Sunday, May 2, 2010

Say "Cheese!": Junk Cinema and the History of Sex Tapes

Hey, kids! Want to know what the latest craze sweeping the nation is? Hula Hoops? Skateboarding? IPods?

Nope. It's sex tapes!

Yes, you're nobody till somebody has taped you doing the nasty.

And it's not just low life denizens with an acute shortage of morals or "reality TV stars" who are making these tapes (although they do appear in quite a few of them). No sir! It's politicians, artists, sports heroes and representatives of our wealthiest families who are churning them out at an astonishing rate.

Now, at this point in this missive, you are probably saying to yourself, "Ms. Arnold, I read the newspapers. I keep up with current events. I know this type of thing is happening, thank you very much. If I want the lowdown on the latest sex tape doings, I can buy "US" magazine. However, when I read your blog it is for the specific purpose of educating myself on the joys of Junk Cinema. What do the taped cavortings of a bunch of half-wits have to do with the celebration and elevation of bad movies?"

I am so glad you asked.

Because, believe it or not, Junk Cinema was the first place to acknowledge that sex tapes even existed.

It all started in 1964, when many of today's sex tape superstars were just freckles on the nose of The Giant Pixie. The movie was the landmark Junk classic "The Carpetbaggers". This overheated (and badly acted) tale of Hollywood go-getters featured George Peppard as a megalomaniac business tycoon/movie producer who likes his sex rough, his women slutty and booze by the quart. After his tom catting drives his first wife away and his studio's top female star (who was once both his fiance AND his step-mother!) dies in a car crash, George goes looking for his next discovery. He finds her in hooker Martha Hyer. George not only turns Martha into a movie star, he also decides to marry her. The problem is Hyer is being blackmailed by scummy agent Robert Cummings, who has a "stag reel" (AKA a sex tape) that Martha made back when she did most of her acting flat on her back.

With her career and marriage hanging in the balance, Martha tearfully 'fesses up about her shameful past. And how does George react to this bombshell? He causally informs Hyer that not only did he know about her sex tape all along, but that he had seen it--twice, mind you. "That's why I wanted you!" Peppard sputters."You were beautiful and no good and that made it better!"

Flash forward to 1978. Poor Joan Collins is having a rough go of it, career-wise. How bad are things for Joanie? She's reduced to starring in a trashy movie called "The Stud" that is based not only on the same titled novel written by her kid sis Jackie, but kid sis Jackie also wrote the screenplay.

In this picture, Joan plays a sinister jet setter who insists that boy-for-hire Oliver Tobias (ever heard of him? Me neither.) service her night and day. This puts a real strain on Tobias' already over crowded schedule, but Collins isn't exactly the sort of gal who takes "no" for an answer. In fact, she's so thrilled with Tobias', er, "abilities" that she commits their cavorting to tape. How naughty!

"The Stud" (and its companion piece "The Bitch") signified that Joanie, who had briefly studied at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art and once dated Warren Beatty, had officially entered her Down Years. A Hollywood contract starlet since the mid-1950's, Collins regularly appeared in tripe like "Land of the Pharaohs", "The Opposite Sex" and "The Sea Wife" (as a nun!). By the 1970's, however, she was forced to make do with roles in such flicks as "I Don't Want to be Born" (where Joan's unborn baby is cursed by an evil midget after she refuses his sexual advances) and "Empire of the Ants" (which cast Joan as a mean real estate boss lady who must do battle with a bunch of fiberglass ants that grow to gigantic proportions after they swallow some radioactive goop).

Then she made "The Stud". Poor dear.

Of course, as history shows, Joan survived these and other cinematic indignities (like the Farrah Fawcet movie "Sunburn") and went on to score her greatest artistic triumpth by starring in the nighttime soap opera "Dynasty". She would also create a signature perfume, marry her fifth husband and write several romance novels. What a trouper that Collins gal is!

Of course, as tacky and junky and shoddy a piece of work as "The Carpetbaggers" and "The Stud" are, they can't hold a candle to the greatest sex tape epic ever made: "Full Exposure: The Sex Tape Scandal".

Made in 1989 for network television, "Full Exposure" starred Lisa Hartman (the future Mrs. Clint Black) as a DA with big hair, an acute addiction to shoulder pads and about one facial expression. She's investigating a murder linked to an exclusive call girl ring run by de-throned Miss America Vanessa Williams. It appears that Ms. Williams (who also sports big hair) caters to some pretty sick tickets and secretly tapes their "sessions"--all the better to blackmail them with later. Hilarious complications ensue when Hartman learns that her white haired father is (gasp!) a regular client of Vanessa's and is being blackmailed with his own (gasp!) sex tape.

But we're not done yet. One year later "Brat Pack"er Rob Lowe would grace a flick called "Bad Influence" where he would lead yuppie James Spader to rack and ruin--and, yes, secretly tapes him having sex and then (gasp!) releasing it publicly.

Now, it needs to be pointed out that none of the folks in these flicks are happy about their sex tape pasts. Sobbed Martha Hyer, "I'm only good for one thing!" Moans Oliver Tobias, "I'm tired of sticking it in everything that winks at me." And it's a sure bet that Father's Day will be real tense at Lisa Hartman's house now that she knows her widowed father has been patronizing hookers.

So what is the message to be gleaned from all this?

Message Number One: If you have sex with someone, for business or pleasure, don't tape it.

Message Number Two: If you decide to ignore this advice, there is a 99% chance that the tape of your cavorting will be made public.

Message Number Three: When the sex tape is released, you will be very, very embarrassed. Not only will people be shocked at your appalling stupidity and lack of judgement, they will probably being having a good laugh at your chubby thighs.

Message Number Four: Only people in low rent Junk movies can survive being in a sex tape.

You have been warned.

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