I had to write something about 1980s FLASH GORDON eventually; it’s not the first movie that comes to mind when you think about childhood traumas, but when has that ever stopped us before? Thankfully, I was able to justify this post when I came across a thread on IMDb concerning FLASH’s more troubling scenes and the effect they had on young viewers. That was all the incentive I needed but truth be known, I would have come around to the topic of FLASH at some point anyway, on account of it being the most beautiful movie ever made.
Quote me on that. I’m unashamed. It has been nearly thirty years since I first saw FLASH GORDON in the movie theater and miraculously it still gives me compulsory goose bumps. To this day, It still melts my heart like a summer popsicle with its gosh-golly outdated optimism and unhip exuberance.
Did I just hear somebody say “corny”?
Yep it’s true, FLASH GORDON is just chuck full of corny ideas, like the one about the disenfranchised putting aside their differences in order to topple an oppressive dictator and the one about how art not only has the power to nurture the human spirit but also armor it (at least that’s what I got out of Zarkoff’s reciting of Beatles lyrics in order to stop from having his brain emptied “like a pocket” by dominatrix Kala)
Then there is the hokey idea that someone might sacrifice themselves for the greater good just cause it’s the right thing to do, and who can forget the kooky idea that true love has the power to make a guy choose gal next door MELODY ANDERSON over gal next galaxy ORNELLA MUTI?
FLASH GORDON shows us an upside down dimension where old birds are given second chances, enemies are transformed into allies and folks cheer you on from the sidelines (go Flash go!) a place where “keeping your word” is a point of pride (“It’s what makes us better than you.”) Silly ideas all, in this day and age, but in FLASH’s universe, these are absolute no-brainers.
At this point in time when heroes need to be conflicted and broody to be made more accessible or appear more “adult”, FLASH continues (in this version anyway), to stand as a pure spirit undaunted by the shackles of cynicism and misanthropy, a messiah who has no problem deciphering the difference between good and evil and no dilemma about which to choose. (In other words, BATMAN why the hell ARE you so freakin’ serious?) Don’t get me wrong kids, I dig my dark but man cannot live by bread alone…think of the carbs.
O.K. I know I’ve been gushing a bit but that’s enthusiasm folks, doesn’t it smell like cotton candy? We’re really supposed to be talking about the scary side of FLASH GORDON and there is plenty to choose from. If you push back the lava lamp clouds we got a flick with some big love for skull masks and a fetishistic soft spot for military uniforms, gas chambers, incestuous voyeuristic torture and…yikes, bore worms! Without further ado, here’s some trauma-shots of FLASH GORDON!