Flash Gordon is a 1980 film from Universal Studios based on the Flash Gordon comics and film serials from the 1930s, with a soundtrack by Queen.Unlike most science fiction or fantasy films of the time, it takes a high camp approach with tongue firmly in cheek, getting high quality theatre actors to deliver large helpingsof ham. It is also one of the earliest science fiction or fantasy films to have a rock soundtrack, in this case by Queen.Its actual financial success was pants. The only country where it really made it big was the UK, the same country that invented pantomime, wry humour and the band Queen, who did the soundtrack. But it was Vindicated by Cable in The Eighties, and became a Cult Classic (to the point that it figures into the plot of Seth MacFarlane's Ted, along with the soundtrack by Queen).Herewith a rundown of the plot, courtesy of the dialogue sampled for the title track of the soundtrack album (by Queen):
"Seemingly there is no reason for these extraordinary intergalactic upsets. Only Dr Hans Zarkov, formerly at NASA, has provided any explanation... This morning's unprecedented solar eclipse is no cause for alarm." "What's happening, Flash?" "Strange object imaged in the Imperial Vortex." "General Kala — Flash Gordon approaching." "What do you mean, 'Flash Gordon approaching'?! ...Open fire! All weapons! ...Dispatch War Rocket Ajax to bring back his body!" "GORDON'S ALIVE?!!" ... ive...ive "Flash! Flash, I love you, but we only have fourteen hours to save the Earth!"
Ming bleeds green, although his daughter Princess Aura doesn't.
General Kala has black blood.
After Ming stabs Prince Thun, bright blue blood can be seen on the sword.
Aliens Speaking English: Apparently Mongo is an English-speaking world group. The novelization explains that the Mongian language was beamed into our heroes' heads during their trip through the vortex.
Ambiguously Jewish: Dr. Hans Zarkov is never stated outright to be Jewish, although his memories, seen when Ming's secret police attempts to erase them, and his reference to his study of the Talmud as the reason why that attempt failed, make it pretty clear. Plus, he's played by Chaim Topol. Interestingly, he is also Herr Doktor.
Monitor: Hail Flash Gordon. You saved your Earth. Have a nice day.
Flash:(tossing away his sword)YEAH!!!!!!!!
Queen soundtrack:(STAND FOR EVERY ONE OF US!)
Blatant Lies: During Princess Aura's torture/interrogation, General Kala...who's basically a Dominatrix...is whipping Aura's back while the Dr. Doom-ish Stalker with a Crush, Klytus, is grabbing Aura's hair and yelling at her. Quoth Kala, "Tell us! And we wont hurt you no more! We don't like doing this at all! ". Suuuuuuurrrrrrreeeee.....
Black Guy Dies First: Prince Thun. The only black speaking character, whose only brief scene, early on, consists of getting skewered with his sword by Ming.
Bond Villain Stupidity: Ming personally meets with Flash after he kills Klytus and, instead of dragging him off, makes him a We Can Rule Together offer if he will serve Ming or else — death. Flash refuses and Ming proceeds to leave him on the floating castle and return to his ship to bomb the castle, giving Flash time to find one of the Hawkmen's flying vehicles.
The Cameo: Richard O'Brien (Riff-Raff) shows up as one of the Arboreans. This is, presumably, how he knows about Flash Gordon being there in silver underwear.
Camp: The film's scriptwriter was Lorenzo Semple, Jr., who wrote scripts for and was Executive Script Director of the 1960s Batman TV series.
Cat Fight: Princess Aura (after her Heel-Face Turn) and Dale Arden, much to the amusement of everybody watching. Half of it is a pillow fight, too.
Also, when Dale's captive in Ming's bedroom, she is served a drink that makes her "time with Ming more agreeable". It's also apparently alcoholic. As part of her escape plan, she talks a handmaiden into drinking the stuff until she passes out with, "C'mon! this is quality stuff!".
The End... Or Is It?: The film ends with a close-up of Ming's ring, lying where it fell as he died — then a gloved hand picks it up, Ming's laughter is heard, and the words THE END? appear. HA HA HA HA HA HA!!!
As it turns out, they originally had three films planned, with a script for the second and a treatment for the third, but after the first bombed so badly at the box office, the others were never made.
Enemy Mine: Princes Barin and Vultan hate each other at first. Only Flash is able to convince them to team up and fight Ming.
After the day is won, Vultan is quick to note that Barin is the rightful heir to Mongo, ending any leadership squabbles before they can arise.
Future Spandex: Both General Kala and Princess Aura wear lycra/spandex costumes.
Galactic Conqueror: Ming the Merciless' reveal that he threatens whole star systems with destruction definitely places him on this level. He is also referred to as the Emperor of the Universe and the Galaxy.
Zarkov intends to kill Ming with his pistol ("One life for billions? A fair trade."), but Ming's security bot vaporizes it while in his pocket.
