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The Golden Age of Porn: Some Male Directors of Special Note

EDITORIAL FEATURES

The Road from Grindhouse and Sexploitation Leads to Porn.

People who don’t watch porn tend to have a lot of strong opinions about porn, especially the acting and storylines, which they claim do not exist. During the Golden Age of Porn, there were no such things as gonzo or all-sex releases. Fear of triggering an obscenity lawsuit was a part of this and the demographics that performers were drawn from was another. Walking the thin line between artistic merit and prurient pleasure were the directors and producers of the era, each of whom managed to produce praiseworthy films and most of whom managed to live drama-rich personal lives, as well.

Gerard Damiano: Known by most porn consumers as the director of Deep Throat (1972), The Devil in Miss Jones (1973), and The Story of Joanna (1975), Damiano was a fallen Italian Catholic boy turned shoeshine boy turned sailor turned X-ray tech turned hairdressing salon owner turned couples-porn director/performer. Like many other early porn directors, he cut his teeth as a crew member on late 1960s New York horror and sexploitation films. Although The Devil in Miss Jones was the 11th highest-grossing film of 1973, Damiano didn’t see any of the profit. That went to the financiers within organized crime. He did, however, get to have an affair with an 18-year-old Annie Sprinkle, who followed him to New York City to make history of her own. He passed away in 2008 at the age of 80, a month after having a stroke.

Radley Metzger: Also known as Henry Paris, directing highly artistic, intelligent, and lavish films often based on novels or literature. Starting as a mainstream film editor and expanding into softcore movies during the 1960s, Metzger began shooting hardcore in the 1970s. Among his best-known titles are The Private Afternoons of Pamela Mann (1975) and The Opening of Misty Beethoven (1976), the latter of which was inspired by George Bernard Shaw’s Pymalion. In 1977, he released Barbara Broadcast. One of Metzger’s goals was to see the eroticism of women rewarded instead of punished, which was the socially expected cliché at the time. He died at the age of 88 in 2017 after releasing a series of videos about homeopathic and alternative medicine.

Cecil Howard: Before turning his talents to pornography, Howard worked as a mainstream book publisher’s art director. From these respectable early days, he moved on to helping softcore film director and friend Armand Weston as a photographer and investor. Inspired, he produced films for hardcore directors Henri Pachard and Chuck Vincent before venturing out on his own in the early 1980s. He brought his taste for high production values to the 1981 Neon Nights and 1984 Firestorm. Howard lived to be 85, dying in 2016 as a member of both the AVN and XRCO Halls of Fame. In 1984, he won the AVN Award for Best Director with Scoundrels.

Jim and Artie Mitchell: Known collectively as The Mitchell Brothers, theirs was a colorful and tragic personal story that resulted from an impressive realization of professional ambitions. Regardless of whether the average porn fan ever visited their famed San Francisco O’Farrell Theatre, chances are good they’ve heard of the one film that made it famous. When Behind the Green Door was released in 1972, starring Ivory Snow model Marilyn Chambers, viewers saw a better-produced and profoundly taboo film than previously released by the brothers. It earned enough money to help finance Resurrection of Eve (1973), The Autobiography of a Flea (1976), and other high-quality hardcore.

Arrested so many times they were called “business trips,” the brothers were no strangers to a courtroom. In fact, they are the reason for the FBI warning at the beginning of potentially re-recordable media. In 1991, Jim shot his out-of-control brother Artie to death. The criminal trial saw the first-ever use of 3-D computer animation. Jim died in 2007 of a heart attack, a decade after being released from San Quentin.

Bob Chinn: Although his 1978 film, Candy Stripers, is probably the Chinese-American director and performer’s most famous release, it could be argued that his greatest contribution to the industry was the West Coast porn pioneer’s creation of the Johnny Wadd series. Shot between 1971 and 1978 in nine separate movies starring John Holmes, including Tell Them Johnny Wadd is Here, The Jade Pussycat, The China Cat, and Blonde Fire. An inductee to both the AVN and XRCO Halls of Fame, Chinn retired from movies in 1999.

These are only five of the more influential male directors of the Golden Age of Porn. Others include men such as Chuck Vincent, Bill Osco, Alex de Renzy, Gregory Dark, and Joseph W. Sarno. The grindhouse and exploitation path led Henri Pachard, Joe D’Amato, and Michael Findlay to porn, and Kirdy Stevens inspired a genre still going strong today with the release of the ground-breaking 1980 film, Taboo.


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