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January 07, 1981 - Image 6

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Michigan Daily, 1981-01-07

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

0

ARTS
Wednesday, January 7, 1981

age 6

The Michigan Daily

BETTER THAN SILLY STRING!

Campiness

By DENNIS HARVEY
LASH Gordon is a second childhood,
maybe a third and fourth as well.
all tinsel and neon and fluorescent
ons; for two hours, it's like living in
ewmaster slide, staring at primary
rs. It's on a par with walking into a
n full of foil-wrapped Christmas
ents at a more impressionable age.
it does it matter if there's nothing
le them? Flash keeps you stoned
igh on the surface spectacle, doped
>nd caring. The hues and shapes
> coming at you, splashing so fast
you may nearly drown, dazed, in
pray. The fix makes the pop-cutout
sures of The Wizard of Oz, Yellow
marine, Pinnochio and the rest
n like a stasis by comparison.
course, those movies, through
e mysterious inclusion of "depth"

and subtlety, approa
concept, Art; they ha
you feeling good. Fla
garbage, nonsense, ch
of glitter waved in fro
You leave the theatrei
out. And what fun it is!
and if we can't have
order, silliness doesn't
alternative.
IN 1936, Buster Cr
primitive studio w
another, perhaps m
nocent, generation on
strip heroics. Sure, we
more jaded now. But t
cordingly gotten bigg
the special effects are
(in every sense), and
urge to get blown away
compoopery of ita
stronger, than ever. D

fn
conquers un
ched that foggy points blank-million-dollars in har-
d heart, and left dware at us, scandalously determined
sh is an'opiate, to avoid enriching our minds, wickedly
ieap thrills, a lot bent on reducing us all to helpless gosh-
nt of us Droogs. golliness. I, for one, surrender.
numbed, wowed- The technological-marvel movies
It's 1981, help us, have been moving toward this ultimate
intelligence and triumph .- packaging over content for
seem such a bad some years now. If Flash isn't really
the best of them, it's just because this is
rabbe and more the one to finally go the full length,
vizardry doped diving headfirst into kiddie kicks to the
ore gullibly in- exclusion of everything else. What often
n Flash's comic- seemed most admirable about its
're harder, older, predecessors were the things they
he screen has ac- managed to squeeze in alongside, but
er and brighter, distinct from, their technical
more stupifying knockouts.
, admittedly, the THE1976 King Kong remake made a
y by the pure nin- clumsy but rather endearing entrance
all is probably for this new multi-million-dollar Mar-
ino De Laurentis- vel Comix category. Sentimental, thun-

JANUARY CLEARANCE

REDUCTIONS

iverse in 'Flash Gordon'

derous, dumb, it was naively likeable
(and too harshly abused) for all of its
flaws. Star Wars took several leaps
ahead in technology, delivering so
many junky fantasy fixes with the
chilly efficiency of HAL cramming
candy down a child's throat. One felt
dazzled, all right, but this and last
year's even more glibly stunning sequel
left me a bit cold with their relentless,
heartless mechanical-toy ingenuity.
Steven Spielberg's Close Encounters of
the Third Kind was the perfect counter-
balance and snub to the boy's-model-kit
fascination with cool detail in George
Lucas' films. Spielberg effused his
technical wonders with enough gen-
tleness and personal warmth to make
the Star Wars saga look like an assem-
bly-line construction.
Superman kept up this humanizing
process; its flights of imagination were
exhilerating cardboard, but what really
took the breath away was its essential
good will and the giddy romanticism of
the scenes between an impossibly
likeable Man of Steel and Lois Lane.
Star Trek-The Motion Picture, at
about $47 million, brought the cycle to a
costly crest-but its grapplings with
higher meanings were just good-
naturedly misguided, its supercolossal
visuals kept earthbound by filmmakers
and a source (that bloated TV series)
which both lacked the frivolous convic-
tion needed to take off into sheer fun.
Star Trek was the biggest road show of
them all, but you could never quite
forget the wheels creaking underneath
in an effort to keep its bulk moving. A
huge, harmless bauble, it was also the
most easily forgotten of the bunch.
Flash Gordon isn't the biggest or wit-
tiest -or most charming of the lot. It
shoots for a comparatively easy distin-
ction-to be the campiest-and, as a
result, in its dumb, very agreeable way,
it stays on target more than any of its
predecessors. It doesn't have the dull
patches and missteps of Superman or
Close Encounters, but those movies
reached for something much more
complex and beautiful-a degree of
naturalism that both balanced and
rationalized their flights of fancy. Flash
just wants to get you stoned on the glitz,
and for my money, its breathless kitsch
is a good deal more likeable than the
comparatively square, sober ray-
gunnery of the equally one-dimensional
Star Wars series. It has no pretention
towards infantile Heavy, Man-ness;

