Flash Gordon (1980)

PG | 111 mins | Science fiction | 5 December 1980

Director:

Mike Hodges

Producer:

Dino De Laurentiis

Cinematographer:

Gil Taylor

Editor:

Malcolm Cooke

Production Designer:

Danilo Donati
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HISTORY

       As reported in a 10 Nov 1979 Screen International article, during the filming of Barbarella (1968, see entry), producer Dino De Laurentiis was already thinking about adapting the comic book character “Flash Gordon” for the screen, although he considered such a project too expensive. After he acquired the film rights in 1976, he worked with American writer Michael Allin, who wrote several drafts. Allin’s work was discarded after De Laurentiis hired Nicolas Roeg, who worked on his own version of the script but was not credited as screenwriter. Although production start dates were announced for the summer of 1978, Roeg left the production to direct Bad Timing (1980, see entry). Roeg’s departure was also based on the fact that his approach to the material was “too intellectual.” An additional change to the production involved replacing art director Ferdinando Scarfiotti with Academy-Award winner Danilo Donati, who handled both art direction and costume design.
       A “Just for Variety” column in the 30 Oct 1979 DV reported that De Laurentiis’ mother-in-law noticed Sam J. Jones during his appearance on the The Dating Game television show and thought he would be perfect in the lead role. According to production notes in AMPAS library files, Jones used several strategies to look the part of a science-fiction action hero. He worked out extensively for ninety minutes a day, and he would complete a six-mile run at London’s Hyde Park twice a week, and also studied Taekwando, a Korean martial art. A 11 Jul 1979 DV news item announced actress Dayle Haddon was chosen to play the female lead. However, ... More Less

       As reported in a 10 Nov 1979 Screen International article, during the filming of Barbarella (1968, see entry), producer Dino De Laurentiis was already thinking about adapting the comic book character “Flash Gordon” for the screen, although he considered such a project too expensive. After he acquired the film rights in 1976, he worked with American writer Michael Allin, who wrote several drafts. Allin’s work was discarded after De Laurentiis hired Nicolas Roeg, who worked on his own version of the script but was not credited as screenwriter. Although production start dates were announced for the summer of 1978, Roeg left the production to direct Bad Timing (1980, see entry). Roeg’s departure was also based on the fact that his approach to the material was “too intellectual.” An additional change to the production involved replacing art director Ferdinando Scarfiotti with Academy-Award winner Danilo Donati, who handled both art direction and costume design.
       A “Just for Variety” column in the 30 Oct 1979 DV reported that De Laurentiis’ mother-in-law noticed Sam J. Jones during his appearance on the The Dating Game television show and thought he would be perfect in the lead role. According to production notes in AMPAS library files, Jones used several strategies to look the part of a science-fiction action hero. He worked out extensively for ninety minutes a day, and he would complete a six-mile run at London’s Hyde Park twice a week, and also studied Taekwando, a Korean martial art. A 11 Jul 1979 DV news item announced actress Dayle Haddon was chosen to play the female lead. However, a 12 Nov 1980 Marquee article reported that De Laurentiis replaced Haddon with Melody Anderson after an emaciated Haddon reported for work and the producer felt she had lost too much weight.
       According to a 20 Nov 1979 DV article, the production debuted a piece of technical equipment developed by Frank Van Der Veer. Known as the Van Der Veer-Nolan Electronic Optical Bench Printer, which was capable of substituting a $50,000 miniature set seemingly filled with live performers, for a full-sized stage setting that would have cost $750,000. Van Der Veer claimed that the technology would cut the cost of the film’s special effects in half.
       As noted in the 8 Aug 1979 HR and Var, principal photography began 6 Aug 1979 in England. The production had a six-month shooting schedule. Model, optical and physical effects shots were filmed concurrently. A 23 Aug 1978 HR news item stated that the film’s budget was $25 million, and in the 10 Nov 1979 Screen International article, De Laurentiis stated the production had 670 English citizens on payroll, working a six-day week. The 10 Nov 1979 Screen International described the budget as "ever-escalating"; while a 20 Nov 1979 DV article reported the budget had reached $30 million, and a 19 Aug 1980 DV article later reported that the film cost $40 million.
       Production notes stated that two different movie studios were used to film the picture’s twenty-four models and thirty-five main sets. The sets for the production filled four stages at EMI Studios, including one known as the “Star Wars” stage, as stated in Screen International. Of the seven stages at Shepperton Studios, two were used for the interior of Ming’s palace and another stage was used for the palace exterior. Stage H was the site of Prince Barin’s treehouse surrounded by a forest. Additionally, production notes stated that Brooklands Industrial Park, a 90,000 square-foot converted aircraft hangar that had been closed for ten years, contained sets of Mongo City and the Sea of Grass. Many flying sequences were also filmed at the hangar.
       Other costs to the production included a $50,000 Holoco Company laser system used for the sequence in which Ming erases the memory of “Dr. Hans Zarkov”.
       Most reviews were poor. In a 3 Dec 1980 Var review, Mac. cited weak performances, with the exception of Max Von Sydow, and asserted that an uncredited actor voiced Jones’ part. A May 1981 Twilight Zone Magazine review by Gahan Wilson complained about the lack of character development and wondered why an Asian was not cast as “Ming the Merciless.” On the plus side, the Dec 1980 Box review by Jimmy Summers praised the film as “good, lightweight fun,” while Michael Sragow’s review in the 5 Dec 1980 LAHExam called the film “a banana split of a space opera.”
       A 19 Aug 1980 DV article reported that a lawsuit filed by Dayle Haddon in Oct 1979 alleged that, despite two trips to London, England, and a rehearsal period, she was refused film credit, compensation or reimbursement for expenses when she was dropped from the cast. Additionally, she was never told to gain weight for her role. Haddon sought damages for defamation, breach of contract and loss of benefits commensurate with being the female star.
       Both the 27 Aug 1980 LAT, and the 8 Dec 1980 LAHExam articles reported that De Laurentiis filed a breach of contract suit against Sam J. Jones when the actor stopped working halfway through the production. Jones’ countersuit stated that he chose to terminate his contract because the producer failed to meet the agreed upon schedule of salary payments. The outcome of the lawsuits has not been determined.
       A 10 Nov 1980 LAHExam article reported that some of Jones’ lines in the picture might have been looped by another actor as a result of the lawsuits. While Jones claimed he had not received full payment for his role, the producer countered that the actor had broken his contract. With Jones barred from the production until a settlement, the actor was not available for post-production chores.

