offers him a Shiny New Australia as ruler of the Earth if he will serve Ming or else -- death. Flash refuses and Ming proceeds to leave him on the floating castle and return to his ship to bomb the castle from orbit.
- Camp: The film's scriptwriter was Lorenzo Semple, Jr., who wrote scripts and was Executive Script Director for the 1960's Batman TV series.
- Catch Phrase: DIIIIIIVE!!
- Cat Fight: Princess Aura (after her Heel Face Turn) and Dale Arden, much to the amusement of everybody watching. (Half of it is a pillow fight.)
- Cold-Blooded Torture: "No! Not the Bore Worms!"
- Cult Soundtrack: Pretty much the entire movie soundtrack by Queen. Especially the theme song. It's Queen. What do you expect?
FLASH! AAAAAAAHHHHH-AAAAAAAHHHHHH! SAVIOR OF THE UNIVERSE!
- Daddy's Little Villain: Princess Aura, until redeemed by the love of a good man.
- The Dark Chick: General Kala.
- Double Edged Answer: Emperor Ming offers to give Earth to Flash to rule.
Flash: You'd call off the attack? ... Everyone would be saved?
Ming: Yes, and no. After the earthquakes and tidal waves, they won't be the same human beings. They'll be more tractable. Easier for you to rule, in the name of Ming.
- The Dragon: Klytus to Ming, General Kala to Klytus.
- And after Klytus is killed, one could argue Kala takes over as Ming's Dragon.
- Duel to the Death: Between Flash and Prince Barin.
- Earn Your Happy Ending
- Egopolis: Mingo City
- Eighties Hair: Ohh boy...
- The Emperor: Ming the Merciless.
- The Empire: Mongo
- The End - or Is It?: Played straight. The film ends with a close-up of Ming's ring, lying where it fell as he died -- then a gloved hand picks it up, Ming's laughter is heard, and the words THE END? appear. HA HA HA HA HA HA!!!
- Enemy Mine: Princes Barin and Vultan hate each other at first. Only Flash (he'll save every one of us!) is able to convince them to team up and fight Ming.
- Their hatred was cultivated by Ming. As Vultan later admitted, Prince Barin was the rightful heir to the throne.
- Evil Gloating
- Evil Laugh
- Falling Into the Cockpit: Flash (Stand for every one of us!)
- Family-Unfriendly Death: Klytus
- Fan Service:
- Aura, Dale, Ming's handmaidens, and every other female in the film.
- Flash's very little leather shorts...
- Femme Fatale: Aura, though she does a Heel Face Turn.
- Fighter Launching Sequence: Hawkmen vs. Ajax.
- Finish Him!
- Five-Bad Band:
- Five-Man Band
- Foreshadowing: Dale's brief moment of Badass is foreshadowed in the tribute scene: she must've been a cheerleader in high school and college.
- For Great Justice: Vultan
- For the Evulz: "I like to play with them for awhile... before annihilation."
- Frickin' Laser Beams: But of course. It's cheesy Sci Fi action, it's practically a law.
- Future Spandex: Both General Kala and Princess Aura wear lycra/spandex costumes.
- Galactic Conqueror: Ming the Merciless' reveal that he threatens whole star systems with destruction definitely places him on this level. He is also referred to as the Emperor of the Universe and the Galaxy.
- Gas Mask Mooks: The soldiers in Ming's palace.
- Gladiator Games
- Go-Go Enslavement: Dale.
- Groin Attack: One of Ming's goon squad to Flash before the "football game" begins.
- Ham-to-Ham Combat: Every single scene with any dialogue. Period.
- Hand in the Hole: In Arboria, with the woodbeast.
- Heel Face Turn: In alphabetical order; Aura, Barin and Vultan.
- Hey, It's That Guy!: Yes, it's an All-Star Cast (including Brian Blessed), but Deep Roy is Aura's valet and Riff-Raff is Barin's dragon Fico.
