The unforgettable Flashheart

Chris Hallam on a brilliant comedy cameo

‘Flash by name. Flash by nature!’ Rik Mayall’s appearance as the swashbuckling Lord Flashheart in the closing minutes of the Bells episode of Blackadder II must rank as the most energetic, hilarious and bawdiest small screen comedy cameo in living memory. And while Blackadder is now long gone, Flashheart is now back on our screens. Sort of.

Bursting into the Royal chambers, Edmund’s old chum and prospective best man Flashheart makes a huge impact, flirting obscenely with almost the entire wedding party before stealing the prospective bride Kate (aka ‘Bob’) from under Blackadder’s nose.

He manages to flatter both Nursie ‘I like it firm and fruity. Am I pleased to see you or did I just put a canoe in my pocket?’ bridesmaid Baldrick ‘Bridesmaid – like the beard. Gives me something to hang onto!’ and gives the impression he could easily deflower Miranda Richardson’s Virgin Queen at any moment. He also manages to insult Melchett: ‘Still worshipping God?... Last I heard, he started worshipping me!’ and assault Percy not once but twice. He goes onto reveal a penchant for soliloquy (of Kate) ‘She has a tongue like an Electric Eel and she likes the taste of a man’s tonsils’ and after a very fast costume change, demonstrates an interest in cross dressing. Woof woof, indeed.

And then, it’s all over in,well, a flash. In a series not short on strong celebrity cameos, Flashheart even beats Tom Baker’s legless Captain Rum into second place. He also rivals Rik from The Young Ones and Alan B’stard amongst Mayall’s best comedy creations ever. Little wonder Mayall asked as soon as the shoot was over: ‘Did I win?’

In retrospect, it’s tempting to wonder could Flashheart have survived the transition to his own spin off series or even film.  The singer during the end credits certainly thinks so opining ‘Lord Flashheart: I wish you were the star…you’re sexier by far.’

In retrospect, I suspect the joke might have worn a bit thin had it been stretched out to a full length star vehicle. That said, while it’s easy to imagine Flashheart as a highwayman, it was actually four years (or if you prefer 350 years) until we saw Flash – now Squadron Commander The Lord Flashheart again, crashing into Captain Blackadder’s trench in Blackadder Goes Forth.

This time Blackadder and Flash are anything but old chums, perhaps because some quirk of genetic memory, Blackadder (or Captain ‘Slack Bladder’ as Flashheart calls him) remembers his Tudor ancestor’s jilting at the altar. Or maybe it’s simply because the new Flashheart, a hero of the Flying Corps initially mistaking the Captain for a German, attacks him on sight.

In this episode, which sees Flashheart ultimately rescuing Blackadder and Baldrick from the Red Baron (played by Mayall’s old comedy partner Ade Edmundson), Flashman gets far more screen time and thus plenty of opportunity to indulge his massive ego.

I actually slightly prefer Flash’s first incarnation, although it must be said Mayall certainly looks the part in his World War I get up, every inch a more promiscuous Biggles or Bulldog Drummond (and no longer wearing a dodgy wig). The audience also obviously adore him, apparently going slightly hysterical during his final scene.

But the character’s far from over. Mayall is back playing a slightly older 19th century version of Flashheart in an advert for a certain brand of beer. This only a few months after Rik Mayall revived his Alan B’stard persona in a broadcast promoting the successful ‘No’ campaign in the recent electoral reform referendum.

This character isn’t strictly speaking Flashheart. He is referred to as Bombardier Bedford and actually resembles George MacDonald Frasier’s version of Harry Flashman (himself, presumably an inspiration for Flashheart) almost as much as Mayall’s character from Blackadder.

But there’s no denying it: the promiscuity, the vanity. All the hallmarks of a Flashheart are there. I wasn’t keen on the recent B’stard broadcast, I admit. But if Mayall wants to mine one of his finest and most underused comic creations today, then good luck to him. Woof woof!

Published: 10 Jun 2011

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