Blu-ray Review HTF BLU-RAY REVIEW: Flash Gordon

Discussion in 'Blu-ray and UHD' started by Kevin EK, Jun 23, 2010.

  1. Kevin EK

    Kevin EK Producer
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    FLASH GORDON


    Studio: Universal

    Year: 1980

    Length:  1 hr 52 mins

    Genre: Science Fiction/Fantasy/Comedy


    Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1


    BD Resolution: 1080p

    BD Video Codec: VC-1 (@ an average 20 mbps)

    Color/B&W: Color


    Audio:

    English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 (@ an average 3.5 mbps)


    Subtitles: English SDH, French, Spanish


    Film Rating: PG (Mild Violence, Heavy Camp)


    Release Date: June 15, 2010


    Starring:  Sam J. Jones, Melody Anderson, Ornella Muti, Max von Sydow, Topol, Timothy Dalton, Mariangela Melato, Brian Blessed and Peter Wyngarde


    Screenplay by:  Lorenzo Semple, Jr.

    Produced by:  Dino de Laurentiis

    Directed by: Mike Hodges


    Film Rating:    2 ½/5


    Three years ago, I wrote the DVD review for the standard definition “Saviour of the Universe” edition, which has now been upgraded to Blu-ray, with high definition picture and sound transfers to go with the extras from the 2007 edition.  At the same time, the plentiful extras from the European editions of this title, such as commentaries by the director and by actor Brian Blessed, are still not included here.  (And I should note that there is a Region B release coming later this year that will include the director’s commentary and other extras, so if you’re reading this review from the UK, you might keep your eyes open for that.)   But the disc at hand is a Blu-ray edition of what I previously reviewed.  For this reason, I will quote from my earlier review where appropriate, and I include the link to that thread here for your perusal.      http://www.hometheaterforum.com/forum/thread/260623/htf-review-flash-gordon-the-saviour-of-the-universe-edition



    Flash Gordon is a fairly enjoyable romp, with deliberately campy dialogue and design work throughout – effectively restaging the old black and white serial adventures in a lavishly colored environment. The acting is highly reminiscent of the old serials, and the plot pulls many elements from there, but there are a few surprises here and there. While the performances are primarily bold-faced high camp (Brian Blessed stands out in the crowd for an especially enthusiastic contribution) and the sets and costumes are gloriously artificial, the film still dazzles with the sheer amount of rich colors on display. I have not seen a film so full of bold reds, greens and even blues since The Wizard of Oz, to which it actually feels a bit similar.

    Flash Gordon has been on DVD previously in this region, most particularly in the “Saviour of the Universe” edition, which featured remastered picture and 5.1 sound. The new Blu-ray preserves the extras from the “Saviour of the Universe” edition, including an interview with Alex Ross, and one with writer Lorenzo Semple, Jr., as well as the first episode of the first serial, and an unrestored trailer. 
    Further Blu-ray functionality is also part of the package, including the My Scenes bookmarking function.



    VIDEO QUALITY   3 ½/5

    Flash Gordon is presented in a 1080p VC-1 2.35:1 transfer that improves on the prior SD release with deeper, more vibrant colors, and greater detail.  If anything, the colors are so vibrant that they become garish after extended time viewing them.  As others have noted, the sheer abundance of reds and greens can become difficult to watch after a while, even though this is the intended effect.   I should note that I am watching the film on a 40” Sony XBR2 HDTV. If anyone is watching the film on a larger monitor and is having issues, please post them on this thread.



    AUDIO QUALITY   3 ½/5

    Flash Gordon is presented in an English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix in English.  As with the prior SD edition, there is only an English language track on the Blu-ray.  It’s a solid mix, mostly found in the front channels, but with a definite subwoofer heartbeat as the Queen soundtrack pulses through all the speakers.


    SPECIAL FEATURES      2 ½/5

    The Blu-Ray presentation of Flash Gordon comes with the usual BD-Live connectivity and My Scenes functionality.  The other extras are pulled directly from the prior SD edition (The one extra not included is a brief teaser trailer for the then-current “Flash Gordon” television series), so I’ll quote my summary of them here:


    • Alex Ross, Renowned Comic Artist, on FLASH GORDON- (Non-anamorphic, 480p) (13:29) - This is a brief non-anamorphic interview with Alex Ross, intercut with footage from the film, and shots of him doing the sketches and artwork that appear on and in the DVD packaging. Ross is clearly a big fan of the film, viewing it as, among other things, a rock opera. The only issue here is that Ross has no real connection to the film other than drawing the artwork for the new release – so all he can offer is his praise of the movie. It’s nice to see the footage of him working, but there’s not a lot of meat here.
    • Writing a Classic: Screenwriter Lorenzo Semple, Jr.– (Non-anamorphic, 480p) (9:16) Lorenzo Semple, Jr. is interviewed about the script in this brief non-anamorphic featurette. Semple talks about working with Dino de Laurentis, and the challenge of writing an English script for an Italian producer who would wind up reading Semple’s work via a bad translation. The one factor to this interview that makes it a bit more interesting is that Semple is a fairly acerbic personality. Rather than offer the usual platitudes of affection for the project or the filmmakers, Semple very plainly says what he thinks and feels about the process of writing this script. Not all of it is totally complimentary, but it feels like he’s just calling it how he sees it.
    • Flash Gordon 1936 Serial Episode– (Non-anamorphic Full Frame, 480p) (20:44) – One pleasant item included with the package is the first episode of the first Flash Gordon serial. It’s a lot of fun, and there are a surprising amount of plot points and style points that are echoed in the 1980 film.
    • Original Trailer (Non-anamorphic, 480p) (2:01) – An unrestored trailer for the film is included with the other goodies. It has been edited in much the same fashion as the film, and punctuated with the title song by Queen. The trailer is showing its age, but it serves as a pretty good barometer of what has been restored for this edition.

