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)
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.
June 23, 2010.