Flesh Gordon

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Flesh Gordon
Flesh Gordon (1974).jpg
DVD special edition ad art
Directed byMichael Benveniste
Howard Ziehm
Produced byWalter R. Cichy
Bill Osco
Howard Ziehm
Written byMichael Benveniste
StarringJason Williams
Suzanne Fields
Joseph Hudgins
William Dennis Hunt
Candy Samples
Mycle Brandy
John Hoyt
Narrated byRobert V. Greene
Music byRalph Ferraro
CinematographyHoward Ziehm
Edited byAbbas Amin
Production
company
Graffiti Productions
Distributed byMammoth Films
Release dates
  • July 30, 1974 (1974-07-30)
Running time78 minutes
90 minutes (Collector's edition)[1]
CountryUnited States
LanguageEnglish
Budget$470,000
Box office$906,000
 
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Flesh Gordon
Flesh Gordon (1974).jpg
DVD special edition ad art
Directed byMichael Benveniste
Howard Ziehm
Produced byWalter R. Cichy
Bill Osco
Howard Ziehm
Written byMichael Benveniste
StarringJason Williams
Suzanne Fields
Joseph Hudgins
William Dennis Hunt
Candy Samples
Mycle Brandy
John Hoyt
Narrated byRobert V. Greene
Music byRalph Ferraro
CinematographyHoward Ziehm
Edited byAbbas Amin
Production
company
Graffiti Productions
Distributed byMammoth Films
Release dates
  • July 30, 1974 (1974-07-30)
Running time78 minutes
90 minutes (Collector's edition)[1]
CountryUnited States
LanguageEnglish
Budget$470,000
Box office$906,000

Flesh Gordon is an independently made 1974 American science fiction adventure comedy film, an erotic spoof of Universal Pictures' first (of three) Flash Gordon serials from the 1930s, that uses nudity whenever possible.[2] The film was produced by Walter R. Cichy, Bill Osco, and Howard Ziehm and was co-directed by Howard Ziehm and Michael Benveniste, who also wrote the screenplay. The cast includes Jason Williams, Suzanne Fields, and William Dennis Hunt. The film was distributed by Mammoth Films.

The storyline is purposely reminiscent of the first Flash Gordon multi-chapter serial, but written and directed with a purposely campy flavor. The planet Porno (in the serial: Mongo) and major characters are suggestive innuendos: 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).

Plot[edit]

Emperor Wang aims a "Sex Ray" at the Earth from his home planet of Porno, and humanity becomes hopelessly obsessed with sex. It is up to Earth heroes Flesh Gordon (Flesh) and Flexi Jerkoff (Dr. "J"), with Dale Ardor in tow, to stop Wang's sex ray and save humanity's virtue.

After their curved, phallic-looking 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.

During the film, Flesh and Flexi continually rub Emperor Wang the wrong way, stopping his domination of Porno and its races, eventually forcing a premature conclusion to his illegal, aggressive act against the exhausted people of Earth. Porno's new heroes finally return home, very satisfied with the outcome, but completely spent by their efforts.

Cast[edit]

Production[edit]

Flesh Gordon was shot in 1971 and, according to producer Bill Osco, cost $470,000 to make. Osco intended to hold out for a major distributor to pay a $1 million advance to secure the American release rights.[3]

The film was first assigned a MPAA rating of X, but was then re-edited, finally receiving a reclassified rating of R. The film's original running time was 78 minutes, but the later, unrated "collector's edition" video release runs 90 minutes.

Flesh Gordon 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.

The film's low-budget special 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.

Los Angeles-area Star Trek fan and writer Bjo Trimble was a makeup artist on Flesh Gordon; she described these experiences in her book On the Good Ship Enterprise: My 15 Years with Star Trek.

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 title credits 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.

Flesh Gordon climactic creature appearance 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 this dialogue, the special effects crew named him "Nesuahyrrah," a tribute to stop-motion animation master Ray Harryhausen, spelling his name backwards.[4]

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 Wang's throne room orgy scenes, the "collector's edition" video, labelled "the original, uncensored version", is no more explicit than any of the earlier video releases.

Also according to Ziehm's DVD audio commentary, Universal Studios was planning to sue Graffiti Productions over the first part of Flesh Gordon being too 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.

Critical reception[edit]

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".[2]

The review aggregate website Rotten Tomatoes has the film rated with a 'fresh' rating of 67%.[5]

Legacy[edit]

A sequel, Flesh Gordon Meets the Cosmic Cheerleaders, followed in 1989.

A four-issue comic book miniseries, written by Daniel Wilson and published by Aircel Comics, was published in 1992.[6]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "FLESH GORDON (X)". British Board of Film Classification. 1980-12-18. Retrieved 2013-03-12. 
  2. ^ a b Sobchack, Vivian Carol (1997). Screening space: the American science fiction film (2nd ed.). Rutgers University Press. p. 165. ISBN 0-8135-2492-X. 
  3. ^ Haber, Joyce (14 November 1971). "Joyce Haber's Hollywood: A Very Good Year for Andy". The Victoria Advocate (Victoria, Texas). p. 7. 
  4. ^ Pettigrew, Neil, The Stop Motion Filmography, MacFarland and Company, Inc., 1999, p. 251.
  5. ^ Flesh Gordon at Rotten Tomatoes
  6. ^ Flesh Gordon Special Edition #1-4 (1992)

External links[edit]