- High Heel Face Turn: Princess Aura
- Highly-Conspicuous Uniform
- Honor Before Reason: Dale refuses Aura's offer of a poison she can give Ming on their wedding night, because she has promised to be a good wife to Ming in exchange for his sparing Prince Barin and Dr. Zarkoff.
Aura: My father has never kept a vow in his life!
Dale: I can't help that. Keeping our word is one of the things that make us better than you.
- Death's Hourglass: See Shout Out, below.
- Human Aliens: The people of Mongo.
- Humans Are Special
- Hypno Ray: Ming's ring
- Hypnotize the Princess. Ming does this to Dale Arden, and apparently his own daughter!
- Hypno Trinket: Ming's ring
- I Gave My Word
- Ignored Expert: Hans Zarkov warning about an attack from space.
- I Have You Now, My Pretty: "Prepare her for our pleasure!", also Ming's "wedding vows" on the trope page.
- I Know Madden Kombat: Flash uses football tactics to beat up a bunch of imperial guardsmen.
- Impairment Shot: Flash's vision clears from blurred as Zarkov tosses him a football, which allows him to mop the floor with Klytus' soldiers.
- Impaled with Extreme Prejudice: Ming on the nosecone of a rocket.
- Also Klytus on a bed of spikes.
- Insignificant Little Blue Planet:
Ming: Klytus, I'm bored. What plaything can you offer me today?
Klytus: An obscure body in the SK system, Your Majesty. The inhabitants refer to it as the planet... Earth.
Ming: How peaceful it looks... (activates button marked EARTH QUAKE)
- It's Up to You: "Flash! I love you, but we only have fourteen hours to save the Earth!"
- It Has Been an Honor: Prince Vultan to Flash before Flash's suicide run.
- James Bondage: Flash in little leather shorts strapped to a chair....
- Join or Die: Emperor Ming offers to let Flash join him and rule the Earth under Ming's control. If he refuses, he will be killed.
- Just in Time: To save the Earth -- down to the second! Apparently a little impalement did the trick.
- Labcoat of Science and Medicine: Zarkov and Munson both have one of these. Given that the science they're engaged in mainly requires looking at radar screens and printouts, there can be no other reason for their labcoats than to visually label them "scientists."
- Last Request: Klytus asks if Flash has "any final requests" before his execution.
- Love Dodecahedron: As in the comics, Barin loves Aura, who lusts after Flash, who loves Dale.
- Mad Scientist: Zarkov, who can't understand why NASA fired him or why Flash and Dale seemed frightened of him...
- Mad Scientist's Beautiful Daughter: Princess Aura, though Ming is a Mad Emperor rather than a Mad Scientist.
- Made of Evil
- Magic Countdown: The timer that shows how long is left before the Earth is destroyed.
- Mask Power: Klytus
- Mind Probe: "We're going to empty your mind as we might empty your pockets... doctor."
- Mental Picture Projector: The Mind Probe/Memory Eraser also functions as a way of projecting memories on a screen.
- Mood Dissonance: The wedding of Ming and Dale:
- Instead of the white dress she'd been put in earlier, she's now wearing a black empress getup covered in sequins.
- "Here Comes The Bride" as an electric guitar rock riff with dirge undertones. And the Rocket Ajax in the background bearing a sign:
ALL CREATURES WILL MAKE MERRY...
...UNDER PAIN OF DEATH
- Music of Note: Score by Queen.
- Nice Job Breaking It, Hero: Ming claims to only destroy planets that are advanced enough to realize his attacks aren't natural disasters...hence, it's Zarkov's own attempt to warn humanity that nearly dooms the Earth.
- He also gets Flash killed. Good going.
- He gets better though.
- He also gets Flash killed. Good going.
- Nice Job Fixing It, Villain: General Kala orders Zarkov programmed with high-level information about Mongo's technology and security systems despite being warned that it's probably more than the human mind can take, thus equipping him with all the knowledge he'll need to assist the revolution.
