With its bright colours and loud blurbs, vintage French Children’s publication Pif Gadget appears to be atypical of its time but its origins are far more interesting than most and steeped in history. While the magazine may have began as illegal Communist youth fare, several incarnations later it became a periodical most noted for its ‘free gift’ or ‘gadget’ to be assembled by the reader.
By Issue #612 the arrival of a new Flash Gordon to cinemas was so greatly anticipated that not only was it the cover story but theme for the gadget (Le Pistolflash, no less) a condensed photostory and an exclusive behind-the-scenes report from EMI Studios itself.
While Le Pistolflash sadly never made it to these shores (most likely due to the evident choking hazard) the accompanying articles (featuring and unpublished still of Max Von Sydow gleefully pointing a youngster in the general direction of the Bore Worms) are fascinating, with some nice illustrations of how the cloud effects and front-projection were achieved. A translation of the piece would be most welcome but in the meantime, feast your eyes on this rare piece of Le Flash ephemera…
After a long hiatus, the website is back for good just in time for the 40th anniversary of Mike Hodges’ sci-fi spectacular. Four decades later the cult classic has lost none of its lustre (and even gained some more thanks to its latest release in eye-popping 4K!) and the celebrations will continue here while the world catches up after the unprecedented events of last year. Hopefully the 40th Anniversary World Tour will resume in the coming months, but in the meantime The Savior Of The Universe himself is still making personal appearances in the US so try to catch Sam J. Jones at a venue near you.
This year has also seen the release of a new influx of merchandise, from Boss Fight Studio’s awesome new action figures to no less than the definitive history of the movie courtesy of John Walsh’ incredible new book Flash Gordon: The Official Story Of The Film. This extraordinary 192-page volume is everything Flash fans used to dream of but never thought they would see. Gordon’s ALIVE! was happy to contribute some images from the archives (even getting a special mention in the acknowledgements!) along with other longtime fans & friends of the site such as Bob Lindenmeyer and Jason Lenzi.
A sell-out on its first printing, the book has now been nominated for Book Of The Year by the Rondo Hatton Classic Horror Awards and we’re counting on it to win so cast your vote here!
But for now, enjoy the new site’s bold new look, upgraded navigation and in-depth posts on all-things Flash with the promise of lots more material (including a review of John Walsh Book and more vintage magazine articles from all over the globe) starting with this exclusive piece on the provenance of the first production-made prop from the Gordon’s ALIVE! archive as told by the assistant costume designer herself..!
LONG LIVE FLASH…!
“Before the film went into production I worked with another girl in a small studio with the design team making prototype costumes. This t-shirt is actually a man’s vest bought from Marks and Spencer and one of several graphics that were under consideration. We made all the t-shirts for the film, with red at the neck and round the arms. They may well have been painted by hand. Almost everything that could be was made by hand. All the beads on the headdresses, Ming’s collar, millions of tiny bugle beads all stuck on individually by hand. Tons of work that you never, ever get to see in close up, all done by hand. Eventually we both worked on the film production as production supervisors but sadly because of politics which I can’t remember now she got a credit and I didn’t.
They eventually went with just the name Flash and red trimmings, much nicer. I took this reject home. It has been worn and washed but is in good condition. Perhaps not quite as white as when it was new, but no holes or terrible stains. Good vintage condition I think is the best description. The tees are cotton with a high Lycra content. We had to make quite a few of them as I don’t think they were ever washed. And they often got dirty I imagine. I don’t really know about all that kind of thing as I worked in the workroom. I didn’t get to go on set much when they were actually filming. Though I did explore all the sets when they were being built or not being used. We took over most of Shepperton, it was such a huge production.
I felt so lucky to work on the film. It was my first big film production that I had an important part in. Though the hours nearly killed me, we slept on the floor of the workroom many times. In our little studio before production started was a team from Italy who had all worked with Danilo Donato, a lady pattern cutter and a man who was cutter for the men’s costumes. It was really fun. There were a few designs for the Flash t shirt. I don’t remember what they were or what happened to them, all printed on St. Michael vests. I think in the end they decided he would have known his own name, so dropped the Gordon. The designer did every bit of design himself, or if somebody else started the work he would always fiddle and alter it himself. Almost a tyrant, if he didn’t get his way fast enough he literally would stamp his feet.
They had a team of tailors and just occasionally used us. It had to be altered many times. First Sam put on weight as he worked out so much. Then you get to the point where you lose again, so more alterations. I worked on quite a lot of things but mostly my job was working with the Italian cutters and then getting the sewing girls to make them. Working out timings, materials, fittings etc. I didn’t do very much sewing. I had to distribute the work to the girls, knowing which ones were skilled in which kind of work. Making sure the more clever ones didn’t only do the good jobs. And that the less skilful didn’t just to the more tedious jobs all the time. Keeping a happy workroom, a skill in itself. I worked on Flash’ red leather jacket, decorating it and also making some of the stiffening inside. I also made his brown leather shorts myself. Supervisors perks!
There was a workshop that made everything to chrome in any colour. So a plastic shop would make a gun, or a badge or whatever. Then it went to the chrome shop and came back all shiny. There was another workshop that extruded things. All the vines for the forest scenes and the giant leaves out of a sort of foam rubber. It was quite a production I can tell you. Huge. For the Lizard Men, every scale was cut from leather by hand. We had at times 34 girls sewing and cutting those things out made everyone’s fingers bleed.
