For almost a decade I had no idea what movie this scene was from.It wasn’t until I caught the film on HBO one night about a year ago that I finally did. I had a vague memory of seeing it as a child, I couldn’t have been older than 9 and it was playing on the Sci-Fi network, which I rarely watched, but there was nothing on that night and I was really bored. I happened to turn it on right in the middle of the scene where Ming erases Dr. Zarkov’s memory.
I felt like I was watching some kind of bizarre student film, even now it seems out of place in a movie as campy and lighthearted as Flash Gordon. It went all the way from his resignation from NASA, to memories of his former wife “BRENDA!” drowning in a swimming pool (looking back this scene just makes me laugh. a grown woman drowns in a swimming pool, at a party no less, and no one jumps in to save her? maybe they were all too drunk to notice) to holocaust flashbacks, memories of his family and (gross) his own birth. For years I assumed it was from Ken Russel’s Altered States, which came out the same year and had similar surreal imagery. It never crossed my mind that it was from the campy sci-fi movie that Queen composed the music to.
It was one of the creepiest and most confusing things I had ever witnessed. I turned it on right in the middle of one of his flashbacks and I had no idea what was happening. Were these nightmares? Was he being brainwashed? It wasn’t until I rewatched the scene years later that I understood what was going on. And even when I did figure it out, I still didn’t entirely understand it.