Trauma-Shots :: Flash Gordon

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 To this day, It still melts my heart like a summer popsicle with its gosh-golly outdated optimism and unhip exuberance.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!

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FilmFather (@ezwriter68)
12 years ago

Scrolling down this post, I was bracing for it: I just knew you would show that closeup of Klytus’ eyes and tongue bulging out after being impaled on that round-platform-of-spikes thingy. It traumatized me in sixth grade, and it still makes me squirm today!

DavidFullam (@davidfullam)
12 years ago

Flash Gordon, HELL YEAH!

Tommy Salami
Tommy Salami (@tommy-salami)
12 years ago

One of the best of the early 80s, and I’m glad you put Klytus’s death face in there. We loved that as kids. 🙂
Fatha!! Not the bore worms!! FATHA!!!

Pinchy (@pinchy)
12 years ago

I’m right with you on this one.  I also saw this at the theater (on a double bill with the Gil Gerard Buck Rogers pilot no less) when I was a kid, and it certainly stayed with me for years.  I probably still wouldn’t stick my arm in any big wooden stumps.

Amanda By Night
Amanda By Night (@amanda-by-night)
12 years ago

I’m with Film Father. The first thing I thought of when I saw the words Flash Gordon, was that scene with the eyes bulging.

Frankly, I’m tired of the cynical self-aware hero types. I like ’em a bit like Flash myself.

Great review!

FatherOfTears (@fatheroftears)
12 years ago

That scene where Flash and “James Bond” had to stick an arm in the tree stump full of holes to see who would get stung by that “scorpion” was a bit creepy!

LaDracul (@ladracul)
12 years ago

Ugh, those eyes remind me of the For Eyes lady! (Who you also might remember from an episode of “Malcom in the Middle” as a sideshow performer.)
Anyway, is it just me, or does anyone else see the parallels of this film and WW2?

mamamiasweetpeaches (@mamamiasweetpeaches)
12 years ago

I love this movie (but dont own it on DVD cuz its always too expensive). This is one of those movies – if you remember thinking it was crap when you saw it a long time ago I strongly urge you to get a case of beer and watch it again.Its just a total Cult Classic and for some reason everytime I watch it it puts me in a really really good mood! (It releases endorphins in my head).

but – back to when I first saw it and thought it was crap: I was very young and thought it was the stupidest thing I’d ever seen. However- the whole thing with sticking your arms in the holes to see if the beastie inside would bite you scared the Hell outta me! hahaha!

mamamiasweetpeaches (@mamamiasweetpeaches)
12 years ago

Also worth a mention: QUEEN soundtack!!! I have their Greatest Hits 2 disc set and just when your feeling morose and melancholy after hearing dirges like Show Must Go On and Bohemian Rhapsody you’re snapped back into smiling with “duh duh duh duh duh duh FLASH! Ah-ahhhhhhh! He’ll Save Every One Of Us!!!!”
I’m 38 years old and I STILL like to dance around my room in my underwear singing into a hairbrush when that song comes on!

DavidFullam (@davidfullam)
12 years ago

Yeah LaDracul. I thought the “aliens as Nazis” was an interesting touch. Loved the costumes and look and wish more films copied Flash.

Professor Von Whiskersen
Professor Von Whiskersen (@professor-von-whiskersen)
12 years ago

Hawk-men!  DIIIIVE!!!
One of our family friends had a table that was made of a stump of wood with a glass top.  I would not stick my arm in there for anything.

LunchBagArt (@lunchbagart)
12 years ago

Yes, Klytus and his poking-through-the-mask swan song!
I remember liking Ming; he was a bad guy, but he wasn’t an idiot.  He also knew what kind of matrimonial arrangement worked for him.  Good for Ming.
Later I saw he  was  a nasty racist caricature.   I swear as a kid I thought he was supposed to be a white-trash kind of emperor; a lot of my dad’s biker friends had the same kind of facial hair.

gcap2719 (@gcap2719)
12 years ago

I love this movie! Of all the traumatizing things, I am surprised that spider thing coming out of the ground to engulf Flash was not mentioned. Freaked me out as a kid!
But this is a good popcorn movie with an incredible soundtrack. Recently, I saw an episode of Family Guy where they spoofed the Hawkmen “Dive!” sequence.

Eric Eddy
Eric Eddy (@fb100000792125902)
9 years ago

Highlander had an awesome Queen soundtrack as well (“It’s a Kind of Magic”). “Gimme the Prize” is probably their heaviest and most rock-tastic songs ever.

I vaguely remember seeing Flash in reruns on T when I was but a wee lad, but haven’t seen it since. I’ll probably love the crap out of it if I see it again, just because I have that special place in my heart for over-the-top cornball movies.