He's a miracle! Flash Gordon celebrates its 40th Anniversary in grand style with a brand new 4K restoration that leaves every previous home video release in the dust. With Dolby Vision HDR, two audio mixes, and hours of bonus features to pick through, StudioCanal gives fans the perfect giftset with the film's soundtrack from Queen and composer Howard Blake on top of some pretty nifty swag. It's a big box of stuff, but if you're a massive fan, this is a great way to celebrate! Highly Recommended.
NOTE: For this review, HDD was only able to acquire the Zavvi SteelBook in a timely fashion - my order of the full StudioCanal set has been inexplicably sent back to the U.K. mid-transit. If/when I acquire this release I'll update any missing details in the bonus features package. This SteelBook release doesn't include all of the swag, CD soundtrack, or the second Blu-ray bonus disc that includes the documentary Life After Flash.
"Flash I love you, but we only have fourteen hours to save the earth! "
For my rambling nostalgic fan-fueled review of this 80s classic - read my review of the Check Disc
Now to finally have the actual discs in hand, the final disc is identical to the check disc I was sent - no differences or final tweaks. Even though it was only just a couple of weeks ago, I couldn't help myself watching through this movie again. Admittedly this time around I replayed the "football" throne room fight and the big Hawkman battle sequence more than a few times before moving on with the movie. With this restoration, there's so much more detail to see that certain sequences I felt like I had to keep watching it again to see everything. This may not have been the smoothest production ever, but damn did it come together to create one hell of a visually intricate film.
Vital Disc Stats: The Ultra HD Blu-ray
Flash Gordon 40th Anniversary makes its grand 4K UHD Blu-ray debut in a massive 5-disc swag-filled box set containing 1 4k UHD Blu-ray disc, the film on Blu-ray with two additional bonus features Blu-ray discs plus a soundtrack CD. The swag package includes a 32-page booklet, 16-page Titan mini-book "The story of Flash Gordon", comic strip reproduction booklet, original artwork poster, four art cards, and 1 sew on Flash patch. Per standard, the 4K UHD disc is Region Free, but the three standard Blu-ray discs are Region B locked.
The Zavvi exclusive SteelBook release only offers the 4K UHD Blu-ray disc, the feature film standard Blu-ray, and the main Blu-ray bonus features disc. It doesn't include the Life After Flash bonus disc.
From my review of the Check Disc I reviewed of the 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray - my thoughts and options haven't diminished after what amounts to five or six viewings now. If anything I'm even more excited about it!
While I thought the 2012 Universal Blu-ray was alright, it was ankled by some ill-advised DNR that pulled out the natural film grain presence and deprived the image of essential details outside of facial closeups. I am very happy to report that no apparent DNR was employed here. Film grain retains a natural film-like quality allowing for a full range of details to survive in every frame. The film looked incredible when it was at a simple airstrip in the beginning or in Zarkov's laboratory - but man, when they get to Planet Mongo and Ming's reception hall it's like Dorothy walking out into Munchkin Land.
There is so much incredible production design and costume details on the screen you have to pause to appreciate it all. I already loved looking at this movie but now I was feeling like I was seeing so many details for the first time. Hell even at the landing strip you can clearly spot Robbie Coltrane as the airplane attendant. But man those costumes of the different cultures of Mongo - I really wish we'd gotten more time with them because they're so cool! Part of what makes these such visual splendors in 4K is the intense handcrafted quality of them. The beads in Ming's cloak is intricate - but now also Dale's black wedding dress at the end is a real highlight for details. This isn't to say this is a completely flawless transfer, there are a few lingering issues cooked in that only stand out more. Softness in the initial photography is still there for some sequences. Harsh lines with the blue screen backgrounds are still rough around the edges. Mat lines stand out even more for a few of the sequences but that's the worst of it. The image is free of any speckling or scratches.
For this restoration, Mike worked with the team to dig back into the film and remove some of the wires holding up the space ship models and Vultan and the hawkmen for the Ajax attack sequence. Overall it's very clean and you can't really tell they removed them. A couple of sequences where they were initially "painted" out in 1980 still look lighter than the rest of the scene but those are relatively brief moments.
Dolby Vision HDR does exactly what it should and add extra pop and highlights to the colors, brighten whites, and make blacks nice and inky. Again - the costumes! I'll refer back to Dale's wedding dress again because those black beads pick up a lot of spectral highlights as does the metallic armor of Ming's guards. Red and Green are major colors of the film and they come through with terrific pop as do blues - especially with one hapless character's blood early on smeared on a golden sword.
From my review of the Check Disc I reviewed of the 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray -
This 5.1 track sounds like it's been rejiggered a little to allow for a more distinctive surround presence with some object placement and a little more side/rear activity - but - it still feels like the front/center channels haul the main load. When the songs from Queen come on they appropriately dominate the mix making for a really exciting soundscape for the big hawkman battle scene.
Just as welcome is the DTS-HD MA 2.0 stereo mix. While this film did get a 6-channel surround mix for some theatrical exhibitions, the one time I saw this in theaters it only had a stereo track, and that's always felt more natural to me than a full-on surround track. To that, it really is dealer's choice as I like both tracks here. I do lean towards the 5.1 mix because I love how the soundtrack fills all of the channels. The dialog is clean for both tracks and there aren't any unfortunate age-related issues to contend with.
With the Zavvi SteelBook you get the bulk of the bonus features of the full 40th Anniversary set's extra features that are also available on the Arrow 2-Disc release - but perhaps not all of the best. The Zavvi SteelBook loses not only the extra soundtrack CD, but it also misses out on the second Blu-ray bonus features disc which includes the Life After Flash 2017 documentary. The commentary tracks are a blast - as I said in my Check Disc review the Brian Blessed commentary is a riot. The additional interview clips are mostly filler and cut moments from the Life After Flash documentary. All in all this is a pretty damn amazing set of features.
4K UHD Disc / Blu-ray Film Disc
Bonus Features Blu-ray 1
Bonus Features Blu-ray 2
If swag isn't your thing but you still want cool packaging, the Zavvi SteelBook release of StudioCanal's Flash Gordon 40th Anniversary 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray release is a nice alternative. However, this comes with the caveat that you're not getting everything this set has to offer. The full StudioCanal set offers an additional bonus features disc as well the soundtrack CD and a bunch of other fun print materials. As the Zavvi SteelBook has sold out, the full StudioCanal set is a pretty damn impressive set. The price point is the only real sticking point but if you're a big fan of the movie, this may be the best way to celebrate the movie and worth considering the import. Featuring a stunning new native 4K restoration with Dolby Vision HDR, two great audio mixes, and hours of extra bonus features - this is the home video release of Flash Gordon fans have been waiting for. Highly Recommended.