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The New Adventures

of Flash Gordon

     "At least we'll have an Earth to get back to."

-- Flash Gordon: He saved everyone of us   

 

     

Reviews:

CultTV:

Animation

 

 

Buzzkillers!

Mah-widge...

 

Watch it!

AMAZON

DVD

 

The Hell?!

I knew those Battledroids in the Phantom Menace looked familiar!

 
Sights &
Sounds:
The New
Adventures
of Flash Gordon
(1979-1980)
 Original Airdate:
  September 22, 1979 NBC
 Episodes :: 24
 Filmation Associates /
 King Features / 
 National Broadcasting 
 Company
 
Lather,
Rinse,
Repeat:
The Recycled
efforts of
Filmation Studios.

Animated

The New Adventures of Superman

Aquaman

Archie & His Pals

Sabrina & the Groovy Goolies

Star Trek :: The Animated Series

Tarzan Lord of the Jungle

Flash Gordon

Blackstar

Gilligan's Planet

He-Man and the Masters of the Universe

Live Action

Shazam!

The Ghost Busters

Isis

Ark II

Jason of Star Command

 

Now, as much as I love the old Buster Crabbe serials and Dino De Laurentiisí gloriously moronic and maniacal feature film -- hell, I even love Bill Osco's Flesh Gordon, although my faulty memory remembered it as soft-core until I recently watched it again and realized, no, itís totally a hard-core porn, but, oh, the lavish production design and outlandish F/X -- I'll have to say my absolute favorite interpretation of Alex Raymondís ray-gun firing, rocket-jockey was Filmation Studios' wonderfully animated adaptation from the late 1970's, The New Adventures of Flash Gordon. 

Every Saturday morning I sat glued to the tube, watching Flash and his buddies battle Ming and his evil minions. And each week, you were introduced to a new exotic locale of Mongo as he recruited more rebels to help overthrow that evil despot in the forests of Arboria, the underwater city of Corelia, the harsh deserts of... (-- I can't remember), and the high steel of the Hawk-Menís Sky City. And just as adverse as the locales, were the locals: Hawk-Men, Lizard-Men, Beast-Men, Mole-Men, Mer-Men, Metal-Men and Thun the Lion Man. (In fact, if there was one thing I didnít like about the big Dís movie was Thunís absence.) And not only were there men, but there were also a metric ton of alien women; and this series definitely boasted some of the sexiest cartoon babes ever committed to animation cels. 

Oh, come off it ... like youíve never thought about this kind of stuff when you were a kid!

When it went off the air after a disappointingly brief two seasons, the cartoon sat in a cozy little corner of my over-indulged brain to be occasionally stoked for about twenty years until I found a copy of it for sale on eBay -- circa 1998. I bid on it and lost. Then there was another one. Lost that one, too. (I guess there were others who had fond memories of this cartoon.) Finally, on the third attempt -- after fending off a late sniper bid, I won. HAH! But when the tape arrived, after I frantically jammed it into the old VCR, and as I regressed further and further with each pounding chord of the opening theme (-- that Randy Newman mercilessly copped for Roy Hobbes' heroic theme for the The Natural. Seriously, give them both a listen sometime --), to my horror, amidst the credits appeared this disclaimer: Flash Gordon: To Save the Earth ... Part Two.

Well, shit.

Truthfully, what I thought I was bidding on was the full length animated feature film Filmation did called Flash Gordon: The Greatest Adventure of All, on which the Saturday morning serial was based. No such luck. Poopie. Still, the disappointment quickly evaporated as the episode cranked up, where we pick up the action right after Flash Gordon (Robert Ridgely) saves Vultan from Ming the Mercilessí shock troops; the aesthetically pleasing Metal-Men. (How pleasing? Just ask George Lucas. See illustration below in the sidebar.) His floating city destroyed, Vultan (David Opatshu), king of the Hawk-Men, joins the rebellion against Ming, allying himself with Flash, Prince Barin and Thun the Lion Man (Allan Melvin). As they prepare to abandon the burning refuge and head for Barinís kingdom of Arboria, this new alliance receives a psychic S.O.S. from Flashís friend, Dr. Hans Zarkov, who, along with Dale Arden, is being held prisoner in Mingís palace. But as Zarkov (Bob Holt) warns that Arboria is under attack from below, before he can get too specific, Ming (Alan Oppenheimer) cuts him off.

