A cable access show about porn? You mean, kinda like Wayne's World, only with sex? Judge Paul Corupe is so there.
"From New York, Al Goldstein presents…Midnight Blue!"
Love him or (more likely) hate him, smut kingpin Al Goldstein is something of an institution in the American publishing business. A self-admitted vulgarian and shameless pornographer, Goldstein began publishing Screw magazine at the height of the sexual revolution in 1968. A New York-based newsprint tabloid, Screw was a decidedly downmarket publication overflowing with naughty pictures, smirking articles, vitriolic editorials and reviews of seedy 42nd Street porno flicks, escort services, sex shops and brothels—a sordid little rag that crowned Goldstein the "Clown Prince of Porn."
In 1975, Goldstein parlayed his local publishing success into a cable access series. Like a completely tasteless version of Playboy After Dark, his freeform interview show Midnight Blue ruled the late night airwaves of Manhattan Cable for more than 25 years with an insider's view of the porn business. For those who never had the chance to catch the legendary Midnight Blue in its original run, NY After Midnight, a new arm of cult DVD outfit Blue Underground, has launched the first in what promises to be a multi-volume series of Midnight Blue DVDs.
Facts of the Case
Cobbling together several episodes of Goldstein's show, Midnight Blue: The Deep Throat Special Edition features interviews with four of the principal players who helped make Deep Throat one of the most influential and wildly successful pornographic films of all time. Over the course of the DVD, Goldstein sits down with director Gerard Damiano, Linda Lovelace's husband/manager Chuck Traynor, and actors Carol Connors and Harry Reems, to discuss each participant's sex life, the adult film business, and, of course, Deep Throat itself.
Since DVD revolutionized the home video market, studios and manufacturers have dug through their vaults to release a dizzying array of titles, from the obscurest European genre films to failed, almost completely unaired television shows. However, even in this frenzied rush to flood store shelves with all manner of digital entertainment, few would have ever guessed that we'd see a day when a highly controversial show like Midnight Blue would get a DVD release. Although there was never any explicit sexual material in the show (which had to conform to FCC rules and the censorship of Manhattan Cable), Midnight Blue's interviews often became extremely lewd, full-frontal nudity was rampant, and sex acts—although they're never caught visibly on camera—were a regular event. Like nothing anyone had ever seen before on TV before, Midnight Blue was an absolutely peerless parade of trash that made it a highly unlikely candidate for DVD treatment—but here it is all the same, preserved in all its smutty glory.
Things get started on Midnight Blue: The Deep Throat Special Edition with a candid 1975 interview with Carol Connors, the mother of actress Thora Birch, who lost the lead role in Deep Throat to Lovelace and ended up playing a nurse. Goldstein barely touches on the film itself, preferring to drool over Connors and repeatedly inquire about her oral sex preferences. At this point, the only thing stiffer than Al Goldstein's yearning is Connors' demeanor—she is positively wooden as she handles his crude questions about bestiality and her friendship with Lovelace, and takes the viewer on what Goldstein refers to as a "virtual tour of her body." Originally censored by Manhattan Cable, this episode (an apparent rebroadcast) is presented by Midnight Blue co-creator Alex Bennett, who rants about the FCC as he cuts away to show uncensored, raunchier segments from earlier shows, including British pornographer Tuppy Owens giving offscreen head to a cameraman, softcore actress Helen Madigan discussing her own sexual inclinations, porno star Jody Maxwell singing "Old McDonald Had a Farm" while performing oral sex, and a demonstration by Dr. Infinity on how to get to third base with yourself. This is followed by a lengthy striptease, in which Connors sheds a nurse outfit and dances to comical 1970s library music. "Now that wasn't so bad, was it?" quips Bennett.
Next is a 1975 interview with director Gerard Damiano, who also doesn't talk much about Deep Throat, since he's actually on the show to plug his latest film, The Story of Joanna, a pompous Story of O-influenced S&M outing that has star Terri Hall performing naked ballet. Still, Damiano does talk quite a bit about the porn business as a whole in the 1970s, and on that level, the interview is quite fascinating-despite the fact that Goldstein often glances around the room like he couldn't care less. Chuck Traynor then appears in the first of two interviews included here to talk about both the origins of Deep Throat as well as some of the fallout. It's a relatively uninteresting segment, as Traynor goes on about Harry Reems's ongoing court battle and reveals some widely-known details about the making of the film, while Goldstein grills him about his then-current wife, Marilyn Chambers (Behind the Green Door).
