Courtesy: Arrow Video/MVD Entertainment Group
Arrow Video’s recently released Blu-ray re-issue of Universal’s classic sci-fi flick Flash Gordon is the new gold standard for the movie’s home release. Released Aug. 18 on Blu-ray and 4KUHD, this latest re-issue of the 1980 comic strip adaptation is the movie’s first domestic re-issue since 2012, when it was re-issued alongside The Last Starfighter, Dune, and the pilot for the original Battlestar Galactica series in a four-disc DVD set. The movie’s audio and video form the foundation for its latest re-issue, and will be discussed shortly. The extensive bonus content that accompanies the movie’s home release builds so much on the foundation formed by the movie’s production values. It will be discussed a little later. Flash Gordon’s story rounds out its most important elements and will also be discussed later. Each item noted here is important in its own way to the whole of the movie’s presentation. All things considered, they make the movie’s latest re-issue a presentation that is without question one of this year’s top new DVD/BD re-issues.
Arrow Video’s new Flash Gordon re-issue is a presentation that will appeal to a wide range of audiences. From sci-fi fans to fans of comics to action movie aficionados to classic cinema connoisseurs, this movie’s appeal will find plenty of appreciative audiences. That is proven in part through the production values presented in this re-issue. The colors in the sets and the costumes are so rich, especially the reds (red was allegedly the favorite color of the movie’s famed Producer Dino De Laurentiis according to information provided in the movie’s bonus content) of Ming’s palace. In comparison to footage from the movie in its original presentation (which is shown in the noted bonus content), it is clear that painstaking efforts were taken in order bring forth the true, rich color. If De Laurentiis were alive today, he would be just as impressed by this aspect. In the same vein, every laser blast and every note of rock band Queen’s feature-length soundtrack is expertly balanced, enhancing the viewing experience for audiences even more. Even a minor touch, such as the ambient sounds of Planet Mongol and its moons get their own attention. From that production aspect to the noted deep, rich colors and the balance in the music and sound effects, it is clear that painstaking efforts were made in order to offer viewers the best possible presentation once again. It’s another way in which Arrow Video continues to prove itself one of the leading names in the home media world. Those efforts also go a long way toward making this presentation so enjoyable for viewers. It is just one of the most notable aspects of the movie’s new home re-issue, too. Its bonus content adds even more enjoyment to its presentation.
The bonus content that is featured in Flash Gordon’s latest re-issue is extensive to say the absolute least. Audiences get two separate feature length audio commentaries, — one from director Mike Hodges and the other from star Brian Blessed (who played Prince Vultan) – a series of interviews with the movie’s cast and crew, two episodes of the Flash Gordon cartoon series, and a vintage “making of” featurette as well as photo galleries from the movie’s creation. The bonus content alone makes for literally hours of entertainment and engagement. The vintage making of featurette reveals that creation of the set for Ming’s palace alone took four months. That and the other sets were so extensive that production had to take place primarily in a six-million cubic foot aircraft hangar. It was just one of the facilities that was used for the movie’s production. As director Mike Hodges reveals (off the cuff) during his audio commentary, Elstree Studio was also used. That is the same studio in which Star Wars was created by George Lucas. This is especially important to note because it is also revealed in one of the bonus discussions, that George Lucas apparently wanted to make Flash Gordon before Star Wars, but could not afford the rights, so he ended up making Star Wars. How is that for a little six-degrees of separation?
As if everything already noted here is not enough reason to check out the bonus content, viewers will learn that there apparently was quite a bit of tension behind the scenes during the movie’s creation. Hodges points out during his commentary that De Laurentiis viewed the movie’s creation in a very serious fashion, even though Allin was extremely displeased with the final product. The vintage making of featureette does point out that De Laurentiis was himself very much a Flash Gordon “fan boy” prior to producing the movie. To that point, his “seriousness” was perhaps chalked up to that fandom, even though he might not have thought he was going to such extreme. There is nothing wrong with his approach, either, since he wanted to pay proper tribute to the original, timeless Flash Gordon comic strip.
Allin, on the other hand, said during the new bonus featurette “Lost in Space: Nic Roeg’s Flash Gordon,” that he and Roeg wanted to make a serious film in Flash Gordon complete with sociopolitical commentary, but that De Laurentiis wanted to stay true to the original Flash Gordon comic strip, which ran daily from 1934 to ’92. Its Sunday edition continued until 2003. The movie does just that with its special effects and its overall look (what with its costumes and sets). The short and simple here is that Allin and Roeg’s story would have been a good fit among today’s comics based movies (since dark, brooding stories are about all that audiences get nowadays in comics-based movies). De Laurentiis’ version has remained a cult favorite for four decades meanwhile maybe because of his dedication to its source material. Regardless of which side viewers take, all of the noted discussions are sure to engage audiences thoroughly and generate plenty of discussion among audiences. All things considered here (along with the bonus content not directly noted – again the bonus content here in fully immersive) the bonus content featured with Arrow Video’s recent Flash Gordon re-issue more than makes the movie worth owning. When it is considered with the outstanding production values presented in this re-issue, the two elements together make for so much enjoyment for audiences. They are still not all of the positives provided in the movie. The movie’s central story adds even more to that enjoyment.
The story at the center of Flash Gordon is relatively easy to understand. It starts with Flash and Dale Arden taking a flight somewhere (it’s never pointed out where the pair is going interestingly enough) and ending up crashing in the lab of the mad scientist Dr. Hans Zarkov. Zarov basically kidnaps the duo and the trio ends up flying into space where they end up rocketing to another galaxy that is ruled by the evil emperor Ming The Merciless. Along the way Flash unites the peoples of the worlds ruled by Ming, befriending them in the process. The story has a happy ending, but also leaves the door open for a sequel (which going back to the bonus content, could have happened, but never did). It has to be assumed in the movie’s story that as the clock reaches zero near the movie’s end, Ming does stop his attack on Earth before his alleged death, though that is never made 100 percent certain. The only way audiences can assume the Earth is safe comes in the final scene in which Dale tells Flash that she is a New York girl and would rather go home than stay on the planet Mongol. Next to that note, the only other odd note from the story is centered on all of star Sam J. Jones’ constant costume changes. It just so happens that everything he wears is Flash Gordon-themed. It is never fully explained where he gets all of his attire, but oh well. That aside, the story’s simple approach is very much in line with the original Flash Gordon comic strip. Yes, comics often do have deep philosophical language, but they are also meant to entertain the masses, and that is what this story does. It entertains while also presenting at least some philosophy. To that end, the story succeeds just as much as the movie’s bonus content and its production values. When all three elements are considered together, they make the movie in whole the best presentation yet of this cult classic flick.
Arrow Video’s recent Blu-ray re-issue of Flash Gordon is an applause-worthy presentation that will appeal to a wide ranger of viewers. That is proven in part through the movie’s production, which fully brings out the deep, rich colors in the sets and costumes. The same can be said of the movie’s sound, which is so well-balanced in terms of the soundtrack and special effects noises. The bonus content featured with the movie’s new re-issue will immerse audiences even more in the movie. From everything noted here to other items, such as the realization that Queen was not the first choice for the movie’s soundtrack, and the note that the movie never got the merchandising push that other movies have gotten over the years, the bonus content adds so much of its own appeal to the movie. The movie’s simple story does its own part to appeal to audiences with its simple presentation. All three items noted here are important in their own way to the whole of the movie’s latest re-issue. All things considered, they make this presentation, the best yet for the movie.
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