Thursday, June 19, 2014

Flash, ahhh! And other thinly veiled eighties sexual references

So this post isn't quite a review so much as a meditation on eighties visual excess.  I recently watched the 1980 cinematic achievement that is Flash Gordon, and it was exactly as glorious as you think it was.  Let me elaborate....

Flash Gordon is an American Football star (blond hair, big muscles, the whole deal) who plays for the New York Jets and gets into an unfortunate plane crash one day on his way home.  Joined by a travel agent named Dale Arden (whom he immediately takes a liking to), they crash land in the laboratory of Dr. Zarkov.  Our friendly neighbourhood scientist promptly kidnaps them for a mission into space to save the planet from an evil alien race called the Mongos, led by an evil emperor named Ming.  And yes, he is exactly as offensive looking as you're imagining but in fairness he is based on the original 1934 comic creation (also offensive) so while it's someone's fault for sure, feel free to spread the blame around.

With me so far? Great.

So....wormholes.
So Dr. Zarkov, Dale and her new admirer Flash Gordon rocket into space and it's a bit of a bumpy ride, so the whole group gets knocked out cold.  But not passed out enough to prevent them from looking aroused and sweaty for a good two minutes while they cut between pictures of hand holding and distinctly pinky wormholes being penetrated by their phallic space ship on their way to the alien homeworld.  The result is a melodramatic psuedo-sex scene that rivals many an experimental film.  The film really drives home that pent up sexual frustration with all those overt visual references.  Basically, if there's an opportunity to make something into a sexual reference by cutting two shots together, you better believe that's what they're going to do here.

So back to the plot: the spaceship orgy doesn't last long because soon enough they're hurtling towards the home of the mongos, where they crash land.  True to form, the spaceship travels down a craggy pass towards the shining golden city at the end of the channel to get there, crashing our heroes just short of the imperial palace.  Again, it's all very over the top.

Ming's daughter, enjoying a relaxing dom session.
And speaking of overt, the chamber where they're taken once they're captured is comprised of quite a few different Mongo peoples in varying degree of dress, undress and leashes.  Yup, leashes.  Wherever possible, the film goes with exposed skin, even dressing one group of people up in what comes across as a cross between LOTR's Gimly and drunken Cupid (metal wings, pointed helmets and shorts/underwear).  Flash is frequently seen without his shirt and Dale looses hers virtually immediately upon arriving since Emperor Ming wants to claim her as his concubine.  The bondage style dress of some of the police force and the whips used in various scenarios (such as the later torturing of Ming's daughter by their only policewoman) really drives the point home that it's all about sex here.  Other than the security force do these people not have jobs?  What do they do with themselves when they're not whoring around?  It's all every unclear.

So Flash, how's that burning sensation?
But that's okay because Flash is about to be the, "Savior of the Universe!" and fly some phallic stuff into objects and openings a bit more (and possibly bring some sort disease with him if his flaming spaceship is any indication).

This might be a good time to mention that Fox is apparently developing a 3D version of Flash Gordon, presumably with its own weird phallic objects that hopefully fly AWAY from the camera. I guess it's not a surprise that the producers decided to keep up with the shots of phallic objects, seeing as Flash Gordon himself was just coming off a centerfold spread in Playgirl. But the worst offender in the film has to be the *spoilers* "death" of Ming himself. Just as Ming is trying to marry Miss. Dale Arden against her will, here comes Flash with the ultimate cock block: LITERALLY IMPALING MING WITH HIS SPACESHIP. It's truly incredible to watch.
Of course in the end our hero gets the girl and they get engaged (because everyone knows sexual innuendo leads to marriage).  And they all live happily ever after in their new society, which is now presided over by Mr. Timothy Dalton and Ming's daughter.  There's probably an allegory about the importance of traditional couplings in there but let's not work too hard for this one.

Either way I can understand why this is a cult classic.  It has all the elements of a truly disastrous adventure: experimental style sexual innuendo, dominatrix and bondage style cultural dress, phallic objects hurtling into any opening they can locate, and an amazing themesong that's (inexplicably) sung by Queen.  Seriously, who was their agent in 1980?


(skip to the 1 minute mark, those of you who enjoy It's Always Sunny In Philadelphia may recognize the tune).

It's available on Netflix (which is where I stumbled upon it) and probably at the bottom of your weird older brother's underwear drawer, enjoy!

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