"Sexytime," compiled by Jacques Boyreau and Peter Van Horne (Fantagraphics)
What's the darkest secret of pornography? The horrible truth? That would be its inherent silliness. It's a very goofy genre, especially when you look back and find it can be just as hilarious as any cheesy horror flick from the 1950s.
Porn supposedly plays to the most secret, private desires of human beings -- not just the things that go on in our bedrooms, but the things that go on in our heads as we plan out what goes on in our bedrooms and are often relegated there, never to be transformed into reality.
Taken outside the confines of our imagination, some of these plans can look very, very silly. Trying to come up with imagery to get other people to come take at a look at these very, very silly scenarios can look even more ridiculous. This is why posters for porn movies can often be less of a erotic masterpiece and more of a bizarre, and probably inevitable, miscalculation of what is enticing to the public about private fantasies.
In "Sexytime," examples of the stumbling art of porno movie posters are gathered and presented, and the history it unveils in the presentation is one of curiosity. How is anyone ever tempted to step into scary porn theaters based on the imagery presented here? No wonder home video and the Internet has changed the way people consume smut. It's also probably killed a outsider art form. Thankfully, this book captures the glory years of such curious come-ons.
The one consistency in the posters is the way they utilize a mix of the fads of the time and a comically leering promise to make them very dirty. That's really the general selling point of any given porn film. Like CB radios? Well, "Breaker Beauties" is all about CBs, but it's also really nasty!
And if you like CBs, there's some nice hillbilly porn posters. Anyone up for a screening of "Muddy Mama?" It involves a "sensuous slave mutiny" in a place called "Alligator Creek."
Sometimes porn films would borrow specifically from other imagery in order to get attention. "American Sex Fantasy" presents an illustrated foursome, where one of the participants is very obviously beloved comic book icon Archie Andrews -- did one of the actors resemble America's eternal teenager, or is this merely an affectation to con patrons into the theater?
"Little Orphan Dusty" entices viewers by presenting a huge drawing of the famous Farrah Fawcet pin-up poster, but it only stars Rhonda Jo Petty, billed as "The Farrah Fawcet Lookalike."
"Sex World" rips off the "Westworld" franchise that was popular at the time. I imagine it was about sex with robots.
"Erotic Aerobics?" Even the poster manages to elicit the same mundane glitz as a real aerobics exercise tape. "FlashPants?" The only good thing about that poster is the tag line -- "Cop a feeling."
"One Million AC/DC," though? Overweight cave men with harems and dinosaurs? Now THAT'S pornography.
"Sexytime" can also make you wistful. It made me feel as though we've lost something.
The posters are the ephemera of an artifact called the porn theater that lurks in my ‘70s childhood. A place where sleaze was visible, but contained. A place where the so-called perverts went to sit in the dark amongst each other, ashamed. A forbidden place of dark secrets that could ignite the imagination far more than any actual pornography, equal in the minds of suburban children to whatever abandoned haunted house that lurked at the far side of town.
Whenever an unexpected, annoying and often icky pop-up ad appears on my computer screen offering videos of Russian girls or whatever, I miss the mysterious world of sleaze from 30 years ago even more. If you can deal with it, "Sexytime" is a fun and often ridiculous reminder of a world that seemed so dangerous when many of us were kids, but is now gone.