Al Goldstein, the enigmatic publisher of Screw Magazine, had his own public access television show that was broadcast in New York City a few decades back. What set Goldstein's show apart from the pack was the fact that it was pretty much entirely dedicated to covering pornography – be it in magazine or movie form.
Rarely seen outside of New York City since it's original broadcast, Midnight Blue has become somewhat of a holy grain among smut aficionados and the good folk over at Blue Underground have finally seen fit to start releasing the series in themed compilation format DVDs. The first disc in the series, Midnight Blue: The Deep Throat Special Edition focused on the film that made Linda Lovelace a household name, but this second volume, Porn Stars Of The Seventies branches out a little bit and covers the bigger names in vintage adult movie history who weren't necessarily associated with the most recognizable porno movie of all time. Here's who gets in front of the camera with Goldstein and company, and what transpires…
The focus of the episodes on this third volume in the series is on, if you couldn't guess it from the title, celebrities. Some of the interviewees are more recognizable than others but all of them have their own special place in the pantheons of American pop culture and given Goldstein and company's penchant for bizarre reviewing tactics, we wind up with a pretty interesting and oddball assortment of clips from a bygone era.
Hustling With Larry Flynt: This quick black and white interview is an interesting look at a young Larry Flynt, who sits down to chat with Goldstein about the merits of the female species (feminists are not going to be into this discussion at all – it's so mind-blowingly primitive that it's hilarious) and porno magazines in general. It's a bit too brief to be as in depth as it maybe should have been, given what an interesting guy Flynt really is, but there's enough good material here and quotable dialogue to make it worth a look.
Barbra's Porno Past?: Alex Bennett explains the details of Barbra Streisand's supposed porno film appearance. The skilled porn maestros at Midnight Blue officially declare that it isn't Babs in the movie despite what the producers claim, and they then show the clip in question to let viewers make up their own minds. The clip is in very soft focus and edited to remove the hardcore content for television broadcast and it's really hard to tell if it is Streisand or not, but when push comes to shove, Bennett is probably right – it's unlikely that it's her in the movie, despite the strong resemblance and he makes some interesting points about the differences between the physical features of the two women.
Garrett Morris School Of Mooching: This Saturday Night Live Star shows up to give viewers some hints on mooching and explains how he's going to open his own school to teach people how to be better moochers. The audio is really low in this segment and unlike the other ones it's a bit tricky to make out what he's saying at certain times, but this is pretty funny material, particularly the bits about how to bum cigarettes from people using different techniques.
Party At Plato's: This is simply a collection of clips from the tenth anniversary party that Goldstein threw to celebrate the success of his magazine at the famous NYC club. Goldstein is interviewed about his goals and ambitions and he looks back on his success, and he talks about how many of the people in the club that night are going to f*ck. Melvin Van Peebles shows up, looking quite out of it, and gives his thoughts on the magazine as do a few other notable celebrities who were in attendance that night.
Russ Meyer/Meyer And His Ultra Vixens: King Lear himself, the rural Fellini, shows up for an on camera interview in this segment, talking about his love of the great outdoors and where he likes to shoot his films. They talk about how Russ films 'opened the floodgates of permissiveness' starting with The Immoral Mr. Teas. A few clips from some of Meyer's oeuvre are presented here, and he elaborates on the influence that some of his earlier movies had on modern day pornography. Vixen and of course, Faster Pussycat, Kill! Kill are covered, and Russ talks about how he landed a job working for Fox. The second part of the interview covers the post Vixen films and how Meyer went completely over the top in his selection of women with massive tits to star in all of his movies. Meyer is frank and honest and it's great to see an on camera interview conducted by someone who knows his work. Meyer also mentions some of the better known people he collaborated with including Kitten Natividad and Roger Ebert.
O.J. At The Hooker's Ball: This is exactly what you think it is – O.J. Simpson prowling around the 1979 Hookers Ball. Things start off with a few interviews with the ladies in attendance before quizzing O.J. on his take on the evening's events. Simpson states that he's glad he showed up and how it's interesting that it all started in San Francisco at first with a nude woman on the beach and later events like the one he's attending this night.
Pumping Up With Arnold: The current Republican Governor of California appears on America's favorite pornographic talk show to discuss working out and pumping iron. It's completely weird seeing Arnold on this show, and the effect is kind of like a train wreck in that you know you shouldn't watch but you do anyway. He talks about what makes a good body for competition, the importance of posing, and the like. There's a great still shot used of a young and happy looking Arnie posing with a woman's naked boobs on his head – he should have used it in his campaign.
The Tao Of Tiny Tim: Tiny Tim is nuts, and this segment proves it. He shows up and sings one of his bizarre songs, accompanying himself on his ukulele, before Goldstein shows up to interview him. They talk about his success, his tastes, and how he ended up on Midnight Blue in the first place. The man's got so much make up on he looks like a Raggedy Anne doll, but he does make for an interesting interview subject, particularly with his odd religious views and how he goes about explaining them to Al. Wanna hear about Tiny Tim's masturbatory habits and how it shames him to do it? This is the segment for you.
R. Crumb: The most popular comic book pervert of the sixties shows up along with plenty of clips from his hundreds of illustrated stories. A very fat looking Goldstein introduces Crumb, they talk about their location in California, and about comic fan groupies or the lack thereof. Long before Crumb was the subject of an excellent documentary film he spilled his guts through his comics and through candid interviews like this one where he talks about pulling it and where a lot of his issues stem from. He's a strange, quirky perverted little man but there's something completely likeable about the guy that comes through in this piece.
