Friday, August 26, 2016

Phil's Top Five Adult Film Recommendations for National Film Registry - August 25, 2016

The National Film Registry is a selection of films chosen by the United States National Film Preservation Board for preservation in the Library of Congress. The criteria for a movie to be selected is that it must have been made here in America, released over ten years ago and must be a "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant film." The NFBP selects 25 titles each year for the registry that showcases, "the range and diversity of American film heritage to increase awareness for its preservation." In January of 2017, there will be a total of 700 films on the registry with more to be added in the upcoming years. I mention all this is because back on April 17, 2011, while I was still living in San Jose, I attended a special screening of the documentary THE AMAZING SHADOWS at the Camera 12 with the film's directors Paul Marino and Kurt Norton in attendance. During their Q&A session they informed the audience that one of the unwritten rules of the NFR is that adult movies were not eligible for consideration. I found their statement to be discriminating, grotesque and appalling.

Believe it or not, pornography has been a part of our world for as long as mankind has been alive. From the crude cave drawings to magnificent statues (Michelangelo's "David", Antioch's "Venus de Milo"), literature ("Ulysses", "Fifty Shades of Grey") to advertisements (Victoria's Secret, Calvin Klein), paintings (Botticelli's "The Birth of Venus", Manet's "Olympia") to music videos (Nikki Minaj's "Anaconda", Fergie's "M.I.L.F.$") and magazines (Playboy, Hustler), the world has always had an interest in sex. Unfortunately, there are those who see adult material as obscene rather than works of art, let alone as a First Amendment Right for free speech and freedom of expression. Politicians, conservatives and religious fanatics have been more than vocal as to eliminate the so-called smut as well as force their religious beliefs onto society. That cannot and will not happen as long as there are those who oppose this form of fascism and censorship. It is right here, ladies and gentlemen, that I am calling out the NFPB for doing the exact same thing as they are discriminating and excluding adult films just because they have sex in it. 

Despite what the population may think, adult movies have played a very important role in not only film history, but also in mainstream pop culture and society as a whole. While there are plenty of adult movies that are not on par with Hollywood classics like GONE WITH THE WIND, CASABLANCA or ON THE WATERFRONT, the adult film industry has produced some extraordinary works of art that honestly and truly deserve to be on the list. In this article I will be proving this by using the same criteria that the NFR use for their selections. These are more than just dirty pictures. These are films, period. With that being said, here are my top five adult films that deserve to be on the National Film Registry.

Original Theatrical Poster (1972)
 FILM NUMBER ONE:  
DEEP THROAT
Starring: Linda Lovelace, Harry Reems, Dolly Sharp, Bill Harrison, Carol Connors
Written and directed by Gerard Domiano (as Jerry Gerard)
Distributed by Bryanston Pictures
Released on June 12, 1972

Plot synopsis: The story concerns Linda (Linda Lovelace), a young woman terribly distressed because she doesn't 'hear bells' when she makes love. A visit to the doctor (Harry Reems) reveals that the cause of her woes is that her clitoris is actually located deep in her throat. Linda adjusts to this biological anomaly by practicing oral sex and working as a sexual surrogate.

Culturally, historically, or aesthetically significance: The film was a first of its kind. It was a pornographic movie with a plot. In early 1973, a news article about the film appeared in the New York Times. Written by reporter Ralph Blumenthal and using the phrase "Porno Chic" for its title, it helped usher in what has been called The Golden Age of Pornography. Because of the article, it made couples want to go porno theaters and see what the hype was all about. Celebrities also came to see the film such as Jack Nicholson, Warren Beatty, Martin Scorsese, Brian De Palm, Frank Sinatra, Barbara Walters and Johnny Carson just to name a few.

