Tuesday, September 29, 2020

Flesh Gordon - Lilith Likes to Watch




Title: Flesh Gordon
Year: 1974
Starring: Jason Williams, Suzanne Fields, Joseph Hudgins, William Dennis Hunt
Director: Michael Benveniste, Howard Ziehm
Synopsis: Emperor Wang is ruler of the planet Porno and sends his mighty "Sex Ray" towards Earth, turning everyone into sex-mad fiends. Only one man can save the Earth, football player Flesh Gordon. - Via IMDB
Why it is Notable: It features the work of several renowned visual effects artists early in their careers. The film was actually nominated for an Oscar for visual effects, but the category was cancelled that year due to a lack of eligible films.


"I just want to look at your tits."

"It's better than it has any right to be". I absolutely despise that phrase. It's bullshit. Anything can be good with enough love. We all thought The Lego Movie was going to be hot garbage but it turned out fantastic. We all scoffed at a Guardians of the Galaxy movie but then we felt emotions for a tree and a talking racoon. It all depends on the time, the effort, the imagination and the artistry the creators put into a project. People love what they love. Granted, for every Lego Movie, we get three Angry Birds movies. For every Guardians of the Galaxy, we get a CATS.

Evil Emperor Wang from the planet Porno has aimed his sex laser at Earth. Upon firing it, every human in its path becomes a slave to their unbridled horniness. Flesh Gordon recruits perpetual victim Dale Ardor and scientist Dr. Flexi Jerkoff to help him defeat Wang.

I'm pretty sure I've seen Flesh Gordon before. I remember bits of this film. I also remember someone from high school telling me about this movie. Specifically, she giggled about "power pasties". So I think I tried to find it. Maybe. It’s fuzzy. I have to confess I know almost nothing about Flash Gordon, which this film parodies. I’m not a big fan of early pulp sci-fi and Flash Gordon went under my radar. So, probably most of the jokes and references went over my head.

This movie is quick and snappy. It moves from one plot point to the next at a fast clip and still with a fairly clear coherency. It's certainly a turn your brain off and enjoy type movie, but it does hold true to its own internal logic.

The costumes are quaint in their corniness, and suit the film well. Wang is thoroughly disgusting. He looks like he's wearing a dried out skin mask of another human's face, Flash's super hero get-up has 70's panache all over it and Dale Ardor has costume after costume torn off her body.

The acting is appropriately cheesy for the era, and for what it's parodying. Though I am not familiar with the source material, the movie repeatedly reminded me of the Den segment from the animated film Heavy Metal. Especially the entire scene between Flesh and Queen Amora. I was convinced she was the voice actor for the Queen in that segment. I had to look it up. She wasn't.

Speaking of airs of familiarity, this is no ordinary parody porno. Flesh Gordon boasts the talents of FX artists alumni. It shows. The models and matte paintings are impressive and the stop motion is exceptional for its time. You've seen their art before. These people have worked on some of the biggest films, from They Live to Jurassic Park, Star Wars: A New Hope, Willow, Videodrome and Beetlejuice just to name a few. It amuses me to think of Tim Burton saying "I want the best effects I can get for my sandworms. Find me the penisaurus guy from Flesh Gordon!"

There's one particular battle between Flesh and a mechanical monster that stuck out in my mind. Not only was it completely my aesthetic but he was animated so smoothly. Each monster was memorable and had a personality all its own, from the horny penisaurus to the "nice guy" goliath who completely stole the show.

Unfortunately, the studio was raided and all the actual sex scenes were ordered to be destroyed. Thus we're left with an extremely softcore adventure with a suggested threesome and a lot of people grinding and wiggling against one another. Even so, I'm pretty sure there are one or two acts of legitimate sex taking place at Wang's feet. Despite the censorship, somehow Flesh Gordon manages to retain the feel of Caligula rather than The Italian Stallion.

It is a product of its time however, and it parodies tropes of a bygone era. The character of Dale Ardor is nothing more than a damsel in distress, constantly needing to be saved. One plot point involves Queen Amora's "power pasties" and the joke is that Dr. Jerkoff wears them because ha-ha funny a man wearing pasties on his nipples. I get it. But I sort of wish only a woman could use them, and that Dale was the one who wore them and wielded their nipple-y magic. Oh well. Maybe in the inevitable remake.

It's a fun, late-night, soft-core boobie movie that's harmless and silly. I adore the effects and I'm glad masters of the craft got to really let loose and show what they could do, even if this film was only a flighty little porno. Just because it's porn, and just because it's parody, doesn't mean it can't also be art.

Best Moment:Any monster fight. My personal favourite was the metal monster but the final monster was amazing, too.


Worst Moment:Just tiny nit-picks. How it had to have all the porn scenes cut out. Most of the jokes didn’t land for me.

LILITH'S SCORE: 3.5/5

Until next time, my voracious voyeurs. I’m Lilith, and I’m always watching.

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