Arrow Video made the perfect decision to offer Flash Gordon as one of its first 4K UHD discs. The film itself is beautiful and colorful throughout, and it’s a perfect candidate for Arrow’s deluxe treatment of classic films. Arrow’s 4K UHD edition of Flash Gordon is simply the best collection ever assembled to celebrate this important movie, and the film has never looked better.
Mike Hodges’ 1980 film may not be as hip or as well-known as Star Wars, but Flash Gordon perfectly balances the act of paying homage to Alex Raymond’s King Features comic strip and fitting in with all of the classic science fiction/fantasy offerings of the seventies and eighties. Sam Jones’ Flash Gordon, quarterback of the New York Jets, establishes contemporary superhero greatness and reaffirms the motifs of classic hero mythology as he inspires a legion of oppressed people and battles the evil Emperor Ming, played by the venerable Max von Sydow. Flash Gordon‘s tongue is planted firmly in its cheek throughout the film’s run time, and it allows itself to have more fun than some of the other space operas out there. This makes for a carefree, zany viewing experience that fans will want to watch on repeat.
Flash Gordon is known for its stunning use of colors, and Arrow’s 4K UHD edition is simply unreal. Swirling skies, shimmering costuming, and alien environments filled with lush colors pop off the screen. The HDR applied to the film boosts these qualities without straying from the source material. The black levels are perfect, preserving the natural, softer blacks of the familiar earth locations at the start of the film, while boosting high contrast shadows within the confines of high tech space ships. The brand new 4K restoration by Studiocanal comes from the original camera negative, and is approved by director Mike Hodges. The new transfer offers incredible fine details, such as the slimy and grainy consistency of mud and the gorgeous details of the costuming. Items such as the hawkmen’s armored wings reveal subtle details which simply can’t be seen in previous editions of the film. For better or for worse, some of the less convincing costuming which receive limited screen time (such as the silly masks worn by some of the monsters in the jail scene) also receives their close-ups, but their schlocky content will only reinforce the campy nature of the film. Arrow’s transfer is the only way viewers are going to want to watch this movie going forward.
The disc offers optional 5.1 and 2.0 stereo DTS-HD Master audio selections, which adequately service the rockin’ sound design of this film. One can’t think about the Flash Gordon film without hearing the iconic Queen soundtrack in the back of his or her head, and the sound and visual presentation of the disc will keep you tapping your feet throughout the film. Arrow Video even sat down with Queen guitarist Brian May to discuss the recording of the soundtrack of the film in a rare interview.
Other new interviews include sessions with Sam Jones, Melody Anderson, Brian Blessed, composer Howard Blake, and poster designer Renato Casaro. There’s also a new feature on a version of Flash Gordon which was never made, by The Man Who Fell to Earth director Nic Roeg. In addition, Universal Pictures chipped in a plethora of classic interviews and making-of featurettes to round out the package. My personal favorite interview is the one with legendary painter and Flash Gordon fanatic, Alex Ross, who analyzes the mythological and superhero tropes of the film and puts his love and appreciation for the movie in a way no one else can. The limited edition version includes another disc with the 2017 feature-length documentary, Life After Flash, and a variety of quality printed materials. Featuring postcard-sized lobby card reproductions, a fold out movie poster, and a booklet loaded with critical writings about the film by prominent movie buffs, the limited edition set is perfect for the ultimate Flash Gordon fans out there.
Rarely does a 4K UHD package of a classic film hit this many of the right notes when it enters the marketplace. Arrow Video’s 4K UHD of Flash Gordon is the savior of the home video universe!