Fulvue Drive-In.com
Current Reviews
In Stores Soon
In Stores Now
DVD Reviews, SACD Reviews Essays Interviews Contact Us Meet the Staff
An Explanation of Our Rating System Search  
Category:    Home > Reviews > Action > Comedy > Space Opera > Science Fiction > Camp > Satire > Flash Gordon 4K (1980/Universal/MVD/Arrow 4K Ultra HD Limited Edition Blu-ray Set)

Flash Gordon 4K (1980/Universal/MVD/Arrow 4K Ultra HD Limited Edition Blu-ray Set)

4K Ultra HD Picture: B+ Sound: B Extras: B+ Films: B-

Space Operas were always considered a safer side of pulp fiction and of course, comic strips and Alex Raymond's Flash Gordon is the original hero of that original cycle back in the 1930s. Though there were other successes (Buck Rogers and nameless imitators), and that extended into toys, novels, a hit radio series and three Saturday Morning Movie Serial Chapter Plays with Buster Crabbe perfect casting in the title role. That also makes him the most successful character in the history of movie serials as well.

By the 1970s, with a whole new era of serious science fiction in full swing, Flash got another bump in popularity and two attempts were made to get a feature film going. We know what happened with the version THX-1138 and American Graffiti director George Lucas was trying to make, then The Man Who Fell To Earth director Nicolas Roeg got even further with Flash's owners, but that film eventually did not happen because he wanted to do a serious epic and others wanted something a little more humorous.

At that point, all the rights for such a film were sold with TV rights to make the highly underrated hit animated Flash Gordon TV series which was a revelation for a Saturday Morning TV series (Flash's luck with the last day of the week continued) and its first season remains one of the strongest of all time in U.S. TV animation. Mega-producer Dino De Laurentiis (Barbarella, Danger: Diabolk) still wanted to make the film and bought movie rights form the TV people in exchange for money to finish the second and last season of their show. With Director Mike Hodges (the original Get Carter and Pulp (on Arrow Blu-ray elsewhere on this site) on board with writer Lorenzo Semple, Jr. (the 1960s Batman, et al, as he had written far more serious material), the film was on its way.

Of course, the 1977 Star Wars was the final push for this revival to happen and with the serial already made and the animated series doing a surprising more serious take on the character, the makers decided to go all out for a colorful, gaudy spectacle that could have cared less how serious it was, reveled in comic strip color (as the credits sequence demonstrates explicitly), pulp story-telling and all kinds of pop culture, with zero apologies and as over the top as it felt like. This could have been a disastrous fiasco, but instead, though it was not the Star Wars-sized hit hoped for (it did better overseas than in the U.S., but not enough to bring on any sequels) and did some business, this was not a free for all and is sadly the last big spectacle of its kind before the Lucas/Spielberg style of big box office event film took over.

There was a ton of great talent behind the camera, but it was equalled by a cast that had become more remarkable over the years and in retrospect, is amazing the film was able to sign all these actors for this film. Like Christopher Reeves for the Superman films, an unknown was cast in the title role, Sam J. Jones, playing Flash as a hugely successful football player (U.S. style, not soccer at a time before endless NFL scandals, et al) and just happens to wind up accidentally in the wild situations ahead as he meets Dale Arden (Melody Anderson, just as well cast) who just happen to wreck into the home of Dr. Hans Zarkoff (Topol of Fiddler On The Roof and For Your Eyes Only) as Ming The Merciless (the unbeatable Max Von Sydow) starts to unleash destruction on planet earth.

Arriving on the mysterious planet Mongo that Ming has unexpected rule over, the extensive world of the comic strip is brought to life pretty well, even if some of it leans towards Sid & Marty Krofft TV shows or Tom Baker-era Dr. Who. One thing one can say is that the makers loved the material and original stories, so the recreation of the worlds are extensive. Then you get the amazing Brian Blessed as Vultan, a pre-James Bond Timothy Dalton as Prince Barin, Peter Wyngarde (TV's Jason King) as Ming's evil assistant Klytus (and mind you, these guys as Shakespearian actors), Ornella Muto as Princess Aura, Mariangela as Kala, Richard O'Brien (The Rocky Horror Picture Show) as Fico, John Hallam as Luro, William Hootkins as Munson and even Warhol veteran Viva.

