Friday, February 09, 2007

FOOTBALL PLAYERS, ITALIAN ACTRESSES, SCI-FI NOBODIES & DWARVES: NOW WE'RE TALKING

Friday. Ladies and Gents, your Friday Silly Movie Of My Youth Of The Day:

Flash Gordon


Ten to twenty years before Hollywood caught the bug for making semi-campy to completely-campy comic book hero films, Flash Gordon came and went in a blink of an eye. As seems to be the case for most of these Friday flicks, this was a complete bomb when it came out, but has reached "cult movie" status in the ensuing 27 years. Now I'll admit I didn't see it when it was in theaters. But I caught bits and pieces on cable during the 80's, and I figure I've seen the entire movie in some piecemeal way. More importantly, I know I saw the coming attractions when it was in release, and this is an essential point: because, without question, I recall this line, when Flash introduces himself to whichever villain he faces:
Flash Gordon, quarterback, New York Jets.
That's right. Thaaaaaaaat's right. New. York. Jets. And with that, let's set the stage: 1980. I was a Jet fan, a big one, with a capital J (and an E-T-S, if you're so inclined). The real Jets quarterback that season was none other than the Human Pick-Off, Richard Todd, a big, blonde goofball who tossed a whopping 30 interceptions as he led the Jets to a 4-12 record, including a shameful loss to the New Orleans Saints. The same 1980 Saints who sported an 0-14 record before coming into Shea Stadium, one day after my 13th birthday, to earn their sole victory of the season.

(And who quarterbacked the 1980 Saints? Of course, none other than Archie Manning, father of "Super Bowl" Peyton and "Back Foot" Eli. Incidentally, for anyone who cares, the following week saw my Jets beat the hated Dolphins at the Orange Bowl in the famous No Announcers game. And with that mind-numbing array of trivial trivia, that ends the sports portion of our programming.)

Flash Gordon should have been behind center on that squad. So you can imagine why I was excited seeing a coming attraction featuring a big, blonde goofball introducing himself as the Jets quarterback. I was psyched. I was impressed. Yet I still didn't see the movie. Why? I have no idea.

And too bad I didn't, as it actually featured Max von Sidow as Ming the Merciless, and the gorgeous Ornella Muti as his daughter, Princess Aura. It was campily funny, with some cheesy-good lines, and the crazy plot you'd expect from a 1980 remake of a classic movie-adventure series from the 30's, with Flash as a football player. As I said, I never saw it in one sitting, and even then I don't remember thinking much of it either way.

Oh, and did I mention that Queen composed & performed the score? Like I said, it's under the definition of "camp" in the movie dictionary.

And, as always, what an odd cast. Let's get to it:

I mentioned Max von Sidow. I also mentioned Ornella Muti (she'd be the gorgeous one -- I'm serious, do a google image search. Even when she has clothes on, you can see that she's got just an exquisite face. And the rest of her ain't too shabby either). She appeared mostly in Italian films, but somehow she found herself in 1991's ghastly Oscar, as the preposterously-named Sofia Provolone, mother of Lisa Provolone, played by Marisa Tomei. And who directed that disaster? FSMOMYOTD regular, John Landis.

Timothy Dalton, better known as James Bond #4, also appeared in Flash Gordon as Prince Barin. To my surprise, Dalton's acting career extends back to 1967, when he played the King of France in The Lion In Winter. He actually continued in a bunch of classically-themed films right into the early-70's, before branching out. And by the late 70's, the branching was successful as he appeared in an episode of "Charlie's Angels." Following Flash Gordon, he spent the next 7 years doing fussy BBC shit until he somehow got cast as Bond for 1987's The Living Daylights. I'm perplexed.

And so were viewers, apparently, as he did only one more 007 movie, before returning to the Masterpiece Theater-ish gar-bage.

Mariangela Melato, who played "Kala" in Flash Gordon, is best known as the rich bitch who's "tamed" & seduced by Giancarlo Giannini's working-class manliness in Lina Wertmuller's 1974 production of Swept Away. It's an odd movie, with nearly Marxist class-consciousness. It also exhibits a swaggering machismo, best exemplified by the positive view of the way Giannini slaps, hair-pulls, bullies, and fucks Melato into the "real" woman she always wanted to be, underneath her aristocratic trappings. And, as you may have noted, it was directed by a woman. Issues anyone?

