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Category:    Home > Reviews > Science Fiction > Comedy > Erotic > Flesh Gordon (1974/Hen's Tooth DVD)

Flesh Gordon

 

Picture: C†††† Sound: C†††† Extras: B-†††† Film: B-

 

 

1974 was a fine year for adult satire in an era of them, and genre films were no exception.Paul Morrissey managed to knockout Flesh For Frankenstein in 3-D and Blood For Dracula at this time (still available on solid Criterion DVDs) that had a deeper meaning, but were humorous when compared to the Hammer Studio films they were going after.Funny Superheroes were also hot, as Saturday morning TV was already proving, but then there was Flesh Gordon.

 

It took three years to make, but the Michael Benveniste/Howard Ziehm film managed to send-up everything from Flash Gordon and Buck Rogers, to King Kong and Ray Harryhausen films.The title alone has made it a legend, while the film has a justly deserved cult status, holding up surprisingly well for its 30-years of age.

 

A mysterious ray that makes people go sex crazy keep striking, and scientists determine that it came from outer space.On a small bi-plane, it hits when stewardess Dale Ardor and passenger Flesh Gordon meet.That encounter leads them to meeting Dr. Flexi Jerkoff, and to space they go in a phallus-looking space ship.This leads them to the planet porno to battle the source of the phantom menace, Emperor Wang.The film manages to be funny on its own, but is even funnier when you have seen the old Flash Gordon serials of the 1930s and 1940s.

 

Most of the sex humor still holds up, but other jokes are either references only those at the time will pick up, or jokes that just fall flat.One of those 1970s jokes has Jerkoff starting up his ship with a key, which happens be on a VW (Volkswagen) key chain.The reference is to the durability of the original VW Beetle, a joke that occurs literally one year before in Woody Allenís great Science Fiction genre satire Sleeper.It should also be noted that the satire extends to pastiche take-offs of such space operas by default, like the Star Wars franchise that Dennis Murren would be a key part of.Murren happens to have got his break on this film.

 

Usually, a film like this is a mere curio that does not work, but this has more hits than misses, being one of the most interesting products to come out of the pre-VHS sex film cycle that began to take shape in cheap film of the late 1950s and 1960s, before the boom occurred with Deep Throat.If you are expecting any hardcore sex, well, this cut has 15 restored minutes of footage, but this is not that kind of site.However, just based on nudity, some semi-hardcore contact, and sexual situations alone, the conservative rating board would likely give this cut an NC-17 by default.A hard R (no pun intended) would probably not do, but it does sound like some more graphic footage was shot and may never be reintroduced to the film.

 

The full color, letterboxed 1.85 X 1 image is not consistent, with early shots having actors with fleshtones too red.This is not from embarrassment.The film was shot in 16mm Kodak 7252 reversal stock, then blown-up to 35mm, not unlike some Rockumentaries of the time.Unlike the recent, elaborate restorations of Gimme Shelter, Wattstax, and Monterey Pop, this film could still use some work.You can tell how good this film first looked when you see the fine color shots, especially early on, in the stills gallery.When the color is good, it still could look better.

 

The Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono reveals the age of the film and its low-budget origins, but you can pretty much hear all the jokes.There is background hiss, but surprisingly no warping.Other extras include the original theatrical trailer and an incredible commentary track by cameraman, co-producer, and co-director Howard Ziehm, which is one of the best commentary tracks I have ever listened to.Not only does it tell the insane story of the making of the film, but gives a rare, first hand glimpse of America and filmmaking at one of the most interesting possible times.A time we do not hear enough about or have enough information about.Ziehm offers priceless information about the industry then and now, which also serves as one of the great tales of independent filmmaking, even though he himself was making hardcore XXX films to begin with.

 

Co-Producer William Osco later made an X-rated Alice in Wonderland, the only item Ziehm does not note.That was an odd omission, but this a huge surprise DVD overall for the film and extras, giving fledgling home video company Henís Tooth something to crow about.

 

 

-†† Nicholas Sheffo


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