Like the animated series' first season, we get a little more sexuality than you might expect, though the original comic strips never had issues with the human body, or similar bodies. The one other thing the makers knew they were incidentally in competition with was not just Star Wars, but really, but the R-rated and nearly X-rated (or NC-17 as it is known now) Flesh Gordon adult sexual satire of the original characters and story. However, since that film already owed something to Barbarella itself, that was not much of a problem.

The result is a film that may have some off moments, but they are soon replaced by another interesting twist, turn or performance that keeps you watching when the amazing costumes and production design are not also impressing you. The Empire Strikes Back was obviously the space opera that was the megahit of the year, but especially against the endless and usually very poor Star Wars imitators, Flash Gordon is in that rare best of the rest category that is not just a cult item, but the best version and take of the characters and world you could ever do with this humor and style. Especially in the face of so many dark, dumb, boring CGI-drenched feature films for which there has been a mega-glut, it holds up as something special and now restored, deserves to be rediscovered and revisited.

The 2160p HEVC/H.265, 2.35 X 1, Dolby Vision/HDR (10; Ultra HD Premium)-enhanced Ultra High Definition image is a new 4K scan off of the original camera negative, supervised and approved by Director Hodges, who made sure it was color-correct, vivid and faithful to how the film should look in the best 35mm film prints and expensive 70mm blow-up presentations. The results have some unavoidable flaws (older matte work shows its age) but the result is impressive, the color range in the best fantasy sequences stunning and detail would make you not think it is as old a production as it is. Note no regular Blu-ray of the film is included with this set, rare for 4K releases so far, but Arrow has such format sets sold separately so you know.

One liberty Hodges took was the luxury of removing any visible wires for the stuntmen, which were never supposed to be scene to begin with and popped out too well in the 4K scan. You can still tell they are on wires, but the nice result is you can see much better the composition intended. The Director of Photography was none other than the legendary Gilbert Taylor, B.S.C., known for his colorful work on the 1960s British TV spy classic The Avengers and black and white brilliance on Kubrick's Dr. Strangelove (1965) and the original 1977 Star Wars. A nice coup for this film.

While Star Wars used real anamorphic lenses by Panavision, this film used the underrated Todd-AO 35mm anamorphic lenses that some have criticized for having flare issues, but I thought they always had a great look. First used on Conquest Of The Planet Of The Apes and Polanski's MacBeth, De Laurentiis also had the last major film to use them extensively, his 1984 Dune. Some movies still get their hands on them and use them here and there, but its ill-regular use is a loss for us all and it is one of the reasons I think this film has stood the test of time against some odds.

It gives the film a different feel and look, it has a slightly grander presentation to it and was also used on the first Mad Max, Logan's Run (which should do the same with its few wire scenes when a 4K version is made), first Conan, Jaws-wanna be Grizzly, Steve McQueen The Getaway, Ragtime, The Devil's Rain and some other low-budget howlers. Taylor, Hodges and company are not afraid to go big and it pays off. Lucas even switched from Panavision lenses for Return Of The Jedi (but it was the equally underrated J-D-C Scope lenses) though I wonder if it was because of this film or not. Also, there are definitely some demo shots above my letter grade, so be prepared to be surprised.

As for sound, 5.1 mixes had just been invented and finalized on Coppola's Apocalypse Now a year before, so the best sound Flash Gordon was issued in was Dolby magnetic 4.1 sound in its 70mm blow-up presentations, the same mix configuration of the original Star Wars Trilogy. The sound on all previous home video editions was a disappointment up to the last Blu-ray, but that too has been fixed. Also using an original stereo master (it is not noted if it was optical or magnetic sound), dialogue and sound effects are much better, music sounds great and the soundfield is much more consistent. Even a LFE .1 subwoofer issue had to be fixed.

The sound is here in both DTS-HD MA (Master Audio) 2.0 Stereo and 5.1 lossless mixes and though I prefer the 5.1 for the most part, I also liked the muscle and density of the stereo-only mix for the kick it offers. Of course, the theme song by Queen is one of the most famous movie themes of all time, maybe more successful and well-known than the actual film in some ways as the band was ahead of most in understanding the future melding of sound and image (this was a few years before MTV debuted) and what might sound like an overboard song lyrically is just right for the largess of the production cinematically. The band even tries to go into the vocal territory of Jon Anderson's band Yes at points here (Anderson has left the band, but that was thankfully temporary) and it is up there with ''Bohemian Rhapsody'' as the best record they ever cut. The underrated Howard Blake created the rest of the score and it still melds well with the rest of the film.

