Monday, December 6, 2010

FLASH GORDON (1980) SFX Models

"Dispatch war rocket Ajax to bring back his body!" 

I've had these photos in my files for a while now, and unfortunately, cannot recall where I found them. But in celebration of Flash Gordon's 30th Anniversary, I thought it was time to share these pix of the flick's funky, retro-rockets with all of you Space: 1970 readers.

Designed and built (or at least supervised) by the great Martin Bower, who also designed spaceships for Space: 1999, Into Infinity, Alien and Outland, these vessels really capture the romanticized, decadent technology of Mongo. I've always especially loved the classic lines of Ming's "War Rocket Ajax" (top two photos).

When I first saw the movie I was struck by the striking miniature effects, so different from most sci-fi fantasy films of the era, which generally aped Star Wars' functional, "lived-in" ship design. It was also cool to see these models flying against those swirling, multicolored skies of Mongo instead of the usual starfields.


  1. So true, there's a real magic and sense of terror to this film coming from the alienness of the design, the pageantry, the amoral culture. It all adds up to a helluva ride. I love how, though at times the authors reveal something of a tongue-in-cheek attitude about the whole retro look, they don't give in to ridiculousness. I am dazzled by the ludicrousness of this film, not the least of which is the Queen Soundtrack. I find the whole film holds up better than Return of the Jedi, forget about the prequels. But is this a children's film? It's dang sexy, and there is a torture scene that is more fetish than Guantanamo, but as a kid I remember being horrified at the thought of what exactly "bore-worms" might feel like.

    This movie is from an age when there was G, PG, and R ratings. As a PG movie then I think it would be rated PG-13 today, but would have the sexiness toned down. Flash Gordon the movie to me arises out of the European aesthetic of BD comics, such as Heavy Metal, where sex and violence were on the table as viable subject matter for young people to digest. Now mainstream culture seems much more puritanical in its self-censorship. While the internet is overrun by sex and violence of a less artistic sort, Hollywood just seems more and more fascist in its heroic depictions of virtuous men who never seem phased by the gorgeous leading actresses that are thrust upon them as sidekicks.

  2. I've always loved both of these ships !!

  3. Definitely a big thank you for sharing! That second looks a little like the Lexx.

    I'm with Walter too, on almost every point.

  4. Aside from its gorgeous, Alex Raymond-inspired design work, I always thought the 1980 film had more in common with the semi-pornographic Flesh Gordon than it did with the original Universal serials.

  5. Great observations Walter.... I've got to say the design of that second ship is just SO crazy it's cool! I wish the script had actually been a bit more serious and the film placed squarely in the 30's where it belongs, but everything else about Flash is a homerun for of the most beautifully produced, gorgeous looking sci-fi fantasy films ever made. Von Sydow was PERFECT as Ming....... Dalton was a fantastic Barron, he was very much a modern day Errol Flynn potraying Mongo's resident Robin's probably why i enjoy his performance in the Rocketeer so much! The set design, costumes, music and a majority of the actors are fantastic........the 3 main heroes, for my money are the weak link in the film....but then again the tounge and cheek nature of the script was what they had to work with. Again, a more serious minded script could have elevated Flash to a truly spectacular film, in my humble opinion.

    And don't get me started on the Hawkmen's wings.....
    Hawk Mens Wings=FAIL

    Dusty Abell

  6. Lovely pics there. Martin built another Ajax for a collector a few years back and, despite it being in a CRATE and fully padded, it arrived in the States so badly damaged the brass rods were bent completly back on themselves.
    And, agree with the vibe of the film being more towards Flesh than Flash. Especially with those leather shorts...

  7. Those are aces Christopher. Now if they'd only release them as kits!!!

  8. Santa, I need an action-figure scale AJAX with microchip audio of Brian Blessed's lines.
    (please make it sturdy because it will be crashed into numerous household furnishings)

  9. We're finally getting a flatscreen HD TV for Christmas along with a new home theater system. Flash Gordon is going to be one of the very first movies that I'm going to watch on it. Thanks for posting these awesome pics.

  10. OUTSTANDING pics, Christopher!!

    Most of us are very familiar with war rocket Ajax from the movie, but these two photos of Klytus's personal rocket are absolutely amazing! Hopefully, there are other views of it, and hopefully, you have views of Ming's battle rocket. THANK YOU VERY MUCH for sharing these photos with us!