Porn. It's been around forever and as long as there has been film, there have been pornographic movies. This documentary, X-Rated, which is hosted by the lovely and talented Chanel Preston, gives us a five minute history lesson and then sets out to count down the top thirty-two adult films of all time. Rather than rank them in order of quality, the feature presents them in chronological order. As such, we start out in the early seventies in the era of porno chic and learn about such influential films as Deep Throat starring Harry Reems and Linda Lovelace, Behind The Green Door starring one time Ivory Snow girl Marilyn Chambers and The Devil In Miss Jones starring the always charming Georgina Spelvin.
From there we talk about two of Radley Metzger's hardcore features, The Opening Of Misty Beethoven and Barbara Broadcast, widely considered to be some of the most elegant and scintillatingly sexy adult pictures of their time. Up next? Debbie Does Dallas, which kickstarted the cheerleader porno movie trend, and then the still controversial incest picture Taboo, directed by Kirdy Stevens and starring Kay Parker and Aunt Peg herself, Juliet Anderson. As the seventies become the eighties trends start to change a bit as we parody Busby Berkley musicals with the Amero Brothers' Blonde Ambition and we get metaphysical with Cecil Howard's scorcher, Neon Nights followed by Chuck Vincent's excellent drama Roommates.
Things get weird from there as we talk about Rinse Dream's avant garde art porno Cafe flesh and Cecil Howard's decidedly dark and twisted Scoundrels, which features the somewhat terrifying sight of Ron Jeremy all decked out in mime makeup. John Leslie, the late leading man, is talked about fondly when we spend some time with Nothing To Hide and moving ever closer to the nineties we see a new crop of directors show up like Andrew Blake with Hidden Obsessions and Michael Ninn with Latex and Brad Armstrong with Flash Point. We see things get plot heavy, by the standards of the business at least with Justine and with Looker while we see the morality or carnality tackled in Seven Deadly Sins. If vampire's are your thing we next spend some time with Dark Angels before sitting down to talk about John Stagliano (better known as Buttman!) to learn about the Fashioniatas films (the first of which features Belladonna in one of his best roles).
The 2000's move into focus as we talk to former golden age leading man turned director Paul Thomas about The Masseuse and remarking a classic with The New Devil In Miss Jones (which saw Spelvin return, albeit in a non-sex role) before then learning about blockbuster porn like Pirates (which literally made it onto the shelves of Blockbuster Video, even if it was in a heavily edited R-rated verson). Getting closer to the modern day we finish up by reviewing Corruption, Upload, the angelic themed Fallen, The 8th Day, the ridiculous Axel Braun directed Star Wars: A XXX Parody, the grim and gritty Underworld, Graham Travis' critically acclaimed Wasteland and last but not least, the BDSM themed Submission Of Emma Marx.
Along with lots and lots of clips from the various movies mentioned, we get interviews with performers old and new such as Bonnie Rotten, Riley Reid, Eric Edwards, Kay parker, Georgia Spelvin, Sharon Mitchell, Constance Money, Gloria Leonard, Herschel Savage, Kelly Nichols, Veronica Hart, Cass Paley, Marilyn Chambers, Johnny Keyes, Christy Canyon, Stoya, Ron Jeremy, Ash Hollywood, Richard Pacheco, Mitchell Spinelli, Casey Calvert, Julia Ann, Janine Lindemulder, Andrew Blake, Paul Thomas, Raven Touchstone, Mike Horner, Sunset Thomas, Brad Armstrong, Jenna Jameson, Nic Cramer, Shanna McCullough, Ren Savant, Alexandre Silk, Nic andrews, Evan stone, John Stagliano, Manuel Ferrara, Savanna Samson, Nick Manning, Kimberly Kane, Ana Foxx, Jesse Jane, Kylie Ireland, James Deen, Eva Angelina, Jessica Drake, Kayden Kross, Axel Braun, Allie Haze, Capri Cavanni, Lily LaBeau, Sarah Shevon, Jacky St. James and Penny Pax. Obviously those who were involved with the actual movies being discussed have more to say than some of the modern talent that just appear on camera to basically say ‘this movie was good' or ‘this movie was hot.' When interviewing those involved the movie is quite interesting, and the documentary does a nice job of offering a good selection of smut from throughout the ages. It's not all that deep, it won't really teach aficionados of dirty movies much that they don't already know, but it's a fine primer and worth checking out if you're curious about the history of adult filmmaking.
X-Rated is presented in 1.78.1 anamorphic widescreen and the transfer isn't anything to write home about. Most of the clips are interlaced to the point where the stair-stepping effects are distracting. Obviously a lot of the older archival material can and will look a little worse for ware and the occasional analogue tape insert sees video quality dip a bit now and then but the newly shot material is clean, crisp and colorful.
The only audio option on the disc is an English language Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo mix, there are no subtitles or alternate language options provided. Again, when archival material is used there is sometimes a noticeable drop in quality but the new footage all sounds just fine. Levels are generally properly balanced and any hiss or distortion that creeps into some of the clips is minor.
Extras include a selection of deleted scenes that cover Amanda By Night, New Wave Hookers, Night Trips, Sex and Zazel. Each of these are quite interesting and the first two really should have been included in the feature cut of the movie. There are also bonus interviews in here that sit down with Georgina Spelvin (39:31), Kay Parker (24:23), Ron Jeremy (26:07) and the lovely Stoya (16:07). There's some good stuff in here, with Georgina, Kay and Ron talking about the golden age of porn and some of the more notable projects they've worked on and people they've worked with, while Stoya talks about how Café Flesh was a heavy influence on her first directorial project. Aside from that we get two trailers for X-Rated, menus and chapter selection.
X-Rated isn't the ‘be all-end all' documentary on the history of adult cinema but it's certainly a fine primer. The filmmakers chose some solid picks for their countdown and the fact that there's input, however brief sometimes, from many of the people who were involved with these films gives the picture some historical context and value. Porn scholars probably already know what's covered here but casual fans or anyone who just enjoys a decent retrospective should enjoy this, even if it is a bit light and fluffy. 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.