Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Flesh Gordon Meets the Cosmic Cheerleaders (1989)

Directed by Howard Ziehm
Starring Vince Murdocco, Robyn Kelly, Morgan Fox, Melissa Mounds.
Rated NC-17
Buy poster

"There's something in the air that makes it impossible to pop a boner. There, I've said it."

Howard Ziehm was an evil hippy-slash-stoner rock musician who dropped out of the West Coast drug-fuzz underground to become a grimy-yet-groovy pornographer, hooking up in 1969 with Bill Osco - black sheep of the Osco drug store empire - to form Graffiti Productions, a low-rent X house responsible for a host of loops, shorts and features in the early 70's, everything from psychedelic blowjob epic Mona: The Virgin Nymph (1970) to gutbucket rape-trash like The Incredible Body Snatchers (1972). Osco split when his partner started to develop artistic inclinations (Osco went on to great heights in low-ball cinema: he produced Blood Diner, Night Patrol, and Cheerleaders Wild Weekend), but Ziehm finally hit paydirt with '74's Flesh Gordon, a right-on mélange of comic book zaniness and soft-X flesh peddling that enjoyed a blip of midnight movie fervor and then settled into a fairly consistent cult movie must-see ever since. It seems like a sequel would be a fairly obvious idea, but churning out endless variations on a theme was not yet in vogue at the time, so Ziehm went on to other things, i.e. directing hardcore porn under various pseudonyms (Sexteen, 1975; Hot Cookies, 1977; Star Virgin, 1979) and occasionally shooting a gnarly non-sex film, like 73's woozy Cop Killers. Ziehm had been out of the industry for nearly a decade when the mood hit him to return to scuzz-cinema, and what better title than his one and only smash-hit, Flesh Gordon, to capitalize on?

And so, out of seemingly nowhere, this mouthful of a movie. FGMTCC (I can't keep spelling it out, we'll be here all night) is not what you'd call a well-loved film, and I can see why people might find it a tad overbearing. It does, after all, lean quite heavily on scatological humor. The first five minutes of the film, for example, which features Flesh on the set of his very own biopic, is stuffed to the gills with fart, shit, and snot jokes. No one beyond the age of, say, 12 or 13 really equates sex with excrement, so this obsessive toilet humor gets tiresome very quickly, especially when you're in this for the boners, but ladies and gentlemen, I implore you: stick with it. Yes, it's hopelessly juvenile, but the sets and the special effects are consistently jaw-dropping, and there's a veritable feast of melon-sized mams to ogle, as well. And anyway, what else you got to do?

The story. Well, as mentioned, Flesh (Kickboxing champ Vince Murdocco) is being honored for all his interstellar heroism with a back-patting auto-biographical film, but after refusing to kiss his co-star/girlfriend Dale Ardor (Robyn Kelly) because "She's got something in her nose", the director fires him. He storms out of the studio and gets run over by an old-timey car, and before he can recover, he's nabbed by three chicks in mini-skirted space-suits. They pour out the back of an ambulance, tie a weird contraption to his head and whisk him off in a penis-shaped rocket ship to god-knows-where while Dale looks on, mouthing, "Why, why, why?"

Good question. To find her answer, she visits Dr Flexi Jerkoff, Titty Scientist (Tony Travis, Recruits), who has a booby-shaped doorbell. Listen, I told you it was juvenile. Dale explains what happened. The doctor surmises that the space girls have taken Flesh to the Strange Planet (that's the actual name of the planet) for some nefarious reason, and since some mafia guy is trying to kill him for deflating a gangster moll's overstuffed balloons (whatever), he agrees to take Dale to Flesh in the ramshackle spaceship he's got in his backyard. The spaceship may or may not run on chicken semen. There's a chicken coop in it, at any rate. Also, Dale and the doctor have to suck on rubber tits to "absorb the shock of lift-off". So that's going on.

Also, there's a report on the radio that 'King Dong' escaped from the set of the Flesh Gordon movie, and they pass by him as he's pissing off the roof of the Empire State Building. He, of course, splashes them with his giant ape urine, and then mugs for the camera.

Meanwhile, on Strange Planet, Flesh finds out why he's been abducted. Seems a mysterious figure named the Evil Presence showed up during an intergalactic Codball game (it's like baseball, I guess, only with dudes using their giant dicks to hit the balls), and shot the Strange Planet team with an impotence ray. Now they can't get it up, not even for the Cosmic Cheerleaders. Obviously, a planet without boners cannot stand.

Flesh's potency is known throughout the galaxy, so head cheerleader (cough) Robunda Hooters (Playboy playmate Morgan Fox) ordered his kidnapping, figuring he'd bang her and whoever else needed it. This is all explained via a topless musical number, by the way.

