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Home > Sci-Fi > 31 Days Of Flash Gordon #7

31 Days Of Flash Gordon #7

July 7th, 2010

It would be remiss of me to let the entire first week of Flash Gordon Month go by without a tribute to everyone’s favorite planetary potentate, Ming the Merciless. For one, how awesome is it when a villain’s last name is “the Merciless?” Says it right there on the tin.

Now, the original Flash Gordon serials of the ’30s and ’40s had themselves a fine Ming. Charles Middleton rocked the Yellow Peril look and was a ruler to be reckoned with.

And if Max Von Sydow hadn’t come along in 1980, we’d still think of Middleton as the consummate Ming.

Von Sydow completely inhabits the role, confidently striding onto the set like he owns the place. He rolls out his threats and edicts with a silkiness that matches his royal costumes. There is no doubt that this Ming is in charge and, as Flash puts it, that “this Ming is a psycho.”

Yet Ming is not without his good side. He loves his daughter Aura, even if he does occasionally have to see her whipped, subjected to bore worms or exiled to the ice moon of Frigia in order to keep her in line. The father-daughter bond can be a funny thing.

He also respects his enemies, and is willing to deed the most worthy a kingdom of their own. Of course, since he keeps the various princes of Mongo at each others’ throats, giving a little power makes him all the more powerful.

Von Sydow added one distinctive bit of business: his Ming frequently makes flourishing waves with his fingers, perhaps anticipating a forthcoming conquest in the Royal Bedroom or the opportunity to strangle a fragile neck.

To this day, I find myself doing those finger flourishes. It’s one of several tics I’ve picked up thanks to a lifelong love of sci-fi. (I also tend to “use the Force” on automatic doors.)

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