May 02, 2006

DARKER SIDE OF MAINSTREAM - HARDCORE (1979) - REVIEW 13



Firstly apologies for the delay between this review and the last, lots of home issues meant my concentration and ‘desire’ to review were overwhelmed by a gamut of mixed emotion on the personal front.

Secondly, ‘Happy Beltane’ to my readers whether of the old ‘true’ faith or not, I hope the lord and lady bestows much grooviness on you beloved reader for the next 6 months.

When I was very little my parents used to entertain until the wee hours. They had that 80’s luxury of a TV in the bedroom. As I knew their guests left by 2 am this gave me plenty of time to sneak in to their room and with the sound almost negligible channel 4 introduced me to such late night wonders it would be rude of me to dismiss a big thank you at this time of writing.

As well as the nefarious ‘red triangle’ films shown 1985 onwards there were some gems shown on late night television at the time. It was also wonderful that at its’ infancy Channel 4 didn’t give a toss what they showed as long as it was ‘minority’ interest. Extreme and art-house cinema filled that hole.

One of the films I recall watching back then and eclipsed briefly as part of channel 4’s very recent ‘dark side of porn’ Snuff documentary was Paul Schrader’s ‘Hardcore’ made in 1978/79.

‘Hardcore’ despite its’ mainstream backing is a well thought out and provoking visual odyssey of the darker side of all things sleazy, It pushed the envelope when it came to demonstrating the taboo to middle Americans at the time.

It hints towards ‘The Wicker Man, where a devout god botherer comes face to face with their ultimate challenges in faith and moral belief. Where the wonderful ‘wicker Man’ takes place in a remote Scottish isle, this ‘foreign ‘ underbelly of the cities backsides can be found on most doorsteps or a plane flight away.

George C.Scott portrays the tortured father exposed to his daughters’ participation in the unsavoury elements of the pornographic lure. Some of his reactions at unearthing visually what he never dreamed of or more importantly refused to belief existed is of an unbelievably high calibre.

If all the worries of fathers throughout the land relating to this ‘discovery’ needed an encapsulating in one anguished face then C.Scotts’ VanDorn would be a strong contender. I really felt for his unnecessary shame and trauma through his outstanding portrayal.

The movie is also reminiscent of Friedkins' 'Cruising' (1980), it has a dank, seedy atmosphere almost constant with only brief interludes to remind us of the innocent (?) corrupted before us. This also strengthens sequences where they receive a culture shock and a rude awakening.

One of the admirable things worth commending is the directors’ ability to veer away from moralist stance. This impartiality is a winner.


Yes the seedy fleshpots of America are foreboding and dodgy as fuck but so is religion, It was this pure, dogma enslaved faith that drove the daughter away in the first place so it can’t be that good can it for this righteousness belief has been the catalyst in creating for one individual what it sets out to destroy by brainwashing hundreds of thousands?


There is also a welcome balanced sub plot of personal moral exploration as Van Dorn is joined in forces by a ‘sympathetic’ prostitute that initially believes him to be a rich pervert and wishes ultimately for him to be a surrogate father at the films conclusion. The sadness of ‘belonging’ and having a safe ‘belonging’ to somewhere or something is apparent in numerous instances throughout the movie and sad they are too.

Schraders’ direction is smashing and draws on vibrant primary colours, some ‘brothel’ sequences seem as if they were cut in from a Bava/Italian Gothique maestro. It also manages to fix on visual representation of saintliness and sinning. The ‘End of the World is Nighness’ and ‘Gods’ Home is a safe Home’ type of propaganda of some of the moral representations and the crass neon ‘Sex! Sex! Sex!’ propaganda of the various city fleshpot representation.

The localities despite being what they are – knocking shops; seem a little ‘sterile’ than they could have been. Sex shops look rather pristine as well as the 25 cent booths, very different from what I experienced in Amsterdam. They got the tissue bit right and because of the celluloid ‘cleanliness’ witnessed so much to this point it comes as a bit of an ‘ugh’ moment.

Homework has also been done as ‘Golden Age’ hardcore superstars are mentioned the dishily suave Jamie Gillis and Harry Reems get a mention.

The Mitchell Brothers (Hooge! Hooge! Producers of popular hardcore classic adult entertainment) famed for ‘Behind the Green Door’ etc get mentioned too as one of the potential porn stars in the movie proudly states that he was a slave in their production of ‘Sodom and Gomorrah.

This proves the notoriety and their impact on the everyday lives of the public of such actors, during what can be referred to as ‘Hardcores’ Golden Age’.

‘Hardcore’ is well cinematographed, well written, slightly topical and an unusual entry into the mainstreams history of movie making. On this occasion it has been achieved very well indeed equalled sometime later in 8mm when the snuff bogeyman cropped up again on a sensationalist seeking audience.

THE PLOT

Jake VanDorn is a deeply religious family man and a successful businessman. He is the perfect role model.

Due to his wife’s untimely death VanDorn is seemingly doted to his large family and friends.

During a church outing VanDorns’ daughter ‘Kristen’ goes missing.

Eventually VanDorn’ hires a scuzzy private detective to find where she is.

The detective comes up trumps when he finds an 8mm ‘love-loop’. The movie short is titled ‘Slave to Love’ and the main ‘starlet’ appears to be VanDorns drugged up daughter being groped in a ménage-a-trois prelude.

Deciding the P.I is not doing enough, Van Dorn goes it alone leaving his suburban, snowflake, idealism for the dark underbelly of Hardcore pornography.

As he nears towards finding his daughter he learns of another side of pornography. The worst kind and it seems Kirsten is in the grooming to be potentially the directors’ next ‘victim’……..

MOST OUTSTANDING MOMENT

The snuff sequence. Really fucking grim. I sincerely doubt though in reality someone would have access so readily available for something so ‘illegal’ for a $100 a sitting.

The sequence also pampers to the South American stereotype of ‘Life is Cheap’ so the frantic Brazilian ditty accompanying the slaughter on screen is doubly disturbing.

Did You Know?

George C.Scott and Paul Schrader clashed frequently at one stage Scott refused to come out of his trailer and said he would quit. He only said he would come out and continue of Schrader promised never to direct again, he lied.

Warren Beatty was to play the Van Dorn but wanted to change the script so much clashed with the director and decided not to. Initially Beatty wanted the daughter to change to his ‘sister’.

The original ending had Scott finding his daughter had been killed in a car crash but the ‘rescued’ ending was used instead.


Title; Hardcore (a.k.a ‘The Hardcore Life’)

Year; 1979

Director; Paul Schrader

My relations are; Cruising (1980) / 8mm (1999) / Emanuelle in America (1977)/ Last House on Dead End Street (1977) / Snuff (1974) / Videodrome (1983) / Snuff Trap (2003)

The players;

George C. Scott (Jake VanDorn)

Peter Boyle (Andy Mast)

Season Hubley (Niki)

Dick Sargent (Wes DeJong)

Leonard Gaines (Bill Ramada)

Dave Nichols (Kurt)

Gary Graham (Tod)

Larry Block (Detective Burrows)

Marc Alaimo (Ratan)

Leslie Ackerman (Felice)

Charlotte McGinnis (Beatrice)

Ilah Davis (Kristen VanDorn)

Paul Marin (Joe VanDorn)

Will Walker (Jim 'Jism Jim' Sloane)

Hal Williams (Big Dick Blaque)

Available; Region 2 & Region 1 availability.