Saturday, May 3, 2014

#1,356. Flesh Gordon (1974)

Directed By: Michael Benveniste, Howard Ziehm

Starring: Jason Williams, Suzanne Fields, Joseph Hudgins

Tag line: "An outrageous parody of yesterdays' super heroes!"

Trivia: Los Angeles-area Star Trek fan and writer Bjo Trimble was a makeup artist on Flesh Gordon, and described the experiences in her book On the Good Ship Enterprise: My 15 Years with Star Trek

Emperor Wang the Perverted (William Hunt), ruler of the planet Porno, is bombarding earth with his “sex ray”, turning its entire populace into horny sex fiends. When the plane they’re traveling on is struck by the ray, Flesh Gordon (Jason Williams) and Dale Ardor (Suzanne Fields) grab a parachute and jump to safety, landing just outside the laboratory of Dr. Flexi Jerkoff (Joseph Hudgins). Hoping to stop Wang’s attack, Dr. Jerkoff has built a rocket ship, and convinces Flesh and Dale to join him as he blasts off into space. The moment the trio land on Porno, they’re taken prisoner and dragged before the Emperor, who immediately falls for Dale. As for Flesh, he’s caught the eye of Wang’s queen, Aurora (Nora Wieternik), who, following a brief fling, helps our hero escape. After befriending the effeminate Prince Precious (Lance Larsen), the next in-line for the throne of Porno, Flesh sets his sights on destroying Wang’s dreaded ray, but will he do so in time to save the earth?

Billed as an erotic parody of the 1930’s Flash Gordon serials, Flesh Gordon features plenty of nudity (Dale gets her clothes ripped off so many times that you wonder why she even bothers to dress again), but aside from a fairly graphic tryst between Flesh and Queen Aurora, which takes place on the royal barge, the movie isn’t particularly erotic. Many of the sex scenes are edited together haphazardly, and in such a way that very little is shown (to be fair, the censors may have had more to do with this than the filmmakers; the MPAA originally slapped Flesh Gordon with an “X” rating, and demanded several cuts to get it down to a much more respectable “R”). On the plus side, Flesh Gordon is, at times, quite funny. Admittedly, some of the humor is juvenile (Dr. Jerkoff’s rocket is shaped like a giant penis), but I did occasionally laugh at the dialogue (“Come on, Jerkoff! We’ve got to stop Wang!”), and the Monster of Death (voiced by an uncredited Craig T. Nelson), a large centaur-like creature that does the Emperor’s bidding, is a cross between King Kong and a smooth jazz musician (“That’s the Tower of Death”, it says to Dale, “and it’s where I hang out”). At one point, it even passes by a window and pauses to admire its own reflection!

Yet what really blew me away was how good Flesh Gordon looks, from the matte paintings and special effects right down to the costumes and sets. Topping them all, however, is the movie’s stop-motion animation, bringing to life everything from the aptly-named Penisauruses (one-eyed worms that attack our heroes in a cave) to the above-mentioned Monster of Death (a creation so realistic it actually rivals some of Ray Harryhausen’s best work). Aided by such future effects masters as Rick Baker (An American Werewolf in London, Men in Black), Michael Minor (The Beastmaster, Spacehunter: Adventures in the Forbidden Zone) and Dennis Muren (Star Wars, Close Encounters of the Third Kind), Flesh Gordon is a “stimulating” sci-fi / comedy that, 40 years later, still looks damn impressive.


Unknown said...

HaHaHaHa!! I probably wouldn't have admitted to seeing this if you hadn't written about it. It was a long time ago, but I thought that certain moments were hilarious!! Yes, some of it was juvenile, but for the most part, they did a pretty good job for the silly subject matter at hand!

Edward said...

I have watched this movie a few times, I had it on VHS and collectors editions DVD. It has a timesless charm to it that helps give it a cult follwing to this day.