Friday, April 5, 2013

BEHIND THE GREEN DOOR


Artie and Jim Mitchell, 1972
Starring: Marilyn Chambers, Johnnie Keyes

Along with Deep Throat, The Devil in Miss Jones, and Debbie Does Dallas, Behind the Green Door is one of the most iconic porn films of the ‘70s and probably of all time. Two truck drivers tell the story of the green door, which involves Gloria (Marilyn Chambers), a beautiful young woman who is kidnapped by two men (directors Artie and Jim Mitchell) and taken to a theater. Though she resists at first, she is coerced into performing a number of sex acts with a variety of partners to a theater full of patrons who soon take part, resulting in a mass orgy. One of the truck drivers rescues Gloria and carries her out of the theater. Unsurprisingly, they have sex. 

Including one of the first interracial sex scenes in '70s cinema, there are a number of acts on display here, though vaginal penetration is more on the softcore side and scenes of oral sex are the most explicit. This is relatively common during the early ‘70s, particularly during the wave of “arty” porn chic films being screened to mainstream audiences. Though the film is a bit slow to get going -- the first 20 minutes lack any sexual activity and include a lot of conversational filler -- the second half has little dialogue and almost constant sex. There are a number of interesting scenes, including a trapeze artist, Gloria having sex with four men at one time, and, well, the wild behavior of the audience. There is also a money shot scene viewers will either find amazing or hilarious, possibly a combination of the two. Sperm flies through the air for roughly six or seven minutes straight with a variety of optical affects, colors, close-ups, etc. 

Behind the Green Door was actual the first hardcore film given a wide range release in the U.S. It did very well financially and ultimately grossed over $50 million dollars between the theatrical release and subsequent years of video sales. Oddly, the film screened at the Cannes festival in France and made quite a big splash there, kicking off Marilyn Chambers’ fame. Prior to Behind the Green Door, she was known for modeling and, in particular, for appearing in Ivory soap commercials, due to her girl-next-door beauty. These ads were allegedly recalled after she became a household name from her porn career. Horror fans will probably recognize her from her starring role in David Cronenberg's Rabid, where she gave a different kind of must-see performance. 

The Mitchell brothers, the film's directors, had a hand in numerous aspects of porn and strip clubs until Jim killed Artie in 1991. Behind the Green Door was their most famous film, but they also opened the famed O’Farrell strip theater in San Francisco in 1969, and made the first safe sex porn film in the post-HIV/AIDS aware ‘80s. This was a sequel to Behind the Green Door and featured the use of condoms and birth control, though it was a critical and commercial failure. 

Though I absolutely recommend this film, keep in mind that it is somewhat dated and suffers from poor camera work and lazy editing. The sex scenes are relatively well shot and Chambers is so beautiful and unconsciously erotic that it is easy to forget some of clunkier elements of the production. For fans of Stanley Kubrick's unwieldy Eyes Wide Shut, this is an interesting precursor and fortunately lacks Tom Cruise or anyone who vaguely resembles him. There is a DVD available from the wonderful TLA Video

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