I was thinking of my best/worst superhero movies list, and I think I need to replace an entry. I was always pretty lukewarm about putting the 1989 Batman movie in the list, as I didn't really like the film but put it in there just because it was influential. I did, though, think of a movie I enjoyed more.
1980's Flash Gordon
Now this was a movie that had DISASTER written all over it. It was produced by Dino De Laurentiis soon after his trifecta of mediocre big-budget epics, King Kong and not one but TWO Jaws knockoffs, Orca and The White Buffalo. The lead role was given to former "Playgirl" centerfold Sam Jones and was worsened by surrounding him with superior actors (Max Von Sydow, Topol). Campy rock band Queen was chosen to do the soundtrack when sci-fi films were expected to have orchestral soundtracks. The special effects were intentionally fake-looking, using paint swirled in a large drum as the "space" background. The actress chosen to play the evil princess barely spoke English. Some of the dialog is so hokey as to induce chills. And finally, it features Timothy Dalton in a Peter Pan costume and Brian Blessed in a loincloth and styrofoam wings.
. . .but somehow it works. Where other similar over-the-top productions of the time like "Xanadu", (shudder) "Can't Stop The Music", and (bigger shudder) "The Apple" are just unwatchable, "Flash Gordon" somehow survives. It dives right into comic book silliness and doesn't look back, which propels it past other efforts like "Dick Tracy" that tried to be both a comic book and taken seriously at the same time. The Queen soundtrack fit the film perfectly, with loud guitar-riffs punctuating the action (and the occasional "FLASH!!!" when something really cool happened) to remind you that this was not something to be taken seriously.
It certainly could have been a better movie, but I wonder if removing some of the movie's obvious flaws (bad acting, bad dialogue, visible wires holding up spaceships) would also remove some of its charm.
And finally, thankfully nobody tried to make a sequel, as that would certainly have been the disaster that this film should have been. That is unless you count De Laurentiis' "Dune" of four years later, which recycles much of the cast along with the bad acting, hokey dialog, and silly special effects (which you're supposed to take seriously this time).
I just had to post this because the movie was on television a couple of weeks ago, and I found myself wanting to sit down and watch the whole thing. And that's something that I can't say about some of the other entries on my top-5 list.