rame.net  :  book reviews  :   babylon blue

From: ultradamno@webtv.net (Ultradamno A.D.)
Newsgroups: rec.arts.movies.erotica
Subject: Review; Book: Babylon Blue by David Flint
Date: Sat, 07 Aug 99 07:20:34

This is the second book from Creation (www.creationbooks.com) that I've reviewed on this NG (the first was Killing For Culture). Creation Books is a British publisher and this book, like the other I've noted, is part of their "cinema collection" series of critical genre studies that all have a feel of being installments in a set or editions of a journal (like say Granta) rather than standalone works. Each book in this series focuses on some marginalized, cultish, edgy, or otherwise aggressively obscure genre. Given this publisher's penchant for difficult subject matter (snuff, freak films, gore, Manson, etc.) it was only a matter of time before they got around to that most politically incorrect form of videotape & celluloid; porn.

David Flint seems an odd choice of an author for this project, given this publisher's aforementioned love of shock aesthetics. He's a champion of glossy, booji-friendly and often clinically chilly Michael Ninn and Antonio Passolini movies (going so far as to indicate his belief that they are a return to the filmmaking values of porn's golden age) and openly fretting for the health and safety of the adult film industry from the threat of Rob Black and his misogynist movies (all while acknowledging the rape themes depicted in Forced Entry are feeble compared to those in many beloved golden age classics). None of which makes this a bad book, I know many of you are inclined to agree with these sentiments, but it seems out of character for an example of this series to echo statements I've read in Premiere magazine.

The book starts with a boilerplate rundown of the classic exploitation fare that immediately preceded the porn era. Some movies looked at in this chapter include nudie cuties such as Russ Meyer's The Immoral Mr. Teas and Hershell Gordon Lewis & David F. Friedman's The Adventures of Lucky Pierre. Moving on to the roughies, where again Russ Meyer leads the pack with Lorna, Motorpsycho, etc., also discussed in this vein are the works of Joe Sarno, Joseph Mawra and Michael & Roberta Findlay. Later sixties detritus discussed in this chapter include Kenneth Anger's Scorpio Rising, the Warhol & Morrissey films both of which yield some discussion of the legal issues concerning obscenity pertaining to their specific court battles and their contribution to the MPAA creation of the X rating, as does Vadim's And God Created Woman and I Am Curious, Yellow which lands us at the feet of the first hardcore films, Alex DeRenzy's Pornography In Denmark, Bill Osco's Hollywood Blue, Electrosex 75, and finally, we are treated to a discussion which leaves unclear whether or not any explicit material exists which was cut from Flesh Gordon.

This is followed by a far too brief interview with the legendary David F. Friedman. He talks about H.G Lewis, Irving Klaw, Babb & Sonney and expresses his usual irritation with the hardcore racket.

The next two chapters take us from 1972 up to the rise of videotape. This is really beginner material throughout though the occasional nice piece of trivia does make it's way into the text. Beyond Deep Throat is the first of the two and zeroes in exclusively on Linda Lovelace, Marilyn Chambers and the directors who shot them. The second is called The Golden Age and it runs down the most significant points on the time line. No major surprises here although Rinse Dream recieves more notice than usual, probably due to the taste of the author, but it's nice to see. I liked the fact that having identified Cafe Flesh star Pia Snow as being one in the same as scream queen Michelle Bauer he (or his editor) include a reproduction of the poster for Fred Olen Ray's Hollywood Chainsaw Hookers as if to say 'see? it's her! told you so!' There are also some discussions and blow by blows of films difficult to find uncut today such as Babyface, Femmes De Sade and Waterpower.

Next up is an all too brief chapter on Euro Porn. To my delight, little of this repeats what is covered in the excellent book on Europe's sexhorror movies of the sixties and seventies, Immoral Tales, although a lengthy analysis of Walerian Borowczyk's film of the same name is included with some especially good pictures. Intriguing descriptions of Ai No Corrida/In The Realm Of The Senses and Lasse Braun's Sensations sandwich a discussion of Last Tango In Paris and it's attendant legal brouhaha, nazi sexploitation films, Joe D'amato, a stock rundown of Caligula and Italian pornstars turned politicians Cicciolina and Moana Pozzi. Finally, only a paragraph dedicated to Private Films, although Flint notes:

Private's tapes have proved remarkably popular in America, and US director's like Nic Cramer have made their way to Europe to shoot ambitious projects like Apocalypse Climax for the Scandinavian company.

Isn't Nic Cramer is Swedish? Maybe he is in light of this nugget which appears in the following paragraph which illustrates how difficult it can be to pin down who's who and what's what in the adult film industry:

Also hailing from Holland is Helen Duval - the real Helen Duval, that is. Confusion reigns about the name which is considered a generic character name as well as the performer. Germany has it's own Helen Duval, played by Monique Covet (who, just to add to the confusion, is French). However, it is the Dutch Helen who is the original...

