by L. Pete Morton
PIRATES is one of the best-selling adult titles on the market today
In a new, ongoing yet irregular (at least for now) series here at HBS/EFC, I will be peeking around corners and walking the back alleys of the entertainment industry to take a glance at one of the most profitable, yet rarely spoken of in polite conversation, elements of the Hollywood machine. Pornography. Porn, if you prefer.
It’s a topic most of us have a passing familiarity with, from watching a movie at a bachelor party or knowing who Jenna Jameson is or seeing an actress feature dance at a strip club. But, like any culture, it has its own set of mores and customs, and like any entertainment, some of it is excellent and most of it is not. And, in this time when the industry has gained perhaps its most widespread recognition and even acclaim since Tokar the Tiger-hunter scrawled a crudely drawn penis upon his cave wall, it makes sense to begin an exploration of where porn is, where it may be going, and what that means to entertainment and society at large. I am certainly coming into this with “real” movies as a reference point, and am curious to see if relatively high standards can withstand the severe moral pummeling to which I am submitting myself (my friends might certainly disagree on the “relatively high standards” issue, but I digress).
Worst case scenario, I watch a few movies, read a few articles and gain a little insight. Best case scenario, I find some worthwhile things and worthwhile people and come to some profound conclusions about our shared humanity. Or something in the middle, most likely. But hopefully this builds to something interesting, even if it’s just figuring out where to find the good stuff.
As I begin my explorations in 2006, I felt the best place to start would be with arguably the most popular adult title on the market today, a collaboration between the adult studios Adam & Eve and Digital Playground and the winner of a vast amount of industry accolades. Yep, I speak not of Academy Awards and Golden Globes; it’s Adult Video News and Empire Awards for the guys and dolls who generate our gross national product of lovely smut, and this title has racked up multiple wins from all these “insider” publications and organizations. What I speak of is a little movie called PIRATES, and if you don’t mind an adult movie that also attempts to have a narrative (a preference of mine, admittedly), then you will likely agree with the experts.
That plot is, of course, threadbare, and involves curses and cartoonish pirate hunters and there’s just enough there to let you know someone spent more than a couple of minutes dashing out bullet points on a cocktail napkin. While the action isn’t terribly impressive there’s more than a little appropriate humor and some genuinely funny moments. The acting veers wildly from surprisingly good to, well, you know. But the dudes are buff and the babes strikingly blond to a woman, and while the camera work is restrained, the performers are not. Evan Stone is a hoot as the aforementioned buffoonish pirate hunter, and he could easily pass as a sidekick in a “real” Hollywood feature. Jesse Jane is feral as his first mate and Carmen Luvana delicate as a young wife lost at sea; both girls are gorgeous and with a few acting lessons or dialogue scenes could really impress with far more than their wanton disregard for social decency. A little sparkplug named Devon is terribly underused in just a couple of scenes and her wench partner, Teagan Presley is barely given time to register despite being one of Digital Playground’s rising “contract girls”. The big star of the piece, playing a morally-conflicted pirate wench, is Janine, and she holds the screen most assuredly. I’ll not mention other performances, some good, some bad, but most of the supporting, no-sex parts are well cast from a passel of folks who I’d venture don’t really work in porn. Plus, the costumes are all impressive (a detailed disrobing sequence might have been nice) and the original music, while repetitive, rises above the “boom-chicka-wah-wah” one might traditionally expect (as I was preparing this piece for publication, it was announced that PIRATES has been so successful they’re even releasing a soundtrack!). Hell, unlike a lot of porn, they even seem to pay attention to the lighting! Though admittedly a novice with all this, I certainly can’t imagine a better adult movie, all told.
Perhaps the biggest feature besides the hardcore action is a reliance on digital effects. Digital Playground is apparently the only adult producer with a digital effects studio in-house, and while they won’t fool anyone into thinking they’re ILM, it’s nice to see a focus on production values and stretching what is generally acceptable in an industry which seems to rely on “fast and cheap” more often than not. PIRATES has also been the first adult feature to be re-edited and granted an “R” rating for traditional home video release, and it will likely stand up for the softcore crowd due to those values and likely be the gateway drug of choice for many an adolescent.
As I continue my journey down this narrow footpath, I will likely see hotter sex and more inventive, immersive camera angles from the gonzo side of the adult film equation, but it’s doubtful I’ll see much as impressive as the total package PIRATES wraps up, and then unwraps, and then bangs lustily. All props to Adam & Eve and Digital Playground; I hope that as I encounter more of your productions I’ll be even half as impressed.
link directly to this feature at http://www.efilmcritic.com/feature.php?feature=1989
originally posted: 10/22/06 15:32:35