Director: Mike Hodges
Writer: Lorenzo Semple Jr
Cast: Sam J Jones, Melody Anderson, Ornella Muti, Max von Sydow, Chaim Topol, Timothy Dalton, Brian Blessed, Peter Wyngarde, Mariangela Melato, John Osbourne, Richard O’Brien, John Hallam, Philip Stone, Suzanne Danielle
Described by The Sunday Telegraph as, “colossal fun and more roundly entertaining than all the other space fantasies lumped together,” Dino de Laurentiis’ production is a splendidly gaudy sci-fi romp with such immortal lines as, ‘Flash! Flash! I love you, but we’ve only got 14 hours to save the universe.’
Based on Alex Raymond’s world-famous comic-strip character, Flash first appeared in 1934, in the Saturday morning ‘B’ movie serials with Buster Crabbe as the chiselled, chivalrous superhero who saves Earth from the cosmic ambition of diabolical alien, Ming The Merciless.
Here, the budget is big and the effects bigger with Max Von Sydow as Ming, ruler of gloriously kitsch planet Mongo, who has knocked the Moon off its axis. In ten days it will collide with Earth. As Queen’s memorably camp soundtrack goes, Flash is ‘just a man, with a man’s courage’, but together with comely girlfriend Dale Arden (Melody Anderson) and crazed physicist, Dr Hans Zarkov (Topol), Flash (Sam Jones), the All American quarterback, rockets into space to foil the dastardly scheme.
Landing on Mongo, Flash quickly discovers that Ming and his evil forces are more ferocious and deviant opponents than the Dallas Cowboys ever were. His only hope of success is to rally a rebellion against the tyrant. But first he must unite Barin (Timothy Dalton), leader of the sure-footed Treemen, and Vultan (Brian Blessed) chief of the teeming Hawkmen, who are locked in an age-old feud. Even with their support assured, however, the pitfalls awaiting Flash and Dale are legion – from the perilous advances of Ming’s lascivious daughter, Aura (Ornella Muti), to kinky bondage sessions, inventive torture techniques, betrayal, sorcery and countless dazzlingly-staged battles and skirmishes.
Lorenzo Semple Jr’s script ensures there’s never a dull moment, while von Sydow’s hissing villainy and Blessed’s resonant thesping add more than enough ham to Mike Get Carter Hodges’ terrifically cheesey direction.
Star of the show, however, is undoubtedly the production design by Danilo Donato. Fellini’s designer (who also created the sets for Caligula ) has conjured a look for the film that’s a cross between Barbarella , the Mikado and a flamboyant sheikh’s boudoir. It adds invaluably to the fun of the movie. As The Financial Times’ critic wrote, “This comic-strip blockbuster is a bouncy Bacchanal of aesthetic overkill, a high-style movie pantomime. Parents, take your children. Children, take your parents.”