A fascinating exploration into the life of Sam J. Jones, beginning with his name-making lead performance in the 1980 fantasy classic Flash Gordon, that establishes what makes Mike Hodges’ film so iconic and enduring. Sacked from the film prior to its completion (his voice was dubbed by another actor), Jones’ subsequent career took many turns before he embraced his brush with stardom. He now attends conventions (with real enthusiasm) and has seen his performance celebrated in the Ted comedies. A life-affirming tribute to the film and its star.
This documentary from director Lisa Downs feels very much like a making of the 1970’s film Flash Gordon and far less like a documentary about its star Sam J. Jones, I’m not sure that it is a problem however as I enjoyed the sections about the making of the film far more interesting than Sam himself. Sam seems like someone who’s learned a lot in the years since the iconic role and has spent time in self reflection and taking responsibility for his actions, he genuinely seems to regret some of his actions when younger. He finds solace and strength in his religion and it is apparent that this is an important factor in his life for both him and his family. Downs appears to get pretty unrestricted access to both Jones and his family and friends and goes into some deeper issues, including his struggles with depression and suicide. There are things however that are mentioned by some of Jones’ friends that are never really explored properly and a lot of time is spent hearing about how loved Jones is and whilst this may be true it does sometimes almost feel like a little bit of a sanitised version of events. I found the sections that are more focussed on the making of Flash Gordon, with contributions from the other people involved in the making of the 70’s classic far more interesting. There are extensive interviews with Jones’ co-stars like Melody Anderson and the always entertaining Brian Blessed and a number of the other stars of the movie. There are also a huge number of talking heads discussing their love for the film with contributors ranging from Rich Fulcher, of The Mighty Boosh fame, to film maker Robert Rodriguez and everyone in between, all of whom have their own tales and anecdotes on the film and how it affected them.
It’s an interesting and entertaining documentary that feels a bit lacking in focus and like it could have done with choosing to look at either Jones or the Making of the film rather than trying to split between both. Overall an enjoyable love letter to the 1970’s campy sci-fi classic.