As a catchy inventory of dirty movies, THE STORY OF X squeezes in a lot of material. Although it might be better titled: "The Story of R, Leading to Some X," this well-researched Playboy production hits the highlights of an industry that has always operated under a Puritannical cloud of
suspicion, while providing guilty pleasure for admitted devotees and hypocrites alike.
Genially hosted by Buck Henry, THE STORY OF X lets us sample forbidden fruit that is as old as the movies themselves. In fact, it's even older--Eadweard James Muybridge (1830-1904), the photographic innovator whose experiments led to the discovery of motion pictures, shot test footage of nude
subjects. Interrupting its overview with commentary from fans, the X story heats up with silent stag films with titles like FREE RIDE (1915). In the talkie era, adult cinema became the strange bedfellow of educational shorts and exploitative flicks protected by a social message.
By the late 1950, Supreme Court rulings on the issue of obscenity began to liberalize what could be shown in American moviehouses. Enterprising hucksters like Herschel Gordon Lewis expanded the marketplace by taking their "roadshow" productions to America's heartland. When more daring foreign
films drew away the faithful, American smut peddlers responded with "roughies," in which violence blurred the lines of sexual pleasure. When Hollywood took advantage of censorship inroads (in films like 1969's MIDNIGHT COWBOY and 1973's LAST TANGO IN PARIS), the X-industry crafted erotic classics
like THE DEVIL IN MISS JONES (1972) and BEHIND THE GREEN DOOR (1972) which brought hardcore pornography into the popular vernacular. And in the 1980s, the home-video boom allowed couples to watch anything-goes erotica in the privacy of their boudoirs. Informative and amusing, THE STORY OF X
occasionally pays lip service to antiporn crusaders, but it's clearly a ringing endorsement of a skin trade that now encompasses Vegas trade shows, amateur home videos, and an X-rated Hall of Fame. Filmmaker Chuck Workman, best known for his rapid-fire compressions of film history (shown on
Academy Award broadcasts) saves his quick-cut magic for this film's "climax," while utilizing a less exhausting approach in detailing the early rise of erotic cinema. Interviews with veteran filmmakers like Dave Friedman and Russ Meyer offer fascinating anecdotes, though the opinions proffered by
viewers at an LA midnight screening of antique erotica are a waste of time.
On the downside, THE STORY OF X does tend to pile up its history, blurring its time line as it explains how various factions jumped on the X-rated bandwagon. Still, Workman does a yeoman's job of covering everything from Russ Meyer's mammary fixation to the impact of AIDS. Oddly enough, the one
thing this entertaining documentary never does is to arouse. Slyly affectionate and subversively educational, this would-be masturbatory marathon lets us giggle under the bedcovers. (Violence, extreme profanity, extensive nudity, sexual situations, substance abuse.)
Cast & Details See all »
- Released: 1997
- Rating: NR
- Review: As a catchy inventory of dirty movies, THE STORY OF X squeezes in a lot of material. Although it might be better titled: "The Story of R, Leading to Some X," this well-researched Playboy production hits the highlights of an industry that has always operate… (more)