there's no air of solemnity toward all
the gee-whizardry. When you laugh at
bad performances, at least you know
the filmmakers got the joke first.
Lorenzo Semple, Jr., wrote the script
crammed full of intentionally foolish
juvenalia and jokery. If the results are
consistently better than they were for
his similarly campy King Kong
revision, it's because the director this
time (Mike Hodges) knows what pace

track of the explosions anymore.
Gilbert Taylor's photography, Danilo
Donati's wondrous sets and Beyond-
Cher gaudy costuming would spell the
end of naturalism on screen forever if
Flash outdistanced the Star Wars
grosses. (It won't. The central
clunkiness of Lucas' fantasies, sadly-
but-truly, have broader appeal than
this more stylish junk.) It's all so loud
and colorfully phony that each shot has
the slightly jarring effect of looking at a
3-D film for the first time.
Kept afloat by the din is a storyline
too dizzy to relate, and a cast effec-
tively reduced to puppets by the car-
toonery they must embody. Great ac-
tors (Max von Sydow as Ming the Mer-
ciless) and great bodies who might have
studied Performance Arts through
modelling for Sears-Roebuck (Sam J.
Jones as Flash) are all brought to the
same level. They're all manipulated so
trickily through process shots, arch
reactions and campy lines that you
can't tell who's good and who's bad, or
whether quality considerations should
enter into it at all. Melody Anderson is
the heroine, Mariangela Melano (of the
Line Wertmuller films) is the villain-
ness. One feels they should be men-
tioned, but it's difficult not to suspect
that anyone might have been just as
amusing and/or decorative under the
same circumstances. Topol, Tevye in
the Fiddler on the Roof movie, does
stand out somewhat-he's always such
an expansive presence (often to a, fault)
that he manages to hold his own, just a
little, even in this raging wind-up toy of
a film.
s
So, you may think as you walk from
the theatre, ninety years of presumed
cinematic progress and megabucks
have brought us to this-a very expen-
sive pinwheel designed to keep us num-
bed with color and movement for a
couple of hours. You should be shot on
the spot for thinking such a nasty,
serious thing. As long as people inhale
helium, buy hula-hoops and read
newspapers, considerations of taste
and intelligence need not necessarily
enter into the process of enjoying
movies. And Flash Gordon will be my
idea of (one type of) a wonderful movie.

a

I

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To

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How long before the New Right
comes to this? Max Von Sydow plays
Ming the Merciless, Enslaver of the
Universe, in the very silly and very
entertaining superserial version of
'Flash Gordon." At least Von Sydow
gets to wear nicer clothes than he
ever did in those Ingmar Bergman
movies.
low camp should be played at-the
movie seems jammed into fast forward
from the opening credits on. The TV
show Buck Rogers in the 25th Century
similarly tried to send up this 1930's
school of sequined-dragon-lady science
fiction, but it plodded haplessly in
typical television fashion, spoofing
dumbness with dumbness.
Flash Gordon is well aware that the
only way to make what's already
ridiculous even sillier is to keep it in the
air, spinning. The editing snaps like a
military drumbeat, crazy new ideas
arise like popcorn until you can't keep

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