When Universal finally issued a new “Flash Gordon” DVD in August 2007, it was shockingly bereft of supplemental features. The studio cobbled together only a smattering of voices to chat up the film, but where were Sam J. Jones and Melody Anderson? Surely the stars of the picture would hope to contribute their thoughts on a film that christened them cult figures, continues to fund their bank accounts through convention appearances, and gave them life as both heterosexual and homosexual focal points?
Well, it appears both actors wanted to participate, but they also wanted some compensation for their time, and Universal wasn’t going to indulge those dreams. Instead the studio poined up for “superfan” Alex Ross and crusty screenwriter Lorenzo “Abe Simpson” Semple Jr. to flesh out the “Gordon” event. The DVD included a wonderful presentation of the picture (where’s the Blu-ray?), but as a special edition, it was a monumental letdown.
Sadly, if you’re a “Gordon” maniac like me, piecing together an accurate overview of the film’s history is a challenging and a somewhat expensive proposition. U.K. and French DVDs provided audio commentary tracks from director Mike Hodges and a spellbinding chat with actor Brian Blessed (Prince Vultan), while also including a handful of production photographs. It’s all well and good, but still not as meaty a remembrance as a fan would like.
An additional piece of the puzzle recently dropped into my field of vision, and I’m almost embarrassed to write that I had absolutely no idea it existed. As a middle-finger to Universal, Jones and Anderson sat down and recorded an audio commentary track way back in December for a site called “Big Kev’s Geek Stuff.” I have no idea who Big Kev is, and after listening to the track, he doesn’t seem like much of a geek, but I give the guy credit for chasing down these actors and allowing them a forum to share some anecdotes on the making of this wonderfully odd, glittery masterpiece.
Now, I’ve sat through my fair share of commentaries, and I usually break them down into these categories: Technical (lots of info, straight to the point, informative), Conversational (focused on humor and keeping the discussion moving, making for a great viewing pal), Obnoxious (pushing gags instead of information), and Clueless (participants have no idea what a commentary is for, often ask, “I hope I’m not ruining the movie by talking over it.”).
The Jones/Anderson track I would classify as a blend of Clueless and Obnoxious, but still remains somewhat pleasurable. Just having the actors in the same room discussing “Flash Gordon” is enough for a nerd contact high, but they don’t receive enough direction from Big Kev, and they often flounder trying to come off hi-larious. Anderson is the main offender here, reprimanding the guys in the room who inquire about set details (she clings to this overextended joke that the film is “real”), complains that stories offered on upcoming scenes are ruining the surprises (lady, everyone has seen the film already!), comically demands silence during her close-ups, and scolds Jones for launching into interesting stories on life off the set. Of course, it’s her way of being adorable, so I’ll try to contain my resentment, but it’s obvious to me Anderson has no idea what a commentary is supposed to offer.
Jones is a little more entertaining when he’s allowed a moment to pipe up, and the two actors have a delightfully friendly, sibling-like relationship that’s amusing to listen to. Here are some of the highlights of the track:
- Anderson claims she was hired the day before principal photography began.
- Big Kev reveals interesting details on a few deleted scenes.
- Discussing the character Dr. Hans Zarkov, Anderson keeps referring to actor Topol as “Hands” Zarkov, without ever explaining the joke. I can only imagine what she’s referring to.
- It seems Jones suggested the famous “football fight” sequence. It was originally written as a straight-up brawl.
- Andy Warhol was a huge fan of “Gordon.”
- Jones mentions a few acting tips handed to him by the masterful Max von Sydow.
- Big Kev takes some time to point out “pet peeve” mistakes during the movie, only to reveal himself as the world’s least observant filmgoer.
- Jones talks briefly about the troubles he faced after shooting wrapped, which alienated him from the post-production process, leading to his voice being dubbed by another actor.
- Jones also states he was signed up for seven “Gordon” sequels, while both actors express heavy disappointment they weren’t allowed to return for even one more film.
For any fan of the picture, this track is a worthwhile listen to extract new lumps of info from the making of the movie. Overall, it’s a disappointment, with two actors clearly having a ball watching the picture again after all these years, but offering very little insight on how this complicated film was shaped. Ah well, it’s still a step forward for the “Gordon” universe of information. And it reveals that Melody Anderson is an utterly goofball human being. Who knew?
The audio download will set you back about seven bucks, and can be found here. Again, if you adore the picture, it’s worth the money. At least Jones and Anderson can rest now with a few extra coins on their pocket. There’s also a DVD available for purchase with a video commentary track and a few photos for sale (the stills here are from this disc). While Big Kev might know geek stuff, he’s a complete joke in the customer service department. I would avoid the DVD.
For added “Flash Gordon” celebration value, here’s the rarely-seen teaser trailer for the film:
And here’s the drag queen take on this classic (warning – NSFW):