Flesh Gordon

Dir: Howard Ziehm and Michael Benveniste, 1974

7/10

Flesh_Gordon_(1976)

Quite possibly the template for all porno spoofs.

Arriving at a time when porn was becoming fashionable, Howard Ziehm’s spoof of Alex Raymond’s Flash Gordon was nothing more than that. Porn.

Porn in the USA had just made a major breakthrough with the Gerard Damiano’s Deep Throat. At nearly feature length, Damiano’s pornographic comedy/drama/whatever had seriously smashed the sensibilities of American citizens and was recouping serious profits from punters no longer scared or afraid of sex. Its, star Linda Lovelace and her talented oesophagus, became the poster girl of porn for decades.

Professor Gordon (50’s Hollywood actor, John Hoyt), a scientist, is alerted to a sex ray heading towards Earth from the planet Porno. The ray forces it’s victims into having ravenous sex.

The professor’s son, Flesh (Jason WIlliams), is on a plane when the sex ray hits, causing the crew and passengers to fall into a sexual frenzy.

Also travelling on the plane is Dale Ardor (Suzanne Fields), a beautiful blonde.

Aware that the plane will inevitably crash, Flesh and Dale escape by parachuting out and landing in the laboratory of Flexi Jerkoff (Joseph Hudgens)

Flexi plans to stop the rays by travelling in his penis spaceship to the source. Flesh and Dale agree to accompany him.

Landing on Porno, they are attacked by penisauruses monsters but are able to escape.

The leader of Porno is perverted Emperor Wang (William Dennis Hunt). Wang sends his army to capture the Earthlings and bring them to him.

In the emperors throne room, an orgy is commencing. Wang sentences Flesh to be executed, Jerkoff to work in the laboratory and Dale is to be his wife.

Queen Amora takes a liking to Flesh and takes him to be her sex slave on her ship.

Wang shoots down Amora’s ship, but Flesh escapes and is reunited with Flexi. Together, they both vow to defeat Wang and his sex ray and rescue Dale from his.perverted clutches. Helping them is Prince Precious of the Forest Kingdom.

The wedding is disturbed by Amazonian lesbians, led by Chief Nellie (porn star, Candy Samples). Nellie kidnaps Dale and forces the Amazonians to have lesbian sex with Dale, against her will.

Flesh, Jerkoff and the prince save Dale and make their way to Wang’s palace, destroying the sex ray.

Fleeing, Wang summons the Great God of Porno (voiced by an uncredited Craig T. Nelson), in a final attempt to crush his enemies. Flexi shoots the Great God, and he falls on Wang.

The Earthlings return to their home planet hailed as heroes on Porno.

Originally filmed with both straight and gay hardcore scenes, the authorities raided the offices of the production company, Graffiti Productions, and confiscated the XXX rated footage. Despite America’s embracing of porn, the producing of porn in Los Angeles was seen, in a legal sense, as pandering.

Graffiti never got the footage returned and it is thought to be either lost or, more likely, destroyed.

However, a few brief shots of explicit content still appear in the throne room orgy.

The humour is puerile. It’s like it came from the mind of a schoolboy. Penisaurus monsters? Not exactly Wilde.

But it’s funny. It’s childish.

You’d think the comedy couldn’t get any lower but it does. Emperor Wang keeps a group of “rape monsters”; wild haired, frightening looking women with strap ons.

Flesh Gordon was a stepping stone for some of Hollywood’s most famous and in demand. Legendary special effects artist, Rick Baker, got his start in this. Effects guru Jim Danforth (spelled backwards in the credits as “Mij Htrofnad”) also went on to bigger and better things.Coach and Poltergeist star, Craig T. Nelson got his break, here. Star Trek aficionado, Bjo Trimble, was a makeup artist.

What really stands out in this film is the art design. For such a cheap film (and a porno one at that) the effects are second to none. Superb. They can rival anything that Hollywood at the time had to offer.

The soundtrack by Ralph Ferraro is wonderful. An excellent opening theme, it’s a magnificent array of orchestral mastery that splendidly captures the tone of heroes in peril.

Accompanying the music is a series of cartoon storyboards relating the plot of the film. The artwork is astounding. It is certainly one of the best openings to a film that I’ve ever seen.

What makes this film so entertaining is seeing what could be achieved on a ridiculously small budget. Impressive.

On its initial exhibition in America, the film earned itself an ‘X’ rating. In Britain, the film ran into trouble with the censors.

You see, it’s all about keeping up appearances. The establishment couldn’t be seen allowing smut and filth into Great Britain. Oh, no! That won’t do at all! We do have a stiff upper lip to keep, old boy!

In 1975, the film was reviewed by the board and subjected to cuts. The BBFC no longer have the details of what was cut but it’s a definite that the more explicit shots were taken out. Judging by the 1988 VHS release it’s likely that the lesbian rape was cut as well.

In 1980 the film was re-released in an edited version, gaining a more lucrative ‘R’ in America and an ‘X’ in Britain without cuts.

But in 1988 the uncut theatrical print was sent to the censors for a video rating. 1 min and 16 secs had to be shorn before an ’18’ certificate was given.

Among the scenes gone were the explicit shots in the orgy, labial detail, Wang inserting a pastie into a vagina and the lesbian rape.

FLESH GORDON (2)
UK VHS release. Note the selling point “The Special Edition”

Advertised as a “special edition” the video featured more footage than the 1980 cinema release but was still censored from the uncut version. In the USA, a tape was issued that featured the uncensored theatrical print.

FLESH GORDON us vhs
US VHS uncensored special edition

In 2001, a DVD was put out that featured the full uncut version with no BBFC interference, although their site doesn’t list the film being resubmitted and no record of them having waived the cuts.

The DVD has an informative commentary by the director, Ziehm, who reads from a prepared text. The commentary is worth the price of the disc, alone. It is seriously one of the best commentaries I’ve ever had the fortune to listen to.

So, yeah, give it a watch. Don’t expect too much. It’s just silly fun.

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