The documentary “Life After Flash,” written and directed by Lisa Downs (The Hunt Is Over), is in essence several films in one. Firstly, it concerns itself with actor Sam J. Jones (Ted), the star of the 1980, action, adventure and Sci-Fi film “Flash Gordon” directed by Mike Hodges, and the trajectory his career took after filming ended. Secondly, it is a behind the scenes look, at the making of a film, which has achieved cult classic status. Downs includes commentary by many of the people who were involved in the “Flash Gordon” film both in front of, and behind the camera. For example, those who participated in the documentary include, but are not limited to: two time Golden Globe winner Topol (Fiddler on the Roof); veteran character actor Brian Blessed, (Star Wars: Episode 1 – The Phantom Menace); and Melody Anderson (All My Children), who played Dale Arden, Flash Gordon’s love interest in the film. Noticeably absent, however, from the documentary, were two time Oscar nominee Max Von Sydow (Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close), who portrayed Flash Gordon’s nemesis, Emperor Ming, in the 1980 film; as well as Timothy Dalton (The Living Daylights), in the role of Prince Barin, an enemy turned friend, who eventually teams up with Flash to fight Ming. Furthermore, the documentary also explores the film’s loyal fandom, and features some people who continue to stay enthralled with a film that, although originally thought of as the first part of a trilogy, never went past the initial installment. (As an aside: One of the aspects of the “Flash Gordon” film, that has been mentioned over the years as a positive, is the soundtrack by Queen. The first time Freddie Mercury belts out the name ‘Flash,’ in the opening theme song, and throughout the rest of the film, Queen’s music is featured, and synchs up perfectly with what is transpiring on screen. Queen guitarist Brian May adds commentary during the documentary, as to the band’s participation in the film, and shares some amusing stories).
Prior to “Flash Gordon,” Jones was an unknown actor with one credit to his name, a small role in Oscar winner Blake Edwards film “10.” When Oscar winner Dino De Laurentiis (La strada) offered Jones the lead role in “Flash Gordon,” Jones viewed it as the part that would make him a star. De Laurentiis had one vision for the film, Jones had another, and the two would clash on set as to how things should be done. Unfortunately for Jones, he listened to advisors who told him, that without his direct involvement in the film it would be a flop, and that De Laurentiis wouldn’t put a film, he had sunk such an inordinate amount of money into in jeopardy by firing Jones. As it turned out, De Laurentiis, went ahead without Jones, using his stand-in for re-shoots, as well as another actor to dub his voice.
In addition to poor advice from his representatives, Jones could have also blamed real life factors on his behavior, such as his father being an alcoholic, or the death of his older brother. Jones, however, to his credit, doesn’t blame either of those parts of his life for his actions. Instead, he discusses, during the film, what exactly he did wrong, and he takes full responsibility for his shortcomings. In addition to his “Flash Gorden” co-stars, Jones’ family and friends offer their perspectives on how Jones has changed and matured over time, since his days as a hard-partying, guy, who didn’t care much for rules and responsibility.
“Life After Flash,” premiered on October 2, 2017 in the UK. Throughout its 94 minute runtime, along with the commentary, Downs includes behind the scenes footage, as well as original television clips promoting the “Flash Gordon” film. I am keeping this post brief, because I don’t want to get into specific stories from those who commented during the documentary, I feel it would give too much away, for those of you who might be interested in seeing the film.
While I enjoyed “Life After Flash,” because I remember watching “Flash Gordon” on HBO as a child, where, at that time, it seemed to me like it was on every other day, I don’t think a viewer necessarily has to be a fan of the “Flash Gordon” film. In addition to Jones’ story, which is not so much about redemption as it is about coming full circle and learning from past mistakes, there is enough trivia to be learned, as well as entertaining stories told throughout, which should satisfy most viewers.