Rated X (2000) from Johnny Web (Uncle Scoopy; Greg Wroblewski) and Tuna
|Two thumbs down from the
Siskel and Ebert of smut
Rated X starts with a scene in which porno baron Jim Mitchell (Emilio Estevez in a bald wig, looking like Frederick March in Inherit the Wind) sits and listens to his brother Artie (Estevez's real brother, Charlie Sheen) scream death threats over the answering machine. Thus begins the film in flashback from there.
Although Charlie Sheen is playing the part of Artie Mitchell, a noted devotee of women and the high life, it's not clear if he knew he was in a movie, or if they just filmed him going about his normal life.
|Jim and Artie Mitchell were enterpreneurs who were in the right place at the right time. Wounded by the harsh censure of a professor (played in the movie by Peter Bogdanovich), Jim left San Francisco State College's film school in the late '60's and began cranking out hardcore porn to make enough money to finance his film career. Working cheaply, with a group of students and ex-students, Jim brought film school technique and pretension to xxx features, and at the same time made a good living by meeting the tenderloin theaters' hunger for product.||
brother Artie joined the team, they concentrated on
producing vertically integrated product for their own
theater, first in film, then in live acts. They were
arrested dozens of times, and that added to their
counter-cultural cache in that special time, when
cultural rebels were admired everywhere, and no place
more than San Francisco. They went from successful local
entrepreneurs to international porno barons when
they scored with Behind the Green Door, a
successful crossover feature, made for $60,000 (a massive
budget for a 1971 porn film) starring former Ivory soap
girl Marilyn Chambers, which took in something like $25
million at the box office.
Jim explained to the press that he never wanted to add plots to his film, but did it entirely for the protection it offered in "redeeming social importance". "If the cops hadn't bothered us, we probably wouldn't have gotten into stories." The money they made on Green Door allowed them to expand their theater chain to 11 units, and they prospered on-and-off for two decades until the fatal incident that sent Jim to prison.
Although Rated X implies that Jim Mitchell was a misunderstood artist, we never really get to see enough of their work to judge that. Mainly we see them get drunk, fire up a doob, snort some blow, get arrested, and start all over. I had no feel for their films after watching this, and I don't remember them well enough to share much with you. (I never saw Green Door). The film never explains how Jim abandoned his original dream of using porn to finance real films, even though there was considerable ado about that in the introductory section.
Artie fell prey to cocaine addiction, got crazy, threatened Jim and his family with pistols. Jim retaliated by killing Artie with a shotgun, and was freed in late 1997 after serving six years for voluntary manslaughter.
You'd think that would make a great yarn, and a really raunchy one, but the truth is that this film is fairly tame, and is more pseudo-artistic than sensationalistic. The director experiments with a lot of gothic angles and tries to create a thriller-film atmosphere in the climactic shootout.
Tuna's comments follow in yellow
Rated X is a Showtime release that purports to be the story of porn legends The Mitchell Bros. Scoopy has pretty much outlined the plot and covered the exposure in his review. For me, this was a terrible piece of film making, turning a silk purse of a story into a sows ear. Rather than a balanced character study of the two brothers who made the first sex film with a story, and created an empire of theaters and movie distribution which crashed around them when Jim killed Artie, who he felt was a danger to everyone he knew due to his drug addiction, they made it into a "drugs suck" film.
This is not the first I have watched, nor nearly the best. For a good but depressing treatment of this topic, see "The Rose" or "Sid and Nancy" (or "Requiem for a Dream", adds Scoop) Estevez directed, and went for a pretentious rock video feel, with some grainy 8 mm inserts. The editing does not make the story clear, and several things are just plain wrong. At one point, Artie is very high, and accuses his wife of cheating at gunpoint. She runs out of the house, and drives off, leaving her two small children alone with her armed and drug-crazed husband. Sorry, but that just would not happen.
Behind the Green Door was the film that made them millionaires. In Rated X, Artie dreams up the plot, fails at directing it, and Jim does it right. This is total fiction, and the real story of Behind the Green Door is an interesting one. US GIs in Korea group wrote a sexual fantasy, each subsequent author adding his own fantasies and improving the story. Behind The Green Door began to circulate as an underground story, especially among beatniks, In 1956, mainstream America was sort of introduced to its existence, but not really, when a song called "The Green Door" made Billboard #1 for three weeks. Artist: Jim Lowe, Words by Marvin Moore and Music by Bob Davie. Here are the lyrics:
one more night without sleepin')
an old piano
once, tried to tell them I'd been there)
one more night without sleepin')
(Green door, what's that secret you're keepin?)
who knew about the book could barely contain their
laughter around the people who loved the song, but had no
idea what it was about. Behind the Green Door was not
especially explicit by today's standards, with very few
monster shots. Marilyn doesn't have a single line in the
film, and has to act her ass off to get the story across.
I have never seen a good print of the film, and suspect
that the original is not technically that sharp. The
Mitchell Bros. played the hired kidnapers in the film.
The most interesting content on the Rated X DVD is an interview with Marilyn Chambers, who talks mostly about meeting the Mitchell Bros. and making Behind the Green Door. She mentions in the interview that she actually got into the sex, which is one of the reasons it worked so well. They did use an actress who resembled the young Marilyn.
As Scoop mentioned, there is a lot of nudity in this film, but being from the San Francisco area, having been in Mitchell Bros. theaters, and living here when Jim killed Artie, I was hoping for a great film. I was very disappointed
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