Sunday, April 13, 2014

Review of The Saga of Johnny Wadd in Film, Print and Popular Culture - by Jeremy Richey

 
In the latest (March 2014) issue of Weng's Chop, exceptional writer Jeremy Richey has contibuted a wonderful, detailed, in depth tribute to the nine-part Johnny Wadd adult film series, directed by Bob Chinn and starring John Holmes. The continuing Johnny Wadd saga, with releases between the years 1970 and 1978, marks the very first erotic adult production -- not only to feature a strong, recurring title character (private detective Johnny Wadd), but the films were shot on location in San Francisco, Hawaii, and Mexico. As Richey mentioned, the series didn't actually take hold until Chinn, in a groundbreaking manuever, had already completed the first four films independently. Starting in 1970 and shot on shoe string budgets containing very little production value, each picture inevitably took on a life of its own, despite glaring deficiencies, with audiences demanding more and more Johnny Wadd movies. Holmes' ever growing popularity, along with his embodiment and the evolution of the charismatic, dirty private dick, eventually sparked the interest of one of the largest and most dominant adult companies located in Los Angeles. Freeway Films, owned and commandeered by Armand Atamian, brought financial stability and the capacity for larger production budgets, resulting in the best five and most memorable Johnny Wadd releases in the series. Releases that have progressed into perpetuity.
     Richey is the very first writer to compose an essay reflecting on the entire Johnny Wadd collection (including three bonus Johnny Wadd films that were not directed by Chinn, or a part of the original series), establishing that Richey wholly recognizes and reveres Chinn's tenure as a director, the signifance of the films, and Freeway's major role in their longevity -- culminating in much more than a footnote in cinematic history. Richey credits Chinn and Freeway for their ingenuity, and expertly draws comparisons between the productions and the Hollywood counterparts that had influence over their inception, while insightfully itemizing the nuances of the plots and characertizations. It is apparent that Richey examined each of the releases intently, combining first hand knowledge with other sources to effectively and selectively expand upon some of the preexisting information about the films. Writing with authority, Richey underscores the strengths and weaknesses of the individual pictures, and makes suggestions as to how they could have been improved. Richey explains how Tell Them Johnny Wadd is Here (1976) and China Cat (1978) inspired one of the most respected directors in mainline Hollywood, Paul Thomas Anderson, who handpicked and duplicated scenes from the two pictures to perfection in his highly acclaimed film adaptation of the 1970s porn climate, Boogie Nights. This was the first time that a credible Hollywood director willingly stepped over the invisible boundary to the other side to draw from the deep well of inspiration. 
     In addition to citing information from John Holmes: A Life Measured in Inches, and Legs McNeil's The Other Hollywood, Richey also makes a point of resourcing and highlighting the brilliant 1981 film Exhausted, John C. Holmes: The Real Story, directed by Atamian's niece, Julia St. Vincent. As the very first documentary to center on an iconic porn star, "Exhausted" helped Richey to flesh out his own impressions of Holmes and to gain a greater understanding of the duplicities and complexies that comprised the man synonymous with Johnny Wadd. Richey refers to the real John Holmes as an amalgamation of himself and the Johnny Wadd character, both hero and villain, and discusses how, for better and for worse, the two personas eventually became unified and indistinguishable after a time. Richey's statement mirrors a similar comment made about Holmes by one of Holmes's closest friends, Joel Sussman, who intimated that an individual can only change into a Superman costume so many times before he eventually believes himself to be Superman. 
John C. Holmes in China Cat
Richey closes his article by smartly lamenting that, with the exception of the very first film in the Johnny Wadd series simply titled Johnny Wadd (1971, re-released by VCX in 2008, with the inclusion of a director's commentary), none of the successive films have been made available in remastered or Blu-ray formats which truly is a shame. Hopefully those with a vision and expertise will become enthused and motivated to make this happen one day.
     I'd like to thank Jeremy Richey once again for using our book as a resource, and for sending me two copies of this magnificent publication containing his exceptional piece. I'd also like t conclude by excerpting a portion of a thought provoking quote by Richey from the article:
     "Perhaps the outskirts are where figures such as Chinn [and Kane] really belong. After all, how many great artists have been destroyed by the main thing they originally strive for... acceptance. Either way, film history books will remain frustratingly incomplete as long as they continue to ignore an entire genre simply because of sex." -- Jeremy Richey, The Saga of Johnn Wadd in Film, Print and Popular Culture --Weng's Chop, Volume 2 Issue 1 Number 5  March 2014.
 
*Please also check out Jeremy Richey's new website for his own quarterly publication here: Art Decades. The first issue is due out in November of this year -- and it's going to be great. :)