REVIEW: Queen – Flash Gordon (with 1991 and 2011 bonus tracks)

Flash Gordon – Original Soundtrack Music by QUEEN (Originally 1980, 1991 and 2011 Hollywood CDs)

When mom and dad rented the movie Flash Gordon, we sat and watched it as a family.  “It’s terrible,” a family friend told us.  There were only so many movies available to rent at the local store (Steve’s TV), just one small wall of VHS and Betamax.  Flash Gordon came home with us one weekend, and because we tried to make the most of our movie rentals (including the VCR, also a rental) we watched it twice.

I have not seen Flash Gordon since that childhood weekend.  It really was awful.  Maybe we hoped for more because Max Von Sydow was in it.  Neither Sydow, nor Brian Blessed, nor a young Timothy Dalton could save Flash Gordon.

Flash Gordon, New York Jets

Queen also could not save the movie, though their soundtrack is certainly one of the best things to come of it.  (Another is the movie Ted, basically a love letter to the original Flash Gordon).   All four Queen members wrote music for the film, and recorded it as a band.  Brian May wrote the lion’s share of material, though Freddie Mercury was responsible for “Vultan’s Theme”, later ripped off for an Atari video game called Vanguard.  I wonder if Freddie ever saw a dime from that?  I knew Freddie’s song from the video game by heart, long before I ever heard the album by Queen!

The soundtrack gave us one Queen hit single, “Flash’s Theme” written by May.  The 2011 double CD has a single version, and a live cut from Montreal in ’81 (also on Queen Rock Montreal), as bonuses to the album track.  “Flash’s Theme” is sparse but catchy, featuring movie dialogue that makes it seem like the film should be much better.  Queen’s bombast was ideal for this.  When Roger Taylor sings the highest notes in the chorus, it’s sheer musical delight.

The album plays like a soundtrack, with lots of atmospheric keyboard instrumentals and movie dialogue.  Because of its ambient nature, you might not at first recognise some tracks as Queen.  Some is similar to the ambient work that closed their last album, Made in Heaven.  The music is far more grand than its onscreen imagery.

One of the most memorable instrumentals is “Football Fight”, a Mercury synth workout.  Perhaps sometimes we forget what a great keyboardist Mercury was, simply because he was such an amazing vocalist.  “Football Fight” is super fun, and you can also get it in a piano-based demo version on the 2011 CD.  Check out a Queen-tastic version of Wagner’s famous “Wedding March” performed by May on guitar.  Finally there is the rock track “The Hero”, a riffy song with full vocals by Freddie.  It reprises some prior themes from the soundtrack, such as “Vultan’s”.  Queen is augmented by an orchestra on “The Hero”, which is as grand as you would expect.  Like “Flash”, you can also get “The Hero” on disc two in live form, in Montreal 1981.

A long forgotten bonus track for this album was released on the 1991 Hollywood Records CD.  A remix by somebody called “Mista Lawnge” starts off well enough, with a grinding beat synched to May’s guitar.  It goes downhill when somebody starts rapping, “Flash, one time!  Flash, two times!”  Note to all remixers:  Never, ever add random rappers to rock songs.  Don’t.

Rest assured, no matter which version of Flash Gordon you pick up, there are some definite musts on the album.  Much of it will only appeal to fans of soundtracks.  If that sounds like you, take a ride with Flash to planet Mongo and get down with some Queen.  Skip the movie!

4/5 stars

Advertisements

28 comments

  1. I remember at a tender age being delighted with the movie on the big screen so really want to defend it here Mike!? Although some years later I might have snuck a peak at it on video and seem recall those birdmen fellas poorly suspended from roof lines meh maybe you’re right, probably hasn’t aged well and best left a memory banks LOL.

    But killer soundtrack, killer band!

    ‘Nuff said!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Whit!?!? Awful!?! How very dare you, Mike! This is such an awesome and under appreciated movie… so much fun and still relevant to this day. Seriously, the movie gets the thumbs up from me!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Movie gets the thumbs up from me too. Great fun. I’ve got this 2 CD but I think I’ve maybe never listened to it? Not that I can remember anyway!

    Actually I think this site needs a remix. I can help. “LeBrain one time! LeBrain two times!”

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I saw the movie a few years back in the theatre (Thank-you Digital Film Festival). It was every bit as cheesy as I thought it would be and I loved every minute of it.

    The soundtrack is relentless near the end from May’s awesome rendition of the Wedding March to the Max Von Sydow laugh at the end. One must also take note of composer Howard Blake’s contribution to the score. I interviewed Blake back in 2007 and he tells a wonderful story about needing to do the score in 10 Days.

    http://visionsinsound.ca/howard-blake/

    His bits of score were released separately on a composer promo.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I saw this film a few years ago in the theatre (Thank-you Digital Film Festival). It was every bit as cheesy as I thought it would be and I loved every minute of it.

    The soundtrack at the end is relentless from May’s awesome rendition of the wedding march to Mercury’s “The Hero”. One must also recognize the contribution of composer Howard Blake. I interviewed Blake back in 2007. He tells the wonderful story of having to help complete the score in 10 Days.

    http://visionsinsound.ca/howard-blake/

    His contributions to the score were released on a composer promo along with a short score to Amityville 3D.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hey Rob! Thanks for the awesome comment — will definitely give that a listen.

      It’s amazing to me how many comments here say they loved the movie! I guess I should watch it again, for the first time since it came out!

      Like

  6. Ohhh man, I remember Steve’s TV! What a trip!

    This is cool – the movie sounds terrible, but it has Queen content so they at least got one thing right!

    Also, this:

    “Note to all remixers: Never, ever add random rappers to rock songs. Don’t.”

    Needs to be in bold, and 72pt font block caps and sent (on a daily basis) to any doofus who might even think of such a thing. Full agreement from here!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I was looking at Greatest Hits III — Queen + Wyclef Jean. Perfect example. Why did Wyclef need to add the lyric: “Yo this is a stick up, gimme your Rolex” to Another One Bites the Dust.

      Like

Rock a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s