How the hell did THAT happen?
Bet you thought you'd never see a drooling ballgag scene on mainstream TV.
Copyright 2008 by Pat Powers
I wanted to like the Flash Gordon TV series when it first aired on the SciFi Channel. I REALLY did. Even when most of the people I knew, both in real life and online, gave up the series as hopelessly cheap and badly done, I stuck with it. Well, for a couple of months.
All right, so Mongo and Earth BOTH looked a lot like Vancouver, Canada. So the three major female leads -- Dale Arden, Princess Aura and Baylin the bounty hunter -- all looked very much alike.
John Ralston does his best to look terrifying here, but it's the look of sheer terror on the damsel's face that really sells this scene.
And Ming the Merciless was horribly miscast. Or perhaps it was simply that the character was pathetically misconceived. Ming the Merciless was originally conceived as an over-the-top intergalactic Oriental despot. I can see why the producers wanted to dump the "Oriental" with it's 1940s-style racism. But Ming was supposed to be insanely scary -- someone with so much power and so much arrogance about how he used that power and so little concern for human life that he was literally capable of doing anything at any time. The mere sight of him should make your balls retract a little, as if he were a slavering Doberman pincer just inches away from your face.
What you need is someone with Christopher Walken or Klaus Kinski-level intensity, someone who can look like his connection with humanity is extremely tenuous, at best.
Mind you, Ming does a lot of bad things during the course of the show, but he doesn't really look all that natural doing them -- they're just the grim things he has to do to keep the corporate bottom line ... er, his evil empire ... in proper shape.
And Ming is far from the only problem. The Hawkmen episode was truly godawful, with a bunch of guys who looked like Mexican wrestlers standing around in an abandoned quarry near Vancouver with cheap-ass pasted-on wings puffing out their chests and going "Kaw! Kaw! Kaw!" That's actually the episode that made me give up on the series. At that point it had stopped looking cheap and started looking intellectually bankrupt. No ideas worth having to be found among these producers and scriptwriters. It was like a crappy Disney film without the money or the craftsmanship to give the hackwork a verisimilitude of quality.
Nice side view of the gag. Looks like a regulation ballgag in a lot of respects.
Worst of all, almost all of the cheesy goodness that made the original so much fun had been re-imagined into something a lot less fun. I mean, if they'd just let Dale Arden and Princess Aura run around half naked a lot of the time, as Alex Raymond did in the original strip that was published in family newspapers around the US over 60 years ago, I probably would have stuck it out, and so would a lot of other guys. We like our half-naked actresses; just look at "Baywatch" and "The Lost World" (mmm, Jennifer O'Dell) and plenty of other stuff. But the nimrods who made "Flash Gordon" can't even manage that.
I'm not the only one who has observed that the R-rated parody "Flesh Gordon" is closer in spirit to the original than SciFi's Flash Gordon.
Flesh Gordon rescues Dale Ardor from Emperor Wang's rapist robots in the pornish parody, "Flesh Gordon." This porn film actually is closer to the original series than the current TV series. Compare Dale Ardor's outfit in this pic and Dale Arden's outfit in the original comic strip at the bottom of this page. The TV series Dale Arden dresses like a business woman.
So, on Friday, February 2, I was sitting at my computer putting together a web page or reading blogs looking for ideas I could steal to put together a web page, or something along those lines, and I've got Flash Gordon on in the background. It was that or "Ghost Busty" I mean "Ghost Whisperer" and unless Jennifer Love Hewitt changes her tack and starts doing the show in a thong with a very skimpy top, I'm not watching. At least the goings-on on Flash are vaguely science fictional.
I don't have the sound on because I don't want the plot or the dialog to interfere with my work too much. It's not like I'm expecting to see or hear anything interesting. Then, out of the corner of my eye, I see something. I look up and MING IS FORCING A FREAKY-LOOKING STRAP BALL GAG INTO THE MOUTH OF A FEMALE CAPTIVE!!!
Really not what I expected to see on Flash Gordon. A great gag scene? Since when did that series start doing ANYTHING great?
Holy crap! There's been nothing like this on the show to date that I know of! I make a hasty search for my VCR remote. I find it. I hit "Play" to see if there's anything on the tape that's currently in the VCR that's any good. There's not. I hit "stop." I hit the red "record" button. The VCR promptly powers down. I have hit the red "power" button instead. I hit the "power" button again and the VCR comes back on. Then I hit the red "record" button and ... the VCR promptly powers down again. I've hit the "power" button AGAIN! I hit the "power" button again and the VCR powers up again. But too late, the scene is over.
That was annoying but understandable. The scene caught me completely by surprise. And the only two red buttons on my VCR are "power" and "record" presumably to make them easy to confuse with one another. OK, that's a little unfair to the designer of the remote -- the two buttons are on opposite ends of the remote, so that anyone paying the least bit of attention will easily be able to tell the two apart. Which wasn't me that day.
Fortunately, SCIFI Channel reran the episode three hours later, as they do with each episode of Flash Gordon, and forewarned I was able to operate the VCR with something like competence and get a nice clean copy of the scene.
While being gagged, the damsel is in a specialty bondage chair (note cuffs at wrists and huge shackles around legs). Plus, she's in a cell. Now that's getting bondage-y. Unfortunately, this is the only shot you get of the chair.
I watched the whole episode to make sure there were not any other scenes I'd missed entirely, and there weren't, or running plotlines that might mean such scenes were likely to recur, but there weren't. (Such a scene might recur, but there's no strong reason to suppose it must recur.)
The background to the scene: as part of his nefarious plotting to control Mongo and steal Earth's water supply, Ming is using the ball gag to force his prisoner (his ex-wife, actually) to drink the tainted water that has plagued Mongo. The ball has a tube that pumps the water into the gag, forcing the wearer to drink the water, I guess. There are some nice shots of the water dribbling out of the corners of the woman's mouth, which look a lot like the gag drool images you see in some commercial bondage imagery.
Look familiar ... kinda Flash Gordon-ish? A click on the pic leads to Sex and Submission, an advertiser of ours and the source of this picture.
This is by far the strongest bondage imagery to come out of Flash Gordon, which is itself an indictment of the show. It has had ENORMOUS potential for bondage imagery, given that Mongo is an alien culture with slavegirls and all sorts of warring subcultures of varying degrees of humanity. Flash Gordon creator Alex Raymond himself wasn't averse to a little nude bondage in the Sunday comics he wrote for newspapers (see below). Would that the series' creators had given that aspect of the show a little more thought. Along with the rest of it.
An actual scene from the old Flash Gordon comic strip seen in American newspapers back in the 1940s. We've come a long way, baby ... in the wrong direction, in this case.
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