FLASH GORDON SAVIOUR OF THE UNIVERSE EDITION Studio: Universal Original Release: 1980 Length: 1 hour 52 mins Genre: Science Fiction/Fantasy/Comedy Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1 Anamorphic Colour/B&W: Colour Audio: English Dolby Digital 5.1 Subtitles: English SDH, Spanish, French Rating: PG Release Date: Aug 7, 2007 Rating: ½ / Starring: Sam J. Jones, Melody Anderson, Daniella Muti, Max von Sydow, Timothy Dalton and Mariangela Melato Written by: Lorenzo Semple, Jr. Directed by: Mike Hodges Flash Gordon arrives in a new DVD edition, with a digitally restored picture and soundtrack, and a few extras to boot. The film itself 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 (back in 1998), but I don’t believe the prior release was anamorphic. Also, the prior release featured a 2.0 soundtrack, while the new release has remastered 5.1 sound. While the film has been released in other regions with more extensive special features, including commentaries with the director and Brian Blessed, the new release does not contain these features. Instead, the new “Saviour of the Universe” edition includes exclusive Alex Ross artwork both on the cover and box art, but also on a collectable postcard contained in the case. An interview with Alex Ross has also been included, along with writer Lorenzo Semple, Jr., as well as the first episode of the first serial, an unrestored trailer, and a 14 second title tease of the new Sci-Fi channel series. VIDEO QUALITY: 4/5 Flash Gordon is presented in a vibrantly colorful anamorphic 2.35:1 transfer. This was a pleasure to behold – the colors are solid and extremely rich throughout and the black levels are deep. This transfer alone is a good reason to pick up this disc, especially if you’re already a fan of the movie. AUDIO QUALITY: 3/5 Flash Gordon is presented in a Dolby Digital 5.1 English mix. No other languages are available. The mix itself is okay – the surround channels really just get used for the Queen music that fills the movie. There’s a little more activity in the battle sequences that pop up throughout, but it’s pretty clear that it’s a 2.0 mix that’s just been given a little TLC. SPECIAL FEATURES: 2.5/5 ½ Flash Gordon has a few special features, but nothing approaching the R2 “Silver Anniversary” release that many collectors here are still talking about. Alex Ross, Renowned Comic Artist, on FLASH GORDON - (Non-anamorphic) (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) (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) (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 (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. FLASH GORDON SciFi Channel TV Show Trailer(Non-anamorphic) (0:14) – This trailer for the new TV series runs a total of 14 seconds – just enough to show the title card. The timing of the release of this DVD would seem to be in connection to the new series’ debut. Subtitles are available in English, French and Spanish for the film itself, as well as for the special features. A standard chapter menu is included for quick reference. And a special postcard of Alex Ross artwork has been included. This last item, plus the decorated DVD case itself would seem to be the primary collectable aspect of this release. IN THE END... Flash Gordon gives new definition to the term “Camp Classic”. The film boldly goes down that road, with results that have delighted some fans while confounding others. For myself, the script and the performances didn’t get me, but the lovely picture and all the colourful creatures certainly made this a more enjoyable experience. Kevin Koster August 8, 2007.