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Review: Flash Gordon 40th Anniversary restoration – “A sight to behold”

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STUDIOCANAL is releasing the new 4k, Ultra High Definition restoration of Mike Hodge’s cult classic Flash Gordon(1980), in honour of the film’s 40th anniversary. The film will be released on 4K UHD Collector’s edition, Blu-ray, Steelbook, DVD and digital on August 10th, and is in select UK cinemas from today, 31st July.

The film is based on the comic strip of the same name created by Alex Raymond and adapted for the screen by Michael Allin (Enter The Dragon) and Lorenzo Semple Jr (King Kong). Produced by Dino De Laurentiis (Serpico, King Kong), with cinematography by Gilbert Taylor (Star Wars IV: A New Hope, Dr. Strangelove), the film is also notable for the soundtrack, which was composed, performed and produced by Queen with orchestral sections by Howard Blake.

I managed to get my hands on a Blu-ray of the restored version and it is truly a sight to behold. I also watched it on my projector so I got some of the big screen action you will get if you are off to the cinema to see it.

Now I have always been a fan of Flash Gordon and I do love the 1989 movie in all its pulpy camp sci-fi action ways. I won’t go into much detail about the plot of the film as you have no doubt seen it, but Flash Gordon (Sam J. Jones), Dale Arden (Melody Anderson) and Dr. Hans Zarkov (Topol) have to save Earth from the evil machinations of Ming the Merciless (Max von Sydow). Along the way, they team up with Prince Vultan (Brian Blessed) and Prince Barin (Timothy Dalton).

What follows involves space ships, whips, space football, glowing rings, thought projection, bore worms (“No! Not the bore worms!”), deadly tree trunks, swamps, sky cycles, flying castles, lizardmen, laser guns, eye sausages, War Rocket Ajax, Barin leveling up his gun, lightning shields, and more.

It is all so much fun and having the film fully restored makes it even better. It often felt a little muddied with the many colours not quite popping on previous versions. However, the new restoration is a true treat for the eyes (sorry Klytus) making everything sharper and clearer. You can see every hair in Flash’s luscious blonde locks to the details on the armour of Ming’s soldiers. The colours are rich and vibrant and well defined. The throne room scene with all the different alien races in all their glorious colourful clothes works so much better. It does not cause as much strain on the eye as my old DVD version did.

You also get to see just how shiny everything is. All the metal armour and gems on display gleam and sparkle. Klytus (Peter Wyngarde) in all of his golden Dr Doom finery shines brightly!

Everything looks richer and fuller. Eye candy indeed!

Of course, this is a 40-year-old film we are talking about and even back in the day some of the special effects were a bit ropey. Having everything cleaned up and looking fresh does make some of the visual effects, costumes and prosthetics stand out and look a little off. The stump creature does lose some of its menace, the secret police dude who has the goggles pulled from his face, and a few things look glued on to walls and costumes. You can also see how much makeup was plastered on many of the actors involved.

However, it doesn’t ruin the experience, but just thought you should know.

The sound has also had a cleanup and with Queen’s soundtrack thumping through the proceedings you get to hear everything in super-duper crystal clarity. I do love the sound of the laser guns, and that weird hurr-hurr sound the Red Trooper’s make as they walk. Brian Blessed saying “Gordon’s alive” is better than ever.

As for the extras on the Blu-ray…there are so many (you can see the full list below)…they are great to watch. The commentary by Brian Blessed is a joy and a good starting point, but there are lots of interviews and behind the scenes bits and pieces. I’m still working my way through them, but there is always a new nugget of information or a cool anecdote that makes you want to go back and watch the film again.

If you get the 5 Disc collectors edition you also get Life After Flash, the 2017 feature documentary celebrating the film and Sam J.Jones, directed by Lisa Downs, and it is excellent.

There’s not really much more to say. If you are a fan of the film then I can highly recommend you pick up the Blu-ray or 4K as it truly is a joy to behold.

FLASH GORDON is in select cinemas now and will be released on 4K UHD Collector’s edition, Blu-ray, Steelbook, DVD and digital from August 10.

Thank you for supporting Live for Films (LFF) when you preorder using the link below. As an Amazon Associate LFF earns from qualifying purchases. If you are using an adblocker you will not see the link.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

The UHD, DVD and Blu-Ray Disc 1 includes:

  • The main feature (1 hr 47)
  • New Lost in Space: Nic Roeg’s Flash Gordon (also iTunes extra)
  • Audio commentary with Mike Hodges
  • Audio commentary with Brian Blessed
  • Behind the scenes of Flash Gordon
  • Stills gallery (also iTunes extra)
  • Storyboards gallery (also iTunes extra)
  •  Original theatrical trailer

 

Blu-Ray Disc 2 includes:

  • Interview with Mike Hodges
  • Interview with comic book artist Alex Ross TBC
  • Interview with screenwriter Lorenzo Semple, Jr. TBC
  • Episode 24 of Flash Gordon (1979-1982): The Survival Game / Gremlin’s Finest Hour
  • Sam Jones’s acting start
  • Entertainment Earth on Flash Gordon merchandise
  • Bob Lindenmayer discusses deleted scenes and original endings
  • 35th Anniversary Greenroom
  • 35th Anniversary reunion featurette
  • Renato Casaro extended interview
  • Brian Blessed anecdotes
  • Melody’s musings
  • On the soundtrack (Brian May & Howard Blake)
  • Easter Eggs

 

The 5 disc Collector’s Edition includes:

  • The UHD and 2 Blu-ray discs
  • Bonus Blu-Ray Disc of LIFE AFTER FLASH, the 2017 feature documentary celebrating the film and it’s star, directed by Lisa Downs
  •  Original soundtrack by Queen & Howard Blake
  •  32 page booklet
  • 16 page Titan mini book (The Story of Flash Gordon)
  • Reproduced booklet of the first strip of original comic books
  • Poster of original artwork
  • 4 artcards of various incarnations of Flash film posters across the years
  • 1 sew on ‘Flash patch’

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