The Bad Movie Report

Flesh Gordon

Buy from

First of all, don't let anybody, especially me, fool you: as a decade, the 60's kinda sucked. For every good thing you could name that came from that time period, I can supply you with two bad ones; and chances are, most of the good things you could come up with are related to music or art, in some way. Like any period consumed with turmoil and upheaval, the 60's produced some great art.

Flesh Gordon - The BoxWhy am I going on about the 60's? Mainly to get us to the 70's - if the 60's was a long, hard political work-week, the 70's were the beer-keg fueled self-expressive weekend. It was a goofy damn decade, full of disco, sex and drugs. And it was the only period in which an X-rated parody of the Flash Gordon story could possibly get made.

Comparatively big-budget productions in the adult film trade were common at that time. Titles like The Erotic Adventures of Zorro and The Long, Swift Sword of Siegfried tried to add some epic flair to the carnal goings-on. And in those pre-home video days, adult films were actually shot on film, with mainstream-quality trailers trumpeting their arrival at the local grindhouse. So somewhere in there, somebody had the idea to use a Flash spoof as a vehicle; what's insured it a more durable place in film history than other films of this type is the fact that they decided to do a good job of it.

First, slumming character actor John Hoyt (as Professor Gordon) informs us that the Earth is, in scientific terms, "in big trouble". The reason for this: a mysterious ray from outer space is tripping off the mating circuitry of everyone exposed to it; there is humping in the streets, and civilization (as we know it) is bump-and-grinding to a halt. Fortunately, Gordon's son, Flesh (Jason Williams), is returning from a hockey championship, and he will help us all get to the bottom of this (God only knows why that should be, but there you are).

Flesh is indeed en route on a plane, where he meets the lovely Dale Ardor (Cindy Hopkins). Immediately after that, the plane flies through the Sex Ray, prompting an onboard orgy, which the pilots gleefully join. Unaffected by the Ray (he's the hero, after all), Flesh attempts to land the plane, but the controls break off in his hands. Desperately, he and Dale parachute from the afflicted aircraft.

And land, conveniently enough, near the lab of a bearded madman who is convinced that they have arrived to steal his "Stratos-ship". Flesh recognizes him as unorthodox genius and old family The Oscar Meyer Weinermobile...of the FUTURE!friend Dr. Flexi Jerkoff (Joseph Hudgins). Jerkoff recognizes the now-grown-up Flesh, and recruits him (and Dale) on his mission to stop the Sex Ray. Boarding the Stratos-ship (which, of course, looks like an erect penis), the three blast off into....adventure! Or something like.

A Penisaurus (as if you couldn't tell).

After a mandatory encounter with the Sex Ray, our three heroes discover themselves over the planet Porno, where they are shot down by the minions of emperor Wang the Perverted (William Hunt). The three escape into a cave, where they are summarily attacked by wild Penisauruses, and are saved only by the timely arrival of Wang's soldiers and their ray guns. ("Capture them and tie them up!" "I dibs the girl!" "I get the blonde giant!" "And that leaves the bearded one for me." lustfully grins the captain of the guards).

Well, save may be the wrong word. Wang sends Jerkoff to his Labs, and announces he will wed Dale because "she is exquisite!" Flesh is about to be executed when Amoura, Queen of Darkness, arrives to claim him. "Only if he survives the torture I decree!" lisps Wang, throwing Flesh into a pit filled with Savage Hermaphrodites. Flesh, of course, beats 'em all up, then falls to the floor, exhausted. Amoura makes off with him, much to the wrath of Wang, who never plays by the rules anyway.

As Wang's forces search for them, Amoura is on her ship, shall we say, consummating her "GET them, you DILDO!!!"relationship with Flesh. A very brief relationship, as Wang's warship blows them out of the sky. Only Flesh survives, and is amazed to run into Jerkoff, who has escaped Wang's clutches. Then they are both amazed when the dead Amoura appears to them in a Cheap Special Effect, and bequeaths to them her Power Pasties, that they may have the power to fight Wang.