The popularity of the film became part of the mainstream in a major way. William Mark Felt, the Watergate scandal's whistleblower that led to the resignation of then President Richard Nixon, was nicknamed "Deep Throat." It was talked about in the news, on late talk shows as well as variety shows. It's been referenced in books, newspapers, mainstream movies, as well as becoming part of the sexual dictionary. In 2005, the film would also become the subject matter in the documentary entitled INSIDE DEEP THROAT. Eight years later, Millennium Films released the biopic LOVELACE starring popular Hollywood actress Amanda Seyfried as well as Peter Sarsgaard, Sharon Stone, James Franco and Chloë Sevigny. The film also inspired the stage play "The Deep Throat Sex Scandel" by David Bertolino. In December 2014, the website The Rialto Report announced that they finally unearthed the true identity of Dolly Sharp (who portrayed Linda's best friend Helen in the film). Sharp was actually former Broadway actress Helen Wood, who had appeared in a number of productions including "Gentlemen Prefer Blondes", "Seventeen" and "Pal Joey" before staring in the 1953 Warner Brothers musical GIVE A GIRL A BREAK. She passed away in November 1998 at age 63 from colon cancer. 

Despite its claim has having grossed over $600 million (FBI claims it to be closer to $100 million), the film remains as one of the most profitable independent films of all time, against a budget of only $25,000. It spawned six sequels, a remake by adult company giant Vivid Entertainment and was also the first film to be inducted into the XRCO Hall of Fame and is part of the AVN Hall of Fame.

On April 22, 2002, Linda Lovelace died from injuries sustained from a car accident at the young age of 53. Then Gerard Damino passed away at age 80 on October 25, 2008 following complications from a stroke he suffered. And then finally, on March 19, 2013, Harry Reems died from pancreatic cancer at the age of 65. Whether they knew it or not, these three individuals helped create the multi-billion porn industry we know today.

DEEP THROAT has left an immeasurable impact on both the film industry and the world. There is not one person who hasn't heard of the movie or its sexual reference. It's become part of our lexicon. Here we are, 44 years after the film's initial release, and we are still talking about the movie, it's actors, it's director, its influence and it's legacy. This is why DEEP THROAT deserves to be part of the National Film Registry.
 
Original Theatrical Poster (1972)
FILM NUMBER TWO:
Starring: Marilyn Chambers, Johnnie Keyes, George S. McDonald, Elizabeth Knowles
Written by Artie Mitchell (based on an original story by Elliot Wax)
Directed by Jim & Artie Mitchell
Distributed by the Mitchell Brothers Film Group
Released on December 17, 1972

The film's synopsis: A beautiful woman named Gloria (Marilyn Chambers) is abducted and initiated into a live sex act on a private stage, participating in lesbianism, interracial sex and a public orgy.

Culturally, historically, or aesthetically significance: While New York was the capital of the adult film world for the east coast, the film established San Francisco and the west coast as its counterpart. The Mitchell Brothers were infamous as their O'Farrell Theatre was the epic center for sex, drugs and pornography. Jim and his younger brother Artie had been making loops in the city for quite some time before embarking on making their feature length debut. Based on Elliot Wax's short story, Artie wrote the film's script that was both erotic and advant grade. Once completed, the brothers began auditioning actresses for the lead. Enter Marilyn Chambers.

Chambers was an aspiring actress and model. She was currently the "Ivory Snow girl" as her face were on the Proctor & Gamble boxes all over the country. Seizing the opportunity of the amount of free publicity they could attract, the brothers cast Chambers for the role, promoting her as "99 and 44/100% impure", a pun of the Ivory Snow slogan.

The movie broke a lot of the taboos of hardcore films. First, Chambers' Gloria didn't have any lines in the movie. The film's narrative and look was surreal, leaning towards more of experimental films that were being made in the city at that time. It also boasts one of the first interracial sex scenes with Chambers and Johnnie Keyes, which most people had never seen before at that time. These was also gay and bisexual extras during the orgy scene that were captured for the whole world to see. Also, like DEEP THROAT, it was the first pornographic film to reach a mass audience.

The film became a boxoffice sensation upon its release, as of today grossing over $50 million against its meager $60,000 budget. It was also screened at that year's Cannes Film Festival. Chambers was thrusted into the spotlight, garnering fans from all over the world. She would crossover into the mainstream and starred in films like David Cronenberg's RABID. Mainstream media also gave the movie positive reviews and was the second film to be inducted in the XRCO Hall of Fame. The film's production was also featured in the Showtime biopic film X-RATED that starred brothers Charlie Sheen and Emilio Estevez as Artie and Jim Mitchell. In 2014, Artie's daughter Liberty Bradford Mitchell did a tour of her one woman play called "The Pornographer's Daughter: The True Tale of Growing Up with the Mitchell Brotherswith the band The Fluffers providing the musical score.

