In lieu of any sort of traditional ‘best-of’ list of whatever pop-culture mainstay is of the utmost importance at the current time, I’ve decided to assemble a sort of cornucopia of sleaze from the past year. These aren’t all physical or even ephemeral things; the list includes events, unfortunate passings of celebrate (or uncelebrated) figures, trends and even dabbles more into the mainstream than one may expect.
For full disclosure, I do reside in the NYC area which is why the events mentioned only pertain to that city. I recognize that screenings are held regularly in other major (and non-major) markets as well, but I don’t feel comfortable including anything that I did not personally attend.
1. Vinegar Syndrome
This group of sleaze mongers burst on to the home video scene in very early 2013 with a collection of lost Herschel Gordon Lewis films which was crowd funded. When I first heard of the project, I was skeptical considering it was going to be distributed from an unknown company, yet those skepticisms were completely washed away as soon as I had the finished product in my hand on on my TV. Their restoration work has not only been exceptional – on par with titans like Criterion and Eureka – but their ability to scrounge up both underground staples (see The Telephone Book) as well as titles obscure enough to lack major filmographic information on IMDB, is second to none. Each month over the past year, Vinegar Syndrome have released at least one (and usually more) discs worth getting excited about and I can’t wait to see what awaits us in the years to come.
2. 35mm Sexploitation, Russ Meyer and XXX Titles at Anthology Film Archives
NYC has a great repertory cinema scene, perhaps one of the best in any major city in the world, yet it doesn’t exactly thrive for genre cinema. Especially when it gets to XXX or exploitation titles. Yes, there is Spectacle Theater and Nitehawk Cinemas (both in Williamsburg), but the majority of such shows at those venues are late at night and/or are not usually shown on film.
Anthology have dabbled in video content a lot more in recent times than they have in the past but if film material is available, it will be shown that way. And that’s how their three sleaziest series went this year: That’s Sexploitation!, The Glandscape Artist: Russ Meyer, and In the Flesh.
I never thought that I’d get to see much of this stuff on 35mm, let alone in a packed house of equally enthusiastic patrons. It was announced at the first screening of the In the Flesh series that another batch of XXX titles, all on film again, is due early this year. I can only hope that there is more to come after that.
3. Advertising for Lars von Trier’s Nymphomaniac
Early reviews have been mixed (no surprise there) and quite a few have even stated that the film isn’t nearly as shocking as anyone would expect. And how could it be? The advertising for this goes so far to make anyone viewing it as uncomfortable as possible that there was never a chance for the film to best it. The official character one-sheets showcasing the major cast members’ best “o-faces” is in wonderful taste.
4. The Wolf of Wall Street
I know, it’s a major theatrical release featuring Leonardo DiCaprio and Jonah Hill, from Martin Scorsese. How dare it take up a space on this list, especially this high. But, really, if Scorsese dares release this upon this masses, I dare include it. If you have the balls to open your film with a former child star snorting coke out of a hooker’s butthole, I applaud you. And if you can get away with opening that 180 minute film on Christmas day, I put your film in the best company of 2013. Easily the most profound bacchanal from a major studio since MGM let Paul Verhoeven spend millions of dollars in Las Vegas.
5. Barbara Broadcast Blu-ray
DistribPix released their first Blu-ray in 2012 and it was a fantastic package for The Opening of Misty Beethoven. They’ve followed that up with an equally robust offering for another Henry Paris/Radley Metzger feature, Barbara Broadcast. Everything here is top notch; the transfer is revelatory, the supplements are actually worthwhile and informative and the included booklet is more reading material than I ever expected to have on the film. I’m eagerly awaiting the next high-def offering from them.
6. The “Monster Porn” Trend.
I didn’t even see this one coming. Ever. Apparently the audience for Fifty Shades of Grey got bored with bondage and needed something a bit sleazier. Enter Bigfoot. And books with titles like Cum for Bigfoot and Moan for Bigfoot. Sure, these books were actually released in 2012, but they didn’t seem to catch on until this past year. How and why, I don’t know. But I’m very happy that it did. I’m still waiting for the day that I’m on the subway and I catch someone holding one of these open, if only to strike up the best conversation of my day. Oh, and this even made it to Business Insider.
7. The Sarnos: A Life In Dirty Movies
I was fortunate enough to catch this at DOC NYC and it’s a surprisingly intimate doc about The Sarnos. It’s not actually out yet, and I don’t know when it will be, but it at least has an IMDB page. This also takes place at the end of Joe Sarno’s life, which makes it a bittersweet affair, but an essential one for anyone interested in the history of sexploitation. I certainly hope that someone picks it up for distribution and isn’t afraid to get it out there.
8. MS. 45 Restoration
I love Abel Ferrara and I’m not afraid to admit that. A lot of people don’t, for various reasons, all of them understandable. But, for my money, this is his best film. It isn’t the sleaziest thing he made and it may be an odd choice for a restoration of this caliber but it looks fantastic and Drafthouse Films have given it a great new one-sheet and trailer. And now everyone can forget about that horrid 2006 remake.
9. Hot Nights of Linda Blu-ray
We lost the prolific Jess Franco early in 2013 (more on that soon) and this was as nice a tribute as anything written about him in the months that followed. An often neglected (though appreciated) film from his career, Severin have put together a 3-disc package that highlights a restoration from a 35mm print “discovered in a Barcelona bordello”. And they’ve even included a limited edition DVD featuring a “French Hard Banana Version” of the movie that isn’t restored at all, with all sorts of nastiness intact and I wouldn’t have it any other way. Hats off to Severin for this one!
10. Sky Ferreira’s ‘Night Time, My Time’ Album Cover.
The album title is a reference to Twin Peaks, the cover was shot by Gaspar Noe and Sky has her boobie out. What’s not to love? Well, maybe the music, but if you’re a fan of 80s synth infused club anthems you should fall in love with it. But the music isn’t why this is here, it’s that cover. Who does that?
11. Mondo’s Boogie Nights Print
As soon as I saw this, the first thought that came into my mind was “What could Mondo do with actual porn titles?” This print is fan-fucking-tastic. And it just oozes sex. I can’t believe (that like every other thing they release), I missed this.
12. The Passing of Jess Franco and Al Goldstein
You know the names and you know their work. Two very prominent figures in both print and screen erotica were lost in 2013 and will be missed.