Ok, here's the last bit of plot. Plot might be overstating it. Anyway, on some other planet, one covered in ice (or, more accurately, an overworked smoke machine), the Evil Presence (William Dennis Hurt), the portly Queen Frigid (Maureen Webb), and a frizzy-haired mad scientist, Master Bator (Bruce Scott), sit around plotting sinister deeds. Bator finds out Flesh is on the Strange Planet, and tells EP that if they capture him, he can suck out Flesh's virility somehow and use it to make a more powerful impotence ray, once so awesome in strength that it will render the entire universe, except for these two numbskulls, impotent. Evil Presence, naturally, thinks this is a good idea.

Everybody ends up together on Strange Planet. When Dale gets there, Flesh is giving three of the cheerleaders head. Simultaneously. I should mention the three cheerleaders while we're here: there's Babs (Stevie-Lyn Ray), Candy Love (Sharon Rowley) and Sushi (Blaire Kashino). One's blonde, one's black, one's Asian. They're all wearing ugly, garish make-up and dayglo punk cheerleaders outfits, and they look exactly like one of Max Hardcore's pornstars/victims. I am not exactly sure why Mr. Ziehm chose to make the three girls who are naked most in the movie look repulsive. Perhaps it's a statement of some kind. I'll have to ask him. Robunda's kinda hot though, in a streetwalker/Pia Zadora sort of way.

Anyway, Dale's pissed, so she decides to break Robunda's face, but she's suddenly turned into a block of ice and sucked up into the Evil Presence's ship. Dunno why. Flesh and the titty scientist take chase, but first Flesh has to fuck a chicken. The chicken smokes a cigarette afterwards.

While Dale is thawed and tortured by Master Bator, Flesh and the doc have a bunch of wacky adventures, including an epic battle with a claymation penis and a trip to a bar inside a giant vagina where grown babies drink milk right from the, um, source (former Russ Meyer paramour Melissa Mounds offers her overflowing taps to Flexi). Flesh runs into Robunda there, and I was too distracted by how icky the whole scene was to catch why, but at one point she said:
"I don't wear panties, but I will, if you agree to help."
He agrees.

Back on Mr. Evil's ship, Dale, now dressed in a tutu, gets turned into a dog. She still looks like Dale, just now she crawls around on all fours and pants. She calls Evil P a "Nazi republican", so she's a talking dog. Flesh runs into some turd people in a dark cave, and they have a party.

Then Dale gets tongue-raped by an octopus. The whole film starts to resemble a sleep deprivation experiment at this point. We should just fast forward a bit.

Evil loses and everybody gets their boners back. They use them to fuck the partners of their choice, and life goes merrily on.

Incredibly, Flesh Gordon Meets the Cosmic Cheerleaders only clocks in at 100 minutes. There's clearly enough ridiculous set-pieces and loony ideas for a three-hour epic, and I am positive Ziehm has an ass-numbing director's cut in a vault somewhere. The sticking point with this movie is that it's too gross to be sexy and too breast-obsessed to fit in any cult sci-fi sorta niche. The original had the advantage of 70's grooviness, but the sequel looks a lot like any new-wave inspired porn flick from the mid 80's, like, well New Wave Hookers, for example, only with all sorts of troubling animated creatures tossed in the mix. Ultimately, the film is still too far ahead of its time; we're still too uptight a society to appreciate softcore humping and grotesque shit-people in the same movie. Ziehm has created a masterpiece, surely, but it will not be regarded as such until some time in the future. 2069, let's say. Until then, expect a night of high weirdness, a queasy joyride into a garbage-psychedelic world of fat tits, slimy octo-rapists, ugly cheerleaders, robo Fu Manhus, and chicken fuckers from outer space.

Good Lord, what next?
Notably, most of the cast were one-timers, folks who dabbled in acting for one hair-raising film and then vanished. As such, it is anybody's guess where the lovely Morgan Fox is today, or the not-so lovely cheerleaders, or Master Bator, or even Dale. Flesh/Vince is still around, doing small-ish bits on TV and b-flicks. Howard Ziehm has, so far, not made another film. He showed up as a talking head on a Brit-produced 2002 porn-doc, The History of Hardcore, so he's not dead. He's just waiting. Waiting for us to really 'get' his genius before he hits us with Part 3.

I'm working on it, sir.

By the way, I find it pretty depressing that we're living in a world without frequent visits from Melissa Mounds. So please come back soon. I don't even care if you're 60. You don't have to whip 'em out. Just come by and hang for awhile.

PS: This makes a pretty obvious companion piece to Bimbo Cheerleaders from Outer Space.

Availability: Flesh Gordon and the Cosmic Cheerleaders is available on DVD(In April, 2009).

Clip: the painfully catchy Flesh Gordon 2 theme!

-Ken McIntyre

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