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Flesh Gordon? Artwork reveals erotic version that was never made | Film

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Flash Gordon fans worldwide can only imagine what might have been. Futuristic artwork – including lots of phallic imagery – that was created for an aborted 1979 feature film about the cult spaceman superhero and his intergalactic adventures is to be published for the first time.

The production was to have been directed by one of Britain’s foremost film-makers, the late Nicolas Roeg, who had made Don’t Look Now, a horror story starring Julie Christie and Donald Sutherland, and The Man Who Fell to Earth, the arthouse science fiction drama starring David Bowie as an alien.

His Flash Gordon film would have starred Debbie Harry, lead singer of the American band Blondie, as Princess Aura, the seductive daughter of Ming the Merciless, the tyrannical dictator, who would have been played by Hollywood movie star Keith Carradine.

Sam J Jones as Flash Gordon in Mike Hodges’s 1980 film.



Sam J Jones as Flash Gordon in Mike Hodges’s 1980 film. Photograph: Alamy

But the production was abandoned before Roeg had cast his superhero after he fell out with its producer, Dino De Laurentiis, the movie mogul who made Barbarella, a 1968 science-fiction comic adaptation that turned Jane Fonda into a sex symbol. De Laurentiis had dreamed of three Flash Gordon films. He only made one, the 1980 version directed by Mike Hodges, which became a cult favourite, with huge conventions worldwide despite disappointing reviews.

The film has hnow been restored by StudioCanal to mark December’s 40th anniversary of its original release.

Flash Gordon was originally created by Alex Raymond, the American artist. In 1933, publisher King Features asked him and writer Don Moore to create a rival to the 1929 comic strip Buck Rogers. Flash Gordon made his newspaper debut in 1934 and became an instant hit, read by more than 50 million people a week in 130 newspapers worldwide.

John Walsh, a film-maker and author, has retrieved about 40 designs for the Roeg version from the British Film Institute (BFI) archives: “It’s public knowledge that Roeg worked on the film’s development. What hasn’t been seen is its artwork.”

Walsh will feature the artwork in his forthcoming book, Flash Gordon: The Official Story of the Film, to be published on 20 November.

One image depicts Flash Gordon confronting Ming for a sword fight on top of the emperor’s royal spaceship. “It is a vast sequence that could not have been realised using 1970s technology,” Walsh said. “This image has more of the flourish of the original Raymond comic strips from the 1930s.”

The artwork was created by the production designer, Ferdinando Scarfiotti, who went on to win an Oscar for The Last Emperor in 1987.

But most of the imagery suggests a very different film, Walsh said: “It would have been a much more sexually explicit sci-fi romp. Dino chose Roeg, who died in 2018, because he’d worked on The Man Who Fell to Earth, which is science fiction and a very good film, but it’s as far from comic strip melodrama as you could get.”

Ferdinando Scarfiotti’s vision of Arboria dwarfed the actors with giant vegetation and trees.



Ferdinando Scarfiotti’s vision of Arboria dwarfed the actors with giant vegetation and trees. Photograph: StudioCanal/BFI

Of the artwork, he said: “Everything’s quite organic. They look like plants… Ming’s spaceship is the most conventional of the designs, but most of the spaceships are a cross between phallic imagery and orchid flowers, reflecting a more adult tone based on the sexualised imagery of the 1930s strip.

“I interviewed John Richardson, who had worked on its special effects for four months before De Laurentiis pulled the plug. He said, I asked Nic one day ‘what do you see Ming’s spaceship looking like?’ He replied, ‘I see it like a heaving, mucus-covered placenta’ [though that] differs from the design shown.

“Richardson was taken aback because he was expecting something that had much more of a 1930s Chrysler motor look to it.

“Instead, Roeg was taking it in a completely opposite organic direction. In a sense, Dino was right to pull the plug.”


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Honest Thief review – Liam Neeson does Taken once more with feeling | Thrillers (film)

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Liam Neeson was 56 when Taken came out in 2008, launching his vengeful vigilante phase. Twelve years on, he’s still churning out serviceable action thrillers like this one, despite that screen persona spilling over into a controversial 2019 interview. Neeson stars as Tom, the honest thief of the title, also known – much to his irritation – as the In-and-Out Bandit. Tom’s late-in-life bank-robbing spree has netted him $9m, but he decides to go straight for the love of a good woman called Annie (Kate Walsh), and that’s when the trouble starts.

