John Holmes may be a legend, but Judge Christopher Kulik has a bigger, erm, brain.
"Love him or hate him, John Holmes is a legend."—42nd Street Pete
It seems people are divided when it comes to who the King of Porn really is: John Holmes or Ron Jeremy. Jeremy may have been in the business longer, but Holmes is credited as being the "first super-endowed porn star," in the words of 42nd street Pete. Boasting a penis length of 13 inches (or around there), Holmes became the most talked-about and demanded porn actor, the first real stag sensation. Shockingly, he would make about $3,000 day and he generated a large female fan base, all of whom wanted "samples" of his pubic hair as little mementos. (I doubt Henry Winkler got the same requests.)
Ultimately, Holmes' dependence on drugs would prove to be a curse. His wealth disappeared, he performed petty crimes to support his habit, and he was even eventually deemed incompetent by many in the porn business. Then came the infamous Wonderland murders of 1981, in which Holmes was directly involved in, but it was never actually proven what his exact role was. He refused to cooperate with authorities, and was eventually brought on trial for all of the murders; had Holmes been convicted, he might very well be still living today. However, it was in 1988 in which he died from AIDS complications. It's been widely speculated he caught the disease when he did gay porn and prostituted himself to men, though nobody knows for sure.
In this 2-disc collection, 42nd Street Pete gives us a satisfactory overview of Holmes history. On Disc One, we have Dear Pam, a 1976 flick featuring Holmes in a supporting role as a member of the NYC Decency and Morality League, who visits a renowned columnist known only as Pam Slanders (Crystal Sync). Along with his two associates, Rose Cummings (Jennifer Jordon), and Barton Fartblow (Tony Perez), they've arrived to present to Slanders the Most Moral Woman of the Year award…despite the fact she's using a vibrator when they arrive (she passes it off as a giant eraser when it falls on the ground).
The plot thickens (or hardens, if you will) when they all read a letter for Pam from businessman Harry Fallus (Eric Edwards, Debbie Does Dallas). Evidently, he lost his "cock-ring" necklace after seducing a saucy candidate for his open call for a secretary. Later that day, he screws with another girl in a bathtub and then, after retiring for the night, actually sleeps with his very own stepdaughter! The League is disgusted and decides to do something about this creep, although they are faced with the daunting task of verifying the facts. Naturally, their commitment to the League is compromised in more ways than one.
For what it is, Dear Pam is quite good. It has some hilarious bits and one-liners, with one girl telling Holmes: "Seriously, you've got to be kidding. You can't insert that thing into me: it's as big as the Eiffel Tower!" Thankfully, Holmes doesn't hog the spotlight, with all three male leads given ample time to perform. The film actually expands itself from being just a "one-set" storefront nudie and includes some nice shots of N.Y.C. Even the credits are clever, being listed on a newspaper the League members are reading. Dear Pam is a surprisingly entertaining little vintage porn, with more plot than one might expect.
An eight-minute introduction to Dear Pam is provided by 42nd Street Pete himself. He talks a bit about Holmes' life, and explains he chose Dear Pam as a worthy feature because he wanted to steer clear of the star's most recognizable turns (i.e. Johnny Wadd), and dig up something more obscure, preferably filmed in around his hometown of N.Y.C. Rounding out the disc are well over a dozen trailers for other films released by After Hours.
The second disc has Pete providing the viewer with ten "loops" which Holmes made early in his career. These 8mm flicks play like silent footage, with no soundtrack and one is even in black and white. Not surprisingly, Holmes made in excess of 2,000 loops, all dated from the late 1960s to the early 1970s. Truth be told, with the rise of DVD and the Internet explosion these films serve no purpose today. They remain historically fascinating, however. While watching them, I actually got a sense of what it must have been like on those sleazy strips of stag theaters and peep shows which no longer exist. All you really hear is the whirring of the projector, and the horrid prints are probably not much worse than how they looked back in the day.
I must applaud Pete for making this interesting compilation. He comes off as an appealing speaker and includes some crude jokes from time to time; depending on your sense of humor, you will either dig Pete's wisecracks or be appalled by them. Call him a dirty old sleaze all you want, though he does have a genuine passion for this material, and obviously misses those old days of pre-VHS porn. His intros provide a lot of informative juice…although we could have done without his "guest star": the ghost of John Holmes' penis. Pete registers his honesty in that he's in total agreement with many others that Holmes was indeed a scumbag, yet what more can you say when his films just keep on selling and selling today?
After Hours Cinema's DVD treatment of this collection is acceptable but also rather curious. My big question is why two DVDs? If it wasn't for the cornucopia of previews, Dear Pam and the loops could have easily fit onto one disc. The quality of the Holmes footage is expectedly dreadful, with humongous scratches, discoloration, cigarette burns and pixel farts galore. I commend After Hours for presenting Dear Pam and the loops in 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen, with a decent audio track in DD 2.0 Stereo. Nevertheless, a retail price of $30 seems rather stiff—yes, pun intended.
After Hours Cinema and 42nd Street Pete are found not guilty. As for Holmes, he is ordered to remain 14 feet under. Court is adjourned.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: After Hours Cinema
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