On February 27, 1991, Jim shot and killed Artie with a .22 rifle that belonged to their father. Jim was tried and convicted of voluntary manslaughter and was sentenced to six years in prison. Upon serving three years at San Quentin, he was released in 1997 and returned to San Francisco to manage the O'Farrell Theatre. Jim Mitchell died on July 12, 2007 from a heart attack at his ranch in Sonoma County at the age of 63. Then on April 12, 2009, Marilyn Chambers was found in dead by her daughter McKenna Taylor in her home in Santa Clarita. The cause of death was a cerebral hemorrhage. She was just 56 years old.

BEHIND THE GREEN DOOR has left a lasting legacy on pop culture and society. The film has inspired countless books, plays and one film. Chambers has gone on to become of the biggest names in the adult film world, becoming a pop culture icon and was inducted in the AVN Hall of Fame. Johnnie Keyes became the first black porn star, a living legend and was recently interviewed for The Rialto Report podcast. The O'Farrell Theatre has become a San Francisco institution, attracting tourists from all over the world to see its history and its performers on a nightly basis. The Mitchell Brothers have become synonymous with the film, their theatre and their city, becoming local heroes and advocates for First Amendment Rights. The film is a true adult classic and helped usher in the Porno Chic fad and the Golden Age of Pornography. This is why BEHIND THE GREEN DOOR deserves to be part of the National Film Registry.

Original Theatrical Poster (1973)
FILM NUMBER THREE:
Starring: Georgina Spelvin, Harry Reems, John Clemens, Marc Stevens
Written and directed by Gerard Damiano
Distributed by MB Productions
Released on March 28, 1973

The film's synopsis: Justine Jones (Georgina Spelvin), a spinster in her 30's, kills herself, because NOTHING has happened in her life. Confronted by the Devil and faced with an eternity in Hell, she imposes the hypothetical premise - If I had my life to live over I would live a life consumed,engulfed, impassioned by lust! This brings about sexual behavior that transcends the norm and blooms into erotic art.

Culturally, historically, or aesthetically significance: After the financial and critical success of DEEP THROAT, Gerard Domino followed that up with what many fans and critics consider to be the his best film ever. By having the movie open with Spelvin's character committing suicide, it shocked and surprised audiences who were thinking that it would be like his previous film. Damino pulled no punches when it came to making the movie; addressing themes such as life, death, suicide, lust, greed, promiscuity and loneliness. This was not the typical porno movie that swinging 70's audiences were expecting to see. If DEEP THROAT was a slapstick comedy, then THE DEVIL IN MISS JONES was a representation of his guilt ridden Catholic side.

The film's visuals borrowed a lot from the European movies that were being release during this period. Ingmar Bergman's CRIES AND WHISPERS and Bernard Bertilicci's LAST TANGO IN PARIS often time comes into conversations. However, it is the performance of lead actress Georgina Spelvin that lifts the film to another level. Already in her late 30's, she was originally hired on as the craft services women. When the original lead actress backed out, Damiano asked her to take on the role of Miss Jones. This was Spelvin's first starring role, having been a chorus girl on a number of Broadway productions.

The film opened to acclaim almost instantaneously. It broke boxoffice records for a porno film and played as a double bill with DEEP THROAT for years. It earned $15 million and was one of the highest grossing films of 1973. Roger Ebert gave the movie three stars and was also reviewed by Variety, comparing the movie to Jean-Paul Satre's play "No Exit." William Friedkin, the director of THE EXORCIST, was quoted as saying that is was a "great film." It was also inducted into the XRCO Hall of Fame was included in AVN's Top 50 Most Important Adult Films Ever Made list. 