It's actually a quality piece of work, even though some of the scenes where Giannini abuses Melato are pretty disturbing. I can't imagine it being on the list of films in a Feminist Theory 101 class. (As we know, Guy Ritchie remade it in 2002 with his wife Madonna in the Melato role, and Giannini's son Adriano as the working-class hero. And that's all I have to say about that.)

In this week's "No Fucking Way!" casting entry, award-winning playwright and screenwriter John Osborne, famous as one of England's "Angry Young Men," and author of Look Back In Anger, somehow managed to find himself in Flash Gordon as "Arborian Priest."

I have no idea.

As longtime fans of the FSMOMYOTD know, there's never been a shortage of midgets & dwarves here. From Charles Silvern in The Warriors, to Felix Silla in The Kentucky Fried Movie, we make sure to save a seat (at the children's table) for the little people. Why? Well, for a lot of reasons, but mostly for shits & giggles, because if you can't laugh at a 3-and-a-half foot tall guy, what can you laugh at?

Well, guess what? Playing "Princess Aura's Pet, Fellini," in Flash Gordon, was none other than Deep Roy, who ended up playing every goddamn Oompah-Loompah in Tim Burton's 2005 version of Willie Wonka. And though -- amazingly -- he didn't play one of those fucking Ewoks, he was in Return of the Jedi, as "Droopy McCool."

Three observations, then we'll move along: (1) Deep Roy would pretty much have to be the name for porn's first dwarf star, wouldn't it?; (2) Playing Ornella Muti's pet doesn't sound like a bad gig at all; and (3) anyone who tries to argue that the 2005 version of Willie Wonka deserves to be MENTIONED in the same sentence as the 1971 original is hereby banned from this site.

(And yes, I'm aware that I just mentioned it in the same sentence, but I can't ban myself from my own blog, now can I? CAN I??? Ok, and since we've settled that, no more on it.)

And you know what? We're not even done with the dwarves! Because in addition to Deep Roy's star turn as Princess Aura's pet, there were ten more dwarf actors who played . . . uhhhh "Dwarves" in Flash Gordon. Among these dwarves? Kenny Baker, who played R2-D2. And the other nine managed to share screen time in Time Bandits, the original Willy Wonka, Jedi, The Dark Crystal, Labyrinth, Roger Rabbit, History of the World, Part I, and just about every other film Hollywood has made that foisted eternal, celluloid humiliation upon these unfortunates.

As I said a few months ago about Felix Silla: it's gotta suck being a dwarf.

And, guess what? It gets even weirder. Richard O'Brien was in Flash Gordon as "Fico." Richard O'Brien, you ask? Ohhhh, you know him. Think of a hump. And a strange way of walking. And maybe just a jump to the left. And then a step to the righ-igh-igh-igh-igh-ight. Put your hands on your . . . yup, Riff Raff. And you may know that O'Brien not only played Frankenfurter's handyman in The Rocky Horror Picture Show, but he wrote its script & music!

I also see that O'Brien made his way into 1998's Dark City, which has a pretty impressive little cast of its own. I didn't see it, but it seemed to be well-received. Anyone? Nevertheless, that's not important here. What is important is that O'Brien played "Mr. Hand" in that one. And as any FSMOMYOTD fan knows, there is only one Mr. Hand, and he was played by Ray Walston, goddamn it!

Aloha, Mr. Hand, indeed! The man's a screen legend, can we let him rest in peace? Jeez, next thing you know some modern-day football player not named Lawrence Taylor is gonna start calling himself LT.

John Morton, who played "Airline Pilot," had the kind of acting career we've come to love & embrace in these posts. He was in a mere six movies, but those included Superman II, The Empire Strikes Back (as Dak, Luke's gunner), A Bridge Too Far (a film that included every actor in the history of film, which is 12 actors less than appeared in 1941), and even a FSMOMYOTD, The Gumball Rally.