Then we jump ahead to 1982 for an interview with male porn superstar Harry Reems. After a brief and generally unsuccessful bid for mainstream roles in the early 1980s, Reems appears here on the verge of his adult film comeback in Society Affairs, making some incredibly prophetic comments about the future of the industry and the home video revolution. In what amounts to the best and most informative interview on the disc, Reems sets the record straight on his legal troubles, espouses his swinger philosophy and makes several jokes about the "difficulties" working at his advanced age (he was 35 at the time). He briefly talks about Deep Throat and his past with Lovelace, and even gives his opinion on her later claims that she was abused and controlled by Traynor. Natural and amiable, both Goldstein and Reems really seem to be at ease here, and this is less of an interview than it is an informal chat between pornography peers as they trade well-meaning insults and laugh about the business. Also of note is the fact that the featured clips from Society Affairs have been censored by the network, replaced by a "Visual Portion Deleted by Order of Manhattan Cable" screen and a voice-over plea by Bennett for viewers to send in their complaints.
Things wrap up with Traynor's second interview, this one from 1987, in which he directly responds to former wife Linda Lovelace's allegations of abuse laid out in her 1980 autobiography Ordeal and 1986's Out of Bondage, in which she claimed that "there was a gun to my head" during the shooting of Deep Throat. Traynor paints her abrupt anti-smut stance as an act of vengeance when her pornography past failed to launch a Hollywood career, and both men make several spiteful comments about her apparent betrayal.
Often more interesting than the actual interviews on this release of Midnight Blue: The Deep Throat Special Edition are the absolutely incredible commercials that accompanied the show's original broadcasts. While phone numbers have been bleeped and blocked out in every case, this disc is packed with absolutely hilarious and strange advertisements for escort services, Roman-themed brothels, swinger's clubs and adult film industry convention Sexpo '82, not to mention a vibrator called the "Orgasmatron," and, most bizarre of all, "Synth Coke," a cocaine substitute. Several ads are concerned with giving customers the "best value for your sex dollar." NY After Midnight has also added Pop Up Video-styled "factoid" subtitles during many of the interview segments to fill in viewers on related facts about the participants. For example, while Reems talks about his polygamous relationships, the subtitles mention how he eventually abandoned porn, got married, and turned to Christianity.
"You can't shine shit," says NY After Midnight's transfer disclaimer at the beginning of the feature presentation, and not surprisingly, Midnight Blue: The Deep Throat Special Edition's segments—taken from the original 3/4 inch master tapes of the show—are not in very good condition at all. No doubt these episodes were cleaned up as much as possible for release, but there are still occasional tracking problems and ropey video glitches to contend with. The audio, presented in a 2.0 mono mix, is pretty anemic, with several noticeable audio artifacts. Still, this is probably about as good as it gets for a decades-old cable access show. There are only two extras provided, audio interviews with Reems and Damiano, which are both poorly recorded and difficult to hear.
Much of your tolerance for Midnight Blue: The Deep Throat Special Edition will depend on your ability to stomach Al Goldstein's tactless interview techniques, his brazen politics and his acknowledged perversions. Still, when not trying to parlay his mind-boggling notoriety into a sexual conquest ("I was horny for her," Goldstein defends his provocative questions to Carol Connors) or simply not paying attention to his guest, Goldstein cracks self-deprecating jokes and speaks with a forthrightness and candor that is rare in any field of business or entertainment. While this DVD really only scratches the surface of the Deep Throat phenomenon, it nevertheless provides a vintage peek behind the dark shrouds of the fledgling adult entertainment industry of the 1970s and the birth of the "porno chic" movement—albeit from Goldstein's admittedly unique perspective. For those interested in porn's "golden age," this release is an essential time capsule of sleaze and sin, and the start of what promises to be a remarkable series of DVD releases.
Al Goldstein is unequivocally innocent. How often do you get to hear that?
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