      The following acknowledgements appear in the end credits: “The cars used during the filming of this production were supplied by Fiat Motors” and “Made by Starling Productions Ltd. on location in the Isle of Skye, Scotland, and at Shepperton Studio Centre, England, EMI Studios, England, and Brooklands Industrial Park, Waybridge, England.”
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GEOGRAPHIC LOCATIONS
SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Box Office
Dec 1980
p. 22.
Daily Variety
11 Jul 1979.
---
Daily Variety
30 Oct 1979.
---
Daily Variety
20 Nov 1979
p. 8.
Daily Variety
19 Aug 1980
p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter
23 Aug 1978
p. 6.
Hollywood Reporter
8 Aug 1979
p. 2.
LAHExam
10 Nov 1980.
---
LAHExam
5 Dec 1980
Section D, pp. 6, 7, 25.
LAHExam
8 Dec 1980.
---
Los Angeles Times
7 Oct 1979
Calendar, p. 29.
Los Angeles Times
27 Aug 1980.
---
Los Angeles Times
3 Nov 1980
Calendar, p. 42.
Marquee
12 Nov 1980
pp. 7 - 11.
Motion Picture Herald Product Digest
17 Dec 1980
p. 56.
New York Times
5 Dec 1980
Section III, p. 8.
New Yorker
5 Jan 1981
pp. 83-85.
Newsweek
8 Dec 1980
p. 105.
Screen International
10 Nov 1979.
---
The Enterprise
7 Dec 1980
p. 36.
Time
22 Dec 1980
pp. 72-73.
Twilight Zone Magazine
May 1981
pp. 10-12.
Variety
3 Dec 1980
p. 22, 24.
CAST
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
Hawkmen:
[and]
Sandmoon girls:
Cytherian girls:
[and]
Aquarian girls:
Ardentian men:
[and]
Serving girls in Ming's chamber:
Exotic girls in Ming's bedchamber:
[and]
Dwarfs:
[and]
Azurian men:
Ming's brutes:
[and]
+
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION TEXT
Dino De Laurentiis Presents
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
2d unit dir
Zarkov brain drain seq dir
1st asst dir
Prod mgr
2d asst dir
2d asst dir
PRODUCERS
Exec prod
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
Stills cam
Cam op
Cam op
Focus
Focus
With addl photog by
Supv elec
Gaffer elec
ART DIRECTORS
Prod des
Supv art dir
Illustrator
Illustrator
Illustrator
Asst art dir
Asst art dir
Asst art dir
Asst art dir
Asst art dir
Asst art dir
FILM EDITORS
Film ed
Asst ed
Asst ed
Asst ed
Asst ed
SET DECORATORS
Set des
Scenic artist
Prod buyer
Const supv
Const mgr
Const mgr
Const mgr
Prop master
Standby propman
COSTUMES
Cost des
Costumier
Cost des asst
Cost maker
Cost maker
Cost maker
Cost maker
Cost maker
Cost maker
Ward supv
Ward mistress
Ward asst
Ward asst
Ward asst
MUSIC
Mus comp, performed and prod by
Orch score comp and arr
Mus ed
Mus rec at
Wembley, England
Mus rec at
Denham, England
Mus rec at
London, England
Mus rec at
London, England
Mus rec
Mus rec
Mus rec
SOUND
Sd mixer
Boom op
Dubbing mixer
Dubbing mixer
Dolby stereo consultant
Dial ed
Footsteps ed
Electronic sd eff by
VISUAL EFFECTS
Supv spec photographic eff
Spec eff supv
Spec eff consultant
Art dir - Models
Spec eff, Models and skies
Coord of action and movement
Spec eff ed
Sculptor
Sculptor
Sculptor
Sculptor
Lighting cam, Skies & clouds
Cam op, Skies & clouds
Focus, Skies & clouds
Artist, Skies & clouds
Artist, Skies & clouds
Spec eff asst
Spec eff asst
Spec eff flying
Model maker
Model maker
Model maker
Model maker
Main & end titles prod and des
Main & end titles prod and des, R/Greenberg Associ
Blue screen composites
Opt cam
Opt cam
Opt tech
Opt tech
Opt tech
Opt tech
Matte paintings
Matte paintings
DANCE
Spec movement
Spec movement
Spec movement
Spec movement
Spec movement
Spec movement
Spec movement
Spec movement
MAKEUP
Makeup artist
Makeup artist
Makeup artist
Makeup artist
Hairdresser
Hairdresser
PRODUCTION MISC
Prod asst
Prod asst
Scr supv
Dir's personal asst
Prod accountant
Asst accountant
Casting, U. K.
Casting, U.S.A.
Drama & dial coach
Drama & dial coach
Marketing dir
Transport capt
Admin asst
Admin asst
Laboratory coord
COLOR PERSONNEL
Colour by
SOURCES
LITERARY
Based on characters created by Alex Raymond, licensed by King Features Syndicate.
AUTHOR
PERFORMER
DETAILS
Release Date:
5 December 1980
Premiere Information:
Los Angeles and New York openings: 5 December 1980
Production Date:
began 6 August 1979 in England
Copyright Claimant:
Famous Films, B. V.
Copyright Date:
12 March 1981
Copyright Number:
PA96935
Physical Properties:
Sound
Rec in Dolby Sound™ at Twickenham Film Studios, London
Lenses
Filmed in Todd-AO
Duration(in mins):
111
MPAA Rating:
PG
Countries:
United Kingdom, United States
Language:
English
PCA No:
26032
Passed by NBR:
No
SYNOPSIS