Tom and Annie are just two divorcees in cosy knitwear, trying to make a go of things, but Tom’s good intentions fall foul of a pair of corrupt FBI agents, Nivens (Jai Courtney) and Hall (Anthony Ramos), who decide to take the money and frame him for murder. That means Tom must make use of whatever weapons he has at his disposal – fists, guns, explosives, cupcake delivery trucks – to get the truth out.

The corny romance plot is actually rather sweet, but Honest Thief still lacks the elegiac tone that made Robert Redford’s recent film, The Old Man & the Gun, a richer take on a similar storyline. Tom quaintly refers to Annie as “my ladyfriend” but is in every other respect indistinguishable from an action hero half his age. It seems there’s no time for reflecting on lost loves while barrelling through Boston in a hot-wired car.

In fact, this film’s real propulsive, emotional motor is nothing to do with a woman, but rather the age-old entanglement of lawman and outlaw. Tom and his pursuer, Agent Meyers (Jeffrey Donovan), are divided by circumstance yet united by the kind of unshakable integrity that lesser men – like Agents Hall and Nivens – could never begin to understand.

• Honest Thief is in cinemas from 23 October.


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Scientists Think These Are The 10 Scariest Movies

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I’m already hyperventilating.

It’s the scariest time of the year—Halloween, of course—and for many thrill-seekers that means binging on the most frightening horror films out there.

UK broadband company broadbandchoices recently conducted a scientific study tracking the heart rates of 50 people watching over 120 hours of beloved horror films in 5.1 surround sound.

You can check out the results of the entire study here. For now, here’s the top ten films that triggered the highest average heart rate in the participants.

10. The Visit (2015) – 79 BPM

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Universal / YouTube

M. Night Shyamalan’s unsettling fright-fest about two children visiting their grandparents for the first time is packed with enough jump-scares to keep you up at night.

9. The Descent (2005) – 79 BPM

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Pathé / YouTube

Not gonna lie: I recently saw this nightmarish tale of six women trapped in a cave system, and it still keeps me up at night.

8. The Babadook (2014) – 80 BPM

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Entertainment One / YouTube

Australian director Jennifer Kent’s debut feature is one of the scariest films in recent memory, as well as a devastating look at the trials of parenthood.

7. The Conjuring 2 (2016) – 80 BPM

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Warner Bros. / YouTube

But wait—where’s the first one? Oh, we’ll get to it.

6. It Follows (2015) – 81 BPM

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David Robert Mitchell’s first feature became an instant horror classic off the sheer strength of its premise. It’s all in the title, really: It follows. And it never stops! How terrifying.

5. Paranormal Activity (2009) – 82 BPM

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Paramount / YouTube

Pro tip: If the trailer for your movie mostly consists of people freaking out while watching your movie, you’ve made a pretty scary movie.

4. Hereditary (2018) – 83 BPM

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A24 / YouTube

What’s scarier than family? That’s the question that Ari Aster’s terrifying debut feature posed—and, trust me, you’re gonna want to sleep with the lights on after this one.

3. The Conjuring (2013) – 84 BPM

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Warner Bros. / YouTube

Remember when I said we’d get to this one? James Wan’s first entry in The Conjuring franchise packed more jump-scares than a thousand haunted houses.

2. Insidious (2010) – 85 BPM

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FilmDistrict / YouTube

Another one from James Wan, with a script written by Leigh Whannell (who directed this year’s incredible and frightening The Invisible Man). Strong Poltergeist vibes from this one, to the point where it’ll have you hiding under your bedsheets.

1. Sinister (2012) – 86 BPM

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Summit Entertainment / YouTube

I mean—how could Sinister not be at the top? Have you seen it? I’m getting chills just thinking about it. (But if you haven’t yet and you like scary movies—go see it and have a scary good time.)

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Iconic Halloween Movie Checklist

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“One, two – Freddy’s coming for you. Three, four – better lock your door.”

  1. Check off all the horror movies you’ve seen:

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