One of the seamstresses we had is the girl in the BBC colour chart holding the dolly. The thing they put up when there isn’t a programme. Don’t know what that is actually called. She was Carol something. Bit of nonsense for you. You can tell it was a big deal job for me. the biggest of my twenty-five or so years in the costume business. Immediately after filming ended I went to work for Queen as PA to their manager. I was too ill after the film to do my normal job. And amazingly enough the band was doing the music for the film! So I got to go to the first night with the band…”
What began as just another pipe-dream kickstarter project had the second of its glamorous big screen premiere’s in LA this month. After months of shooting and editing, LIFE AFTER FLASH finally blazed across the screen in a private showing at the Prince Charles Cinema in London.
GORDON’S ALIVE! Was invited and has been along for the entire ride, following the progress of debut Director Lisa Downs and her Producer/Partner Ashley Pugh as their idea evolved from a modest fan-funded endeavour to an expansive long-awaited retrospective of the 1980 movie. This past year, hours of footage featuring interviews with said fans, cast, crew and celebrity aficionados have been whittled down to a punchy two hours of almost nonstop fun and revelation about the cult classic. Those seeking insider gossip straight from the set and anecdotes about the making of the film will come away satisfied but more than that, the documentary elegantly manages to tell the tale of the legacy and lasting effects through the eyes of the leading man. Sam J. Jones story takes many unexpected twists and turns that are tragic as they are uplifting. What follows is a review of both the movie and the night straight from the red carpet as one of the attendees…
The Savior of the Universe with a captive audience…
Life After Flash(2017) Directed by Lisa Downs
Review by M. Lakin, GORDONISALIVE.com
So what exactly does one do having once been the saviour of the Universe? How do you top that in terms of career or indeed in life? This is the basis of a new documentary destined to be as cult a phenomenon as the 1981 movie which spawned it, but ultimately offers so much more. Indeed, this no-holds-barred account of Flash Gordon’s (actor Sam J. Jones) meteoric rise and just as spectacular fall from grace is surprisingly as tragic as it is uplifting. He saved every one of us, but who, or what, would save him?
The original film (Directed by Mike Hodges), despite being considered a flop in the US, nonetheless endures to this day and has maintained an almost-feverish fanbase across the world. Satisfying then, that after decades void of accompanying material, much of the footage is devoted to life during Flash as much as beyond, with rare glimpses into the making of the movie accompanied by sharp, contemporary recollections of cast, crew and fans, providing the kind of DVD extra every release has lacked to date. There are, in fact, many fun revelations shared here that will impress even the most hardcore of fans courtesy of contributors like Brian May, Roberto Rodriguez and Alex Ross.
One is quick to point out that this shouldn’t be classed as mere supplementary material, however, as Downs cuts back and forth between the archive footage and talking heads with considerable attention to pace, never allowing them to become too self-indulgent (except for the darling Peter Wyngarde, who’s sly indulgence almost steals the picture). Indeed, it is as if the final cut was liberally sprinkled with uproarious quotes from man-mountain Brian Blessed at the most opportune moments, his anecdotes serving as both invaluable tales of the production and much-needed comic-relief.
Quite why a film about what is regarded as a camp classic would require comic relief is arguably the most compelling reason to watch this picture- as despite being disguised as a celebration of all things Flash, there is a wonderfully involving narrative thread about what Life After Flash holds for the stars of the film, but most appropriately, (and poignantly) Flash himself.
For it may be late in coming, but here Sam J. Jones finally proves himself to be a legitimate star, even if not on the screen as once anticipated. Uniquely bombastic and All-American, Jones now divides his time between convention appearances and his Security company. The journey is in turn bizarre and heart-breaking but at its end it’s understood how and why he’s still just a man, with a super-man’s courage.
Promo video from the private screening and afterparty…
The Prince Charles has cultivated a reputation for showing the best alternative and cult films over the decades, so it was more than appropriate that Life After Flash should carry on the tradition. Even the uncomfortable velvet-covered seats could not dampen the enthusiasm of the audience as the much-anticipated result of their work played out publicly for the first time. From the outset, the stirring music and amazing new series of neon-style graphics echoing the original film hit the right note with the fans and the atmosphere was electric throughout.
Once the picture was over we were invited to the afterparty held at swanky venue 101 Wardour St. where, in typical Lisa Downs style (see BFI 35th Anniversary Gala) no expense was spared to celebrate the debut of what will hopefully become an equally glittering career. The stars were in attendance (with Sam Jones himself leading the procession through central London like the Pied Piper) and guests were treated to free champagne, a photo booth, raffle with spectacular prizes and an intimate Q&A with stars & Directors.
On a personal note, it was a pleasure for me to have time to sit and talk with fellow contributors and fans again, having met and made many friends during the 35th celebration. By my side as usual was my old mate Chris King and we were delighted to see that Bob Lindenmayer had once again made the trip overseas for the occasion. It was a blast talking to Ed Emmerson, recalling the ’80’s with David Dumbell and his lovely wife Maxine and fantastic to finally cross paths with David Oliver, prop collector and archivist extraordinaire. Most of this took place, it should be noted, as Sam Jones himself casually tucked into his dinner literally feet away, still managing to mingle with fans, and keeping with tradition, last to leave.
At the time of writing Life After Flash is seeking a distributor. One can’t help but think that parties like Netflix could, and should, rip this clean out of Lisa’s hands and get it onto the screens of fans across the world where it richly deserves to be. Until then, GORDON’S ALIVE! will endeavour to bring you the latest on the project…