Flash Gordon: The Greatest Adventure of All
|Flash Gordon: The Greatest Adventure of All|
|Produced by||Norm Prescott
|Written by||Samuel A. Peeples|
|Music by||Ray Ellis
|Editing by||Jim Blodgett|
|Distributed by||King Features Syndicate|
|Release date(s)||August 21, 1982|
|Running time||95 minutes|
It is the time of World War II, Flash Gordon is on a mission in Warsaw which is suffering heavy bombing. He arrives too late and his contact is near death. He has a message for Doctor Zarkov, one word "Mongo" before he dies.
Flash travels to find Zarkov and meets 'girl reporter' Dale Arden also on her way to interview him. They are bombarded by meteorites, damaging their plane, forcing them to bail out. They make a hurried escape, chased by lava flows, they find a secret cave and a rocket ship. Doctor Zarkov having no time for introductions, ushers them on board and they blast off. When safely in flight, he explains he is on a mission to the wandering planet Mongo to convince their rulers to call off their attack on Earth (by force if necessary, using a gravity weapon of his own invention).
Before they can make contact, they are shot down by hostile ships and make a crash landing. After barely surviving a large predator's attack, they are captured by animalistic savages and dragged to a giant idol to be sacrifice, from which they barely escape to the outside. There they meet King Thun of the Lion Men.
Flash and company are forced into battle against Mongo's ruler, Ming the Merciless, his daughter Princess Aura, and his robot army of Metal Men. To help their cause, the heroes lead the formation of an alliance beginning with King Thun, leader of the Lion Men; Prince Barin, leader of Arboria; and King Vultan, ruler of the Hawkmen.
Thun explains Ming is too clever to dominate Earth by force alone, and that he would use the Mongo strategy of 'separate and attack' which Flash notes is the same as the Earth expression 'divide and conquer'. Ming reveals he has secretly given military technology to Hitler.
Ming sends his Mole Men to attack the kingdom of Arboria by destroying the roots of the trees of the forested land. Thanks to Zarkov warning Flash and friends, the attack is repulsed and Flash and his allies use the captured drilling machine to attack Ming's palace. They are overwhelmed by Ming's forces, but Prince Barin insists on his right to a trial by strength. With a flaming sword in hand, Ming duels against Flash in a climactic battle.
As the planet Mongo approaches Earth, they are rocked by quakes threatening to destabilize both planets. To avert the destruction of Earth, they destroy the engine that propels Mongo through space, knowing that without it they will drift though space unable to return to Earth again.
- Robert Ridgely as Flash Gordon
- Diane Pershing as Dale Arden
- Vic Perrin as Ming the Merciless
- Bob Holt as Dr. Hans Zarkov
- David Opatoshu as Prince Vultan
- Melendy Britt as Princess Aura
- Robert Douglas as Prince Barin
- Ted Cassidy as Prince Thun
The original project was produced by Filmation as a made-for-television feature film, partly as a reaction to the mammoth success of Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope in 1977. When NBC saw the finished work, it was decided to turn the work into what became the 1979 Saturday-morning animated TV-series Flash Gordon.
Although the film was developed before the 1979 animated series began, it did not premiere until 1982. In fact, some scenes from the film were used in promotional spots for the coming series the summer before the series began in the fall of 1979. While Filmation's TV-series has become available on DVD, the TV-movie has never become commercially available even to this day, except from occasional off-air bootlegs. The only known commercial releases were by VAP Video in Japan (catalog #67019-128), c. 1983, in both laser disc and NTSC VHS videotape formats and in Bulgaria, where it was released on VHS. The movie also aired numerous times on the "Diema" Channel in the late 90s. In the Japanese release it is presented uncut with the original English voice track, with Japanese subtitles added for its intended audience. At the end of the movie is a trailer for the De Laurentiis live-action movie, as well as trailers for other titles from the VAP Video library at the time. The covers for both versions feature comic-strip panels, using stills taken from the movie. Its last listing was in VAP Video's catalog for 1983.
Apart from the subplot involving Ming passing advanced weapons to Hitler, which is not touched upon in the later animated series, there are several other notable differences that seem to indicate that this animated film was intended for prime time, when parents presumably would be watching also. Those differences include:
- The departure of the trio from Earth to Mongo is depicted. In order to make Zarkov sympathetic from the start, the original story element of him forcing Flash and Dale to board his rocket is changed to him inviting them in when they flee into his hidden laboratory/launch site, threatened by flooding molten lava. In this case, Zarkov's rocket is their only chance of survival and they board without hesitation with Zarkov's apologies that he cannot drop them off before continuing to Mongo. For their part, Flash and Dale understand Zarkov's mission and quickly agree to help him.
- The use of 1939 terrestrial firearms by Flash and Zarkov upon arrival while battling a monster.
- A discussion between Flash and Thun indicating that Ming's Lizard Woman overseers eat human prisoners.
- Mongian firearms that look much more like their terrestrial counterparts than those used in the animated series.
- The clear destruction of the Hawkmen's sky city, whereas in the series it is only captured.
- More revealing costumes, as Flash and Dale Arden's terrestrial clothing gradually disintegrates as well as Zarkov's to a lesser extent upon Mongo. After they are captured by Ming's forces, Dale spends the majority of her time in a belly-dancer-like costume in Ming's harem while Flash does not receive his red and blue uniform until the last 20 minutes of the film.
- Clear reference to killing prior to the final fight between Ming and Flash, as Barin, Vultan and Thun claim their right under the laws of Mongo to trial by combat before they can be put to death.
- The final fight between Ming and Flash involves the use of both pistols and swords by both parties, whereas Flash does not use a pistol and loses his sword rapidly in the animated series.
- Ming's daughter Aura is a much less sympathetic character. The romance between her and Prince Barin is downplayed and at the end she refuses to swear allegiance to him as Regent, resulting in him ordering her imprisonment.
- It is made clear at the end that Flash, Dale and Zarkov will never be able to return to Earth, whereas in the animated series that door is left open.
This movie is regarded to be not only one of the most faithful adaptations of the original Flash Gordon comic strip ever produced, but also one of Filmation's finest overall efforts to this day. This has a lot to do with Filmation's respect for the title - in particular that of Filmation's own Lou Schiemer, who grew up a fan of the original comics and serials and fought hard to secure the animation rights. This stands in stark contrast to the better-known live action film produced by Dino de Laurentiis around the same time, which tended to be not as well acted and more campy in its treatment. 
- Flash Gordon: The Greatest Adventure of All at the Internet Movie Database
- Flash Gordon at Hearst Animation