Thursday, October 28, 2010

Flesh Gordon (1974)

by Brian "Fuck Todgers in the 69th Century" Roe

There is a long tradition of naming pornographic movies after currently popular mainstream movies. American Booty, Nightmare on Dyke Street, Forrest Hump (tagline: “My pants are like a box of chocolates.”), Pulp Friction, Saturday Night Beaver...ALL RIGHT ALREADY! We get it! This is obviously a form of wit far lower than the common pun, but in the heyday of VHS, porn titles such as these were being produced by the hundreds to satisfy some odd desire to see a guy who acts like a mentally handicapped man who is waiting for a bus have sex with people. So enough about this naming convention. Which leads us to one of the lamest attempts to pornify a title: Flesh Gordon. That’s it. Not Flesh Godown, but just Flesh Gordon. With the name alone, this movie makes it clear that they didn’t really try too hard. Dale Ardor is Flesh’s lady friend. Gee. I wonder how many people who watched this little jewel even understood what the word "ardor" means. Again not trying too hard on the names here.

But then a stroke of genius! The scientist who Flesh and Dale run across is named Flexi Jerkoff! This leads to some of the only truly funny moment as Flesh shouts, “Over here, Jerkoff!” “She’s in here, Jerkoff!” “We’ve got to get to the rocket ship, Jerkoff!” Like naming a character Boner, this adds a comedic spice to anything. From now on all movies should have a character named Jerkoff. Trust me, it works.

Flesh Gordon has an odd place in the history of science fiction movies, since many of the people working on special effects for it actually went on to have real careers in Hollywood. Rick Baker, John Dykstra, Jim Danforth and others worked on this steaming pile of movie long before Industrial Light and Magic made rock stars out of effects geeks. There are some truly groovy effects shots in this crock of crap, but in general, they are overshadowed by the truly sad attempts at comedy and unappealing stabs at sexuality that discolor the movie.

We’re talking low budget 1970s sex here. The kind that makes dirty movies feel dirty. Like the grease film you get on your forehead after not showering for a couple of days.

So Flesh Gordon starts with a white-type-on-black-background screen crawl that explains why they made the film. And they dedicate it to all of the people who created Flash Gordon, Buck Rogers, etc. You could have saved your breath, fellas. We soon discover that Earth is being bombarded by a sex ray that makes anyone it touches go all humpy-spaz. And so we’ve got to stop it. Can’t have people humping each other all the time. Bad for the gross national product. And then some greasy-skinned '70s types talk about how to stop the sex ray. And they talk. And talk. Then we see an airplane and Flesh pops a bubblegum bubble.

Hopefully by this time, the drugs you took on the way to the drive-in kick in so you can totally appreciate the trippy “animation” of the opening credits. If not take a little more, you’ll need them. Hunh hunh...The music was produced at Knob Industries.

The broad playing Dale actually seems kind of friendly and sweet. Too bad she’ll spend the entire movie topless and getting pawed by some of the most repellent, unattractive, Brut-smelling jackasses ever to be captured on film. Oh god! The pilot is taking his shirt off and his hairy stomach has a oily looking appendectomy scar that still looks moist! I can’t do this anymore...No. I promised Callaway.

So following the basic Flash Gordon storyline, Flesh and Dale parachute out of the plane and land near the lab of Flexi Jerkoff (still funny!). Flexi has been building a rocketship while under the constant influence of the sex ray so his rocket looks like a penis. Hah! High comedy. Flexi paws Dale. For like fifteen minutes. Jerkoff’s ship is actually pretty awesome if you can get past the whole “giant dildo” aspect. As Jerkoff opens the doors to show the kids the ship, we see a bit of the special effects magic that makes this whole fiasco watchable.

The ship takes off from Earth and then travels right into a blast of the sex ray. Which leads to another oddity of this movie. Apparently, the sex scenes were meant to be hardcore, full-pen, no holds barred, like any respectable porn. But due to some boring old pandering laws all of the hard footage was cut out and more “comedy” was added to pad the running time. Lucky for us. There’s a grainy bit of footage at the end of the heroes first encounter with the sex ray that implies a Dale sammich has been made and that Flesh is a back door man. Which comes up again later in the film since Flesh swings both ways. After the loving, Dale just exhales a well deserved “whew” and giggles. The poor girl.

Upon arriving on the Planet Porno, our heroes are shot down by one of Emperor Wang’s sharky toothed fighter craft. And Dale’s still nekkid. Some of the ship footage during these scenes is groovy. Certainly some of the effects boys had their chops in order. But then the “actors” attempt “comedy”. Stop doing that.

Crud. All I’m doing here is watching the movie and telling what happens. That’s lame and boring. Unless it’s being done by a guy in a jumpsuit and two robots. Then it’s hilarious. But I ain’t wearin’ no jumpsuit. So I’ll wrap this whole thing up.

The whole deal with Flesh Gordon is that some guys tried to make a funny movie that had a lot of sex in it. Usually this combination is as rare as hen’s teeth, and Flesh Gordon proves no exception. But they actually set their sights pretty high for a low budget film, and sometimes accomplish the visual look and style of the films the tried to emulate. Good for them.

Some of the stop motion work is as good as anything going at the time, and the ship and building models look right and proper. The comedy could have been heightened by actually hiring actors or at the very least practicing lines. It’s really the sex that keeps getting in the way. Especially the ugly, filmy, oily, stunted sexuality that seems to ooze from this movie. Naked people pawing each other is not sexual nor is it arousing. And if it’s not doing that particular job then it should be left to the pros. I honestly can’t imagine anyone being turned on by this movie. And I really don’t want to try.

Check out Flesh Gordon at a party full of very drunk and or stoned friends. That would work. Our invite your Women’s Studies Group or your favorite feminist professor over. I’m sure they’d love to see a pure example of the Sexual Revolution at work. Dig it for the pretty cool effects or the airball whiffs of failed jokes. Dig it because they tried, and because they did I got to write something else for Jimmy Callaway.

But good luck if you find anything sexually appealing in this movie. I’m sure you’ll have better luck with underwear catalogs.

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