Special edition promotional art
by George Barr
|Directed by||Michael Benveniste|
|Produced by||Walter R. Cichy|
|Written by||Michael Benveniste|
William Dennis Hunt
|Narrated by||Robert V. Greene|
|Music by||Ralph Ferraro|
|Edited by||Abbas Amin|
|Distributed by||Mammoth Films|
90 minutes (Collector's edition)
|Box office||$5.3 million (US and Canadian rentals)|
Flesh Gordon is an independently made 1974 American sexploitation film, an erotic spoof of Universal Pictures first (of three) Flash Gordon serials from the 1930s. The film was produced by Walter R. Cichy, Bill Osco, and Howard Ziehm. It was co-directed by Ziehm and Michael Benveniste, who also wrote the screenplay. The cast includes Jason Williams, Suzanne Fields, and William Dennis Hunt. The film was distributed by Mammoth Films.
The film's storyline is purposely reminiscent of the first Universal Pictures Flash Gordon multi-chapter movie serial, Flash Gordon (1936), but written and directed with a purposely campy flavor. The planet Porno (in the serial: Mongo) and major characters are suggestive innuendos: the hero Flesh Gordon (Flash Gordon); his love interest Dale Ardor (Dale Arden); the evil Emperor Wang the Perverted (Ming the Merciless); scientist Dr. Flexi Jerkoff (Dr. Alexi Zarkov); seductive Amora, Queen of Magic (Ming's daughter Aura); and effeminate Prince Precious (Prince Barin). The film features production values comparable to the original serial, as well as stop-motion animation of creatures, and frequent use of gratuitous nudity and brief sex scenes.
Distinguished Professor Gordon (John Hoyt) explains that Earth is being tormented by periodic "sex rays", which send people into a sexual frenzy. When one of the rays hits the Ford Tri-Motor passenger aircraft carrying Flesh Gordon (Jason Williams) and Dale Ardor (Suzanne Fields), the pilots abandon the controls and everyone aboard has manic sex. When they finish, Flesh and Dale escape the imminent plane crash by parachute. They land near the workshop of Flexi Jerkoff (Joseph Hudgins), who has a plan to stop the sex rays at their source.
They travel to the planet Porno in Jerkoff's phallic rocket ship, and are briefly hit by a sex ray, resulting in a frantic three-way orgy. They crash land after being shot down by the minions of Emperor Wang (William Dennis Hunt) and are attacked by several one-eyed "Penisauruses" before being taken prisoner by Wang's soldiers. They are brought before Wang, who is presiding over an orgy of more than a dozen men and women. Jerkoff is sent to work in Wang's laboratory, while Wang announces his intention to marry Dale. Flesh is sentenced to death, but is saved when Queen Amora (Nora Wieternik) instead takes him to be her sex slave.
Wang shoots down Amora's ship, and Flesh is the only survivor. He is reunited with Jerkoff, and they resume their efforts to defeat Wang, now using Amora's Power Pasties. Wang and Dale's wedding is interrupted when Dale is kidnapped by Amazonian lesbians, whose leader, Chief Nellie (Candy Samples), attempts to initiate Dale into their cult. Flesh and Jerkoff save her, unexpectedly aided by Prince Precious (Mycle Brandy) of the Forest Kingdom. With help from their new ally, Jerkoff builds a weapon to destroy the sex ray. They confront Wang and trick his "rapist robots" into turning on him, but Wang escapes, seeking the aid of the towering idol of the Great God Porno. Porno comes to life and captures Dale as they flee, blandly commenting on his actions. Jerkoff shoots the living idol, freeing Dale and causing the god to fall on Wang and the sex ray. Flesh, Dale, and Jerkoff are celebrated as heroes and return to Earth.