Al Tells Of Howard Stern: One of Al's patented F*ck You send offs, this time out he tells off Stern. He blasts him for living in Long Island, for his made up radio personality, and how he's boring. Considering where Stern is now, I don't think he minds so much.
Penn & Teller/Masturbating Magicians: The stars of Bullshit are ere, albeit in much younger forms, adorned in Screw Magazine t-shirts to talk to Goldstein about their act. They cover late night television personalities, the Today Show, and how they've ended up on various programs throughout their careers. They then talk a lot about their feuds with certain magicians and how they got into the situation and why.
The Rob Lowe Sex Tape: Goldstein shows clips from the Rob Lowe sex tape and explains how it cost him fifteen thousand dollars to get it. He then goes on to the unedited and notorious sex tape on television for the world to see.
The Go-Go's Gone Wild: Similar to the last feature, Al shows the well known Go-Go's sex tape in which the girls get loaded backstage and try to talk a fan into having sex with one of their roadies. The quality is horrible but it's funny to see this, even if it hasn't been that rare at least in bootleg circles for some time now.
Gilbert Gottfried/Sex With Animals: Everyone loves Gilbert Gottfried, right? Al Goldstein does. They talk about Andrew Dice Clay, how Gilbert would never have pre-marital sex, and more. They do all this while posing in front of a giant American flag, which adds a really silly and surreal air of patriotism to the whole thing. Gottfried unloads on a few other people including Ed McMahon, before talking about he likes to do stuffed animals.
Debby Harry And Chris Stein: The two former members of Blondie sit down on a couch to talk to Goldstein about the success that the band experienced and how Stein is (in Goldstein's words) 'an old fart Jew.' Debbie talks about his endowment and how it's none of Al's business to ask about it, as well as the merits of oral sex.
Al Harasses Claudia Schiffer: This is just what you'd expect – Al's F*ck you send off, this time aimed at the supermodel.
Kibitzing With Al 'Grandpa' Lewis:Grandpa Munster shows up to shoot the shit with Goldstein, talking about Midnight Blue, living on the west coast versus living in NYC, and the wonders of television. Lewis has always been a bit of a character and Goldstein is wise enough to just, for the most part, let him talk before going off into one of his bizarre rants about the trials and tribulations of being 'the Al Goldstein.'
Once again, as with past volumes in the series, Blue Underground has also included all of the advertisements that were shown during the original airings of this material. While the phone numbers are bleeped out, it's still very cool to see television ads promoting notable porno movies, infamous NYC clubs such as Spartacus, and as well as various swingers, sex clubs, adult novelties, and more.
Taken from the original ¾ inch master tapes, Blue Underground has done a decent job of trying to clean up this material but precedes the episodes with the warning that 'you can't shine shit.' All things considered, this material looks okay. It was shot on video and so it's very soft looking and a lot of the fine detail is lost forever in the murkiness of the tape but the colors come through alright and the image is at least stable enough that you won't have any problems watching the material. There's a bit of flicker here and there and some images are a little more washed out than others but the episodes are at least watchable and the fact that this material has made it to DVD at all in the first place is a miracle in and of itself.
The audio is on par with the video quality. Again, this material is taken from old ¾ inch tapes and as such, the limitations that existed are made all the more obvious by the DVD format, but if you turn the volume up a bit and ignore some of the background hiss you won't have any difficulty understanding the interviews of the strange commercials peppered throughout the content. There are no subtitle options or closed captions provided and everything is in the original English language as it was presented in the first place.
The only extra feature on this release is a Trivia Track which, when enabled, will pop up on the screen with 'extra facts and info' about whatever happens to be being discussed at the time. It works sort of like the Pop Up Video show that used to air on VH1 a few years back. Wanna know who Garrett Morris' most famous SNL character's name was or what Streisand's first album was called? What's the connection between Morris and an invisible robot? What was Al Goldstein charged for? Where was Russ Meyer arrested and why? What NFL team was O.J. Simpson playing for while he was in attendance at the Hookers Ball in 1979? What is Tiny Tim's real name? How did 21 Jump Street affect Goldstein's interview with Penn and Teller? All this and more is revealed to you, the lucky viewer, via the Trivia Track. More features would have been nice, maybe some more modern interviews with Goldstein or a commentary track from him, but as it stands, it's amazing just to have this material on DVD in the first place.
Other than that, there's a coupon contained inside the clear plastic keepcase that allows Midnight Blue fans the chance to purchase a one year membership to Screw Magazine's website for the discounted rate of $3.95 for a year.
On a somewhat related note, again, a big thumbs up to Blue Underground for using the ever cool artwork of Danny Hellman on the cover for this release. It does a nice job of capturing the manic feel of the material contained inside the packaging, and he does a fine job of capturing the mischievous likenesses of most of the interview subjects!
If you dug the first two volumes in the series, then this third one will be right up your alley. One not even really need an interest in the history of pornography to enjoy this compilation of some of the more accessible episodes of the series – odds are that you'll be familiar with most of the people Goldstein manages to get in front of the camera. Video and audio quality are a far cry from perfect but they're as good as they're likely ever going to get and this is one of those cases where the content more than makes up for whatever deficiencies are inherent in the source material. Midnight Blue – Volume 3: Celebrities comes highly recommended!
Ian lives in NYC with his wife where he writes for DVD Talk, runs Rock! Shock! Pop!. He likes NYC a lot, even if it is expensive and loud.