Here is a book 40 years in the making. The Dino De Laurentiis production of “Flash Gordon” was released on December 8, 1980 in North America. It’s first weekend at the box office was on par with then recent blockbuster “The Empire Strikes Back” which was the first sequel in the Star Wars saga.
The Alex Raymond comic strip was a different cinematic animal. Flash Gordon’s universe had existed since the 1930’s. The makers of this film decided the project would be an update of the look and nature of a 1930’s comic hero into one that fit 1980. An approach that allowed shades of camp and fun to weave the fabric the production would build itself upon.
What makes this book special is that the love audiences have for it has increased over the decades. Among cult films this one stands pretty tall. For me this is my Rocky Horror or Escape From New York.
Bob Lindenmayer is a private collector of Flash Gordon props and memorabilia. His collection is considered the largest in the world. He contributed images of every prop weapon used in filming. The secrets of how to achieve on screen dimensions from the flat but colorful pages of illustrations is truly amazing to see unfold here.
Because Flash Gordon is a product of both English and Italian production teams the book delves into the process of casting, costuming, set design, storyboarding, construction, scoring, writing, editing, and directing such a challenging work.
You will learn a lot of names associated with the film who made crucial contributions to why it has endured for 40 years in the hearts of millions of film lovers around the world.
Lawrence Noble is the American sculptor who created the Flash Gordon logo that adorned Richard Amsel’s theatrical poster and the cover of Queen’s soundtrack album. We discover other notable work he did for film including the poster for “Time After Time”, a time travel fantasy about H.G. Wells attempt to capture Jack The Ripper. He also created the 10th Anniversary release poster for “The Empire Strikes Back”.
The memorable opening titles of the film set the mood, tone, and style for what was to come. Richard and Bob Greenberg created the animation for this sequence and the dazzling energy curtain that drapes Mingo City at the film’s climax. R/Greenberg associates based in New York had provided such animation mainly to commercials. The Flash Gordon team loved their work so much they were asked to work on Flash.
Filled with elements that were never used in the film you can enjoy the struggle of making such an epic scale film as a fan of the work. This book makes it possible. You get a close look at everything that went wrong as well as the fast pace of production. Time is money. Sets were built that went unused. There is a great section showing storyboarded scenes that were too costly to shoot.
Frank Van der Veer had worked on the DeLaurentiis production of “King Kong” so he was quite experienced as a special effects master. For Flash Gordon Van der Veer and his team had nine months to create 600 composite social effects shots ahead of their Christmas release date!
The book has many wonderful moments to share. The last one I will detail here involves the choice of Queen to score the film. Originally, Pink Floyd were chosen by Dino De Laurentiis. On the day Queen visited the set the music playing was Pink Floyd.
After seeing rough dailies of the film each member of the group decided what they wanted to compose. Guitarist/Vocalist/Songwriter Brian May was adamant about writing the films opening theme. And so it went with each member of Queen coming in separately to do their portion of the soundtrack. Their music was a total of 45 minutes of screen time. The rest would be composed by Howard Blake who had to come up with orchestrations in a period of just weeks.
The efforts and sacrifice of every artisan involved with this film has been embraced by millions of fans over the past 40 years. Cheers to Titan Books for publishing it.
You will indeed have as much fun reading through this book and taking in all of the eye-popping imagery as you did with the film itself. Flash, A-ahhh! Such a good time.