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Review: 'Flash Gordon: The Official Story of the Film' (2020) Aut. John Walsh

Flash Gordon, John Walsh, Dino De Laurentiis, Lorenzo Semple Jr., Gilbert Taylor, Howard Blake, Queen, Sam J. Jones and Brian Blessed

Amazon UK / Amazon US


Celebrating the 40th anniversary of the true cult-classic that is 'Flash Gordon' in 2020 proved an exciting time. We had a brand new 4K cut of the film and a book that dived in behind-the-scenes to bring new and unseen discoveries to life.

Author John Walsh presents a book that, personally, captures so much about the film itself that you'll find it probably impossible to seek anything untouched.

Forget your Wikipedia browsing and documentaries - 'The Official Story Of The Film' should be part of every Flash Gordon fan's collectables, and on the bookshelves of those who appreciate and love film itself!

You can turn each glossy and slick page and be captivated by the wealth of material on offer. Walsh doesn't simply copy and paste screenshots from the film - and when they are used, they're super hi-res - but he peppers the book with imagery on and off camera. It's a journey taken from the formulation of a science-fiction adaptation, honouring the Saturday morning serial adventures, to become something that captured many a film fans imagination and grew beyond initial expectation to become something huge 40 years later.

We are given some truly immersive new and old reflections and interviews with key cast and crew including producer Dino De Laurentiis, director Mike Hodges, composer Howard Blake and actors Sam J. Jones, Timothy Dalton and Brian Blessed to name just a few. No book on 'Flash Gordon' has captured detail like this before, and you will learn many facts and trivia as you read on.

There is so much here to see that has never been seen before - from rare artwork, costume testing, photoshoots and on-set filming. It's a true treasure trove of Flash Gordon goodies.

The key crew explain how their vision was brought to life from concept art through to casting, production and marketing. You learn about the special effects and practical sets used to bring the vast galaxy of strange and alien planets to life. Cast members recall their experiences working with others to bring the tongue-in-cheek story to life, and never shy away from voicing their initial concerns about how much of a risk this film was to make.

It's really refreshing in that not just top billed cast and crew are focused on here, but even those many wouldn't note otherwise such as production designer Danilo Donati, model maker Martin Bower and stuntman Vic Armstrong. They are given the respect and insight deserved as they too were fundamental to bringing 'Flash Gordon' to life.

From these interviews and retrospectives, be prepared for little known revelations such as the alternate ending, the real decision behind the casting of Topol as Dr Zarkov, and characters who didn't make the cut such as Lion Man.

Yet it's the visual appeal of this book that really sets the bar high. Walsh has collected imagery in stunning quality from the film from both pre-production and marketing to offer a library of images most fans will never have seen before. It's a bible of everything 'Flash Gordon', showing everything from the array of weapons used, to the costumes worn by background artists, to stunt props and matte paintings.

Time has been spent on this project, and it's evident from the first page. Walsh knows his stuff, and doesn't hold back on digging out as much information as possible to bring the often unknown stories of 'Flash Gordon' to live in a fun, engaging and slick way. It's a quality production, and a real must have for true fans of the film.

A real bible of 'Flash Gordon' fandom - a gorgeous book that is a true passion project from John Walsh, deserving to be up there with the greatest of behind-the-scenes books from across cinema.

'Flash Gordon: The Official Story of the Film' is published by Titan Books

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