Mike Hodges’ Flash Gordon is a wonderfully executed piece of science fiction cinema which has become a cult classic since its release in 1981. The film will forever be known for a variety of reasons – from Brian Blessed’s bombastic Vultan (Gordon’s Alive!) and Queen’s infectious pop soundtrack to Gilbert Taylor’s lush cinematography. While the film has much to make it memorable, one of the things about it which has been forgotten is its star – Sam J. Jones. After clashing with the film’s producer Dino De Laurentiis, Jones faded into relative obscurity, before returning to the big screen (and the public consciousness) in the 2012 Mark Wahlberg starrer, Ted.
Now director Lisa Downs has decided to tell Jones’ tale in the powerful documentary, Life After Flash. Filled with plenty of heart and anecdotes, Downs’ film is a beautifully crafted (and rather emotional) piece which looks at how Jones dealt with his rise to fame, how things went off-the-rails and then how he turned his role in Mark Wahlberg’s Ted into a career comeback.
Life After Flash is a tale of redemption. Through Jones’ own words and those of his friends, family and co-stars, we discover how the actor hit rock bottom after attempting suicide only to make his way back as a bodyguard before returning to acting success in Ted. The film is an emotional journey and you see a man who has overcome a tremendous amount to become a loving family man and an icon to thousands on the convention circuit. The power of Life After Flash comes from Jones himself – he offers-up a no-holds-barred look at where his life went wrong and how he got it back on track. It’s a beautifully honest piece of self-understanding, which gives you a whole new appreciation of Jones as a man and a cinematic hero.
Downs’ film just doesn’t focus on Sam J. Jones, she catches-up with the likes of Brian Blessed, Melody Anderson, Topol, Richard O’Brien and Queen’s Brian May for a comprehensive look at Flash Gordon’s cinematic legacy. There are many anecdotes told and you can see that everyone involved has a love for film which matches that of the fans who have grown-up watching Flash over the last 35 years.
At once a portrait of Sam J. Jones and an overview on the making of Flash Gordon, Lisa Downs’ Life After Flash is a wonderfully constructed documentary which offers a unfiltered look at one of the most beloved films of the 1980s and its star. Excellent.