Flash Gordon: Flesh Gordon

Classics are never immune to parody, even – or especially – parody in questionable taste.

Directors Howard Ziehm and Michael Benveniste looked to the classic Flash Gordon serials as the foundation for their glitzy 1972 tongue-in-cheek, soft-porn space opera, Flesh Gordon.  Closely mimicking the Buster Crabbe performance, Hockey hero Flesh Gordon (Jason Williams) and the often-naked Dale Ardor (Suzanne Fields) join Dr. Flexei Jerkoff (Joseph Hudgins) and other unknown porn stars in his battle against the mad Emperor Wang the Perverted (William Hunt) from the planet Porno.

Wang plotted the demise of Earth through his diabolical sex ray.  The humor is weak and the acting is flat, although acting skills aren’t the focus on this production.  Yet, even as a sex film, there’s not much in this worth noting.

The film was shot on 16mm stock and then transferred to 35mm for release to theaters. All the restoration in the world won’t make this dark, grainy, bargain-basement film parody look any better, but the retro effects, inspired score, and playful attitude make this silly sex romp a fair cult item. Jim Danforth (who is credited under the pseudonym Mij Htrofnad – reverse the name) provided some nice stop-motion creatures along with Dave Allen, Doug Beswick, and Dennis Muren, who became one of the founders of Industrial Light and Magic. Rick Baker, famed for his later work in Star Wars, did the makeup and some of the costuming.

Future Oscar winners Greg Jein and Dennis Muren created the spaceships. Greg is better known as the creator of the mothership in the 1977 “Close Encounters of the Third Kind”. The film’s best sequence is a King Kong tribute with a giant rampaging satyr (voiced by an uncredited Craig T. Nelson), who ad-libs quips and a bit too much profanity while kidnapping Dale as Flesh buzzes him his phallic spaceship.

The introduction in which Flesh and Dale’s plane crashes due to the sex ray sets the tone for the film. The phallic spaceship pretty well defines the rest of the movie. Throughout the adventure, Flesh becomes the Princess Amora’s (Mycle Brandy) sex slave, has to rescue Dale from a band of dykes, and meets with a gay Robin Hood-styled Prince Precious (Lance Larsen). The creatures really are the selling point of this film.

In 1991, Howard Ziehm made a sequel the 1972 film called “Flesh Gordon and the Cosmic Cheerleaders”. William Hunt was the only returnee from the original production. This sequel plays even more stupidly than the first and then dives into an endless succession of junior-high school level “tit” jokes mixed with racists and homophobic jabs that simply make the viewer uncomfortable.