Meanwhile, Morton's "Airline Co-Pilot" in Flash Gordon, Burnell Tucker, was also in Empire Strikes Back, as a Rebel Officer, plus the original Star Wars, The Shining, 2001: A Space Odessey, Rollerball, The Omen, and Superman. Oh my.

And, as if we weren't already prepared to drop to our knees in honor of that resume -- uncredited roles & bit parts notwithstanding -- I'd like to point out that he was in Lifeforce. So he got to see Mathilda May walk around naked in person.

Ok, now we can drop to our knees and meditate upon this career. Ohhhhhmmmmmmm.

Wait! Maybe too soon. Get up. Because John Hollis -- Klytus Observer No. 2 in Flash Gordon -- was also in Empire Strikes Back, Superman, and Superman II. But he's dead, unlike Tucker, so maybe Hollis can get a moment of silence as Tucker gets the genuflection. Oh whatever, do whatever the hell you want: kneel down, stand up, touch your toes, remain silent, scream from the rooftops, I don't care. You don't even have to wait for me to say Simon Sez.

(Just don't call anyone other than Lawrence Taylor "LT" and we're cool.)

Finally, we have Derek Lyons. He was uncredited as "Arborian Priest Assistant," meaning he acted with John Osborne in this one. Lyons was a true film nobody who nonetheless seems to have built an entire career playing uncredited parts in a bunch of movies we've all seen: Star Wars, Superman II (of course; that's the recurring theme of the day), Gandhi, The Shining, Quadrophenia, Top Secret!, and 47 others.

And as far as I can tell, he's not even a dwarf. Maybe he even got to play Ornella Muti's "pet" between scenes, without having to be three-foot-six. Who needs "credits" in that case?

38 Comments:

Anonymous Applesaucer said...

"Dark City"

I saw it once, in the theater when it came out, and I didn't like it. However, it's one of those movies that I'd give another chance as it strikes me as a possible "Cable Grower" (i.e., the more I see it on cable, the more I might like it).

10:53 AM  
Blogger Otto Man said...

Brilliant movie. I don't know what's better, the Queen theme song -- "Flash! Ooohoohhh! Savioroftheuniverse!" -- or that scene where Gordon re-enacts the spike the groin scene from "Longest Yard" on Ming's guards.

But you overlooked two of the key actors!

First of all, the guy who played the mad scientist who gets Flash into space, Dr. Hans Zarkov. Not only does the actor have a Madonna-like single name, but it;s the same one as the old smoker's toothpaste -- Topol! Plus, the dude went on to play the local agent sidekick for James Bond in 1981's "For Your Eyes Only." (Suck on that, Dalton!)

Second, the awesomely named Brian Blessed as the winged Prince Vultan. That was an incredible role, chocked full of lines like "Do you want to live forever? Hawkmen! Diiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiivvvvve!!!!" Easily the favorite part of the film for my brother and me.

But I'm with you on Ornella Muti. She was rocking the metal bikini three years before Princess Leia. Rrrow!

11:11 AM  
Anonymous Mike said...

Apple -

possible "Cable Grower" (i.e., the more I see it on cable, the more I might like it)

I knew what you meant, but I think it's probably fortunate (for you & me) that you clarified, especially after the shower & gym shorts comments in yesterday's last post.

Never have so many owed so much to so few words in an "i.e." parenthetical.

Or something like that.

OM -

Good call on Brian Blessed. I "missed" him. But Topol, who we also know as Tevya, wasn't an oversight. He just didn't make the final cut. I have to pick and choose who to include, who to leave out, of these things.

And aren't these posts long enough? Jeez! Should I start addressing even larger portions of the cast??? Do I start calling them the Friday-extending-into-Saturday Silly Movie Of My Youth Of The Day(s)?

11:19 AM  
Blogger Ed in Westchester said...

OK, first things first, the MEDIA calls Thomlinson "LT". He is not afflicted with "Rickey" syndrome, so far as I know, and I have never heard him refer to himself as LT.
Now that that is out of the way,

"Flash, aahaah, he'll save every one of us!"

