The film that possibly gave Mariangela Melato her biggest worldwide exposure was strangely omitted from her obituary. It is Flash Gordon (1980), in which she played the role of Kala, the Emperor Ming's head of security. I directed it and can vouch that Mariangela and Max von Sydow, both very serious actors, revelled in portraying these outrageous villains. We had a lot of fun making that film and I think the fun that she had is up there on the screen.
Mariangela Melato as Kala in Flash Gordon. She started her career with Dario Fo and Franca Rame's theatre company
I had no idea that she had started her career with the radical theatre company of Dario Fo and his wife, Franca Rame, so I did not get to talk to her about what must have been an amazing time in her life. In the mid-60s Fo and Rame performed in London and I became an immediate fan, seeing them on three consecutive nights. Now I can clearly see the source of that brilliantly humorous caricature Mariangela brought to our film.
I used to marvel when I saw her arrive each morning at the studio. Whatever the hour, she always looked glamorous – fully made up, often in a fur coat. Ornella Muti, also in the film, was the same. Italian stars take the job seriously.