Plot: The latest in the Peep Show Collection series from Impulse Pictures, Synapse’s adult label, Volume 4 is a collection of fifteen hardcore 8mm stag films. These sexy shorts were among the first of any films to be available in a home video format, and also the earliest form of movies on demand, playing on loops for 25 cents a pop in the darkened back rooms of adult stores across the country.
The fifteen shorts included here are very different from contemporary porn as we know it in ways that are immediately apparent. There are no fake tits to be seen, body hair is copious, and though the male performers are certainly well-endowed, their bodies are otherwise a lot softer than the chiseled physiques we’ve gotten used to in contemporary porn. These hardcore scenes, which were shot and staged quickly and cheaply, aren’t as carefully choreographed for the camera as most contemporary porn - there are moments of physical awkwardness during the sex play that feel strikingly real. To be clear, there are many contemporary porn performers who object to the question of “Porn Sex vs. Real Sex,” insisting that what they do is VERY real. But looking back at these early scenes, which make up for their lack of polish with plenty of enthusiasm, is an endearing experience and a reminder of how much porn has evolved over the years.
The loops included in Volume 4 have titles like “Do It on My Face,” “Leather Lust” and “Wheelchair Mary,” and most feature very little setup and plenty of action. Their sequence here is amusing, going from guy-girl scenes to threeways to girl-on-girl. As the loops don’t feature sound (the only soundtrack is the constant clicking of a projector), the focus here is entirely on the images, which makes for an entertaining two-hour montage of enthusiastic blowjobs, sex toy play, cunnilingus, fucking (though with only a few positions on display, another sign of how times have changed) and cum shots. Perhaps the most surprising thing about these loops is that almost every male performer gets off multiple times - as most porn today is built around the cum shot, it was interesting watching scenes with a distinctly different, er, rhythm.
Some of the best loops have an endearingly goofy sense of humor. My favorite was the second, where a woman in a schoolgirl outfit is interrupted while playing with herself by a guy in a mask. It took me a minute to register the mask and ask myself “Wait, is that Jimmy Carter?” Sure enough, the guy had a Carter campaign pin attached to his t-shirt that is prominently displayed the entire time the young lady is going down on him. It’s not like this counts as biting political satire, but I appreciated the irreverent sense of humor.
Among the name stars that appear here are Sharon Mitchell, in a girl-on-girl scene with a very pregnant woman; Taboo 2’s Dorothy LeMay, as a wheelchair-bound woman serviced by a very helpful stud; and Annie Sprinkle, who orally services a clearly very satisfied dude. My favorite scene was one of the last, between Erica Boyer and Mai Lin. A lot of lesbian porn can be a turnoff, particularly for women (so I’m told), because it’s clear when the women are faking it. However, Boyer is clearly not faking it, and there’s a lot of slow, sensual foreplay here which eventually gives way to eager, aggressive sex (as the liner notes by Robin Bougie put it, Boyer “drops Mai in a dyke pile driver and enthusiastically motorboats her cute little Chinese butthole”). Boyer, who passed away in 2010, is a pleasure to watch - she’s gorgeous, with her bleached, punk hairdo and wonderfully curvy body, and she’s clearly having a lot of fun, which is probably the most important thing for any porn performer. I’ll definitely be looking up more of her filmography.
As I mentioned before, there’s no sound featured in any of the loops here, except for the constant clicking of a movie projector, a nice touch that underlines the time capsule quality of this collection. As for the video, considering what Synapse had to work with, they’ve done a fine job - colors are vivid, and there’s a surprising amount of detail for a DVD mastered from 8mm prints. The quality of the prints varies from one loop to the next, but they all feature lots of visible scratching, dust and hairs in the gate. In this case, though, the flaws are sort of charming, only enhancing the peep show element of the experience.
Nothing other than the ability to select a particular loop or “Play All.” The DVD does include liner notes by Robin Bougie of Cinema Sewer, who provides some context about the performers and the origins of stag loops, and is prone to enjoyably colorful descriptive phrases like “fat, pasty white sweater-sacks.”
No genre is more subjective than porn, and whether this collection of vintage porn is arousing is entirely up to the individual, but for anyone with an interest in the subject, The Peep Show Collection is an entertaining tour through a forgotten chapter in film history.