Meanwhile, Wang, resplendent in a wedding gown, is preparing to marry the unwilling Dale. The ceremony is cut short by one of the bridesmaids spiriting Dale away via a secret passageway, just as Flesh and Jerkoff burst into the room. She has been kidnapped by the Secret Lesbian Underground, "No, I do NOT want a copy of The Watchtower!"led by the Dyke Queen, played by Candy Samples (who wears a patch over both her right eye and right breast). Dale is about to be Initiated Into Their Ways when she is rescued by Jerkoff and Flesh, but NOT before the Lesbians summon their guardian, who is, for some reason, a metallic beetle man (?). It overpowers Flesh, who would surely be doomed if not for the intervention of the Robin Hood-esque and quite gay Prince Precious of the Forest People, and rightful ruler of Porno (Mycle Brandy).

Hiding in the idyllic (and extremely wanton) Forest Kingdom, Jerkoff creates a weapon which, using the Power Pasties as a battery, is powerful enough to completely destroy the Sex Ray. Unfortunately, one of Precious' lackeys is a turncoat who steals one of the pasties and sabotages their ship, with only Flesh, Dale, Jerkoff and Precious surviving the resulting crash. Doggedly, they troop into Castle Wang, only to be trapped in a giant toilet called the Royal Flush.

Kennedys....of the FUTURE!!!Wang's celebration (a bunnyhop line comprised of naked people) is a bit premature, as our heroes simply swim through the sewer system to another part of the castle, and (once again) charge into Wang's throne room. Wang, in return, activates his Rapist Robots - wonderfully constructed Old Bad Movie tin men with strategically-placed drills. Flesh manages to turn the robots on their master, however, and Wang must utilize the escape hatch behind his throne, vowing to blow up the Earth.

First, though, he has to take care of business, which he does by calling upon a huge idol to come to life and destroy the heathens. Harryhausen-like, the idol animates, intoning in a rather soothing voice, "Oh, boy.... I just love murder." The monster chases our plucky quartet, but manages to grab Dale "My... what a charming miniature."(being a girl, she has to trip), and climbs up a nearby tower ("The Tower of Murder... that's where I hang out.") Flesh and crew hijack one of Wang's ships, while Jerkoff feverishly rewires the recovered Power Pastie into his gun. Meantime, Dale and the Idol re-create the scene in King Kong where Kong tears off Fay Wray's clothes (well come on... it's X-rated, for crying out loud!). Jerkoff manages to shoot the Idol in the butt, provoking it into dropping Dale and attempting to catch the strafing aircraft... but it only manages to clumsily trip and fall upon Wang and his Sex Ray, wiping all three out in a huge explosion. The Earth is saved, hoorah. The end.

You see, like the serial adventures that were its primary inspiration, Flesh Gordon's story is just One Damned Thing After Another. In fact, I had considered writing the plot summary in one long sentence without punctuation, meant to be read in one breath. But heck, I like you guys, so I changed my mind.

First, let's ignore the acting, okay? Okay.








Oh, crap, I can't! Lord, it never rises above adequate. Then, it didn't need to be - remember! It's an X-rated film! Hudgin's Jerkoff comes the closest to an actual acting job, possessing a modicum of timing and hammy ability. From that high point it tends to go downhill, with most on the cutting Come on!  Bland along with me!edge of average. Sadly, most average of all is Williams as Flesh, who might as well be painted the same color as the backdrops. Williams is also the only one of the on-camera participants who went on to have something more of a career - he was the star of Timewalker, as well as the producer and writer. I've seen Timewalker twice, and all I remember is there was a mummy, and some fungus. Period. Don't ask me what Jason Williams did in it. I have no idea. *

For a chilling moment during my viewing, I had what passed for a moment of clarity: I realized that the non-effect, non-setting-up-a-joke expository scenes were indistinguishable from similar scenes in any movie made by Adamson, Mikels or Buchanan. It was if for a moment I had found the Philosopher's Stone of Bad Movies, it was such a universal sensation. Then the clarity gave way to confusion, as for a moment I was uncertain if I watching Astro-Zombies or Mars Needs Women... then a nekkid woman walked across the screen and I got my bearings back.

