“Do you, Ming the Merciless, Ruler of the Universe, take this Earthling Dale Arden, to be your Empress of the Hour?”
“Of the hour, yes.”
“Do you promise to use her as you will?”
“Not to blast her into space? Uh, until such time as you grow weary of her?”
Two things that amuse me about the wedding scene in Flash Gordon:
1) That Ming, self-proclaimed Ruler of the Universe, still feels the need to “put a ring on it.”
2) The familiar “Wedding March” as interpreted by Queen, whose spectacular musical contribution to the Flash Gordon experience has been shamefully overlooked here*.
Especially amusing is that it’s used as “source music,” meaning that it’s being generated from a source within the world of the film. The implication is that either the Wedding March is a universal constant or that the Mingo City wedding planners decided to incorporated the Earth ditty into their ceremony. Either way, their musicians sound have been trained to sound like a ’70s glam rock band.
The final Buster Crabbe Flash Gordon movie serial killed off Ming by crashing a rocket ship filled with explosives into his tower, but the feature film did it one better by spearing him on the tip of the rocket. I cannot be certain, but I believe this to be the only instance of death by rocket ship puncture in all of pop fiction.
If there’s one disappointment in the finale, it’s that there’s really not a proper battle between Flash and Ming. The titles use an image from the original Alex Raymond comic strips depicting the two locked in a sword duel, but here Flash only has the chance to threaten the fatally wounded monarch. Ming, his power fading, is mysteriously sucked into his own ring, which clatters to the ground to await a sequel which sadly will never come.
I hoped that you’ve enjoyed this month-long retrospective of one of my favorite films. It grew from what was meant to be a single post, and later a string of quick-and-dirty screen captures. However, as often happens when I get into one of these projects, it metastasized into something requiring a great deal more effort on my part!
“Long live Flash! You’ve saved your Earth. Have a nice day!”
*I’ve also overlooked the orchestral score by composer Howard Blake. I suspect that most people think Queen performed all of the film’s music, but you can hear a lot of Blake’s work on the familiar Flash Gordon soundtrack album. Blake’s full score is available on a limited edition CD.
With Flash Gordon month wrapping up soon, I wanted to share a few cool images that didn’t fit in anywhere else…
I love it when an adventure story has a “Hell, yes!” moment. That’s when you realize that Our Heroes have finally gotten one step ahead of the bad guys. There’a great one in Flash Gordon when Flash is pursued into a cloud by War Rocket Ajax…and there turn out to be a million, billion of his Hawkmen allies waiting on the other side.
Flash Gordon Month wouldn’t be complete without giving props to the supporting turns by two big-name actors not typically associated with sci-fi.
Topol (aka “The Smoker’s Tooth Polish) is, of course, best known as Tevye from Fiddler on the Roof. In Flash Gordon, he’s Dr. Hans Zarkov, the only Earthman who recognizes that the strange disasters affecting the planet are otherworldly in origin. He’s so brilliant that he’s built a rocketship in his greenhouse, but not quite smart enough to figure out a way of cancelling out deadly G-forces other than to get someone to stomp on a big, red pedal.
Like Max von Sydow, Topol is game for all of the silliness. For example, when he explains how he was able to beat Klytus’ brainwashing ray:
Do you know why it failed? l started to recite Shakespeare, the Talmud, Einstein, anything l could remember, even The Beatles. lt armored me. They couldn’t wipe those things away! You can’t beat the human spirit!
And let’s not forget Timothy Dalton as Prince Barin. Long before James Bond, he buckled his swash as the Errol Flynn-ish ruler of Arboria.
He swaggers through the film with cocky arrogance. And why not? He not only gets hot ‘n’ heavy with Ming’s daughter, he gets in a balls-out whip duel with Flash atop Vultan’s spiky, tilting platform.
Looking back over the past three weeks, I realized that Flash Gordon Month has had an egregious lack of Prince Vultan. Allow me to rectify the error.
I’ve found that it’s relatively difficult to take a screencap of actor Brian Blessed in which his mouth isn’t wide open.
Blessed has had a long, illustrious career of playing fat, loud royalty. He was a fat, loud king in The Black Adder; a fat, loud king in Doctor Who; and a fat, loud Gungan in Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace.
His IMDB page says that he played King Lear in a 1999 production, thus establishing a record for the highest decibel level in the history of Lears.
True fact: Queen Elizabeth II is secretly very nearly deaf. As she can no longer be awakened by a standard alarm clock, the Crown has hired Brian Blessed to sit by her bedside each morning and roar “VROOMNIK!” over and over until she stirs.*
When not bellowing on stage, Blessed enjoys mountain climbing, watching football (the other kind), and shouting.
*Not a true fact.