- No Except Yes:
- No Indoor Voice: Ming, Vultan, and Kala are the main offenders.
- Notable Original Music
- Ominous Floating Castle
- One-Woman Wail: The "Aura Revives Flash" song.
- Only Mostly Dead: Flash.
- Parental Incest: Implied between Ming and Aura.
- Pistol-Whipping: Dale Arden takes out a couple of Ming's guards this way.
- Planetary Romance
- Pop Star Composer: Just in case the movie itself wasn't campy enough for you, it's got a soundtrack by Queen.
- Promoted Fanboy: Brian Blessed has admitted in interviews that when he and his brother used to play a game based on the TV series he always wanted to be Vultan. Decades later he got to play the same childhood game on the big screen.
- Proud Warrior Race Guy: Barin qualifies.
- Pstandard Psychic Pstance: Dale does this during the telepathy sequence between Flash and Dale.
- Psychic Static: Dr. Zarkov
- Public Execution: Flash's "death" by lethal gas by order of Emperor Ming.
- Puny Earthlings: Right there in the movie tagline.
- Raygun Gothic: The source material is one of the Trope Codifiers, along with Buck Rogers and the Lensman series.
- Red Sky, Take Warning
- Retro Rocket:
- Zarkov's ship
- War Rocket Ajax with its swept wings, pepper-shaker body, and nice pointy spike...
- Same Language Dub: All of Sam J. Jones' lines were dubbed by an uncredited actor whose identity remains a mystery to this day.
- Sequel Hook: Someone picks up Ming's ring.
- She Fu: Dale gives a startling display of this during her escape from the palace.
- Shiny New Australia: Ming offers Flash the rulership of Earth if he chooses to let them survive destruction. "Of course, they would be greatly altered by the experience..."
Klytus: "You have until the sands...run up."
Dale: It won't turn over! It won't turn over!
- The execution, during which Flash Gordon is there in silver underwear.
- Single Biome Planet: Thoroughly averted.
- Sleeves Are for Wimps: Flash, of course!
- Sliding Scale of Idealism Versus Cynicism: Wonderfully idealistic.
- Speak Now or Forever Hold Your Peace: In probably the most kickass manner yet.
- Stillborn Franchise: The actors signed up for a trilogy of films a la Star Wars, and there was a spinoff children's TV show.
- Take My Hand: Flash does this for Barin at the end of their duel.
- Tall, Dark and Handsome: Barin.
- Tap on the Head: Vultan to Ming's goon squad and Hans Zarkov to Flash (accidentally).
- Technicolor Science
- The Eighties
- They Called Me Mad: Dr. Zarkov is a rare heroic example.
- Title Drop: All the damn time of course, but particularly notable is Flash's coffin after his execution, which bears the movie's logo.
- Title Theme Tune: by Queen
- Too Kinky to Torture: Princess Aura according to Klytus.
- Universal Drivers Licence: Flash using the Hawkmen rocketcycle.
- We Can Rule Together: Ming offers Flash rulership of the Earth in Ming's name at one point.
- Whip It Good: Flash and Barin duel with whips in one scene. Luckily, Defeat Means Friendship.
- What Could Have Been: All actors were signed for three movies, but problems with star Sam J. Jones during post-production (which lead to Same Language Dub above) pretty much killed the trilogy.
- What Do You Mean It Wasn't Made on Drugs?: The film harkens back to the 1960's DeLaurentiis films like Danger Diabolik and Barbarella.
- What Is This Thing You Call Love?: Basic human emotions have been driven out of Mongo by Ming, where honor, justice, even crying have been forgotten and replaced by constant violent bickering and infighting, stirred up by Ming.
Aura: Look! Water is leaking from her eyes!
Ming: It's what they call "tears". It's a sign of their weakness.
- World of Badass: Mongo.
- World of Ham: Mongo again. Brian Blessed is just one of its many hammy kings.
- Yeah! Shot