    BD-Live - The more general BD-Live screen is accessible via the menu, which makes various online materials available, including tickers, trailers and special events. 


    My Scenes - The usual bookmarking feature is included here.


    The film and the special features are subtitled in English, French and Spanish.  The usual pop-up menu is present, along with a complete chapter menu. 



    IN THE END...

    Flash Gordon continues its post-theatrical life as a camp classic with this new release, which gives its fans high definition picture and sound transfers to go with the extras seen in the prior edition.  I still can’t say that the script, acting and directing here appeal to my taste, but I recognize there are many fans for whom this film continues to be a lot of fun.  If the fans already have this title, I recommend a rental to see how they enjoy the HD transfers.  If they have not owned the title already in this region, then this will likely be a happy purchase. 


    Kevin Koster

    June 23, 2010.

     
  2. Worth

    Worth Screenwriter

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    The Universal disc has a fair bit of DNR and EE, as is their wont these days. It's not quite as bad as something like Spartacus, but it still has a pretty processed, unnatural look to it, especially when compared to something like Dune.


    I have the European Studio Canal release, as well. It has it's own issues - contrast is weak and black levels are elevated - but because it looks more filmlike than the Universal disc, I prefer it overall.
     
  3. Kevin EK

    Kevin EK Producer
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    Thank you Nick. This is the reason that I specify that I am looking at the movie on a 40" monitor and not a 60". (This may be changing in another month, but I'll post that when it happens.)


    The main thing that strikes me about this film, and the transfer, is the color - which jumped at me with a lot more aggression than on the SD release. I can see evidence of some EE in places like the spaceship crash in the opening reels, but I wasn't certain how much of this was EE and how much of this was simply reflecting the rotoscope work from the time.


    The European release you're looking at isn't a version of the Region B release coming in August, is it? Either way, does it contain any of the European extras not found in the US releases?
     
  4. Worth

    Worth Screenwriter

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    It's such a bright, garish, cartoony film that the DNR and EE doesn't seem to hurt it quite as much as it would another title.


    The European disc was a German import - I believe it's coming to the UK in August. It should be identical, though, as Studio Canal seems to make one disc for every territory.


    It has an interview with director Mike Hodges and a commentary track from him, as well. I think the old UK DVD had some additional extras that weren't carried over to the blu-ray.
     
  5. Kevin EK

    Kevin EK Producer
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    There is a commentary out there from Brian Blessed, presumably to let people know that "Gordon's Alive!" (Sorry, couldn't resist). But there is a Blessed commentary, along with a photo gallery and an anamorphic trailer, all of which were included with the Silver Anniversary R2 DVD. The upcoming Region B Blu-ray in Europe also comes with a separate CD of the Queen soundtrack to boot.


    And you're right, this is one garish title. There are moments where the amount of color is truly overwhelming.
     
  6. Steve Christou

    Steve Christou Long Member

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    "Diiiiiiive!" The Brian Blessed commentary was hilarious and he couldn't stop laughing at every scene.
     
  7. Steve Christou

    Steve Christou Long Member

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  8. John_S

    John_S Stunt Coordinator

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    I love this movie and I'm thrilled it's on blu-ray! I screened it the other night and was thrilled- I think it looks quite good.
     
  9. SilverWook

    SilverWook Cinematographer

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    Sorry to bump this up, but thought it was a good place to ask about a movie still of Max Von Sydow as Ming I spotted on Ebay.


    http://cgi.ebay.com/Flash-Gordon-1980-VINTAGE-Photo-/300435090480?cmd=ViewItem&pt=Art_Photo_Images&hash=item45f353ac30


    Is this from a deleted scene? I don't recall seeing anything remotely resembling this set in the movie!
     
  10. Worth

    Worth Screenwriter

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    It's probably just a publicity photo shot on the set between takes.
     
  11. Stephen_J_H

    Stephen_J_H All Things Film Junkie
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    Back to the subject of the Studio Canal release--is it region free?
     
  12. Worth

    Worth Screenwriter

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    It's region B locked.
     
  13. Steve Christou

    Steve Christou Long Member

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    Interesting, maybe a deleted scene or just a publicity shot, that is Max [squints] isn't it?
     
  14. Fritz Nilsen

    Fritz Nilsen Second Unit

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    Hmm... IS it Max Von Sydow?


    I dunno. Could this be something from one of the Flash Gordon serials? (Never seen them, I'm ashamed to admit).


    I uploaded the image here for future reference.


    [​IMG]
     
  15. SilverWook

    SilverWook Cinematographer

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    I have all the serials on DVD. (Been a fan of those ever since they aired on tv in the wake of Star Wars mania in the 70's.) There are no sets this macabre in any of them. And I can tell Max Von Sydow from Charles Middleton.
     
  16. Sam Favate

    Sam Favate Producer

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    Just a heads-up that this is being released on blu-ray in a steelbook edition (through Target) in late July. I haven't seen any news about it, but it is up on the Target web site. I wonder if a general blu-ray re-release is far behind?
     
  17. Sam Favate

    Sam Favate Producer

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    Recently watched this, projected on a 108" screen. I thought the image looked very nice; no complaints. In watching the first chapter of the serial that's included on this disc, I was struck by how closely the movie followed the serial, down to the look of the sets. Very impressive. It remains an enjoyable space adventure, a bit of fun to come from the post-Star Wars movie era.
     
    Bob Cashill likes this.

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