Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Flashback to Flash Gordon -- Aaaaarrrgh of the Universe



I went time-travelling this morning, reading an old copy of Future Life (#23 from December 1980 -- part of my project to read every page of that short-lived magazine). This morning I read an article about the then-upcoming Flash Gordon movie produced by none other than Dino De Laurentiis.

Writer (and former Future Life and Fangoria editor) Ed Naha noted, "... many of the fans of the [comic] strip and the science fiction genre are somewhat apprehensive about its quality; concerned by the fact that Dino De Laurentiis is producing it." Naha then quotes the production's art director, John Graysmark, who defends the film and says how much De Laurentiis "wanted it perfect."

If you've seen the film (the trailer is above), then you know it's perfect -- a perfect piece of schlock. In the Future Life article, Graysmark first takes the readers through the beginning of the story, including the ridiculous football-like action by Flash and the cheerleading by Dale Arden, and "erupts into soft laughter, 'Delightful.'"

I'm not picking on Graysmark. I think a certain amount of respect or at least understanding is due to people who spend months or years of their professional lives writing, directing, designing, acting, etc., on films, even turkeys. And the silliness of a film's story certainly isn't the art director's fault.

But this blog article also is something of a defense of film magazines (such as Starlog and Fangoria) which are sometimes accused of being cheerleaders (like Dale Arden) for films their editors haven't even seen yet, because their articles pass along the fluff statements of the interview subjects. Unless the editors have had a preview of a movie, there's no way they can tell if the interview subjects are delusional or lying, and anyone who's covered films for years knows that a film might look like a turkey or a masterpiece while it's being assembled, but it'll be bungled by a slash editing job or a studio's imposition of last-minute changes. Plus, anyone reading Graysmark's extensive preview of the movie's opening scenes got an accurate sense of what that film would be like. Let 'em make up their own minds about the film, right?

Flash simply was bad. It has its fans, and that's fine for them. I don't criticize them; I'm sure I like some films, TV programs, or books that they'd think were awful. But when I watched the trailer above, and I remembered sitting through the entire film with ever-increasing incredulity, I had to wonder why De Laurentiis, with his many millions of dollars to put into this film, couldn't make a film that was much better than the low-budget, soft-porn Flesh Gordon from the early 1970s. The Flesh trailer is below (don't worry, it's safe for work; though the film was rated X when it was released, it really would have difficulty getting an R these days, and the trailer is PG at most).

Both Flash and Flesh are bad movies, but the folks who put together the latter weren't laboring under the illusion that they were making the Next Big Thing.

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