You have got to love Queen for being able to come up with lyrics like that. In addition to FG, they wrote a number of songs for "Highlander" (starring Christopher Lambert and Sean Connery, as well as Clancy Brown as the "bad guy". This movie deserves a spot here Mike, I suggest you see it, it is from 1986). They also wrote "One Vision" from the immortal "Iron Eagle, starring Lou Gossett Jr. Poor Lou, he got stuck doing IE2, IE3 and IE4. Jason Gedrick appeared in IE1, and then 4, even though he had supposedly died prior to IE2 in the story.

Enough digression. Flash was great camp. I agree, if only he had lined up behind center for our Jets. They night have had a shot. Alas, we were stuck with Tood. Or Matt Robinson. Those were the years. Of pain.

11:29 AM  
Anonymous Mike said...

the MEDIA calls Thomlinson "LT". He is not afflicted with "Rickey" syndrome, so far as I know, and I have never heard him refer to himself as LT.

I know. But that's no fun. Poetic license, Ed. Poetic license.

Iron Eagle. Talk about 1980's High Schlock. Chappy Sinclair, baby.

Those were the years. Of pain.

Not fun times.

11:35 AM  
Anonymous John Royal said...

"FLASH, AWWWAWWW, King of the Universe!"

So, what happened to the career of Sam J. Jones -- what can you do after you've played Flash Gordon? Well, the Jets did need a QB at the time, I guess.

And don't trash Dalton as Bond. He was a huge improvement over Roger Moore, and he wanted to take the movie back to the root of the books, which included making it darker and less gadgety. And "A License to Kill" is nothing but a revenge kill movie -- unfortunately, the Bond audience wasn't ready for a darker Bond at the time, and it wouldn't be ready for nearly 20 years.

And I remember "Dark City" as a good movie that I once rented. But I don't remember much else about it.

12:03 PM  
Anonymous Mike said...

don't trash Dalton as Bond.

I'm not trashing anyone. I never saw this one -- the last Bond flick I saw was View To A Kill, which sucked ass.

Dalton may have been great, I'm just noting that he seemed a strange choice, based on his career to that point.

12:21 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yah rah Brian Blessed! I actually met him at a convention some years ago. He's a short, bellowing, bouncy man with a perpetual crazed grin, got quite raucous at times, lots of fun. He talked about playing Prince Vultan--ran across the stage bellowing his lines: "Dive! Diiiiivvvveee!" Said the harness for the flying scenes damn near, well, unmanned him once or twice.

I remember he said on stage, grinning like an insane person, that he "quite likes ladies" and that "men bore the arse off me." Probably was grinning because the vast majority of the congoers were women, and American women, and he was absolutely in heaven.

Very nice man, if overly loud. Immense amount of presence/energy. Really enjoyed him.

12:21 PM  
Anonymous Mike said...

Anon - What convention was that?

1:05 PM  
Blogger Dwilkers said...

Was a horrible movie, so bad that you sort of had to watch. Like a train wreck.

Except for the gal. She makes the movie worth putting in your Netflix queue all by herself. She's not Audrey Tautou hot, but she's pretty good looking.

1:08 PM  
Anonymous Mike said...

Except for the gal. She makes the movie worth putting in your Netflix queue all by herself. She's not Audrey Tautou hot, but she's pretty good looking.

She's past her prime now, that's for sure. But in 1980, she had it going on at a Tatou level, IMNSHO.

Either one makes the cut. They'd make the baguette vs. Italian bread choice an interesting one when the Mike sandwich gets ordered.

1:13 PM  
Anonymous Applesaucer said...

"[Highlander] deserves a spot here Mike, I suggest you see it, it is from 1986)..."

Ed, I've got bad news for you: Mike will NEVER watch Highlander. Why? Because it's science fiction, which rests atop Mike's Mt. Everest hihh list of "things he will neither watch nor read." Along with cop shows, karate movies, spy novels, non-fiction, plot-driven fiction...

