Sometimes you really can’t beat a good sex parody, and that’s just what 1974 release Flesh Gordon is. Written by Michael Benveniste who went on to co-direct with Howard Ziehm, Flesh Gordon is a porno inspired by the 1930s Flash Gordon serial films and comics (that feature film that we all remember wasn’t released until 1980…) which begins perfectly with a small introduction, and disclaimer, which highlights the Depression of the 30s and assures us that this film has nothing to do with the original comics or their writers. As if they’d want to have anything to do with a film like this…
The film is effectively your typical Flash Gordon fare with an added incredibly camp sexual twist. Earth has become under threat from an evil sex ray that is being beamed from another planet, causing people to become sexually hysterical in a ‘total degradation that has overcome the masses’. Professor Gordon decides that his son Flesh (that’s right, every name is a sexual-like pun on the original characters name) is the only one who can stop it, and after seeing first hand what the sex ray can do (in a scene that turns a normal flight into a plane orgy and then see’s Flesh get a mid-air blowjob whilst parachuting down to land), Flesh sets out to destroy the evil device.
Teaming up with Dr Flexi Jerkoff (aka Dr Alexis Zarkov) and love interest Dale Ardor (aka Dale Arden), Flesh makes his way to planet Porno (aka Mongo, in a spaceship that looks a lot like a vibrating dildo) to bring down the tyrannous Emperor Wang the Perverted (aka Ming the Merciless… you get the idea right?) and together they encounter all manner of Porno inhabitants, including a number of animated penisaurus, an underground group of lesbian Amazonian’s, hermaphrodite wrestling monsters and, lets not forget, the rapist robots with twirling, screwdriver-like dicks.
Originally released with an X certificate, it was re-edited and eventually received an R rating, whilst later releases included both gay and straight hardcore shots that had been supposedly cut out. However, even with these shots included, the film isn’t that much different. The sex scenes are well choreographed so that you don’t really see anything and the hardcore shots don’t fare any better, in fact they look exactly the same. Still, at least the mass orgies, of which there are a few, allude to a lot of good stuff! Aside from the obvious draw of sex, the other fantastic reason to see the film are the somewhat terrible but inventive effects, all done by artists who would go on to later have big special effects careers in cinema (Rick Baker, Doug Beswick, Mick Minor, Dave Allen, Jim Danforth and Dennis Muren!). The sex ray looks nothing more than red exploding cupcake sprinkles and some of the models are rather obviously shoddy but all have their charm. Also included are scenes using stop motion animation (a personal favourite of mine) which wonderfully evoke the talents of animation legend Ray Harryhausen. The climatic monster The Great God Porno at the end of the film, voiced by an uncredited Craig T Nelson, especially looks like he could have stepped out of Harryhausen’s greek myth features and the beautiful Beetleman who could have easily appeared in one of Ray’s sci-fi pictures.
Flesh Gordon is not the best film you will ever see, but I defy you to other sex parodies out there that really encompass the charm and feel of the properties they are piss-taking. There’s awful acting, bad one liners and some really dire day-for-night shots but the film has a great script and a good narrative that holds the whole picture together. The sex fits into the story perfectly, and whilst it is obviously gratuitous (it’s a porno for God’s sake!), it doesn’t feel out-of-place. My only qualm is that nearly all of the scenes feel very frantic which sadly means you don’t get to glimpse an awful lot. That’s not to say there isn’t a lot of 70s muff, hairy chests, bad facial hair and flesh in all shapes and sizes! If you can track this film down it’s well worth a watch, a terrific slice of kitsch, sexy parody with a heart full of charm. A glorious cult classic.