Retro Porn Rev: Behind the Green Door

January 2, 2014
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Coming from the infamous Mitchell Brothers, and riding the hype that Deep Throat was creating that same year, Behind the Green Door became one of the most famous adult films of the ‘porno chic’ movement of the 70s. Perhaps Deep Throat is more famous and a more logical choice to start this column with, but Behind the Green Door was the first porn movie that I watched that didn’t just have the usual masturbatory-only purpose, and opened my mind up to the era’s great blue movies. This is what started it all for me.

Let’s not fool ourselves, there’s not a big plot here. It’s a vague idea and almost na├»ve in its simplicity, but there’s an underlying tension as you keep watching and have no idea about what’s going on, that is equally frustrating and fascinating. The film’s first appearance of any kind of nudity comes by the minute 15, which contributes to the weirdness of it all, but it also gives it a slow build up that a viewer rarely expects in an adult movie. This is what happens when complete artistic freedom finds an excuse that will bring people to the theaters. That excuse, of course, is called Marilyn Chambers, a then very young, fresh faced girl-next-door type that would become one of the most legendary adult performers of all-time, as well as one of the most successful crossover stories in the business.

The film follows Gloria, a young San Francisco socialite that gets kidnapped and taken to a mysterious sex club, where she is “loved as never before,” while being introduced to the most surreal sexual and personal experiences of her life.

One thing that always interested me about this movie is that the emotional focus is on the female star. Now, physically, this happens often in porn, but we’re rarely taken aback to feel and empathize with the leading woman’s experience. The fact that Marilyn Chambers could convey this without one single word of dialogue (she doesn’t utter a word throughout the whole thing) is even more impressive, as her facial expressions and body language turned an over-the-top series of events into something the viewer could embody. We are experiencing what this clandestine sex club is about, but through Marilyn’s eyes. We might feel the excitement and freedom, but we’re also nervous and unsure of what’s happening; we’re lost in the experience, for better or worse.

Behind the Green Door also broke some ground by showing an edgy interracial scene that would seem normal nowadays, but 40 years ago shocked a sizable amount of people. The pure and virginal white girl is being warmed up on stage, only to be ravished by a big black dude with a mean funk groove playing in the background. It’s a powerful scene that, oddly enough, becomes almost intimate, in spite of its public setting.

A climactic (to say the least) bit happens near the end, when a nearly 6-minute long money shot is shown in slow motion with crazy color schemes and a droney psychedelic sound wall that, more than taking people’s minds away from sex and into drug-inspired moments, became one of the most gorgeous shots ever recorded in porn. That was the moment that I realized this wasn’t just about sex, but about complete hedonistic empowerment; a joy for the senses and a much different way to look at pornography.

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