UK theatrical poster; artwork 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|
|Running time||78 minutes
90 minutes (Collector's edition)
Flesh Gordon is an independently produced 1974 American science fiction adventure comedy film. It is also an erotic spoof of Universal Pictures' first (of three) Flash Gordon serials from the 1930s. The screenplay was written by Michael Benveniste, who also co-directed the film with Howard Ziehm, and the film was produced by Bill Osco. The cast includes Jason Williams, Suzanne Fields, and William Dennis Hunt.
At first, the film was assigned an MPAA rating of X, but was then re-edited and received a reduced rating of R. The film's original running time was 78 minutes, but the later, unrated "collector's edition" video release runs 90 minutes.
The storyline is reminiscent of the first Flash Gordon multi-chapter serial from Universal Pictures, but written and directed with a purposely campy flavor. The major character names are suggestive innuendos, based on those in the first serial: the hero Flesh Gordon (serial: Flash Gordon); his love interest Dale Ardor (serial: Dale Arden); the evil Emperor Wang the Perverted (serial: Ming the Merciless); Dr. Flexi Jerkoff (serial: Dr. Hans Zarkov); Amora, Queen of Magic (serial: Ming's daughter Aura); and a very gay Robin Hood-like character called Prince Precious (serial: Prince Barin).
Emperor Wang aims a "Sex Ray" at the Earth from his home planet of Porno (serial: Mongo), and the entire population becomes hopelessly obsessed with sex; it is up to Flesh Gordon and Flexi Jerkoff (Dr. "J") to stop the rays and save humanity's virtue. The film uses nudity whenever possible, and the scenes are shot in a style nearly identical to those of the original serials. After their rocket ship lands on Porno, a sauropod dinosaur with a glans-like head is observed. Flesh asks Dr. "J", "What's that"? "Must be some kind of Penisaurus", Dr. "J" earnestly replies.
A towering, demonic-looking creature, the Great God Porno, voiced (uncredited) by actor Craig T. Nelson, brought out of hibernation by Emperor Wang, makes an appearance, muttering obscenities and wise-cracks in an always velvety smooth, unwavering, almost monotone voice; the creature's final fate becomes a major plot point of the film.
- 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
- Nora Wieternik as Amora, Queen of Magic
- Lance Larsen as Prince Precious
- Jack Rowe as Guard for Emperor Wang
- Robert V. Greene (voice) as Narrator
- Craig T. Nelson (uncredited voice) as The Monster
The film was shot in 1971 and, according to Bill Osco, cost $470,000. Osco intended to hold out for a major distributor to pay a $1 million advance to secure the American release rights.
The film 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.
Flesh Gordon's low-budget 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 integrated in the film.
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 credit 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 film's climactic creature was not 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 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 the throne room orgy scenes, the "collector's edition" video, labelled "the original, uncensored version", is no more explicit than any of the earlier releases.
Also according to Ziehm's DVD audio commentary, Universal Pictures was planning to sue Graffiti Productions over the first part of Flesh Gordon being so similar to the first chapter of Universal's 1936 Flash Gordon film serial 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.
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. 1980-12-18. Retrieved 2013-03-12.
- Sobchack, Vivian Carol (1997). Screening space: the American science fiction film (2nd ed.). Rutgers University Press. p. 165. ISBN 0-8135-2492-X.
- Haber, Joyce (14 November 1971). "Joyce Haber's Hollywood: A Very Good Year for Andy". The Victoria Advocate (Victoria, Texas). p. 7.
- Pettigrew, Neil, The Stop Motion Filmography, MacFarland and Company, Inc., 1999, p. 251.
- Flesh Gordon at Rotten Tomatoes
- Flesh Gordon Special Edition #1-4 (1992)
- Flesh Gordon at the Internet Movie Database
- Flesh Gordon at Rotten Tomatoes
- Flesh Gordon on The Encyclopedia of Fantastic Film and Television (EOFFTV)
- The Second Supper Bizarro Masterpiece Theatre review