In an era of internet porn, it’s hard to believe that there was a time when adult filmmaking was considered a theatrical event. However, there was a brief era between the dawn of the sexual revolution and beginning of the AIDS epidemic where making adult movies had a certain “forbidden chic” allure. As depicted in films like Boogie Nights, this was the era where all the misfits and sexual adventurers drawn to world of porn dreamed of it becoming an alternative to Hollywood, something that could help them eventually cross over to the mainstream.
It never quite happened that way but this era is fondly remembered by fans of adult and exploitation fare for its combination of lustiness and artistic ambition. Robin Bougie, creator of Cinema Sewer, is one of those fans and he recently created a stylish and informative tribute to that time in Graphic Thrills. This oversized, softcover picture book is subtitled “American XXX Movie Posters 1970–1985” and it delivers full-color reproductions of over 100 posters from that era, beginning with Mona: The Virgin Nymph and ending with Shauna: Every Man’s Fantasy. Between those two, it gives you a mini-history in how adult film advertising reflected the tinseltown dreams of its creators and stars.
If you want to experience Graphic Thrills as a coffee table book, it has plenty to offer on those simple terms. Like the mainstream film posters of that era, adult film posters often used paintings and drawings to sell the sizzle of their films and many memorable examples of that style are provided here. Highlights include Love Airlines, which combines a variety of “mile high club sex” fantasies into one orgiastic illustration, and Body Candy, which features a candy bar wrapper being unfurled to reveal a buxom lass. You’ll also see interesting trends like how a lot of posters from the early 1970’s included film critic quotes to sell their fare with a crossover “porno chic” vibe. This tactic was used for many Gerard Damiano films, many of which are included here.
However, there’s more to Graphic Thrills than just lusty pictures. Bougie is passionate about the history and lore of the classic-era adult film business and he packs the margins of each page with a combination of opinions, quotes and factoids that he’s picked up in his ongoing study of this era. On the critical tip, he’s quick to point out which hits live up to their reputations as well as the forgotten would-be cult faves that have yet to be discovered. If there’s a surprise to be revealed in a film, like mainstream actor James Hong playing a non-sex role in China Girl, he’ll clue you in.
The quotes and factoids offer even more tantalizing information. Bougie has read several books on the classic adult film era and is also a collector of vintage porn magazines so he is able to unleash a dazzling array of quotes from filmmakers and stars that create a one-of-a-kind spoken history of that era. For instance, there is plentiful commentary from director Carter Stevens, including quotes from his yet-to-be-released autobiography. The tale of how his Rollerball-inspired Rollerbabies came to be is particularly entertaining. There are also wild anecdotes from actress Sharon Mitchell, including an account of a hair-raising peep show booth encounter, and capsule bios of a lot of lesser-known performers who rarely get column space in adult film histories (like the tale of Veri Knotty and her unusual skills).
In short, Graphic Thrills has more to offer the reader than just sexy poster art. It’s a layered, compulsive read that dazzles both the eye and the brain with a barrage of lusty imagery and even lustier history. If you have any interest in adult film’s golden era, you should add this to your bookshelf, post-haste.