Blue Underground // 2009 // 120 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge David Ryan (Retired) // August 1st, 2009
It's a talk show about porn. Need I say more?
Cable television is, and always has been, a regulated monopoly. As a consumer, your town usually has exactly one cable provider, which operates pursuant to a franchise from the town itself. Competition from other cable providers is prohibited. But this monopoly power does come with a cost. In the case of cable TV, the cost is strict regulation and requirements that other businesses do not face. Among these conditions is the requirement that cable television providers make accommodations for public access to the system, so that community broadcasts and public service messages can be easily and cheaply disseminated to the general public in that particular town. Accordingly, every cable system in the country has some sort of public access channel. Usually, these channels are populated with amateur talent shows, high school-created news broadcasts, and dull tapes of city council meetings. Sort of like a local C-SPAN.
Except, of course, in New York.
New York's public access channel is...well, let's just say "unique." Much like the city itself, NY Public Access is made up of a little bit of everything. But for many years, the most notable programming on the channel was uncensored, medium-core pornography, all of which aired after midnight. The king of the porn shows was Midnight Blue, the twice-a-week roundup of current events in the skin trade created and hosted by the self-described "fat Jew" publisher of Screw magazine. (Note: magazine is not about threaded fasteners.)
Goldstein has many of the same characteristics of his long-time nemesis Howard Stern -- he is coarse and profane, he displays obvious contempt for societal mores about sexuality and the discussion thereof, and he is both wildly self-deprecating and wildly self-aggrandizing at the same time. But Al goes to eleven. He's just one louder than Howard.
This disc -- the seventh collection of Midnight Blue segments released on DVD -- focuses on interviews with some of the more significant porn stars of the 1990s. They aren't the biggest stars of the '90s; some of these interviews were picked just because they're interesting. Taken as a whole, though, it's a good cross-section of the industry in the early '90s. By the late '90s, both Midnight Blue and Screw were on the downside, ruined by the rise of the internet. (Eventually, Goldstein went bankrupt, was sued for harassment, divorced five times, wound up homeless, was saved thanks to the largesse of Penn Gillette, and now writes a blog for booble.com. But that's another story entirely.)
On its own, the collection of interviews is a nostalgic time capsule of the final glory days of Midnight Blue -- good for a trip down memory lane, but not much else. Goldstein is actually a fairly good interviewer -- he keeps the conversation going and asks relevant (in context, of course...) questions of his guests, but the interviews aren't exactly deep explorations into the performer's psyche. It's the "Pop-up Video"-like trivia track that's included as an extra that turns this into a worthy title. The text-based track mainly provides background info on the stars being interviewed. It's that background information that contextualizes and fleshes out the interviews, making them much more informative and interesting than they would have been otherwise. (This assumes you're interested in porn stars, of course. If you're not...um, why are you reading this review again?) If nothing else, it helps to illustrate that it isn't just horny guys and sexually abused women who wind up going into porn. Their stories are quite varied -- some sad, some funny, some just plain strange. It's a different perspective on the porn business than one usually gets.
There is surprisingly little hardcore content on this disc, although it is (of course) suitable for adults only. What porn there is comes in the form of clips from the interviewee's films; the clips, though, appear to be from the "hotel" versions of the films (i.e. they have been stripped of the hardest of the hardcore shots.) Strewn between the interviews are a selection of the contemporaneous ads that would air during Midnight Blue -- mainly for phone sex lines, escort services, and random New York businesses -- as well as parody commercials, angry rants, and other material made by Goldstein for the show. It's not essential material, but it does make it feel like you're watching an extra-long edition of the show instead of a DVD collection. Video and sound? Well, as the apologetic graphic shown before the feature states, "you can't shine s -- t." Better than a 20-year-old videotaped copy...but not much better.
Midnight Blue Vol. 7: Porn Stars of the 90's winds up being a bit more than just a bit of nostalgic adult fluff. If you have a non-prurient interest in the final days of the video-based porn biz (before the internet came along and changed everything), this disc might be worth a look. On the other hand, it isn't the porntastic flesh party that one might have expected -- it really is primarily a bunch of fairly straightforward (albeit graphic) interviews.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Blue Underground
* Full Frame
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono (English)
Running Time: 120 Minutes
Release Year: 2009
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* Additional Scenes