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Marc Mason is a freelance writer based in Tempe, AZ.

Monday, September 06, 2004  

I was sick one day last week, and I couldn’t help myself. I suppose that means I was sick in two ways.

Flipping through the program guide, daytime was its usual wasteland of shitball programming. But crossing through the movies section, one listing jumped out at me: FLASH GORDON. Yes, that one. The horrible, cheesy, piece of shit sci-fi “classic” from 1981. Featuring the acting “talents” of Sam J. Jones and Melody Anderson.

I couldn’t turn it on fast enough.

When it came out, I loved it without reason. Somehow the horrible acting, witless plot, garish sets, and laughable special effects whizzed right past me. Max Von Sydow slumming his way through the scenes, trying his best not to laugh about the fact he’s stuck in that turkey. Brian Blessed chewing the scenery like he hasn’t been fed in weeks. Topol offering up enough ham to feed New York at Easter. A pre-Bond Tim Dalton doing his best to play the film seriously and praying it doesn’t take his career down the tubes. It’s brilliant in its badness.

Seeing it now, not only are those things magnified to the viewer, but also the sheer level of monetary waste and skimping is amazing. Where the special effects look like they cost about $6.99, the ornate costuming is stunning. Each world of Mongo has differently dressed natives, but none quite so well dressed as Ming’s local subjects and concubines. Apparently the production spent the majority of its budget on silk and sparkles. I suppose that ensured that erections-a-plenty would spring up in their teenage audience and bring them back for repeated viewings.

I have no idea if that worked.

Still, it was worth the two hours to walk down that nostalgic path. And yes, I will admit, I giggled like a kid more than once, and not only because of how bad the film is. It’s instructive to go back and look at the things that helped us along on our way into becoming who we are and developing our tastes. Sometimes, it’s the best way to make sure we don’t make the same mistakes and regurgitate the meal.

4:12 PM

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