9. Flash Gordon II
When Flash Gordon was in pre-production, producer Dino De Laurentiis (King Kong) wanted Federico Fellini to direct. What he got was the director of Get Carter and The Terminal Man, Mike Hodges, and lead actor Sam J. Jones, whom De Laurentiis' mother-in-law spotted on an episode of The Dating Game. Released in 1980, Flash Gordon stayed true both to the original comic strip and to the popular Buster Crabbe movie serials of the 1930s. Ming the Merciless is given the planet Earth to destroy at his whim, but he doesnt count on Flash Gordon. Flash lands on the planet Mongo and meets a colorful cast of characters transported from the comic strips of old. The supporting cast, including Topol, Timothy Dalton and Max Von Sydow as Ming, are an asset to the film. And the soundtrack by the rock band Queen is today considered classic. The weak link in the movie was Jones, who played Flash Gordon. Two years before, Superman: The Movie benefited from casting an unknown actor as its titular character. The same cannot be said for Flash Gordon. Sam J. Jones as Flash savior of the universe Gordon left a lot of people scratching their heads. Sure, he delivered a campy performance in a campy film. But as the film's lead character, he lacked a stars commanding screen presence. Jones' reported conflicts with De Laurentiis and Hodges resulted in his departure from the project during post-production, where nearly all of his dialogue was re-dubbed. Flash Gordon ends with Flash saving the day. Emperor Ming is gruesomely impaled by Flashs spaceship. But Mings body vanishes and the filmmakers tease the audience with a possible sequel. The End? Despite a number of positive reviews, the film failed to meet expectations at the box office. Disappointing receipts, plus the unlikelihood of Jones returning for a second film, killed the possibility of a sequel. Yet since its release, Flash Gordon has developed a cult following. Theres no doubt that a well-tooled follow up to Flash Gordon would have the support of movie geeks and sci-fi fans. The rich, colorful camp that defined the original probably wouldn't fly today, but production design is a minor issue. More than anything, it would be great to see what a truly gifted storyteller and filmmaker could do with this material. As Superman Returns loosely followed Superman and Superman II, a contemporary Flash Gordon sequel, with a new cast, could have the peaceful coexistence of Mongo and Earth disrupted by the return of Emperor Ming. In its haste to reboot any material with the potential to gross big money, I think its inevitable that Hollywood will take up the material again. What it will look like is another question altogether.