Still, the rebels reach Arboria in time to fend of an attack from the burrowing Mole-Men. Making quick work of Mingís minions, the rebels commandeer their Mole Machine with every intention of using it to dig their way into Mingo City and rescue Dale and Zarkov. And they'd better hurry up, because Ming has just announced his plans to marry Dale and add her to his already overstocked harem...

His Vile Evilness also announces his plan to add Earth to his empire by basically running the planet Mongo into it! Meanwhile, after a harrowing trip through Mongoís molten core, the rebels arrive in time to disrupt the wedding. And while Barin and the others hold off the Metal-Men, Flash and Zarkov go after Ming. They rescue Dale (Diane Pershing), and in the process, manage to destroy Mongoís planetary controls, diverting its crash course with Earth. The only problem with that is, Mongo is now spinning out of control toward deep space, leaving our Earth heroes stranded there.

To make matters even more dire, back in the main hall, the attacking party canít hold and is forced to retreat before the Earthlings can get back. But Flash steals a rocket car and leads quite the merry chase before crashing, rather spectacularly into a river. So spectacular, in fact, all three Earthlings are presumed dead ... Ah, but our heroes are tougher than that, and swim to apparent safety. I say apparent because theyíre barely dry when the savage Beast-Men capture our trio and drag them into the desert toward their temple. They enter, and Flash and company discover theyíre destined to be sacrificed on an altar before a giant statue of Ming. But they get a last second pardon from the governor, so to speak, as the giant statue speaks and tells them to hold the captives until their Master comes for them. Now, since Mongo has less gravity than Earth, Flash is able to do some superhuman things and engineers their escape. And after shimmying up that giant statue, the escaping prisoners find an empty control room inside the head. They also find an escape hatch out the back, and manage to cut off the pursuing Beast-Men.

Once outside, they see Zarkovís zeppelin-like rocket come in for a landing. (It's the rocket they came to Mongo on that Ming annexed into his own fleet, if memory serves.) When the hatch opens, a mounted search party, led by Princess Aura (Melendy Brit), Mingís daughter, disembarks and begins searching for the missing prisoners. (Aura, *sigh*, thatís her on the ostrich over there in the sidebar. Sorry, puberty memories again.) To counter this, the Earthlings hatch another plan. Thus, while Flash distracts the search party, Zarkov and Dale recapture the ship. Flash then circles back, barely beating the pursuing Aura before the rocket launches, meaning once again, the damnable Earthlings managed to escape Mingís clutches. But Ming doesnít give up that easy, either, and sends a couple of fighter-rockets after them. With Flash at the controls, he manage to lose the pursuing crafts by flying into the fog-enshrouded Sea of Mystery. Setting course for Arboria, they appear to be home free when the rocket is seized in a tractor beam and crashes into the water.

As they sink toward the bottom, our heroes appear to be in some serious trouble until they are rescued by some shadowy figures ... Sometime later, the trio awakens in the laboratories of the under sea kingdom of Corelia. Shocked that they aren't drowning, the Corelian Queen reveals theyíve been surgically altered to breathe underwater. None to happy about their condition, Flash schmoozes the Queen, to distract her, until Zarkov can figure out a way to reverse the process, so they can escape ... Meanwhile, the ever pursuing Ming has managed to track them down. And when the Queen refuses his demands, he send his Mer-Men to attack Corelia and retrieve the Earthlings. The ensuing battle goes bad for the good guys, because the bad fish-guys manage to knock out the tractor beam (-- the domed cityís only defense.) But Zarkov steps up and finds a way to harness the beam's power supply and boils the water outside the underwater city's protective dome, cooking the Mer-Men alive, and saves Corelia. (Wow, boiled Mer-Men. Iíll bet that really stinks.)

