I’m no expert in the fields of adult cinema, but it seems that the 1970s were a odd time for the genre. In addition to “classic” X features like Deep Throat and Behind the Green Door, you also had porn versions of Alice in Wonderland, Hansel and Gretel, and even The Erotic Adventures of Pinocchio.
Joining the ranks of odd porn is Flesh Gordon, a parody of the Flash Gordon serial that manages to offer lots of skin, sex that falls just short of hardcore, a by-the-numbers sci-fi plot, and some fun surprises along the way.
The world is being bombarded by a ray that causes all under its influence to engage in frantic sex with whoever is nearest. This wouldn’t be such a bad thing except when an airliner’s entire crew join the passengers in their orgy, causing the plane to crash. Oops. Bailing out of the plane at the last minute are Flesh Gordon (Jason Williams, with unfortunate hair) and Dale Ardor (Suzanne Fields, often naked). The two make their way to the lair of Dr. Flexi Jerkoff (Joseph Hudgins turns in the best performance in the film), and the three board his penis-shaped rocket to the planet Porno. The planet’s ruler, evil Emperor Wang (William Hunt, overacting shamelessly) is the one behind the sex ray, using it to make Earth so chaotic he can take over.
As they fight to defeat the evil emperor, Flesh and his friends encounter rapacious robots, Penisaurus monsters (one-eyed, of course), Amazon women, the Robin Hood-esque (and very gay) Prince Precious and his band of merry men. They’ll be flushed down a giant toilet, learn how to use the Power Pasties (don’t ask), and save Dale from a horny monster who speaks in craaaaaazy beatnik lingo.
If it sounds ridiculous, that’s because it is. It’s also not especially erotic, nor is it very explicit – I’ve heard some prints contained hardcore but none of that is in the DVD, despite the promise of 15 minutes of restored footage. The acting is mostly awful, although Hudgins and Hunt seem to be having fun. The humor is sophomoric at best (you’ll laugh and groan at the same time).
But the movie’s saved by the film-maker’s love for science fiction films – a mere porn ripoff wouldn’t have gone to the trouble of the fun spaceship models and the stop-motion animated monsters which are not in the Harryhausen league but definitely add some class to this movie. There’s also a strangely innocent tone to a lot of this – a celebratory orgy by Wang’s servants consists of naked people doing the Bunny Hop. Must be seen to be believed.
Flesh Gordon is more a curiousity piece than an actual movie, but you could do a lot worse if you’re looking for some laughs. Might help if you had a couple of alcoholic beverages while you watch.
Extras are the original theatrical trailer and a commentary by co-director Howard Ziehm that will be of interest to anyone interested in low-budget film-making and the problems that arose because of obscenity and copyright issues.