JUB Blog

Reeling in the years: Vintage porn is hot again

Casey Donovan

Casey Donovan

I read once that “Nostalgia is the art of veiling the past, much of which sucked, in a misty haze of sentiment and delusional bliss.” I liked this so much that I wrote it down, without noting the source.

The nostalgia craze has struck the porn industry in a big way, but that above quote may not apply. A real hardon is not a delusion and that misty haze could be condensation from heavy breathing.

Studios are pulling videos off their shelves, transferring the footage to DVD and re-releasing it. Films less than 10 years old are being called classics. Studios that have archives dating back before the advent of condoms are having a field day, jumping on a bareback bandwagon that allows them to market their early titles as pre-condom classics.

For porn watchers, this is not all bad. There’s some saucy stuff out there, much of which has been unavailable for years — even decades — that is now finding its way back onto viewers’ TV or computer screens. Whether it offers old-timers like me a trip down memory lane or newcomers a taste of what their daddies watched (and looked like), there’s a pornucopia of attractions.

Catalina Video may not have started the ball rolling (or the balls roiling) but it was one of the first to realize what a treasure trove it had in the early Catalina and Laguna Pacific titles in its vaults. Many of these were early efforts by William Higgins and his acolytes whose productions were released “in the style of William Higgins.”

I don’t remember the first porn film I ever saw, but I remember the many Catalina titles and models that got slammed into my VCR. Lance, Kip Noll, Buster, Jon King and Leo Ford were some of the first California superstars. Catalina’s classics re-mastered for DVD were among the first welcomed by collectors, and now that Catalina is owned by Chi Chi LaRue, we are seeing an avalanche of new classic releases.

Two thousand miles away, in Chicago, there is Bijou Video and the Bijou Theater. Bijou founder Steven Toushin has been involved with underground films and porn since the late 1960s, when porn was shot on 16mm film intended to be shown in theaters.

Bijou Video is one of the premiere storehouses of gay porn, and it has pursued an aggressive push to re-master for DVD many of the titles to which it owns the legal rights. Among them are classics from Hand in Hand and NOVA Studios, including such sizzlers as Steve Scott’s Screenplay, Jack Deveau’s Drive, and Something Wild, the 1984 debut release from NOVA Studios.

According to a press release, in March 2007 Bijou completed the transfer to DVD of the 25th and final NOVA title for which it owned rights. Since many of the earliest NOVA titles were produced as 8mm film loops, there were no sound tracks and the story lines were minimal — hence, these productions emphasized sex over dialog or sound. Music was added to some of these 8mm loops when they were converted to VHS.

Bijou’s transfer of its film classics to DVD includes re-mastering of both the sound and video, and the creation of new covers for each production. Currently, Bijou has restored more than 100 titles for DVD. Visit the Web site at www.BijouWorld.com for more information.

The Athletic Model Guild, now located in the San Francisco area, was founded by Bob Mizer in 1945. Now owned by Dennis Bell, who purchased it in 2004, it is the longest continually operating adult male studio in gayporn history.

Although AMG has long been known for its still photographs of male models and for the long-running publication Physique Pictorial (1951-1990), Mizer also made 8mm and 16mm softcore films of attractive and athletic youths posing, wrestling and engaging in various homoerotic but not overtly sexual hi-jinks. Mizer always denied filming hardcore action, but Bell has discovered — and released on DVD — some hardcore films that Mizer kept secret from the rest of the world. And the softcore stuff is also gradually being restored and transferred to DVD.

The French Connection is another company that is just beginning to delve into its archives and transfer classic film footage to DVD. Its collection of GFI (Gay Film Institute) titles contains many vintage productions destined for new life on DVD.

In response to my inquiry about this story, they wrote, “We still have titles that we did release on VHS, but not yet on DVD and there are some really amazing titles that we’ve not released yet in any format (some due to their controversial nature).”

In a story in the April 2007 issue of GayVN magazine, Caballero Video announced that it, too, was jumping aboard the vintage porn bandwagon. Sales exec Izzie commented that Blue Classics, its vintage gay line, owns a library of about 500 gay productions, originally shot on film, to be shown in theaters. Izzie specifically mentioned works by or starring Jack Wrangler, Joe Gage, Al Parker and the Christy twins.

Palm Springs is where Jim Tushinski lives. Tushinski is the man behind Gorilla Factory Productions, which put Peter Berlin back in the limelight after 30 years. When Tushinski discovered that Peter was alive and well and still living in San Francisco, he tracked down the notorious recluse and convinced him to agree to restore and re-release his only two films on DVD. Those films were That Boy and Nights in Black Leather, both of when went on to win GayVN Awards for Best Classic DVD. Tushinski went one step further, directing and producing a documentary about Peter Berlin, That Man, that won awards at many gay and lesbian film festivals. As a result of the renewed attention, Peter Berlin was inducted into the GayVN Hall of Fame in 2007.

Now Tushinski has turned his attention to Wakefield Poole, a man he met while working on That Man. Poole practically put gay porn on the map in 1971, with Boys in the Sand. For the first time, a sexually explicit gay film was previewed in Variety and advertised in the New York Times. Gay porn was breaking free of sleazy theaters and proclaiming its pride.

Poole, whose astonishing credentials include ballet dancer, director, choreographer, filmmaker, chef and gallery owner, also created the world’s first bona fide porn star, Casey Donovan. Now in his early 70s, Poole is collaborating with Jim Tushinski to produce a documentary of his (Poole’s) life. Filming began in New York City in April 2007. To learn more about the project, view photos, hear audio clips or to make a tax-deductible donation, visit www.dirtypoole.com
. See video excerpts and a montage of Poole’s films at www.youtube.com/jtatgfp.

Probably the films that appear most on everyone’s wish list of gay classics deserving restoration are the Joe Gage road trilogy: Kansas City Trucking Co. (1976), El Paso Wrecking Corp. (1977) and L.A. Tool & Die. (1979). Although all three titles are available on DVD, the DVD versions are not the complete versions as originally filmed and shown in theaters. Gage, who sold the rights to the trilogy years ago, told me in a recent e-mail, “[The owners] have no interest in restoring the trilogy. However, I am working on an alternate way to take care of it — something that may happen in the next few months. Until then, cross your fingers.”

At least the definition of nostalgia got the sucking part right.

[nggallery id=secondary_image_98]

Be Sociable, Share!

The JustUsBoys Print Magazine


Current Issue: August 2012

Subscribe RSS:

Blog | Eye Candy | Reviews | Forum