Making porn versions of hit movies is at least as popular an American pastime as, say, buying illegal fireworks or being dismissive of intellectualism. We've all got our favorites. Star Whores. Edward Penishands. Shaving Ryan's Privates. The Domimatrix. Laurence of a Labia. The list goes on. But none of them would exist (and I'm pretty sure at least one of them doesn't) if it weren't for Flesh Gordon, a softcore smut sci-fi spoof so far ahead of its time, it came out a full six years before the movie it parodied. This is an ambitious movie that is fully committed to the righteous cause of giving the audiences of 1974 an entirely new way of viewing bush. It's a masterpiece.
Flesh Gordon proclaims its lofty aims right from the opening crawl, which a stentorian narrator reads aloud in case anyone in the audience is either a) illiterate; b) servicing his or her partner orally, thus preventing him or her from seeing the screen; or c) both. It tells the history of superheroes, how they were born during the Great Depression to give the downtrodden masses examples of virtue and strength to guide them through their troubled days. It explains the great debt that the filmmakers (L.A.-based porn-loop producers who'd made a $100,000 windfall from the sale of their first full-length feature, Mona: The Virgin Nymph) owe to the creative geniuses of yesteryear, who'd weaved such a rich tapestry of fantasy and myth for future generations to draw from.
Then we cut to a scene where a sex ray from outer space makes a bunch of people start boning in the street.
Turns out this is happening all over the globe, creating chaos and anarchy. A professor discovers the extraterrestrial origins of the horny happening and declares that his son Flesh Gordon (currently in Tibet playing in the world hockey championships) is the only one who can stop it. We are then introduced to our hero, a big blond bloke who's flying on an airplane with wicker seats. Within minutes, the sex ray engulfs the plane, causing the pilots to leave the cockpit ("Control, you've got two horny sonsabitches up here!") to join the orgy already in progress, which consists of a bunch of naked people rolling around on the floor in the passenger compartment without penetrating each other. As the plane goes down ("Yes! Go down! Go down!" cries frequently nude and perpetually ravished love interest Dale Ardor), Flesh shakes off the sex fever and takes the controls, which break off in his hand. So he grabs Dale and they parachute to safety while she blows him on the way down.
They're met by Dr. Flexi Jerkoff, who has a penis-shaped rocketship that can take them to the source of the sex ray. The cockpit of the cockship has no seats at all, just straps like an old subway car, so Flesh should have been grateful for those wicker chairs on the plane. After a mid-flight threeway that leaves Dale nude until Jerkoff gives her one of his mother's old dresses ("She was buried in it."), they crash-land on the planet Porno, ruled by the sinister and scenery-chewing overactor Wang the Perverted, who cackles a lot and likes to say things like "Seize them, dildos!" After Flesh and Co. survive an encounter with several ferocious Penisauruses (claymation cock-cyclopses that arise from the ground like the sand worms in Beetlejuice), Wang wants to make Dale his virginal bride (he apparently didn't see the beginning of the movie), while the Queen of Darkness wants Flesh for her own. But first, he must survive a brutal battle with three orange-wigged Fifth Element-looking cat-bitches. And here I thought the fifth element was love.
Flesh survives the ordeal and gets taken back to the Queen's flying swan boat, which floats through a night sky filled with animated constellations. After they make sweet, sweet love, Wang shoots the ship down, and Flesh and Jerkoff are given the Pasties of Power by the Queen's ghost. They're silver, glittery nipples that shoot cheesy optical effects. Jerkoff puts them on, and they storm Wang's palace to rescue Dale. Unfortunately, she's already been taken captive by a tribe of underground lesbians ("Oh no! Dykes!" cries Jerkoff in horror.) who try to induct Dale into their Sapphic society with a biracial orgy. When Flesh and Jerkoff show up, the lesbians unleash their guardian, a stop-motion robotbeetlevultureman who is so well animated that you actually forget that you're watching a skin flick for a moment and just get caught up in the action. No sarcasm, we're talking Clash of the Titans caliber effects work here.
Actually, for 1974, all of the effects are really amazing, and with good reason. Many of them were directed by Dennis Muren, who went on to do Star Wars and Jurassic Park and win more Oscars than any other human being currently walking the earth. The effects were so good that, due to there being a dearth of FX-oriented films released in 1974, the producers actually submitted Flesh Gordon to the Academy for consideration in the Best Special Effects category. Unfortunately, the Academy chickened out and opted not to give out an Oscar for special effects that year, instead giving The Poseidon Adventure an honorable mention. Pussies.
Anyway, Flesh and his crew are rescued from the robotbeetlevultureman by Prince Precious, good-natured homosexual and proper heir to the throne of Porno. After the less-than-enlightened view of lesbians on display just moments earlier, I expected the gays to get the same treatment, but oddly, the film is completely accepting of their sexual orientation. I guess in the world of Flesh Gordon, everybody needs to love the cock.
So Precious and his band of merry men give Flesh a lift back to Wang's castle in their rocketship, which gets shot down and crushed in the serrated jaws of the castle gate. (Clearly, Flesh should not be allowed to board any kind of craft.) Then there's a cliffhanger intermission where the narrator asks, "Is the Perverted Wang victorious?" Our heroes survive, but a spy steals the Pasties of Power, the only things that can destroy Wang's sex ray. Wang uses one to pleasure a sex slave, but then it gets stuck in her coochie. (I swear to God, this is an important plot point.) While Flesh and Jerkoff shake her up and down, trying to dislodge the pasty, Wang awakens his demon god, a fucking awesome goat-footed stop-motion monster the size of King Kong. He looks fierce but likes to mumble some too-cool-for-school swinger jive in the voice of future Coach star Craig T. Nelson. He kidnaps Dale (obviously), forcing Flesh, Jerkoff, and Precious to blast him with yet another rocketship. The monster falls off of the castle and makes every miniature in the movie explode while naked people run around in front of a rear projection screen. This goes on for like five minutes. This shit must have taken forever. Compare the effort put into these meticulously crafted models, puppets, and matte paintings to the joyless two-chicks-and-three-dicks-in-a-Motel-Six stylings of modern porn. It's like comparing Gone With the Wind to that YouTube video of the fat kid with the fake lightsaber.
This is an amazing movie, not least for a script peppered with gems like "Sir, I have a huge boner!" and "Nice job, Jerkoff!" Honestly, it's not much campier than the real Flash Gordon, and it has better special effects and way more bush. The only thing it's missing is a Queen soundtrack, and I'm sure that's just because the producers never made the band an offer. We can all lament that missed opportunity, but it can't detract from the eternal glory of Flesh Gordon.
By the way, I've never seen Star Whores, but do you think the TIE Fighters are just big flying boobs with wings? Because that's totally the way I would have done it. Oh well. Maybe they could save that for the prequel, The Phantom Man-Ass.