X-Rated: The Greatest Adult Movies of All Time (2015)

*. The title might be parsed. Great adult movies? Have there been any, unless we make that judgment strictly relative? And of all time? When do we start? With stag films? Nudie cuties?
*. For the question of when we start the answer is obvious: with Deep Throat, Behind the Green Door, and Devil in Miss Jones. These were the three films that made porn chic in the early ’70s. But what was porn chic, anyway? Did it really amount to much, or have any lasting impact? I don’t think so.
*. Then there’s the question of whether any of these movies are great. Or even good. My own feeling is that very few of them are. I do think Behind the Green Door and Devil in Miss Jones are at least worth a look. After that, however, I don’t think any of the titles ranked here are even of historical interest. Maybe Café Flesh works as a kind of futuristic social allegory. And Andrew Blake is a director with an erotic eye (Hidden Obsessions is the Blake title they go with in this listing). But after that, there’s nothing.
*. We may well ask what makes a porn film great. Given its function, shouldn’t it just be sexy? So how impressed should we be at the vain attempts at comedy in so many of these movies? In their reworking of various influences? Or their ability to waste a (relatively) big budget on cheesy effects? Doesn’t all this stuff just get in the way? Did anyone think Star Wars XXX: A Porn Parody was either sexy or funny?
*. The almost sad thing is that it really appears as though some adult directors try. Brad Armstrong, one of the directors interviewed in this film, says that if you cut the sex out of his movie Flashpoint it would still be decent entertainment, with a “B-movie vibe.” Oh, Brad. No.
*. This might have been a decent little documentary, but it’s really just an industry showpiece. Produced by Paul Fishbein of Adult Video News, which may explain why they keep talking about how many AVN awards some of these movies won. Or maybe there’s just no other metric available for judging which of these movies is the best. But are there no real porn critics? Al Goldstein was one of the few who seemed to take the role seriously, and may have even invented the job. But he didn’t end well.
*. Directed by Bryn Pryor (whose porn name, Eli Cross, comes from Peter O’Toole’s character in The Stunt Man). One of Cross’s adult titles makes the list. Or perhaps more than one. I wasn’t taking a lot of notes. Hosted by performer Chanel Preston, who does well enough with her clothes on.
*. Some of the interviews with vets are OK, and Jacky St. James provides a rare spark of personality and intellect. But nothing particularly insightful is said. Commentary by current porn stars also seems pretty pointless. As I say, it’s just an exercise in self-congratulation. There is no discussion of what makes a film erotic or of changing tastes in these matters, no historical or political context, no critique of the industry, or even acknowledgment of such critiques.
*. Still, X-Rated did make me think. The porn industry has tracked new technologies closely, from peep shows to VHS to the Internet. But given how completely it has adapted to the latter, is there any future in porn features, the kind of movies celebrated here? It may be, as Preston says at the end, that in the sort of fare offered up on various tube sites what we’re seeing is “a return to the loops and vignettes” that started it all. What place does film criticism have in responding to any of this? Little to begin with, I suppose, and less and less all the time.

13 thoughts on “X-Rated: The Greatest Adult Movies of All Time (2015)

    1. Alex Good Post author

      It gets mentioned, if I recall. That’s one of those classic titles that everyone remembers, even if they’ve never seen the movie. And I’m pretty sure I haven’t. I guess that was 1978, which is a long time ago and a galaxy far, far away.

      1. Alex Good Post author

        The industry has been completely transformed. The Internet did take over. I remember Nena Hartley speaking out about this ten or so years ago. You have to wonder how much mainstream movie production is going to follow, or is following, a similar evolution. Away from cinemas and feature production and toward streaming and serial programming.

      2. Alex Good Post author

        Back in 1999 Channel 4 did a series called Pornography: A Secret History of Civilisation that took the story up to the present day and suggested that virtual reality was going to be the next big thing. That never panned out. I’m interested in the way mainstream and alternative forms feed into and influence each other, so I just wonder if adult entertainment is a canary in the coal mine for the rest of the movie business or what.

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