Regrettably, the movie is not consistent in quality. The acting is almost universally bad, the script, though occasionally comic, is frequently juvenile, and the nudity is funnier than it is sexy. All of that said, the film is not without its virtues. It is often a successful parody of the much earlier Flash Gordon serials. A number of the special effects are pretty good, and the sets, though sometimes of very low quality, are sometimes remarkable.
Flexi Jerkoff's phallic spaceship is amusing. Wang's palace, with its tall spires and great domes, is sumptuous and impressive (except when its cheaply built interiors are shown), and several of the paintings used to depict backgrounds on Porno are bewitching, mysterious, and grand. There are even moments of real beauty, as when Queen Amora's swan shaped flying ship floats above the clouds in front of a full moon.
Such elements are hardly the only things in the movie able to engage the viewer. Some of the special effects are so bad they are actually fun to watch, while others are surprisingly accomplished. In particular, the idol that Wang awakens at the end of the film, and that promptly kidnaps Dale, strips her so it can look at her breasts, and carries her to the top of a tower, where it fights off attacks by Flesh, who is circling the fiend in an airplane, is brought to life with stop-motion animation that is just as impressive as is some of Ray Harryhausen's work. Even those effects that are not as well done as is this creature can add to Flesh Gordon's appeal. The penisauruses, giant penises tipped each with an eyeball and brought to life with stop-motion animation, are a hoot, as is a similarly realized mechanical fighting beetle, while the rape robots, with their whirling phallic drills, have a bizarre, nostalgic yet obscene charm.
As nicely done as many of the film's elements are, the moviegoer should not think that Flesh Gordon is anything other than a goofy parody. The story is absolutely packed with sexual innuendos, absurd situations, and general silliness. Upon arriving on Porno, Dr. Jerkoff steps out of his ship, takes a deep breath, and announces that the planet has oxygen. Later, Flesh and his friends are flushed down a giant toilet and shown (through a cross section) hurtling through the plumbing below Wang's palace. At other points, one or more of the protagonists use Queen Amora's power pasties as weapons, are captured by aggressive lesbian revolutionaries, or join up with libidinous, and very fey, gay revolutionaries. The film is never serious, and although it is rarely hilarious, it is always amusing.
If a number of the items noted above sound as if they might be sophomoric or downright dumb, that is because they are. Fortunately, the film's very badness adds to its appeal. The abysmal acting, the adolescent sex jokes, and the like give the whole movie a joyous campiness.
Flesh Gordon is hardly a cinematic masterpiece, but it is tremendously fun to watch.
Review by Keith Allen
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