Starring Jason Williams, Suzanne Fields, William Hunt
"Nobody burns my ass and gets away with it."
Flesh Gordon began like most of Howie Ziehm's movies, with a bunch of willing sex-hippies freaking freely. But after a troubling run-in with the law, Mr. Z changed the film's course mid-stream, hired a special-effects team, and accidentally crafted an enduring sci-fi cult hit. It's a long story, and Ziehm tells it better than I can - listen to the commentary track on the DVD for the hilariously awful true tale - but in a nutshell, the producers had to prove they weren't making a sex film to beat an obscenity charge, so they came up with the cockamamie "It's a sexy spoof of the old Flash Gordon serials" angle, and Flesh Gordon was born.
As our twisted tale opens, the world is in the grips of sex madness, and no one knows why. A group of scientists host a press conference.
"I think it was bad Passover tuna fish," suggests one brainiac.
"Tuna fish? Tuna fish? This guy's got mercury on the brain," deadpans brainiac number 2.
The head scientist, Professor Gordon (John Hoyt, RIP), announces that he's dispatched his son to the Himalayas to figure it all out. Why the Himalayas? Well, why not?
Prof's son Flesh (Jason Williams, Cheerleaders Wild Weekend) and Dale Order (Suzanne Fields, The Stewardesses) are both on that fateful Himalayan-bound flight when the plane is struck with Sex Madness. Bolts of red light strike the plane while a quite-annoying "Whatwhatwhat!" sound drones away on the soundtrack. Everybody starts ripping their clothes off.
"Sir, I've got a boner!" Yells the co-pilot.
The two pilots head to back of the plane to join in on the orgy. Flesh is the only one that's unaffected. At first he tries to land the plane himself, but can't, so he grabs Dale and they parachute out just as the plane goes down. She blows him on the way down. Sex madness!
When they reach the ground, they run into eccentric scientist Flexi Jerkoff (Joseph Hudgins), who has built a penis shaped rocketship that will take him to the planet where the Sex Ray is coming from. Flesh and Dale agree to go with him, so they screw in some lightbulbs, and blast off. Unfortunately, they fly right into the sex ray, and have a boisterous three-way.
"Another incident like that, and I'll be ready for the old folks home!" Says Flexi.
Afterward, they spy anthe offending sex-ray planet and decide to check it out. It is called Planet Porno, and it is not friendly. One of Porno's attack-ships shoots Flexi's penis-rocket, and they're forced to crash-land. When they get out of the ship, a bunch of half-naked Roman soldiers start shooting at them with laser guns, so they duck into a cave, where they're menaced by a Penisaurus. A bunch of them, in fact. Penisauri? Dale narrowly escape from...I'm not sure what. Monster rape, I guess. Then they're captured by the gay Roman dudes, and brought back to Emperor Wang's palace, where an orgy is taking place. An orgy is always taking place at Wang's.
Wang (William Dennis Hunt, in seriously creepy Fu Manchu drag) decides he wants Dale for his bride, which does not sit with Flesh. Not one for competition, Wang sends Flesh off to the 'Sex Depleter', but Amora, Queen of Magic (Mycle Brandy, The Geek) shows up to stop him. They make a deal - if Flesh survives in the arena, he will be spared Sex Depletion. Flesh fights three monster girls with orange frightwigs, and then the queen nabs him, and they disappear in a puff of smoke.
Flesh wakes up in the Queen's swan-shaped ship, and they make sweet love while a green monster watches. Wang finds out what they're up to, and has her ship shot down. Meanwhile, he stages his wedding with Dale. It includes bottomless cheerleaders. Also, he wears the wedding dress.
Also meanwhile, Jerkoff escapes from Wang's palace, and finds Flesh. He tells Flesh about the wedding, and then the dead queen shows up to give them her magic pasties. They're the only thing in the galaxy that can stop Wang and his "insidious schemes".
After Scooby-dooing around in the forest for awhile, Flash and Flexi burst in on the wedding, but they're too late: Dale's been snatched by the Amazon Underworld. Wang pulls a lever, and our two heroes fall through a trap door to who-know-where.
Captain Nelly (sexploitation legend Candy Samples) - a peg-legged, hook-handed, cigar chomping pirate queen, explains to Dale that the Amazon Underworld is dedicated to overthrowing Wang and his regime. Dale gets strapped down to a table and then a black chick with a giant afro has sex with her. Flesh and Flexi, who are stuck in a pit, hear Dale's cries, and try to figure out how to save her from the sweet lesbianic lovemaking. Flesh's idea is to just run into the wall. It does not work. Flexi uses the magic pasty. It busts down the wall, and they save Dale. For about a minute.
And then a stop motion metal cricket monster shows up, and Flesh battles with it. It totally kicks Flesh's ass, but Prince Precious (Lance Larsen, dressed up like a gay Robon Hood) shows up and shoots it with an arrow. The prince explains how he's the rightful heir to the throne. Porno used to be the Pleasure Planet, you see, and everybody had an awesome time. But then Wang, an impotent botanist, invented the Sex Ray, because he couldn't stand everybody else having a good time, and used it to enslave the planet.
Flesh and Precious decide to band together, and, after a quick visit to the forest kingdom (another orgy, this time in the woods), they head off to the palace. Jerkoff has developed a counter-ray that will blast Wang's sex ray to smithereens. Unfortunately, one of Wang's henchmen has infiltrated Precious' gang of merry men, and he sabotages their mission by stealing one of the magic pasties and jumping out of the ship with a plastic umbrella.
Our heroes narrowly escape crashing, and make it back inside Wang's palace. Unfortunately, they take a wrong turn and end up getting flushed down a giant toilet. Wang celebrates with a song and dance number. Everybody does the bunnyhop, and then they have yet another orgy. At some point, Wang accidentally inserts the magic pasty into some chick's vagina, and it gets stuck there. Flesh and his pals manage to swim their way out of the toilet, and while Flesh tries to retrieve the pasty from the girl's crotch, Wang lets loose his rapist robots. They have spinning corkscrew penises. All you have to do is turn a dial to stop 'em, though. Bad design flaw.
And then a smooth-talking giant monster (Coach himself, Craig T Nelson) shows up. He snatches Dale.
"This is a tower of murder," he says. "This is where I hang out."
The monster yanks off Dale's dress.
"I just wanna look at your tits," he tells her.
Who knows what he has planned for her?
So...will Flesh save her, defeat the monster and Wang, and the world?
If you're looking for boners, Flesh Gordon is not the place to find them. With the possible exception of Fritz the Cat, it's probably the least erotic X-for-sex film of the 70's. There is no explicit humping, just lots and lots of hairy black bush. But for sheer disco-era weirdness, it's a must-see. You literally never know what's going to happen next in this film, and so you remain glued to the screen, a near constant 'what-the-fuck look plastered on your confused face.
Many of the FX guys that worked on Flesh later went on to the very heights of the industry - famed and fabled monster maker Rick Baker was on board, as well as several future Nightmare on Elm Street alumni, and one-half of Industrial Light and Magic, and all that talent is evident in the myriad of weird creatures and surreal set designs that litter this loony film. It's no masterpiece, but you do probably need to see this mess before you die.
Ziehm went right back to porn after this one, and didn't manage to crank out the sequel - Flesh Gordon Meets the Cosmic Cheerleaders - until the late 1980's. It did not have the impact that this one did. That's probably because people stopped eating fistfuls of pills all day by then.
Clip: Flesh Gordon trailer!
Availability: Flesh Gordon is available on DVD.
- Ken McIntyre