A mysterious affliction has changed the face of Planet Earth: an irresistable effect from outer space known as the "Sex Ray" for its powers over the inhabitants. Orgies are breaking out across the globe, but respected scientist Professor Gordon (John Hoyt) calls a press conference to announce that not everyone is affected and his son, Flesh Gordon (Jason Williams), is on his way back from an ice hockey tournament in Tibet to sort things out. Unfortunately Flesh's flight is hit by the ray, leaving no one at the controls - is his adventure over before it has begun?
Flesh Gordon reputedly started life as a hardcore porn spoof of Flash Gordon, but somewhere along the way the hardcore scenes were lost: opinions differ about where exactly they went, but although the end result was fairly explicit, there didn't appear to be anything unsimulated in it. No matter, because the sexual side wasn't the film's strongest point anyway, where it really succeeded was in its surprisingly effective visuals. Scripted by co-director Michael Benveniste, the project was pretty faithful to its original, and had some real craftsmen working behind the camera.
In front of the camera, maybe not so much, but the special effects men included a few who would work on Star Wars such as Rick Baker and Dennis Muren, and stop motion animation by expert Jim Danforth (with his name spelled backwards in the credits). As far as the tone went, smut ruled the day, with Dale Ardor instead of Dale Arden, or Dr Flexi Jerkoff instead of Dr Alexis Zarkov (it's amusing to hear Flesh continually shouting "Jerkoff!" without any trace of malice).
It's interesting to compare this version of Flash Gordon with the official one that arrived about six years later, as they both share a distinct sense of high camp, although in this one the kinkiness is less sublimated. The plotting is very similar, prompting one to muse over whether the filmmakers of 1980 caught their less respectable little brother. Flesh bails out of the crashing plane with a parachute and Dale (Suzanne Fields, who spends most of her time having her clothes ripped off) wind up at the remote home of Jerkoff (Joseph Hudgins), who just happens to be building a space rocket (guess what it's shaped like).
The trio make their way across the gulf of space to the origin of the sex ray, the planet Porno, and the lair of Emperor Wang (William Dennis Hunt) who has put this plan into action, though he seems at a loss to explain why. Wang takes a liking to Dale and plans to make her his bride, much to her horror, but before he can be destroyed Flesh is spirited away by Amora, Queen of Magic, who has fallen for our hero. Wang shoots down her spacecraft, and Flesh escapes to save his friends and indeed the day. Against the odds, this effort does raise a few laughs, mainly due to good lines, a sense of the ridiculous and amateurish but somehow appropriate playing from the cast, and those effects are a real bonus. Followed by a sequel, but not the one which is trumpeted at the end of this film. Music by Ralph Ferraro.