As a reward for saving their kingdom, the Corellians revert the humans back to normal, and then return Flash and the others to the surface world. Here, the episode and tape ends as they once again head off for Arboria. Will they make it this time? Tune in next week to find out.

Not The End

Okay, now, the origin for this Saturday morning serial was far from typical. At first, Filmation wanted to adapt Flash Gordon as a live action series like the company's very own Jason of Star Command and Shazam!. However, when this proved too costly, the brass turned it over to their animation department. Still, with eye for a prime-time slot, the feature -- the aforementioned Greatest Adventure of All -- had a little more gravitas than normal. Set during World War II, turns out Ming the Merciless is a secret benefactor of Adolph Hitler -- namely those V2 rockets. Enter our hero, Flash Gordon, crackpot scientist Zarkov, and feisty reporter Dale Arden, who sniff this out and hitch a rocket to Mongo to try and save the Earth.

When the ambitious production began, however, it soon became apparent that cash-strapped Filmation wouldn't be able to finish it, and were on the verge of scrapping the project altogether until producer Dino de Laurentiis came sniffing around, looking to secure the media rights to do his own movie. Here, Filmation struck up a deal with the infamous producer, allowing him to pursue his own live-action interests for the necessary completion funds, making de Laurentiis a de-facto ghost producer of the animated feature. However, once the film was finished, the end result was so good Filmation decided to put the feature on hold indefinitely, with every intention of cannibalizing it and transforming it into the series we're reviewing today.

And that's exactly what they did. The majority of the footage was recycled -- and toned down, considerably -- as the series took a chapter from the old serials, with each episode being self-contained but still moved the overall plot along, even ending on a cliffhanger every week, eventually culminating in the defeat of Ming by the united kingdoms of Mongo. This formula worked; the series was a hit, and a second season was ordered and rushed into production. Unfortunately, lightning did not strike twice as the second season proved even more recycled and watered down; and it even went so far as to pull a Scrappy-Doo by introducing a small, mischievous dragon named Gremlin for some unwanted and unwarranted and completely odious comedy relief. The proof of this disastrous move showed in the pudding as the ratings plummeted and the series was yanked after only eight more episodes. But this abrupt cancellation did have a bright side, as the studio finally released the feature length version. And I still hold out hopes that The Greatest Adventure will see the light of DVD someday. I had hoped it would be a bonus feature when SGC released a complete Flash Gordon series box set a couple years ago. Again, no dice. But, if you poke around YouTube, you can probably find it in its entirety. 

From a pure animation standpoint, enthusiasts may be a little disappointed because a lot of the action is recycled with the characters, ships and creatures using the same motions and patterns over and over again. Another cost saving measure to be sure. However, it's clean, smooth, and extremely detailed, with no distracting lapses. Behind the microphone, the familiar voices of Robert Ridgley [Thundarr, Tarzan] and Alan Oppenheimer [Skeletor] bring their A-game and do not disappointment. In the feature film, Ted Cassidy provided the voice of Thun. But he passed away during the turnover and was replaced with Allan Melvin, who most folks will recognize as Sam the butcher from The Brady Bunch

As I wrap this up, if you couldnít tell already, I really do love this cartoon. Now normally, when one revisits things from your childhood, you usually come away disappointed. That definitely wasnít the case here. Nope. Not even close.

The New Adventures of Flash Gordon (1979-1980) Filmation Associates :: King Features Syndicate :: National Broadcasting Company (NBC) / P: Don Christensen, Norm Prescott, Lou Scheimer / D: Hal Sutherland, Don Towsley, Lou Zukor / W: Ted Pedersen, Samuel A. Peeples / C: R.W. Pope / E: Earl Biddle, Jim Blodgett / M: Ray Ellis, Norm Prescott / S: Robert Ridgely, Diane Pershing, Allan Melvin, Melendy Britt, Bob Holt, Alan Oppenheimer
Originally Posted: 05/29/02 :: Rehashed: 06/10/11

Knuckled-out by Chad Plambeck: misspeller of words, butcher of all things grammatical, and king of the run on sentence. Copy and paste at your own legal risk. Questions? Comments? Shoot us an e-mail.

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