Prince Thun intends one. He fails.
Flash intends one, piloting War Rocket Ajax into Ming's ceremony. Even Vultan thinks Flash will be a martyr, pronouncing that today would forever be known as Flash Gordon's Day. Flash quotes Zarkov's earlier line about one life for billions.
Dale: I can't help that. Keeping our word is one of the things that make us better than you.
Human Aliens: The people of Mongo, as well as the Arboreans. This is almost true of the Hawkmen, as well.
Humans Are Special: Aside from Ming viewing them as a threat due to Zarkov attempting to stop the disasters with a single rocketship, the latter also tells Dale he never got brainwashed due to focusing on human songs and thoughts. Hence he was never really under Ming's control later in the film and simply acted as if he was..
It's Up to You: "Flash! I love you, but we only have fourteen hours to save the Earth!"
Join or Die: Emperor Ming offers to let Flash join him and rule the Earth under Ming's control. If he refuses, he will be killed.
Justin Time: To save the Earth — down to the second! Apparently a little impalement did the trick.
Labcoat of Science and Medicine: Zarkov and Munson both have one of these. Given that the science they're engaged in mainly requires looking at radar screens and printouts — except whenever they assembled that rather nifty rocket, which would have been better done wearing overalls — there can be no other reason for their labcoats than to visually label them "scientists."
Lampshade Hanging: When Flash declares that he needs to save his friends and stop Ming, Princess Aura snarks about him saying that to Ming's daughter.
Large Ham: Enough ham to end hunger in a medium sized third world nation. Special mention goes out to BRIAN BLESSED's Prince Vultan.
Laser-Guided Karma: Vultan's refusal to help Flash ends up with his city being destroyed and forcing him into exile in his hated enemy Barin's planet.
Last Request: Klytus asks if Flash has "any final requests" before his execution.
Moral Event Horizoninvoked: In-universe. Aura states that she never truly understood how evil her father was til he allowed Klytus to torture her, especially considering Klytus was Aura's Stalker with a Crush who was getting some petty revenge for her sleeping with everyone but him.
The real tipping point appears to be Ming allowing Klytus to use creatures called "Bore Worms" on her. Until that point, she was more angry than frightened about the whole incident.
Murder the Hypotenuse: Barin's reason for entrapping Flash into a deadly ritual. He realizes he underestimed Flash after he successfully passes the test twice, refuses to keep alternating with Flash - essentially forcing him to to the test over and over til he dies.
Never Trust a Trailer: The trailer makes it look like Ming faces off with Flash using his ring. In the film he just turns it on himself and is vaporized.
Nice Job Breaking It, Hero: Ming claims to only destroy planets that are advanced enough to realize his attacks aren't natural disasters. If his claim is true, and he's not just doing whatever he feels like, it's Zarkov's own attempt to contact whoever was launching the attacks that nearly dooms the Earth.
Nice Job Fixing It, Villain: General Kala orders Zarkov to be programmed with high-level information about Mongo's technology and security systems, thus equipping him with all the knowledge he'll need to assist the revolution. Downplayed in that he was getting information programmed into his mind anyway, just not as much (the programming is literally numbered, and Kala was told to use a lower number rather than not programming Zarkov at all).
Not So Different: When Klytus is probing Hans Zarkov's brain to learn more about humans, he sees images of Adolf Hitler and World War II. He then comments that "now... he had potential" as he watches those scenes play out.
Psychic Static: Dr. Zarkov uses this tactic to resist memory draining.
Zarkov: As I was going under, I started to recite Shakespeare, The Talmud, the formulas of Einstein, anything I could remember, even a song from The Beatles. It armored me, girl. They couldn't wipe those things away. You can't beat the human spirit.
The Cake Is a Lie: Ming promised Dale that if she married him, he would spare Barin & Zarkov (Flash was presumed to be killed when Ming blew up the Hawkmen's floating city). However, during the wedding, General Kala broadcasts to the people of Mongo that "all channels" will show "for your entertainment" the execution of Barin & Zarkov.
Trapped in Another World: Dale, Flash and Zarkov are brought to Mongo where they save the Earth. In the end, they are still in Mongo and Dale asks if they'll ever get home. "I don't know but we'll try," says Zarkov. Barin instead offers for them to stay.
Villainous Rescue: Barin saves Flash from being eaten by a swamp creature so he can off him.
Watching the Reflection Undress: In the scene after Flash is revived, Princess Aura tells him to change into a noble's uniform and turns around. However, she uses a mirror to watch Flash while he undresses.
Aura's torture before the bore worms got in on the action.
What Is This Thing You Call Love?: Basic human emotions have been driven out of Mongo by Ming, where honor, justice, even crying have been forgotten and replaced by constant violent bickering and infighting, stirred up by Ming.
Aura: Look! Water is leaking from her eyes!
Ming: It's what they call "tears". It's a sign of their weakness.