I saw Star Wars when it first came out in 1977. It was very good.
It was generally accepted that Star Wars was pretty heavily derived from something called Flash Gordon. The BBC started to show the old movie serials on kids' Saturday morning TV. So I saw Flash Gordon and Flash Gordon's Trip to Mars, and they were very good.
The serials were based on an old comic strip by someone called Alex Raymond: and lo, the Observer Colour Supplement started to reprint Flash Gordon in the Ice Kingdom on a weekly basis, and I read Flash Gordon and the Ice Kingdom, and behold, it was very good.
Flash Gordon was quite heavily influenced by the Martian Tales of Edgar Rice Borroughs; and behold, W.H Smiths had paperback editions of the Martian Tales of Edgar Rice Borroughs in their science fiction section; and I bought a Princess of Mars and the Gods of Mars, and I read a Princess of Mars and the Gods of Mars, and behold, they were very good.
Alex Raymond is a terrific artist. If you don't know the comic book or the Buster Crabbe serial you have certainly seen the Dino De Laurentiis movie, which is not very good at all, but does have a terrific theme song.
About the time Star Wars was coming out, a Canadian named Dave Sim was launching a comic called Cerebus. Cerebus was based on Barry Smith and Roy Thomas's Conan the Barbarian, which were based on Robert E Howard's pulps, which were based (among other things) on Edgar Rice Borroughs sagas. Roy Thomas who wrote the Conan comics also wrote a John Carter comic. So Cerebus and Star Wars, which both came out in the same year, are conceptual descendants of Flash Gordon.
What are the chances?
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I think that Flash Gordon counts as one of those breed of movies where no individual aspect can easily be described as "Good" but the whole thing is so much fun that it's very easy to not care at all about that.
It's a very long time since I saw it, truthfully. At the time, I abominated Camp above all things because I felt (correctly) that it was me who was being mocked. Despite having seen Star Wars (Good Special Effects) I could take Buster Crabb (Bad Special Effects) on its own terms because it took itself seriously. And of course the original comic strips are genuinely good. So I still regret that Dino De Horrendus stuck up a barrier that ensures that nearly everyone regards the movie serials and the Alex Raymond saga as intrinsically ridiculous. To me, Hawkmen means Michelangelo level imagery; to everyone else it means Brian Blessed overacting. For years and years Adam West had the same effect on Batman, and Flash Gordon doesn't yet have his Frank Miller. And I do regret that we can't see the version of Flash Gordon that George Lucas would have made. But that said, I can now appreciate the TV Batman for its wit and the silver age Superman for its innocence, so I probably ought to give Flash ah-arr another chance.
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