When Emperor Ming the Merciless of the planet Mongo plots to destroy the Earth, he sabotages a private plane carrying Flash Gordon, a star New York Jets football quarterback, and Dale Arden, a travel agent, forcing Flash and Dale to crash land in Dr. Hans Zarkov’s laboratory. The data from the scientist’s equipment supports his long held belief that the Earth is under attack, and he takes the two travelers on a journey to Mongo, where Ming’s soldiers capture them. They are brought to Ming’s chambers during a tribute ceremony, and a fight erupts between Prince Vultan, a Hawkman, who offers an ice jewel, and Prince Barin, who claims Vultan has stolen his property, but Ming stops the conflict. When the Prince of Ardentia tells Ming he is unable to offer a tribute, Ming kills him as the court watches. An unflattering remark by Flash is overheard and the travelers reveal their presence. Ming wants Dale to be his concubine, and Ming’s soldiers subdue Flash when he tries to protect her. Ming orders Flash’s execution even though his daughter, Princess Aura, is attracted to the Earthling and does not want him killed. Flash is strapped into a futuristic electric chair and asphyxiated. Later, Princess Aura revives Flash with a drug and a kiss. He wants to rescue Dale and Zarkov, but Aura’s plan is to seek help from the people of the moon Arboria. At the palace, Ming wipes out Zarkov’s memory so the scientist will no longer pose a threat. On the way to Arboria, Princess Aura is affectionate and teaches Flash how to pilot her spacecraft. In Ming’s bedroom, Dale is dressed in a lavish costume and ... +