Applesaucer

4:59 PM  
Anonymous Mike said...

science fiction, which rests atop Mike's Mt. Everest hihh list of "things he will neither watch nor read." Along with cop shows, karate movies, spy novels, non-fiction, plot-driven fiction

As he knows from years of rehashing this super-exciting debate, Applewanker is correct about Sci-Fi and Cop shows. The first because there's usually too much sci and not enough fi. The latter because no genre tends to be dumber on a more consistent basis. Spy stories just don't excite me much, what can I say.

But you're completely off-base with non-fiction (which is all I read these days) and karate movies. The latter is fun in a good-stupid kind of way.

And as for fiction, I guess "plot" is just a code word for the chick-lit, page-turners you fancy as you lounge on the beach and sip pina coladas made with Malibu rum.

Keep the sand out of your bikini.

5:12 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Mike, the convention was in Chicago in 1995. Brian was 59 at the time, so geez, he's 70 now.

Now I feel old.

5:45 PM  
Anonymous Toast said...

Halle-fuckin-leujiah, Mike! A FSMOMYOTD that I've seen!

This was one of those movies I caught several times during the 80's on cable when I was home sick from school. Now, admittedly, my memories of it are hazy, but I recall absolutely loving it.

Damn, I might have to add this to our NetFlix queueue.

6:00 PM  
Anonymous Mike said...

Toast -

Now that's funny. I thought of this one as a little bit more obscure than some I've done, so I figured there was NO WAY you'd have seen it.

Though I assumed you like the Jets bit either way.

6:05 PM  
Blogger DED said...

Flash Gordon: Yeah, I saw it in the theaters. And I actually remember it being bad. I can't even remember the good parts (Muti). And now I've got that Queen theme song in my head. Ow!

Dark City: I saw that one too. Weird movie. I remember liking it at the time because it was one of those "let's fuck with reality" kinda movies.

Applewanker is correct about Sci-Fi and Cop shows. The first because there's usually too much sci and not enough fi.

So if I ever get my novel published, that's one less person that'll buy it. Damn.

6:27 PM  
Anonymous Mike said...

DED - I'll buy your novel. Of that you can be sure.

Reading it -- if it's sci-fi -- will be the challenge.

7:39 PM  
Anonymous John Royal said...

Okay, maybe I'm a bit out of the loop here, but Mike states he will never write about sci-fi, while we're here discussing a movie that's classified as science fiction, albeit, very bad science fiction.

8:52 PM  
Anonymous Mike said...

Mike states he will never write about sci-fi, while we're here discussing a movie that's classified as science fiction

Flash Gordon is sci-fi like Star Wars, Close Encounters, The Matrix, and Alien are sci-fi.

10:23 PM  
Anonymous Toast said...

Dude, no sci-fi? Seriously? That's just wrong.

And Highlander is one of the greatest movies of all time.

9:00 AM  
Anonymous Mike said...

Toast - Queen did the soundtrack to that one too? Man, they goty around for a while there.

I like the first two on your list. I haven't seen WOK in many years, but I liked it a lot when I saw it. And I'm not even a trekkie.

And I like The Matrix.

10:59 AM  
Anonymous Mike said...

After re-reading the comments, I realized that Ed mentioned Queen's work on Highlander yesterday.

Sorry Ed, I guess I got dizzy keeping track of all the Iron Eagles.

1:08 PM  
Blogger Mort said...

Ming: Who are you?

Flash Gordon. Quarterback.

Dale Arden, Your Highness. Live and let live, that's my my motto.

I'm Hans Zarkov. I kidnapped them in an effort to save our planet Earth.

Ming: An obscure body, which has given you so much amusement recently.

We're only interested in friendship. Why do you attack us?

Why not?

Pathetic earthlings. Hurling your bodies into the void, without an inkling of who or what is out here. If you knew anything about the Universe, you'd hide from it...

Ming: Remove the Earth woman. Prepare her for our pleasure.

Flash: Forget it, Ming. Dale's with me.

8:12 PM  
Blogger DED said...

Applewanker is correct about Sci-Fi and Cop shows. The first because there's usually too much sci and not enough fi.

and

Flash Gordon is sci-fi like Star Wars, Close Encounters, The Matrix, and Alien are sci-fi.

