The Flim-Flam Man
and Flower Drum Song,
and a few more films

Flesh Gordon (1974)
Streaming free at Internet Archive

I don't usually cover the porno beat, but this is something special. 

It opens with a long and sincere dedication to the creators of Flash Gordon and other original superheroes — Captain Marvel, Buck Rogers, Superman, etc. And then, the film that follows really does seem to be a satirical but loving homage, specifically to the 1936 Flash Gordon reviewed a few days ago, from which it lifts the essence of its plot and a few scenes almost shot-for-shot. 

There are some difference, though. Fewer costumes, obviously. Flesh's rocket is shaped like a penis, and Earth is being bombard by sex-rays, which make everyone horny, causing worldwide orgies.

#271  [archive]
APR. 4, 2024

The jokes are mostly puns, but a few are funny. As for the sex, there's boobies and bush and butts and some simulated humping, but no visible penetration. Would it still be rated 'X'? More than once, the movie goes five minutes without even any nudity.

What makes it worth writing about, is that it's from the heart. The sets, story, and effects are at least as good as the 1936 original, and consistently show imagination. Where else would you see the hero imperiled by a flock of giant stop-motion penises?

Flesh Gordon is disappointing as pornography, and not particularly great in general, but I've seen hundreds of non-porn B-movies with worse production, effects, and acting. This is quality schlock, created by genuine sci-fi or Flash Gordon fans.

Verdict: YES.

♦ ♦ ♦ 

Flight to Fury (1964)

Per IMDB, Jack Nicholson seems to have stumbled around Hollywood for several years, working on very low-budget movies and TV. Here he decided to write his own, based on a story by Monte Hellman (Ride in the Whirlwind, Two-Lane Blacktop) and Fred Roos (producer of Barfly and Tucker: The Man and His Dream). Hellman directs, Roos produces, and Nicholson gets third billing, after Dewey Martin and Fay Spain.

Wearing a mustache and playing a psychopath, Nicholson elbows his way into a diamond smuggling operation, and things come to a head after there's a plane wreck. 

It's kinda interesting to watch Nicholson play a psycho, warming up for The Shining fifteen years later. Despite the presence of Hellman and Nicholson, though, the movie's really nothing much, a curio only for fans of Hellman and/or Nicholson. 

Verdict: NO.

♦ ♦ ♦ 

The Flim-Flam Man (1967)
Streaming free at Internet Archive

Con man George C Scott schools his apprentice, Army deserter Michael Sarrazin, in the ways of grifting and fleecing rubes, as they pull scam after scam after car chase all across the American South.

With the Hollywood polish tweaked just about right, it's a long smile. Scott keeps pulling Sarrazin deeper into violations of the law, while a local blonde (Sue Lyon) tempts him into breaking different laws, if you know what I mean and I think you do.

"Only cheat the cheaters, boy. You can't cheat an honest man."

Scott wears quite a bad hairpiece and puts too much ham on the plate, but Sarrazin is great, Lyon is pretty, and Harry Morgan is maximum cuddly as the perpetually befuddled local cop. There's nothing to The Flim-Flam Man but popcorn and inoffensive laughs, but it's very good mainstream moviemaking from the factory.

Features a fine harmonica-tinged score by Jerry Goldsmith, with a central melody that'll still be gnawing at your ears a week later.

Verdict: YES.

♦ ♦ ♦ 

Flipper (1963)
Streaming free at Amazon, if you have Prime

A hurricane's approaching, and fisherman and family man Porter Ricks (Chuck Connors) does what he can to help the locals prepare. After the storm, there's death and destruction to clean up, and Ricks' teenage son Sandy (Luke Halprin) discovers a dolphin that's beached itself to die.

The boy and his mother rescue the dolphin in a few heart-tugging scenes, and after that the family has a new pet. They call him 'Flipper'.

Dolphins are smart, but probably not as smart as this fairy-tale dolphin, in a movie so wholesome it squeaks. It's less action-packed and more cerebral than the TV show, which I remember fondly.

"The sea kills even those who know it."

Luke Halprin, playing the teenager in this movie, played the same role on the television show, and went on to a long career in schlock (including the bizarre Mr. No Legs).

Verdict: YES, especially if you were once fond of the TV show — this is basically the 'origin' episode.

♦ ♦ ♦ 

Flower Drum Song (1961)
Streaming free at YouTube

A snooty Chinese-American patriarch in San Francisco has long-ago arranged a marriage for his son, Wang Ta (James Shigeta). Now Ta's bride-to-be, Mei Li (Miyoshi Umeki) has (illegally!) immigrated to America to meet and marry her lifelong fiancé, but he's smitten with the more fully-assimilated nightclub singer Linda (Nancy Kwan), and there's a third woman, Helen (Reiko Sato), who's in love with Ta, too, though Ta doesn't know it.

Hmmm. There might have been an 'impersonation' subplot along the way, or maybe I'm just an idiot, because what I'd written above (halfway through the movie) seems mistaken by the end.

Screw it, though. The plot isn't important; it's all about the jokes and the songs. The jokes are corny and everybody's Asian, but the language of '60s quaint is universal. Most of the songs are worth hearing, and the singing and dancing is swell.

"Don't Marry Me" is especially delightful, and another showstopping number is "Grant Avenue," set during the Chinese New Year's Parade on a Hollywood-sytylized version of that famous San Francisco street. I attended the parade one year, so trust me, in real life the marching band doesn't play "Three Cheers for the Red White and Blue," like they do in the movie.

Music and lyrics by Rodgers and Hammerstein, but the film is based on a play that's based on a novel by Chin Yang Lee, a Chinese-American. Even after Broadway and Hollywood had their way with the material, the stereotypes are never too offensive, at least to this white boy.

Very few Asian-American actors have been allowed fame in America, but most of them circa 1961 are on screen here, including Jack Soo and James Hong.

Juanita Hall, an African-American actress, plays Asian (as she did in South Pacific), but David Carradine isn't in the cast, so I'm not complaining.

Flower Drum Song is lovely.

Verdict: YES.

♦ ♦ ♦ 

Flowers and Trees (1932)
Streaming free at Internet Archive

Before all the awfulness of the studio, amusement parks, and evil conglomerate that bear his name, Walt Disney did some lovely work.

Like this short, full of wordless and surreal animated flowers, birds, and walking trees, dancing to classical music. It's not funny, but he's not trying to be funny, and anyway, Disney was never very funny even when he tried. It's just a weird thing to look at, charming, and certainly art.

Verdict: YES.


• • • Coming attractions • • •     

The Fly (1958)
The Fly
The Flying Ace
Flying Down to Rio
The Fog
The Fog of War

... plus schlock, shorts, and surprises

— — —
'Movie reviews' that that recount the plot, paragraph after paragraph, suck. My pledge to you: I'll only give the basics of a movie's premise, with no spoilers after that.  
— — —

Illustration by Jeff Meyer. Click any image to enlarge. Arguments & recommendations are welcome, but no talking once the lights dim, and only real butter on the popcorn, not that fake yellow stuff. 
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