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Film Review: Flash Gordon-40th Anniversary 4k Restoration

Reviewer: Maryam Philpott

Writer: Michael Allin

Director: Mike Hodges

Flash! Ah-ha…. King of the impossible! It is 40 years since Mike Hodges and Michael Allin’s adaption of Flash Gordon hit the screens and to celebrate, this crazy space opera receives a 4k DVD and Blu-Ray release. Looking stunningly colourful in luminous shades along with an improved soundscape, the digital removal of strings and a raft of bonus extras, this is the ultimate Flash Gordon collection.

American football star Flash (Sam J. Jones) meets Dale (Melody Anderson) on an aircraft but when pelting moonrocks intercept the flight, they plunge into the laboratory of disgraced scientist Hans Zarkov (Topol) where he forces them into his rocket bound for planet Mongo. There, these intrepid earthlings must defeat the forces of evil Ming the Merciless (Max von Sydow) and bring harmony to the warring tribes of the universe.

For anyone who has never seen the 1980 classic then this anniversary disc and extras collection will be a riot. One of the most bonkers experiences committed to celluloid, the film looks every bit as alien, over-the-top and vivid as Hodges intended. The restoration process has saturated the colour scheme, making every frame, costume and digital effect burst from the screen – you may need sunglasses!

The exuberance of the big set pieces ensure that Ming’s court makes quite the impression as the vivid blood-red set is mimicked in the fluorescent shade of Dale’s first outfit and the orangey collar of the hero’s t-shirt. Later, as costumes in gold, white, and bright bright pink fill the screen, the effect is almost overwhelming, the enjoyably exaggerated eccentricity of it all giving a sense of scale and drama to the production values.

Later, the final confrontation of the (now united) allied forces takes place against the most brilliantly rendered sunset sky as blue, orange, pink and even green light up the action, while even the cooler Lincoln green of Timothy Dalton’s Robin Hood-inspired Arboria is richly toned. This is visual treat is enhanced by the careful attentions of the restoration team, digital removing any hint that Brian Blessed’s cardboard-winged Hawkmen needed strings to keep them in flight as they trade laser shots on the prow of Ming’s spaceship.

Similar attention has been paid to filling-out the soundscape to remove audio dropouts ensuring a consistent experience throughout the movie, allowing the famous Queen title song and futuristic electronica soundtrack to meld with and enhance the visuals. As a result, viewing the film in its new 4K restored version becomes a much more immersive experience, allowing the audience to enjoy its bizarre spoof-like humour uninterrupted while spotting tiny cameos from Richard O’Brien and even-a –blink-and-you’ll-miss-it appearance from Peter Duncan of Blue Peter fame.

Along with the DVD copy, extras include audio commentaries with Mike Hodges and Brian Blessed, along with various galleries and an accompanying Behind the Scenes feature all of which are worth a look and will certainly add to the experience for fans. The Blu-Ray and Collector’s Editions contain additional material including an interview with Hodges, a cast reunion and various other material.

40 years on Flash Gordon is looking better than ever and, in this tongue-in-cheek comic strip come to life, you might even note the origins of the Marvel movies that dominate modern cinema. Bright, loud and brash even before its 4k restoration, Hodges’s film is standing the test of time and after months of lockdown a bit of shiny out-of-this-world nonsense is what we all need. ‘Saviour of the universe’ indeed.

Available From 10 August

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Exaggerated eccentricity

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The Reviews Hub London is under the editorship of John Roberts.The Reviews Hub was set up in 2007. Our mission is to provide the most in-depth, nationwide arts coverage online.

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