Flesh Gordon

Frank Abate points me to a 10/18 article in the Guardian: “Flesh Gordon? Artwork reveals erotic version that was never made: Draft designs for a planned Nicolas Roeg sci-fi movie in 1979 finally see the light of day” by Dalya Alberge:

(#1) Artwork for the abandoned film depicts Flash Gordon confronting Ming the Merciless on top of the emperor’s royal spaceship. Photograph: StudioCanal / King Features Inc.

Flash Gordon fans worldwide can only imagine what might have been. Futuristic artwork – including lots of phallic imagery – that was created for an aborted 1979 feature film about the cult spaceman superhero and his intergalactic adventures is to be published for the first time.

The production was to have been directed by one of Britain’s foremost film-makers, the late Nicolas Roeg, who had made Don’t Look Now, a horror story starring Julie Christie and Donald Sutherland, and The Man Who Fell to Earth, the arthouse science fiction drama starring David Bowie as an alien.

His Flash Gordon film would have starred Debbie Harry, lead singer of the American band Blondie, as Princess Aura, the seductive daughter of Ming the Merciless, the tyrannical dictator, who would have been played by Hollywood movie star Keith Carradine.

But the production was abandoned before Roeg had cast his superhero after he fell out with its producer, Dino De Laurentiis, the movie mogul who made Barbarella, a 1968 science-fiction comic adaptation that turned Jane Fonda into a sex symbol. De Laurentiis had dreamed of three Flash Gordon films. He only made one, the 1980 version directed by Mike Hodges, which became a cult favourite.

As it happens, there was a 1974 erotic spoof actually titled Flesh Gordon:

(#2) Poster for the 1974 movie, featuring a hugely obtrusive genital package

Background. Flash Gordon (in his many incarnations) has been a significant figure in my life since childhood (specifically, early puberty at 10), when Buster Crabbe’s physical presence awakened my same-sex desire in ways that took me decades to cope with. But enough of autobiography.

From my 9/29/19 posting “Musclemen from Mars”, based on a Zippy strip:


Male superheroes are extravagant embodiments of masculinity: they are, to start with, embodiments of great human power (conventionally associated with men), and then they have superhuman powers beyond that; their costumes are designed to encase their bodies, but tightly, so as to suggest, reveal, or exaggerate every bit of gendered anatomy (the broad shoulders, the musculature of the arms, torso, and thighs, and the genital package). (Beyond the powers and the costumes, there are the conventionally hyper-masculine faces.)

The strip begins with superheroes on this planet, but it ends, in the lower right corner, with (hunky) superheroes in space — “Musclemen from Mars” is what the Dingburgers are reading — and it turns out that space-traveling superheroes (as exemplified by Flash Gordon) are given to frequent bouts of shirtlessness (mostly while performing their feats of manly derring-do, but sometimes during the virtually obligatory shirtless torture scenes)

…. The space-traveling superhero Flash Gordon. More to the point of the Zippy cartoon is the celebrated muscleman Flash Gordon, the first science-fiction superhero of tv and the movies, with a decided predilection for gender-display shirtlessness, though on the (distant) planet Mongo rather than Mars. From a listing in my 11/14/10 posting “Flash Gordon over the years”, three movie highlights:

the 1936 movie serial starring Buster Crabbe as Flash (and its sequels in 1938 and 1940)

(#4) Buster Crabbe in 1936, displaying his muscular torso

Flesh Gordon, a 1974 erotic spoof of the serials films [above]

Flash Gordon, a [knowingly] campy 1980 film starring Sam J. Jones as Flash (with music by Queen)

(#5) Sam J. Jones in 1980, in a shirtless torture scene

I am a great fan of the movie serials and the 1980 movie, each enjoyably campy in its own way. And both containing monuments to shirtless masculinity.

One Response to “Flesh Gordon”

  1. Robert Coren Says:

    Mad magazine also used the title Flesh Gordon for a (non-erotic) parody of the original “Flash”, sometime around 1960.

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