Georgina Splevin continued to appear in adult features as well as many exploitation and mainstream films such as CAREER BEDTARZ AND JANE AND CHEETA, BAD BLOODPOLICE ACADEMY and the sequel POLICE ACADEMY 3: BACK IN TRAINNING. In 2006, she published her autobiography entitled "The Devil Made Me Do It" and has launched her own website. She along with several other adult actresses were profiled in author Jill Nelcon's book "Golden Goddesses: 25 Legendary Women of Classic Erotic Cinema, 1968-1985" and was interviewed by The Rialto Report in May 2013.

THE DEVIL IN MISS JONES is still causing ripple effects in the modern day world. Lead singer and guitarist of the punk band Social Distortion Mike Ness wrote a song entitled "The Devil in Miss Jones" that was featured on his solo album Cheating At Solitare. It has been written about in several film textbooks and has been marketed from T-shirts to hats to shot glasses. The film spawned five sequels from VCA Pictures, one remake and sequel from Vivid Video and was included in the recent Showtime documentary X-RATED: THE GREATEST ADULT MOVIES OF ALL TIME. It is no wonder that THE DEVIL IN MISS JONES deserves to be part of the National Film Registry.

Original Theatrical Poster (1976)
FILM NUMBER FOUR:
Starring: Constance Money, Jamie Gillis, Jacqueline Beudant, Gloria Leonard, Terri Hall
Written and directed by Radley Metzger (as Henry Paris)
Distributed by Quality Made Films
Released in March 1976

The film's synopsis: Follow noted sexologist Dr. Seymour Love (Jamie Gillis) as he sets himself the challenge of transforming lowly streetwalker Misty Beethoven (Constance Money) into the world's greatest lover. With the help of his beautiful friend Geraldine (Jacqueline Beudant), Love devises an erotic training program with the goal of seeing Misty crowned "Goldenrod Girl" at famed publisher Lawrence Layman's next wild party.

Culturally, historically, or aesthetically significance: Based on George Bernard Shaw's play "Pygmalionas well as the Hollywood adaptation MY FAIR LADY, director Radley Metzger's film has been called the greatest adult film ever made, often times refered to as the CITIZEN KANE of the porn industry. Its reputation as a cinematic classic has not waned, even after its initial release 40 years ago.

Metzger had already made a name for himself as a talented filmmaker, directing such erotica classics as THERESA AND ISABELLE, CAMILLE 2000, THE LICKERISH QUARTET and SCORE. With the release of DEEP THROAT in 1972, he switched to making hardcore films beginning with THE PRIVATE AFTERNOONS OF PAMELA MANN in 1974 and NAKED CAME THE STRANGER the following year. But in 1976, he would make the film that he would always be remembered for.

Featuring outstanding performances by Constance Money, Jamie Gillis, Jacqueline Beudant and Gloria Leonard, exotic locations such as Rome, Paris and New York City, a smart and witty script and a fantastic soundtrack, the movie was seen as more than just your typical adult film. This was something completely different and unique. When it opened in New York in 1976, it became a runaway sensation. Not only was a big hit with critics and fans but it would be nominated for several awards at The First Annual Erotica Awards in 1977, winning Best Picture, Best Director and Best Editing. Jamie Gillis would win Best Actor for the film the following year. Years later, the film would one of the firsts to be inducted into the XRCO Hall of Fame.

Over the years the film has been released in various forms on home video, such as VHS and DVD. However, the transfers were of very poor quality and reformatted to the standard 4x3 ratio for television sets during this time. Then in 2012, Steve Morowitz, owner of Distribpix Inc., took on the task of restoring the film: a new 2K scan and restoration was conducted, widescreen ratio and sound was fixed. It was released on special edition Blu-Ray and DVD, complete with several amazing special features, including the rarely seen softcore version of the movie. The film's soundtrack was also made available for the first time ever.

On February 19, 2010, Jamie Gillis died of melanoma cancer in New York City. He was 66 years old. After years of searching, on January 25, 2015 the Rialto Report released their podcast interview with Constance Money, her first since disappearing from the public eye more than 30 years ago. Journalist Tori Bentley interviewed Radley Metzger for the June 2014 issue of Playboy. The article was entitled "The Legend of Henry Paris" and was the first interview he had participated in in years. 

