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TO THE BATPOLES #118: "Flash Gordon": Lorenzo Goes to Space Camp

Posted: Thu Sep 05, 2019 5:10 am
by bat-rss
Image

What does the movie Flash Gordon (1980) have to do with Batman '66? Simple: a guiding force for both was screenwriter Lorenzo Semple, Jr.! What can we learn about Semple's approach to Batman by comparing it to his work on Flash Gordon 15 years later? What was his approach, and what other factors skewed the results?

http://tothebatpoles.libsyn.com/118-fla ... space-camp

Re: TO THE BATPOLES #118: "Flash Gordon": Lorenzo Goes to Space Camp

Posted: Fri Sep 06, 2019 6:50 pm
by Jim Akin
I haven't had a chance to listen and I've never seen "Flash Gordon" (though I've heard the soundtrack), but you guys deserve a pat on the back for that episode title. :)

Re: TO THE BATPOLES #118: "Flash Gordon": Lorenzo Goes to Space Camp

Posted: Sat Sep 07, 2019 10:19 am
by gothosmansion
Did any of the interviews mention if Mr. Semple stayed on set for re-writes of Flash Gordon? I know from interviews on the blu-ray of Never Say Never Again that several hands worked on the script to it uncredited after Semple. Those other hands are probably a part of the reason that movie was such a mess, although I understand there were a lot of behind the scenes problems.

Re: TO THE BATPOLES #118: "Flash Gordon": Lorenzo Goes to Space Camp

Posted: Sun Sep 08, 2019 2:41 am
by bat-rss
gothosmansion wrote:
Sat Sep 07, 2019 10:19 am
Did any of the interviews mention if Mr. Semple stayed on set for re-writes of Flash Gordon? I know from interviews on the blu-ray of Never Say Never Again that several hands worked on the script to it uncredited after Semple. Those other hands are probably a part of the reason that movie was such a mess, although I understand there were a lot of behind the scenes problems.
I don't recall that he was specific about that. By that time he had moved from Spain to Aspen, CO, but the movie was shot in the UK. So being on set might have been just as difficult for him as being on the Batman set was.

Re: TO THE BATPOLES #118: "Flash Gordon": Lorenzo Goes to Space Camp

Posted: Sun Sep 08, 2019 3:21 pm
by BATWINGED HORNET
What a hot mess.

Although its the popular assumption that DeLaurentis was jumping on the sci-fi bandwagon triggered by Star Wars, to me, Flash Gordon fell into the category of comic strip adaptations that were (arguably) more inspired by the success of Superman the Movie. After Superman's phenomenal success, suddenly, studios were rushing to greenlight any pre-Depression / Depression-era comic strip character and turn it into a star-studded, big-budget production, including:

--Misguided Robert Altman's Popeye, released one day before Flash Gordon on December 5, 1980.
--Annie from 1982. Yes, it started out as a musical, but the leap to film, and its kind of star casting seemed like it took cues from Superman.
--Sheena, or Sheena, Queen of the Jungle from 1984, a film co-written by...Lorenzo Semple. I guess he did not learn much from the Flash Gordon disaster?

That was quite a number of 1920s/30s characters hitting the screen in the span of four years. I cannot help but think if Superman had not been produced (or was a flop), the other films would never have been considered for adaptation, including Flash Gordon.

Back in the 1980s, my first exposure to the DeLaurentis film was the SelecTV cable service; not a single member of my group of friends could never bring themselves to see it in theatres because the trailers were less than impressive, and I thought Sam Jones looked like he was confused about the role. That, and the coverage in magazines such as Starlog, Fantastic Films and Jim Steranko's magazine Prevue did not do the film any favors.

I know there are quite a number of fans of Queen's title song, but I thought it was another element that was out of place. I was a Queen fan long before this movie, but the song was as much a distraction as the Batgirl theme played during season three. Yeah, I said it!

Re: TO THE BATPOLES #118: "Flash Gordon": Lorenzo Goes to Space Camp

Posted: Tue Sep 10, 2019 11:22 pm
by epaddon
Your mentioning of "Sheena" and how Semple's script was a dud, gets back to a basic flaw of him that even existed in his "Batman" days. When it came to writing female characters, Semple really didn't have a good grasp of them compared to other writers. That also showed big time in movies like "Fathom" where Raquel Welch, in a role that should make her a strong focal point who can hold her own, instead gets easily fooled by the baddies and has to get bailed out by Ma Parker's former husband, Tony Franciosa. In "Sheena" it's even worse, saddling an iconic comics character with a milquetoast boyfriend in the persona of Ted Wass and giving Sheena a load of poor dialogue (of course casting Tanya Roberts didn't help that film either).

Re: TO THE BATPOLES #118: "Flash Gordon": Lorenzo Goes to Space Camp

Posted: Mon Sep 16, 2019 9:15 am
by High C
Great title and an interesting discussion, as always.

FWIW, here is a draft script copy:

https://archive.org/stream/pdfy-dAGrPNY ... t_djvu.txt

Indeed, the football scene is not in the script at this juncture.

I concur with what epaddon said and will expand further--'Fathom,' starring Raquel Welch, almost feels like some post-Semple episodes of Batman when Batgirl needs to be rescued. I think you guys should take a look at that film on a subsequent podcast. It was released in 1967 and was directed by Leslie Martinson, so it had the same writer-director team as the '66 movie.

You guys made a good point--there is some Stanley Ralph Ross-ish dialogue.

I will disagree about the color palette. Yeah, it was too garish, but I'll take that any day over modern films/TV shows that seem to be shot at night and in rooms without lamps so you never can tell who is doing what to whom. Or, almost as bad, they are shot in muted shades of blue and gray to relate the ennui and desperation of the characters. After about 5 minutes of such a film, I'm thinking, 'OK, we get it, can you take the filter off the lens now?'