1980’s cult classic Flash Gordon gets a treat for its 40th birthday, with a lavish remastering for the 4K Ultra HD format. Ah, but is it truly flash, or a bit of a hash?
The story: A long time ago, in a galaxy not far away, a man named George Lucas wanted the rights to make a film about 1930s space opera hero Flash Gordon. But producer Dino De Laurentiis had those rights and wouldn’t give them up, so Lucas went off and made something called Star Wars instead…
In late 1980, Flash Gordon hit cinemas with a whole lot of attention, a lot of it due to its soundtrack by the so-hot-right-then Queen. Dismissed as trashy by those without a sense of fun, the rest of us got to appreciate a super-silly – but super-fun – space adventure about an American football quarterback who aims to save Earth from an intergalactic tyrant with a wicked ‘tache. It owed more to the adventures of Barbarella than Luke Skywalker, and was all the better for it. Best of all, it’s still a hoot today – especially when it looks as good as it does in this new release.
“Flash! I love you, but we only have 14 hours to save the Earth!“
The 4K disc: If you’ve seen any previous home releases of Flash Gordon then you may not believe your eyes when you clap them on this new native 4K transfer. It was created from the original 35mm negative, and then underwent apparently exhaustive restoration – including some tweaking of effects shots, and digitally removing some of the Hawkmen wires because at this resolution they became really obvious. The result, approved by writer/director Mike Hodges, is an amazing experience. Dolby Vision enhancement works wonders with the newly-freed detail of the film, and every single shade of red – and there are a lot of them – bursts to wonderful, poptastic life. Grain is present throughout, and does vary a little, generally becoming more noticeable in effects shots. This being said, we didn’t find it at all obtrusive.
Audio-wise, a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix heads the spec sheet, with an original 2.0 mix thrown in for good measure (note that the disc defaults to the stereo mix). We went for the 5.1 and were very pleased with the result. The sub thumps appropriately, while Queen’s dated but still awesome soundtrack bursts to life. Dialogue is always clear and in all the mix belies the film’s 40 year age.
Extras fans are in for a treat here. The 4K disc includes two commentaries – one with Mike Hodges, the other with Prince Vultan himself, actor Brian Blessed. Featurette-wise there’s the ~28-minute Lost in Space: Nicolas Roeg’s Flash Gordon, which looks at what could have been had Roeg not been fired in favour of Hodges, as well as Behind the Scenes of Flash Gordon, a ~14-minute EPK from back in the day. We also get stills and storyboard galleries, plus the original trailer. Meanwhile, rather than delivering a double-up of the movie, the included standard Blu-ray is jampacked with more extras. There’s too much to mention, but goodies range from interviews with cast and crew to a merch featurette and even a classic episode of the animated Flash Gordon.
Release date: August 26, 2020
Format: 4K Ultra HD
Starring: Sam J. Jones, Melody Anderson, Max Von Sydow
Want to know what to get next? Check out STACK‘s 4K Ultra HD specifications guide.