Ahhhh, I think I understand now. Since Hollywood sci-fi leans more towards fi than sci, you're pretty safe. But with regards to novels, it depends on the author.

DED - I'll buy your novel. Of that you can be sure.

Reading it -- if it's sci-fi -- will be the challenge.


Well, the science certainly doesn't overwhelm the story. It survived a panel of middle aged, suburban, romance novel and "Chicken Soup For the Soul" reading women in my writer's workshop.

10:55 PM  
Anonymous Mike said...

It survived a panel of middle aged, suburban, romance novel and "Chicken Soup For the Soul" reading women in my writer's workshop.

Did you add a romantic subplot?

7:15 AM  
Blogger Mr Furious said...

Which came first Flash Gordon or Strange Brew? Either way, it was the one-two punch that destroyed Max Von Sydow's credibility.

OT: The fucking word verification is gettin gout of hand. Eight letters every damn time!

@#%#@&!

12:40 AM  
Anonymous Mike said...

I'm pretty sure Flash pre-dated Strange Brew.

But we should ask Geddy, to make sure.

1:20 AM  
Blogger DED said...

Did you add a romantic subplot?

LOL. Well, sorta. The main character has a rocky relationship that he tries to get sorted out but I certainly wouldn't call it "romantic."

I gave the Gedster a call. He says that yes, Flash predated Strange Brew by three years. He also said that Max Von Sydow is a total hoser.

6:20 PM  
Anonymous Derek Lyons said...

Hello Mike, perhaps you could give me your email address, and then I can pass it to my lawyer, who I am sure is not so bored with his job that he defames people on his blog. Looking forward to getting the info ASAP.

All the best,
Derek Lyons

3:38 AM  
Blogger Mike said...

Defaming?!

Assuming I'm actually speaking to Derek Lyons now (unsafe assumption), I think I've spoken quite reverentially about you, sir.

Lighten up, big guy.

7:08 AM  
Anonymous DEREK LYONS said...

I can assure you, that my children who found your blog about me, found the description 'true film nobody' not very reverential at all.

Kind regards,
Derek Lyons

10:29 AM  
Blogger Mike said...

Derek (assuming once again, that's who I'm speaking to)-

Sorry if I did anything to hurt your children. Though I'm quite confident they'll recover.

As to your film career, I'm quite envious of the films you've "appeared" in, and the actors and directors you've ostensibly met. Legitimate & sincere kudos for that.

But unless I'm misunderstanding your IMDB profile, what else should I call a man who's appeared as uncredited extras in all these films, if not "true film nobody." Other than me and your children, who even knows who you are?

And deep down I suspect nothing I've said would hurt your children unless you've been spinning tall tales. Someday they'll thank me for setting them straight.

10:36 AM  
Anonymous Derek Lyons said...

Mike, appreciate your comments regarding my children - I accept your apology. Rest assured they don't take me too seriously!

I have been extremely lucky and privileged to work on the movies I have, and have met some fantastic people like Jack Nicholson and Robert Mitchum. Obviously, people in the film industry have to start somewhere, I have to admit that I have done a little extra work, as many actors do, as did Bruce Willis (having 5 uncredited appearances on IMDb), and sometimes you don't get a credit on the titles, even if you've had a small part on that film. You have to understand that as an actor you take any job which comes along. I've worked a lot on British TV, having a part on a cop show for 5 years and more recently have been involved in acting coaching alongside Graham Dixon at the Michael Chekhov Studio, London.

If you wanted to have an indepth chat about the film business and are ever in London, please feel free to look me up and I'll buy you a beer.

Kind regards,
Derek

11:24 AM  
Blogger Mike said...

No plans in the short term to head UK way.

But -- and you'll regret the invite! -- I may take you up on your offer some day. A nice pint in some London pub sounds good to me. Keep the seat warm.

11:55 AM  
Anonymous Derek Lyons said...

Look forward to the future beer! Maybe you should give up law and become a writer, you certainly have a talent for it!

Kindest regards,
Derek

12:07 PM  
Blogger Mike said...

Thanks. Glad you enjoy the writing.

8:10 AM  
Anonymous Luis Medina said...

God Bless you.

1:52 PM  

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