Still, I did say they did a good job, didn't I? There are two reasons: 1) the jokes are actually funny, if sophomoric: the Stratos-ship is turned on via an ignition key, just like a car, and the key chain bears the Volkswagen symbol; Wang has a number of honorifics, the most prevalent being "Your Protuberance"; and Jerkoff running around with his shirt hitched up to his armpits so he can use the Power Pasties is pretty damn absurd; 2) the special effects are actually good.

In a movie of this sort (and I'm talking parody here, not porno), it would have been all-too-easy to dispense with the effects in a cardboard, haw-haw-lookit-that-ain't-that-cheap manner. The fact that Purty.  Just needs a soundtrack by Queen.the makers of Flesh didn't go that route, but in fact always equal and most of the time better the Flash Gordon serials speaks well of them. The rockets flying across the sky in particular could have easily been snipped from its black-and-white predecessor... except for the provocative shape of the Stratos-ship. And one scene, where the camera pans up from Castle Wang to reveal Amoura's black swan-shaped ship, gracefully gliding through the clouds across the Moons of Porno, is so lovely that nothing in the mega-expensive De Laurentiis version compares.

You need look no further than the now-familiar names in the technical credits to discover why the effects are so boss... Greg Jein, Ray Mercer, Lynn Rogers. For the stop motion Penisauruses (Penisauri?), beetle man and Murderous Idol, Dave Allen and Jim Danforth (billed as Mij Htrofnad). Oh, and makeup design by Bjo Trimble. The sets are uniformly good (and the interior of the Stratos-ship is just plain gorgeous) with the single odd exception of Wang's throne room, which is surprisingly bland; but then, the floor is also covered with copulating couples, so you weren't supposed to spend much time looking around.

Hen's Tooth Video has released a "Collector's Edition" , which, it says, adds 10 minutes BACK to the film. For years, Flesh Gordon was available only in a version that had been cut for an 'R' rating, which is how I first encountered it, at a science-fiction convention. Most of the cuts, while noticeable, didn't hurt too much; but there were several instances when the flow of the story was reduced to a "What the f..." state. This version corrects a lot of that, but I still don't think it's entirely an unedited cut... the money shots are simply not there, the shots the grindhouse audience would have insisted on (and we're not taking this discussion any farther in that direction, either). What is left is barely more explicit that what's on HBO after 10PM. The tape is also letterboxed and taken from a print in excellent condition, making this Collector's Edition infinitely preferable to any earlier video versions, either on tape or laserdisc, and will probably remain so unless Hen's Tooth is goofy enough to release this on DVD with some audio commentary.

And oh, yes, the (mostly) college-level audience loved the movie. They especially liked it when "MMYY...AAAAAAAASSSSSSSSSS!"the Idol of Murder was shot in the behind by Jerkoff's Power Pastie gun, and the picture cut to a close-up of the monster's face as it slowly intoned, "MMYY..... AAAAAAAASSSSSSSSSSS!" Yes, puppets with post-synched sound saying "MMYY..... AAAAAAAASSSSSSSSSSS!" are a definite crowdpleaser.

Try to use these as yardsticks when you consider whether Flesh Gordon is worth your viewing time: First, think of it as Blazing Saddles with breasts; the political correctness quotient is more or less equal. Second, consider your tolerance to bad acting and slipshod camerawork (probably fairly high, if you're here); Third, ask yourself if a puppet going "MMYY.....AAAAAAAASSSSSSSSSSS!" is really funny to you.

Okay. Now you're ready.


Funnier than Spaceballs. But so was Schindler's List.

- February 21, 1999

Second Opinions

Teleport City