- Jason Williams as Flesh Gordon
- Suzanne Fields as Dale Ardor
- Joseph Hudgins as Dr. Flexi Jerkoff
- William Dennis Hunt as Emperor Wang the Perverted
- John Hoyt as Professor Gordon
- Candy Samples as Chief Nellie
- Mycle Brandy as Prince Precious
- Nora Wieternik as Amora, Queen of Magic
- Lance Larsen as Guard for Emperor Wang
- Robert V. Greene (voice) as Narrator
- Craig T. Nelson (uncredited voice) as The Great God Porno
Flesh Gordon was shot in 1971 and, according to producer Bill Osco, cost $470,000 to make. Osco intended to hold out for a major distributor to pay a $1 million advance to secure the American release rights.
The film was first assigned a MPAA rating of X, but was then re-edited, finally receiving a reclassified rating of R. The film's original running time was 78 minutes, but the later, unrated "collector's edition" video release runs 90 minutes.
Flesh Gordon employed special effects artists who would later gain Hollywood fame, including Mike Minor, Greg Jein and Rick Baker. Established effects artists Jim Danforth (listed backward in the film credits as Mij Htrofnad) and Dave Allen also worked on the film. The film's low-budget special effects were achieved using old-fashioned techniques: For example, the model of Wang's palace was created using everyday objects, such as drinking glasses, and was designed to resemble Griffith Observatory so actual footage shot at the base of the observatory could be easily integrated into the film.
Los Angeles-area Star Trek fan and writer Bjo Trimble was a makeup artist on Flesh Gordon; she described these experiences in her book On the Good Ship Enterprise: My 15 Years with Star Trek. Other Los Angeles-area science fiction fans worked, at times, in various capacities on the film, including science fiction and fantasy artist George Barr who designed and illustrated the film's one-sheet movie poster, and Cornelius Cole III, who animated the film's opening title credits sequence. Longtime fan and science fiction and fantasy writer Tom Reamy served in the film's art department as the production's property master. He tracked down many of the screen-used props in the film, including authentic, full-sized Ford Tri-Motor wicker passenger seats (matching the film's Tri-Motor aircraft miniature) used in an early scene in the film.
The towering creature was not originally intended to speak, but it proved so expressive that dialogue was dubbed over to match its mouth movements. Addressed as the Great God Porno in this dialogue, the special effects crew named him "Nesuahyrrah", a tribute to stop-motion animation master Ray Harryhausen, spelling his name backwards.
According to Ziehm's DVD audio commentary, the film was originally shot using scenes of straight and gay hardcore pornography. These were cut after Ziehm found himself in legal trouble: Producing pornography in Los Angeles was legally viewed as pandering at that time. The X-rated footage was surrendered to L.A. vice police. Although some explicit shots can be briefly seen during Wang's throne room orgy scenes, the "collector's edition" video, labelled "the original, uncensored version", is no more explicit than any of the earlier video releases.
Also according to Ziehm's DVD audio commentary, Universal Studios was planning to sue Graffiti Productions over the first part of Flesh Gordon being too similar to the first chapter of Universal's 1936 Flash Gordon serial film that it bordered on plagiarism. To avoid a lawsuit, Ziehm added an opening text scroll that stated that Flesh Gordon was a burlesque style parody of the Depression Era superheroes of America's past; he also added "Not to be confused with the original Flash Gordon" to all advertising materials.
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Vivian Sobchack commented that Flesh Gordon is "a skin flick hilariously molded around the Flash Gordon serials, and fully and lovingly aware of genre conventions from special effects to dialogue".
- "FLESH GORDON (X)". British Board of Film Classification. December 18, 1980. Retrieved March 12, 2013.
- Cohn, Lawrence (October 15, 1990). "All-Time Film Rental Champs". Variety. p. M158.
- Haber, Joyce (November 14, 1971). "Joyce Haber's Hollywood: A Very Good Year for Andy". The Victoria Advocate. Victoria, Texas. p. 7.
- Pettigrew, Neil, The Stop Motion Filmography, McFarland & Company, 1999, p. 251.
- Sobchack, Vivian Carol (1997). Screening space: the American science fiction film (2nd ed.). Rutgers University Press. p. 165. ISBN 0-8135-2492-X.
- Flesh Gordon at Rotten Tomatoes
- Flesh Gordon Special Edition #1-4 (1992)