THE OPENING OF MISTY BEETHOVEN is an erotic film masterpiece and the pinnacle of the Porno Chic trend of the 1970's. It is an iconic movie, one that 40 years later it still continues to attract new fans while remaining a favorite with those who saw it originally in theaters. It's charm, humor and eroticism perfectly captures the height of the Golden Age and remains the benchmark of that era in adult film history. All this is why THE OPENING OF MISTY BEETHOVEN deserves to be on the National Film Registry.

Theatrical Movie Poster (1978)
FILM NUMBER FIVE:
Starring: Bambi Woods, Christie Ford, Robert Kerman, Robin Byrd, Herschel Savage, Eric Edwards, Arcadia Lake
Written by Maria Minestra
Directed by Jim Buckley (as Jim Clark)
Distributed by VCX
Released in October 1978

The film's synopsis: Sweet, virginal Debbie (Bambi Woods) wants to head to Texas to claim her spot on the "Texas Cowgirls" cheerleading squad. But the trip costs money and her parents aren’t willing to help. With the aid of her cheerleading girlfriends (including Arcadia Lake and Georgette Saunders), they devise a plan to raise the funds themselves. Initially, they all take odd jobs. However, they quickly discover there’s a lot more money to be made by baring their bodies and providing sexual favors for horny men.

Culturally, historically, or aesthetically significance: The title alone has made the film famous. Ask any random person on the street to name a porno film, they would automatically say DEEP THROAT and DEBBIE DOES DALLAS. It's reputation precedes the movie itself as it has became not only an adult film classic but gaining the level of a cult classic known world wide. Taking its inspiration from the Dallas Cowboys cheerleaders, the film was a blend of comedy and erotica that struck a chord with the American public.

The movie a huge hit at the boxoffice and even a bigger hit when it came out on home video, selling over 50,000 units. It was the inspiration for the Off-Broadway play "Debbie Does Dallas: The Musical" by Susan L. Schwart, was referenced from books to television shows (Robot Chicken, Family Guy), was the subject for the 2005 documentary DEBBIE DOES DALLAS UNCOVEREDcreated a plethora of merchandise (T-shirts, posters, hats, mugs) and spawned no less than nine sequels, four spin-offs, and a remake from Vivid Entertainment. Author and journalist David Slayden wrote in his  2013 book "Pornography and Seriality: The Culture of Producing Pleasure" that, "No other pornographic film has been remade more often than DEBBIE DOES DALLAS."

There isn't much I can say the movie that hasn't already been said, let alone written about for that matter. The film has gone on to become one of the most popular and well known adult film in cinema history, becoming inducted into both the XRCO and AVN Hall of Fame. It's taken on a life of its own and has become part of our society and its influence on the world of pop culture is unmistakablely felt. This is why DEBBIE DOES DALLAS deserves to placed on the National Film Registry. 

As you can see, ladies and gentlemen, I have proven without a shadow of doubt that these five films are worthy candidates for film preservation. As I stated earlier, these are more than just dirty pictures. These are films, period. Actually, I stand corrected. They're more than just films. Movie are like time capsules: they capture a specific moment of time, forever saving a piece history so we can learn from them. These five films capture the 1970's in detail: what was happening at the time, the sexual revolution, styles, fashions, language, attitudes about the world to which they were living in, buildings and landmarks that are no longer there, political and social commentary and so forth.

The Golden Age of Pornography was a term used to describe a trend, a movement of erotic films that made individuals and couples go out to theaters and to watch them. In the aftermath of it all, the trend left us some of the greatest movies ever made in the annals of adult film history as well as film history itself. DEEP THROAT, BEHIND THE GREEN DOOR, THE DEVIL IN MISS JONES, THE OPENING OF MISTY BEETHOVEN and DEBBIE DOES DALLAS have left their mark on the world and, as a result, became a part of our history. That is why these five films deserves to be part of the National Film Registry.

To learn more about the National Film Registry and to nominate your film considerations, visit their website at https://www.loc.gov/programs/national-film-preservation-board/film-registry/.

Thanks for reading, and enjoy the show!

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