Midnight Blue: The Deep Throat Special Edition
Blue Underground // Unrated // $29.95 // June 28, 2005
Review by Francis Rizzo III | posted July 10, 2005
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In 10 Words or Less
Ex-porn king Al Goldstein tells the story of Deep Throat

The Show
One of the most famous cable public-access series ever, "Midnight Blue" was the invention of the filthy publisher of Screw magazine, Al Goldstein, a brusque, low-rent Hugh Hefner, whose circle of associates included porn stars, hookers, escorts and basically anyone else who enjoyed sex. Goldstein would frequently interviews these people in ways that went beyond blue. Trying to think of a question he asks that could be printed by a family-friendly outlet is an exercise in futility. Swearing to him is what breathing is to the average person.

The show, which aired on New York's Manhattan Cable from 1975 to 2002, was a direct reflection of the man who gave birth to it: A mix of filthy comedy, sex-related chats and just-plain weird segments. Though no actual sex is seen, full-frontal nudity abounds, and the act of sex is shown, with any genital contact obscured. As a result, you get to enjoy porn starlet Jody Maxwell performing fellatio while singing "Old McDonald Had a Farm" and a flexible man named Dr. Infinity doing the same thing but without a song and without anyone else around.

The episodes chosen for this collection, which apparently is the first in a series for NY After Midnight, were selected for their connection to Linda Lovelace's star-making turn in the porn film Deep Throat, which has had something of a renaissance, thanks to a re-release in 2005. Thus, we get episodes featuring interviews with two of the film's stars, Carol Connors and Harry Reems, the films director, Gerard Damiano, and Lovelace's husband and business manager Chuck Traynor, along with a couple of other gems, like pornster Jackie Park discussing the pros and cons of the film's titular technique and how to achieve it through training.

Each of the four main interviewers has a fascinating story, from Connors' sexual appetite (and maternal connection to actress Thora Birch) to Reems' retirement and Damiano's business struggles. Traynor, who was accused of abuse by Lovelace, is possibly the most interesting, but he's such a pal of Goldstein, who had no love for Lovelace, that the questions are more of the fawning type.

Though much of the series is extremely dated, one bit of the series that's still relevant today is the first episode, which features an explicit interview with Connors. The episode that originally featured the interview, along with a lengthy striptease, was rejected by Manhattan Cable, enraging the "Midnight Blue" crew, who responded with this backlash, hosted by the show's executive producer Alex Bennett. In it, bits of the banned episode are compared to episodes that previous aired, raising questions as to how one episode aired and the other didn't. In the end, the FCC is once again the culprit, then, as it is now.

While the series is the main attraction here, the best part of these DVDs is the original advertising that aired with the episodes. Selling everything from full-service massage parlors to sex toys to swingers clubs, hookers, and most incredibly, fake cocaine, these ads are a memory of a bygone era, one that included the legendary Plato's Retreat, who have an ad on this DVD. If anyone wants to go on a sex sightseeing tour, the addresses for most of these places, which are certainly all gone, are included, though the phone numbers are edited out. This is the most entertaining part of this DVD, and for anyone who has grown-up with a Disney-fied/Giuliani'd New York City, it should be a real history lesson.

And speaking of history lesson: NY After Midnight, an off-shoot of niche DVD studio Blue Underground, has done all viewers a great service, providing non-optional subtitles, which fill in some of the backstory behind the people being interviewed, for those who aren't in-the-know. The subtitles even have a sense of humor, and make for a better all-around viewing experience.

On one DVD, NY After Midnight has released "Midnight Blue: The Deep Throat Special Edition" on one DVD, packaged in a translucent blue keepcase, with a double-sided cover. The inside of the cover lists the 23 chapter stops, over a nice shot of the New York skyline. A non-repeating animation leads into the static full-frame main menu, which offers options to select chapters, check out extras and play the film. There are no audio options, no subtitles and no closed captioning.

The Quality
Quality is probably a word that shouldn't be used in connection with "Midnight Blue," but considering the source of these full-frame episodes, a public access show from the 1970s, they look pretty good. According to a disclaimer at the top of the show, the transfers were made digitally off the original 3/4-inch masters, and cleaned up as much as possible. The video rolls occasionally, like someone is messing with your vertical hold, and there's a lot of odd cropping on the edges, but this is probably the best presentation these shows have ever received.

The audio, a Dolby Digital 2.0 presentation of a mono mix, is similarly aged, yet decent, with an undercurrent of noise and crackling. The sound is flat and appropriate for this low-budget presentation.

The Extras
The two extras are a pair of audio interviews with Reems (11 min.) and Damiano (9 min.). The interviews are presented in Dolby Digital 2.0, with an anamorphic widescreen still image of the interviewee on the screen. It doesn't say when these were recorded, but it may not matter, because they are very hard to hear. Impressively, the material is not a clear repeat from the main feature.

The Bottom Line
This is a weird show, in that, despite the fact that the show is entirely about sex, and not sex in a clinical way, it can get a bit boring at times. Maybe it's the changing of time, but what was titillating from Goldstein in the '70s, when porn wasn't readily available, is now somewhat passť, with a low content-to-noise ratio. The DVD does a nice job of delivering the shows in a decent looking package, thankfully with the fantastically bizarre commercial breaks intact (something all TV shows should do for context (and entertainment) purposes.) Extras are a bit slim though. It would have been fun to get a Goldstein commentary (he could use the money) or a commentary from one of the now "clean" participants. Fans of porn, the sex industry or '70s kitsch should get a kick out of these episodes, but whether you'll get a lot of viewings out of them depends on your own perversions. Give it a test drive first.

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