Life After Flash is here as the second Blu-ray in a 1080p 1.78 X 1 digital High Definition image and is the same solid Blu-ray we reviewed at this link:


Extras in this 4K LIMITED EDITION include that Life After Flash Blu-ray, a hard slipcase with a high quality booklet featuring new writing on the film by critics and film historians including Neil Snowdon, Dennis Cozzalio, John-Paul Checkett, A.K. Benedict, and Kat Ellinger illustrated with original stills, nice fold-out double-sided poster featuring original and newly commissioned artwork, six double-sided, postcard-sized lobby card reproductions, alternative posters and promotional images and Limited Edition packaging with reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Adam Rabalais.


  • Archival audio commentary with Mike Hodges

  • Archival audio commentary with Brian Blessed

  • Interviews with actors Sam J. Jones, Melody Anderson, Brian Blessed, Queen icon Brian May, composer Howard Blake, and poster designer Renato Casaro

  • Behind the Scenes of Flash Gordon - an archival documentary on the making of the film

  • Archival interviews with Mike Hodges, screenwriter Lorenzo Semple Jr., comic book artist Alex Ross

  • Lost in Space: Nic Roeg's Flash Gordon - a great new documentary program exploring the version Roeg (The Man Who Fell to Earth) had originally planned to make with producer Dino De Laurentiis

  • Gremlin's Finest Hour - an episode from the animated Flash Gordon TV show (produced by the sadly now-defunct Filmation) written by J. Michael Reaves from November 1982 (too bad it is from the sillier second and last season, this in in low definition)

  • Deleted scenes and original endings - prop collector Bob Lindenmayer discusses dropped sequences and sequel ideas

  • 35th Anniversary Greenroom featurette - Mike Hodges meets the cast for the first time since filming at the 35th anniversary reunion

  • 35th Anniversary Reunion featurette - the cast and crew discuss Flash Gordon

  • Entertainment Earth on Flash Gordon merchandise

  • Storyboards gallery

  • Stills gallery

  • Original Trailer

  • Easter Eggs

DISC 2 - LIFE AFTER FLASH & SPECIAL FEATURES [LIMITED EDITION EXCLUSIVE] (BLU-RAY) repeats all of its great extras including:

  • 2017 feature length documentary by filmmaker Lisa Downs on the rollercoaster life of Sam J. Jones since his role in Flash Gordon, featuring the main cast and crew as well as a host of fans including Stan Lee, Robert Rodriguez, Mark Millar and more!

  • Sam J. Jones - a variety of interviews and featurettes including coverage of a script read from the Chattanooga Film Festival, Sam discussing his career in Mexico, his "prayer walk", and more

  • Melody Paintings Extended - actress Melody Anderson talks about her love of painting and talks about various pieces displayed in her home

  • Topol - a variety of interviews with the actor on his collections, awards and charity work

  • Brian Blessed - the actor recounts amusing stories about Flash Gordon

  • Late, Great Wyngarde - actor Peter Wyngarde discusses his experiences filming Flash Gordon and his relationship with Mike Hodges

  • Deep Roy - the actor raps about ambition and recounts an amusing story about Eastbound & Down

  • Alex Ross Talks Early Art - the artist talks about Flash Gordon and the many pieces of art he created for it from childhood to modern day

  • Tell Me More About the This Man Houdini - actor Rich Fuller and Jason Lenzi, founder of toy brand Bif Bang Pow, discuss a scene from Flash Gordon

  • Comic Con early draft - A featurette looking at the phenomenon that is Comic Con, featuring interviews with attendees and a host of regular talent including Sam J. Jones, Rich Fulton, Jason Mewes, Michael Rooker, Claudia Wells, and more

  • Interview with Lisa Downs - the director of Life After Flash explores her motivation to make the film and experiences during the production

  • Life After Flash on the Road - a variety of featurettes on the film travelling to various festivals and production including Q&A excerpts with the Flash Gordon cast, behind-the-scenes footage, Kickstarter funding video

  • and an Original Theatrical Trailer

Yes, it may be campy and kitschy, but Flash Gordon has held up so well, that all revival attempts (including an animated series with a younger Flash on a skateboard?!?!) have fallen through, though now, we hear a big CGI feature film is in the works. We'll see. Either way, the world has finally caught up with this film and just in time for it itself to be saved!

- Nicholas Sheffo


 Copyright © MMIII through MMX fulvuedrive-in.com