Judge Paul Corupe was not a porn star in the 1970s. He wants to make that point perfectly clear.
"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 proudly sordid little rag that eventually had Goldstein crowned 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. After a successful first DVD clip collection of the show entitled Midnight Blue Vol. 1—The Deep Throat Special Edition this past fall, NY After Midnight, a new arm of cult DVD outfit Blue Underground, has finally offered the chance for sloppy seconds with a two-hour follow-up foray into the murky, quirky adult movie biz at the very height of its "plain brown wrapper" notoriety.
Facts of the Case
Cobbling together several episodes of Goldstein's show, Midnight Blue Vol. 2—Porn Stars of the '70s is much broader that the first DVD volume of the show, featuring interviews with several pioneering adult film superstars, including Marilyn Chambers (Shivers), Georgina Spelvin (The Devil in Miss Jones), Annie Sprinkle (Bubbles Galore), and Seka (Ultra Flesh). Over the course of the DVD, Goldstein and the show's co-creator Alex Bennett sit down with all of these stars and others to discuss each participant's sex life and the adult film business, interspersed with strip teases and other "erotic" segments.
Ever since DVD revolutionized the home video market, studios and manufactures 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.
As with the first volume, things get blue pretty quickly on Midnight Blue Vol. 2—Porn Stars of the '70s, with a suitably risqué interview with Mitchell Brothers darling Marilyn Chambers that is definitely one of the highlights of this release. She comes across as genial and nice as she talks to Bennett about her upcoming projects and waxes poetic about her sexual activities (apparently, she likes to be blindfolded, but she's too shy to ask). This chat leads to the disc's first "dramatic interlude," a suggestive session of (ahem!) nude ballet with actor Tommy Bush, featuring terrible electronic music and "psychedelic" visual effects. Chambers also pops up later on for a self-pawing, black and white "video centerfold" that is, thankfully, a little less silly.
Georgina Spelvin, "the only real actress in pornography," is up next to plug her nude stage show to Bennett while Goldstein ogles her lustily. This is intercut with her current clip reel, starting with a tap dancing routine that quickly segues into a tame recreation of her infamous snake scene from The Devil in Miss Jones. Future performance artist Annie Sprinkle then appears to demonstrate handy household vibrator substitutes, like a WaterPik, an electric toothbrush, and a hairbrush, and offers her opinion on objects that women should not attempt to use for self-pleasure, including solder guns and knives. Thanks, Annie! Jennifer Welles is on hand to talk about her latest film Honeypie, but Goldstein seems unprepared for the interview, quickly running out of questions and handing things over to one of Screw's associate editors. This is followed by correspondent Steve Kraus's unsuccessful attempts to get Debbie Does Dallas star Bambi Woods to reveal something smutty about herself—instead, she mostly talks about how uncomfortable it was making an adult film. Kraus seems disappointed. Filmmaker Carter Stevens and star Jamie Gillis are briefly interviewed about the film Honeymoon Haven, along with some great behind-the-scenes footage, but the most interesting interviews are those with adult film dropouts Helen Madigan and Marc Stevens, who talk about the downside of the business in one of the show's rare critical views of porn.
At the end of the disc, things get interesting again as Goldstein slobbers all over the infamous sex starlet Seka, asking such probing questions as, "Has anybody cum on your toes while you were dancing?" Seka handles him gracefully, however, actually giving a pretty good interview. You're never going to learn very much from any of Goldstein's interviews, but this is probably the most fascinating, informative segment here, and it finishes up with the requisite strip tease, shot at a darkened NY club.
Undoubtedly, the most surprising aspect of this disc is the warmth of many of the porn personalities themselves—quite different from some of the interviews from the first volume, in which the adult film stars could be a bit standoffish, and occasionally downright odd. With the possible exception of Veri Knotty, an adult actress that possess the unique ability to tie her unmentionables into a knot (which, yes, she demonstrates), all of the featured stars here come across as friendly and professional, Goldstein's lecherous advances notwithstanding.
Despite this, the interviews and sexy segments culled from Midnight Blue are once again upstaged by 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, brothels, swinger's clubs and adult theatres and films. Highlights include a commercial for Purtian, the "explicit quarterly," Al Goldstein pitching a new publishing venture called Death that promises to reveal all about life's final dirt nap, plus a casting call for Midnight Blue video centerfolds—"nudity is required," advises the voiceover. Perhaps these ads aren't quite as notable as those presented on Volume One, but there's a lot of good stuff in there.
"You can't shine shit," says NY After Midnight's transfer disclaimer at the beginning of the feature presentation, and not surprisingly, Midnight Blue Vol. 2—Porn Stars of the '70s segments—taken from the original 3/4-inch master tapes of the show—are not in very good condition at all. No doubt cleaned up as much as possible for release, 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 is only one extra provided, cheeky Pop Up Video-styled "factoid" subtitles that appear throughout to provide viewers with related facts about the interview participants. They're a good, informative addition in the absence of any other relevant special features.
Much of your tolerance for Midnight Blue Vol. 2—Porn Stars of the '70s 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, Goldstein cracks self-deprecating jokes and speaks with a forthrightness and candor that is rare in any field of business or entertainment. But of course the real value of NY After Midnight's Midnight Blue Collection is that it offers a compelling snapshot of mainstream culture's brief infatuation with adult filmmaking in the '70s, and while this release can only scratch the surface of the Midnight Blue archives, it nevertheless provides a vintage peek behind the dark shrouds of the fledgling adult entertainment industry of the 1970s. For those interested in porn's "golden age," the second release in the Midnight Blue Collection is another must-buy; a no less-essential time capsule of sleaze and sin guaranteed to send the nostalgic trenchcoat crowd into ecstasy.
Al Goldstein is unequivocally innocent. How often do you get to hear that?
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Scales of Justice
Studio: NY After Midnight
• "Money Shots" trivia subtitle track
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