The next chapter is, for me, the most interesting if only for the fact it is a subject about which so little has ever been written; the UK porn industry. To whatever extent such a thing can be said to exist. Much of this chapter deals with the evidently quite capricious legal status to which British pornmakers are subjected. Two filmmakers whose careers were eventually halted altogether by this volatile justice system have their works examined in these pages. One is John Lindsay, who is already my all-time favorite director, even though I've never seen one of his movies, just for the fact one of his titles is Jolly Hocky Sticks (anyone who would name a porn movie THAT is OK by me) and the other is Mike Freeman, his titles are a lot more prosaic but he was much scrappier, suffering a couple of jail stretches before resorting to softcore. Boy, looking over this chapter I'm amazed how little of this stuff seems to have filtered over the water. It's not until the end when we hit Vinny Curren's Public Places and the videos of Ben Dover that I start to feel any twinges of recognition. Which, again, probably has more than a little to do with that uncertain state of censorship and enforcement that is the order of the day in Great Britain.

This chapter is added to with a brief interview with Lindsay Honey (AKA Ben Dover) who discusses working for John "Buttman" Stagliano, makes an almost Jerry Butler worthy claim of being driven from mainstream work at the BBC by the "gay mafia" (the male porn performer equivalent to the old yarn about being gang raped by a crew of black thugs so often pedalled by the ladies in porn), talks about working for Private Film and the music buisness. A relatively interesting interview.

The Decline and Fall of the Adult Movie is a very brief chapter dealing with the ascent of video and it's effect on the porn industry. Here you'll find discussions of the attacks on porn from both the right and left, pedestrian accounts of the Traci Lords fiasco, Chuck Vincent's death of AIDS and the industry reaction to the virus (a topic which recurs in the next chapter), the Shauna Lynn suicide and closes with praises in favor of Gregory Dark and...VCA and Vivid? Yep:

Although responsible for a fair number of video stinkers, it's interesting to note that VCA and Vivid have also led the way in the adult film revival of the nineties. Having consolidated their position financially, legally (and, you might argue morally)...

An interview with Jane Hamilton (AKA Veronica Hart) follows and it seems to me Mr. Flint may be a little too smitten with this particular interviewee to be as effective in conducting this Q &A as might someone a little less eager to accomodate. Case in point, Ms. Hamilton is allowed nearly half of the interview to scramble to think up new things to plug. It's too bad, because when she's not trying to get us to rent The Wrong Snatch or Shock she has some interesting anecdotes about working on the sets of different films as well as her experiences breaking into the buisness to tell and touching and insightful observations about people like Chuck Vincent and Robert McCallum. Flint blew a golden opportuinity by not pulling in the reins here, in my eyes.

The New Porn Generation is the name of the penultimate chapter and it is here, after a look at Andrew Blake's work that Flint's love of Michael Ninn, which has been clearly established earlier in the book, begins to take on an almost delusional air:

Jon Dough is amazing in the lead role-he seems every bit the barely contained madman. Jeanna Fine is Simply stunning; her one dialogue scene is Academy Award material!

Although he notes that Shock is superior to Latex (to which the quote above is referring) he does calm down a bit and even seems apologetically critical when New Wave Hookers 5 and Decadence are on the table for dissection. Next is an overview of John Leslie's work wherein I was pleased to see at least a tip of the hat to his post VCA work in the form of Dog Walker and Fresh Meat but the preferred product placement here is to Curse Of The Catwoman and Chameleons: Not The Sequel (in both cases the original is dismissed as inferior). To go through much more in this long chapter would take up far to much time in an already overlong review. Suffice to say Flint looks at most of the US porn directors and with the exception of a few specialty genres (gangbangs, oldies, fatties, dwarfs etc.) and Rob Black he finds the state of the porn industry to be healthy with a sunny future ahead.

Things wind down with one last interview, this time with director, writer and producer Antonio Passolini who, for my money is the most interesting interogatee in the book. He talks about working with Michael Ninn, making the leap from writing and producing to directing but what I found most interesting were his comments about working interference with the directors, in the capacity as producer, for VCA, and the details of the conflict that lead to John Leslie leaving the company. His split with Ninn (also mentioned cryptically in the Hamilton interview) is hinted at being acrimonious but no details are divulged.

Overall, it's hard for me to recommend Babylon Blue without some reservations, and not just those pertaining to matters of taste, for as much as I may disagree with what he's written Flint never actually annoys with his opinions, which is not uncommon for books from this publisher, concerned as they are with delineating an bird's eye view of a specific genre. But for the asking price ($22.95 US Amazon/Buy/Barnes & Noble/Last Gasp etc all sell it for around $15-$16) it feels a bit lite to me. On the other hand, there is alot about this book that appeals, for instance, the fact that so few other books that address the issue of porn concern themselves at all with the work (as opposed to the 'insider view of all the decadence' approach or the polemic screed) the way this one does, also the chapters on European and UK porn are both worthwhile and of particular merit. Grab it if you can get a good deal

Publisher: Creation Books

188 pp.

Illus. Heavily 8pp. in color

Index of titles


Rating (1-10 scale): 6.5

"I thought I could do anything,
because no one seemed to care
what I did"

-David Mancuso


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