When Emperor Ming the Merciless of the planet Mongo plots to destroy the Earth, he sabotages a private plane carrying Flash Gordon, a star New York Jets football quarterback, and Dale Arden, a travel agent, forcing Flash and Dale to crash land in Dr. Hans Zarkov’s laboratory. The data from the scientist’s equipment supports his long held belief that the Earth is under attack, and he takes the two travelers on a journey to Mongo, where Ming’s soldiers capture them. They are brought to Ming’s chambers during a tribute ceremony, and a fight erupts between Prince Vultan, a Hawkman, who offers an ice jewel, and Prince Barin, who claims Vultan has stolen his property, but Ming stops the conflict. When the Prince of Ardentia tells Ming he is unable to offer a tribute, Ming kills him as the court watches. An unflattering remark by Flash is overheard and the travelers reveal their presence. Ming wants Dale to be his concubine, and Ming’s soldiers subdue Flash when he tries to protect her. Ming orders Flash’s execution even though his daughter, Princess Aura, is attracted to the Earthling and does not want him killed. Flash is strapped into a futuristic electric chair and asphyxiated. Later, Princess Aura revives Flash with a drug and a kiss. He wants to rescue Dale and Zarkov, but Aura’s plan is to seek help from the people of the moon Arboria. At the palace, Ming wipes out Zarkov’s memory so the scientist will no longer pose a threat. On the way to Arboria, Princess Aura is affectionate and teaches Flash how to pilot her spacecraft. In Ming’s bedroom, Dale is dressed in a lavish costume and given a love potion. When Princess Aura reveals that her civilization uses telepathy to communicate, Flash threatens to crash the spaceship until she shows him how to send a message to Dale. Dale is overjoyed to hear that Flash plans to rescue her. She shares the rest of her love potion with a slave, while Zarkov is reprogrammed as one of Ming’s spies. Dale escapes from Ming’s bedroom wearing the slave’s dress. Ming’s minions dispatch Zarkov to meet Dale as they watch her escape on closed-circuit television. When Ming is informed that Flash has escaped, he gives the order to destroy the traitor who is responsible. In Arboria, Aura kisses her lover, Prince Barin, and asks him to hide Flash. Instead, Barin lowers him into a swamp, and ignores Flash’s suggestion that they team up to vanquish Ming. Ming’s lieutenant, Klytus, extracts a confession from Aura, and instead of execution, Ming orders a one-year banishment for his daughter to a Frigian ice cabin to be carried out after his wedding to Dale. A plan emerges to rescue Flash as Hawkmen travel with Dale and Zarkov, who has outsmarted Ming and retained his memory. Flash outmaneuvers Prince Barin but Prince Vultan’s men capture him. Ming’s law states that a prince may enter into a trial by combat before being offered as ransom, and Prince Barin chooses to fight Flash. Flash wins the fight, and Prince Barin pledges to overthrow Ming. When Klytus arrives to make arrests and restore order, Flash kills him. Prince Barin and Flash convince Prince Vultan that the time is right to destroy Ming. When Ming arrives, he offers Flash his own kingdom on Mongo. Flash turns down the offer and Ming orders his fleet to destroy the neighboring principality. Flash escapes on a rocketcycle, and, with Vultan, sets up a trap to destroy Ming’s Air Force. Flash gains control of one of Ming’s fighter rockets, while Princess Aura rescues Prince Barin and Zarkov. As the wedding of Dale to Ming begins, Zarkov deactivates the lightning field surrounding the Mongon palace and Flash crash lands in the middle of the wedding, impaling Ming and scattering guests. Ming’s body disintegrates, leaving behind his emperor’s ring. Prince Barin is recognized as the rightful heir to Mongo and marries Aura. Vultan is appointed general of the Mongo armies, and the kingdom thanks Flash before he, Dale, and Zarkov return to Earth. However, as they leave, a gloved hand reaches for Ming’s ring and evil laughter ripples through the air.
+

Legend
Viewed by AFI
Partially Viewed
Offscreen Credit
Name Occurs Before Title
AFI Life Achievement Award

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