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.

GraphThr-covIf 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.