Directed By: Mike Hodges
Written By: Alex Raymond (creator) Michael Allin (adaptation) Lorenzo Semple Jr. (screenplay)
This is a movie that has stayed in the back of my mind for probably as many as twenty five years now. I don’t know specifically but I believe I probably watched it many times when I was around 4 or 5 and haven’t seen it since. Yet there have always been specific scenes from this movie that left a big impact on me because I have never forgotten them. When I bought it recently and watched it again I now think this movie may have played a significant role in my love for this genre. I wouldn’t call myself a big science fiction fan but I do have a sincere fondness for campy movies and comic related things. Looking at this the other night I am wondering if this was in fact one of the first comic book movies and the world just wasn’t ready for it. It was preceded by films about Superman and Batman but let’s be honest, “savior of the universe” or not, Flash aaaAAAHHH could never compete with those guys.
This is a campy movie, and maybe more than was actually intended. I do think the film was specifically made to be campy but adding to the effect is the fact that we don’t actually hear the voice of Sam J Jones through most of the film. I read that things got really bad between Jones and the studio as production was winding down and he walked before finishing all the looping of his lines. In his absence the producers had no choice but to dub over all his dialogue with somebody else’s voice. Jones’s departure from the film also cancelled out two potential sequels that probably never would have come to fruition anyway. In hindsight I’m sure Jones probably would have reconsidered his decision to leave as his career produced nothing significant afterwards. Still, whether we actually hear his voice or not I hardly think it matters. I think this guy is awesome in the movie. As a teen I spent many years watching That 70’s Show and watching this movie the other night couldn’t get past the “blonde Kelso” playing the hero. I specifically love the scene when he is getting beat up until a ball shaped object rolls towards him and he is able to overpower the aliens with football style fighting moves. His only fault was that he was the quarterback for the New York Jets, currently a pathetic and doomed franchise (sorry Jets fans, but you have to see the truth in that). We would all be screwed if a Jets QB was tabbed to be savior of the universe today, Mark Sanchez would never get it done. If Sanchez was taken, all Prince Barin would have had to do during the fight to the death was turn around and attack him with his ass. Sanchez would have fallen off the platform and into oblivion; Earth and the Universe would be screwed.
I think this movie is incredible because of costume design and production. While it fails by comparison to today’s standards I think it was pretty incredible for 1980. I love Emperor Ming, Klyus, Prince Vultan, and all of his birdmen for that matter. To the developing imagination of a four or five year old I don’t know that there was anything cooler then the way these guys looked. Klytus with his metal face was everything I thought a top henchman should be: loyal, wicked, and badass looking. Prince Vultan was an annoying character every time he opened his mouth but he looked cool, and he had an army of equally cool looking hawkmen to lead into battle. Emperor Ming; what can I say about this guy? What a great villain right? Cold, calculating, and evil to the core. I love the look of this guy too, everything from the crazy eyebrows to his bitching outfit. The outfit actually weighed something like 70 pounds and could only be worn by the actor for short periods of time. Max von Sydow was great in the role and was even nominated for a Saturn Award for the part, whatever that is. Von Sydow was actually nominated for an Oscar recently for his role in a movie I will not see. I have a specific rule that if the preview of a movie makes me cry I do not watch it, this was the case with the movie in question, Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close. I know the role he played in this movie and from the preview it looked very profound, but the preview shamed me with glimpses that had tears rolling down my face.
The scene from this movie that stayed with me for over twenty years was this one (click the link to check it out). The idea of the fight to the death was something new to me at my young age the first time I saw it and it left an impression on me. Soon my action figure scenarios entailed fights to the death between my G.I.Joes, X-men, or He-Man figures. I would even take empty boxes and poke pencils through them to emulate the spikes rising from the floor as Flash and Prince Barin fight each other with whips. The wounds they leave on each other with the whips also left an impression. I would often take a red washable marker to these action figures to draw blood from the wounds they were giving each other. It’s a scene that might not seem as cool to a younger person today who has grown up with so many incredible fight scenes from tons of different movies. This was one of the first significant fight scenes for me as a child and that makes all the difference as far as I’m concerned. It was awesome then and it is still awesome now.
I have had the strangest urge to buy this movie looming over me for years now. A few years ago I came across a used collector’s edition in a store and picked it up. As I stood there with it in my hand I felt compelled to buy it but talked myself out of it because it had a fairly significant price tag to it for a used DVD. I had since regretted not buying it and always had my eye out for another copy. Surprisingly this isn’t a hot item in many DVD retail stores where sales have continually dropped over the years, shocker right? When it eventually popped up as an Amazon recommendation recently I just couldn’t resist and finally got a copy. I didn’t really know what to expect when I watched it because outside of that one fight scene I remembered very little about it. I literally enjoyed every bit of it. Maybe it brings back some of the excitement I felt as a child, or maybe it’s just because this movie is freaking awesome. Amber would argue the first point because she said it was stupid but sound off in comments and let me know what you think. I’m sticking by the fact that this is just an awesome movie and she is crazy.
I really can’t close out this review without mentioning the soundtrack by Queen. I would never call myself a Queen fan but I have liked a few of their songs, such as Bohemian Rhapsody. This song knocks them all dead; in fact I haven’t been able to get it out of my head since seeing the movie. You can check out the video below:
Something else I keep coming back to since seeing this movie is the idea that it must have been a heavy influence on the guys from It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia. Maybe I’m wrong but I think these examples speak for themselves:
Specifically the input from Dennis, and the outfit he is wearing, seem heavily influenced by Queen. There is also this:
But this is obviously what they were going for right? Maybe I’m just looking into it too much but when watching this movie I kept finding myself thinking about these connections to the show.
To close this review I just want to finish by saying I love this movie and really enjoyed watching it again. If you were born in the 80s or before I think you will both remember and have a chance to enjoy this movie. If you were born ten or twenty years after this movie came out then I simply hope you approach it with an open mind. I think this movie is worth your time, and I would love to hear some thoughts from other fans.