Sunday, 3 February 2008

Graeme's Retro Classics! 'Flash Gordon' (1954-55)

If you're anything like me there's a cynical voice in your head that always interrupts every time you're watching a TV show or movie. Sample 'rants' will generally include such gems as 'that doesn't even look real', 'that looks more like a deserted quarry than an alien planet' (one for the old-school Dr. Who fans) and 'they've blown the entire budget on getting the cast and completely forgotten about the special effects'... We've all been there and it's seldom pretty.
This was the case with me until a couple of days ago when I was reminded that although there is room for improvement things could be a lot worse... Let me take you back to a time when everything was in black and white, a time where the main reason that space was coloured black was so that you wouldn't notice the strings holding up the spaceships. We're talking about a time when heroes were so heroic they forgot to check behind them for enemies and a disembodied voice provided commentary just in case the viewers forgot who the bad guys were (Hint: they were the ones with foreign accents). Yes I'm talking about the TV series of 'Flash Gordon' that ran between 1954 and 1955, and a series that achieves 'retro classic' status by being so bad that it's actually very good. The fact that you can pick these DVDs up for 33p on Amazon is a sure sign that this series is the poorer relation of the Buster Crabbe 'Flash Gordon' shows. Steve Holland does a good job of looking like Flash Gordon (on his mission to rid the universe of evil on behalf of the Galactic Bureau of Investigation) but his acting isn't quite so good and that's saying something. In his defense though, nobody else's acting is any good either... Every planet that Flash lands on looks the same as the last and that pretty much goes for the sets as well. The only thing that really saved it for me was that, despite the wooden acting, the actors really look like they're going for it and making the best of a bad job with a naivety that seems typical of an age when television was in it's infancy.
On the face of it, the 'Flash Gordon' TV series doesn't do an awful lot else than remind us that even bad CGI is still a whole lot better than things used to be. I'd say give it a go though. Each story is refreshingly simple and gets to the point with no fuss and at least one guaranteed cliff hanger during the course of the episode. And it's in space! :o) At the end of the day, what more do you want?

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