Thoughts On The Dead

Musings on the Most Ridiculous Band I Can't Stop Listening To

A Kind Of Magic/Flash Gordon

First of all: skinny leather ties are bitchin’. Second: the headstock’s tough to see, but it’s a familiar shape.

We open with a picture of John Deacon to introduce A Kind Of Magic because the magic that Queen was talking about was within John Deacon the entire time. He just had to look into his heart.

Please don’t be weird.

Yeah, I’ll try to maintain decorum while discussing Highlander.

Phenomenal fucking flick.

It is, and A Kind Of Magic is the (unofficial) soundtrack: six of the nine tunes show up in the movie. (The album and tour opener One Vision would not appear in Highlander, as it had been featured in the previous year’s Iron Eagle. For the Younger Enthusiast: Iron Eagle was The Karate Kid, but with F-16’s. Arabs kidnap an American pilot, so his teen son steals a warplane and blows up all the Arabs; he does this with the aid of the rock and roll tunes he blasts from a walkman strapped to his thigh. Swear to God.)

The record’s crap, so let’s turn our attention to Queen’s movie career: since Freddie died, their songs–the two or three you’d assume–have been licensed off to movie after movie, but they were more selective when they were active. The two high points (for a very loose definition of “high”) were Flash Gordon and Highlander.

Back in the ’40’s, there were something called serials, Younger Enthusiast. On Saturdays, the local movie theater–which would normally be empty during the day–would put on a lineup for the kids: cartoons, and action movies or westerns, and also serials. Ten minutes of your favorite hero a week, and at the end of each short film would be a cliffhanger; the studios cranked them out for pennies. Superman, Batman, Buck Rodgers; all the same shtick: a guy, a girl, a comic sidekick, a bad guy, and no production values whatsoever.

One of the serial heroes was Flash Gordon. Along with his best girl, Gail Girlfriend, and the loyal but bumbling scientist Dr. Jew, he had adventures in space; the three battled Emperor Ming, of whom it was fruitless to ask for mercy. The name of the planet Ming ruled was Mongo.

On the other hand, none of that is any dumber than Star Wars. (Which makes sense, as Star Wars stole massive amounts of bullshit from the sci-fi serials, and George Lucas actively pursued the Flash Gordon property before making his own dopey space movie.)

I’ll be honest: I haven’t seen Flash Gordon in a while.

Wait, is this the movie where Timothy Dalton sticks his hand in the monster tree? And then he fights Flash on a swiveling platform? And Brian Blessed?

I retract all the jokes I was going to tell about Flash Gordon.

(Fun fact: that is not a costume. That is what Brian Blessed wore to the studio that day. That is also his personal war club; he brought it from home.)

And like I said yesterday or the day before–I have lost track of time down here in the rabbit hole–the Flash Gordon soundtrack is just one song, plus 35 minutes of bloopy and thumpy noises. The song is a good one, though, and captures the campy pomposity that the movie aims for, but does not quite reach; the bridge (the “Just a maa-aaan, with a maaa-aaan’s courage” part) is one of the best they ever wrote.

The song’s not even three minutes long. Give it a whirl:

Queen made two types of videos: ones where they tried, and ones where they didn’t. This is one of the latter, but at least they didn’t make John Deacon pretend to sing like they usually did.

In contrast, here is a video in which effort (and money) was put forth:

I don’t what’s worse: sitting there while wearing a sweater, or swordfighting Christopher Lambert with a mic stand.

That video was for Princes of the Universe, which is a dreadful and herky-jerky mash-up of four or five ideas masquerading as a song, and the footage was from Highlander, which cannot be called the greatest film ever made solely because all movies have not been made yet. It is possible–though vanishingly improbable–that a better film that Highlander might be produced one day, and so we technically cannot award it the title.

Highlander, Younger Enthusiast, was about a race of Immortals that wandered the earth lopping each others’ heads off with swords. One of these Immortals was Juan Sanchez Villa-Lobos Ramirez, who was played by Sean Connery, and played as Sean Connery. (Did Sean Connery ever actually act? I’ve never seen him do anything onscreen other than be Sean Connery in different hairpieces.) The hero, MacLeod, who is supposedly from the Scottish Highlands–hence the movie’s title–was played by Christopher Lambert, who is from somewhere. Switzerland? Luxembourg? Maybe he is a Walloon. The point is that when Christopher Lambert spoke English, it sounded like his tongue was wrestling with his teeth.

But the bad guy is very bad. So bad. He is called the Kurgan; he kills and rapes, and is boisterous in churches. Christopher Lambert–now in 1985 New York–must fight both the bad guy and the English language; he ends the movie with a 1-1 record.

The movie tanked on release, but got a cult following and spawned a million sequels, spin-offs, and teevee shows; every single one of them–save the original–have been worse than terrible; they’re rebooting it next year.

A Kind of Magic went to #1 in the UK the week it was released and stayed on the charts for over a year; in America, the album barely made it into the top 50. North America was not included in the itinerary for the Magic Tour, which would be 26 shows and finish up at Wembley Stadium, where they would have their greatest triumph.

12 Comments

  1. Are you gonna take us all the way to the Freddie Tribute concert in 92 ?

    • And also cover the Deacy Amp?

      (Yes, yes, you must! Must cover the Deacy Amp! It is the source of the magic in John Deacon’s heart! And also the magic in Brian May’s fireplace guitar!)

      (I’m on Team John Deacon, for the record).

  2. So how does it all end? 1991 or with the winner runner up in American idol?

  3. Luther Von Baconson

    December 16, 2016 at 2:32 pm

    Ajax was and always will be a Hotbed for Queen Enthusiasts

  4. I preferred the ” Want Live Forever” Queen song Highlander.

  5. I’ve really enjoyed your history of Queen. As a 40-something year old, reflecting on Live Aid and evolution of societal attitudes towards homosexuals since the 1980’s is a thought provoking endeavour. You’ve made me want to like Queen, and I certainly appreciate Freddy’s vocal talents, and the fact that they have many interesting tunes in their catalogue. But, every video you have posted just reminds me I do not enjoy their music. Sorry.

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