I like to think of it as the birth of the 80s.
As the seas of time bestir the cosmos, and the waves of millennia wash over the planets in cycles of change, sentient beings across the universe wait for a savior and we watch way too many superhero movies in 2019.
We, the happy cornfed people of Earth, were given that savior in the form of a movie. On December 5th of 1980, the film Flash Gordon was born of man, and heralded an era of exuberant entertainment.
Flash transcends all taste and reason, lifting the skirt of the soul with a blast of electric guitars and thrilling it as no movie should.
The ludicrous-fun tone, the garish production design and a perfect score all converge in brilliant audiovisual synergy.
Supporting performances are so over-the-top that they vibrate with enervating energy. Watching the acting is like standing in your bathroom with Chris Cornell at one ear and Pavarotti in the tub both singing full-tilt-boogie and finding the same note.
A straightfaced Topol, a man who was Fiddling on the Roof for more than 50 years onstage, here wields his hefty beard to fill the screen with gravitas. Brian Blessed wields his heftier beard to provide us with inhuman levels of lovable heartiness. Max Von Sydow is not a bad guy, but the worst guy. His beard is pointy.
Yet the film is not only about beards.
Sam Jones is our hero. He never quite looks unconfused… regardless of how much ass he is kicking. But he’s a 100% hero, free of mind and full of go-for-it. He lets the movie flow through him and around him and past him, never attempting to grasp what is going on.
This was years before Keanu Reeves proved that “clueless” could be the most fundamental element of an effective protagonist, too.
(In real life, after doing a couple more movies Jones went on to become a Hostage Extraction Specialist, allowing him to be an actual hero and get paid for saving people without his acting ability being questioned)
All the red-lining performances on display are dipped in brilliant crimson and gilded by Italian production-design gold.
Visually it carries all the over-the-top performances past the roof of this universe and into a beautiful garish dimension far beyond.
In Flash Gordon, all the elements of silly film are so exploded its Big Bang is eventually expands so far it must collapse back into a tiny white point of light, then explode once again, creating a Big Bounce cosmos of entertainment.
The brazen onscreen excitement is elevated beyond comprehension by Queen, who are Ready to Get Into This Thing. More energy can be found in their end credits theme that in the totality of music recorded 1990-1999. Do not ever, ever let anyone turn down the music over the end credits.
Of course, this particular origin of the 80s happened a long time ago.
Many of us (aside from a stoner teddybear in Ted and Jack Black in concert) may have forgotten we were ever saved by the entertainment of Flash.
A laserdisc player and some speakers the size of a mini-fridge will help us remember.