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review added: 7/11/03



Porn Star: The Legend of Ron Jeremy
Unrated Edition - 2001 (2003) - Maelstrom (Docurama)

review by Adam Jahnke of The Digital Bits

Porn Star (Unrated) Film Rating: B

Disc Ratings (Video/Audio/Extras): B+/B+/C+

Specs and Features

76 mins, NR, full frame (1.33:1), keepcase packaging, single-sided, dual-layered (no layer switch), audio commentary (with Ron Jeremy and director Scott J. Gill), 11 deleted scenes, crew bios, Ron Jeremy's filmography and pornography, Docurama catalog & trailers (for Regret to Inform, Speaking In Strings, Don't Look Back, Dancemaker and others), film-themed menu screens, scene access (12 chapters), languages: English (DD 2.0 Stereo), subtitles: none


Porn movies are show business' dirty little secret. Hardly anybody will admit to watching an adult movie, much less cop to enjoying it. Well, all those videos and DVD's must be buying themselves then, 'cause porn is still a million-dollar business. Sure, it's gone through plenty of changes over the years. The days of 70mm 3-D porn extravaganzas are long gone, replaced by digital video quickies designed to emphasize naked copulating bodies over such old-fashioned luxuries as plot, production design, and cinematography. And the porn star of today is likely to have more artificial body parts than the Six Million-Dollar Man and the Bionic Woman put together. With a window of popularity considerably shorter than Andy Warhol's 15 minutes, porn stars rarely cross over into anything even resembling the mainstream. On the female side, you have Traci Lords, who has made a concerted effort to distance herself from her underage XXX-rated past. And representing for the guys, cinema's unlikeliest sex object, Mr. Ron Jeremy.

Even if you've never seen a porn movie (yeah, right), odds are that you probably have some idea who Ron Jeremy is. An ordinary looking guy, at least above the waist, Ron is the classic Everyman porn star. Ron is not now nor has he ever been blessed with six-pack abs and classically good looks. Unlike other porn stars of his generation, Ron has continued to perform in adult movies even as his hairline recedes and his waistline protrudes. Of course, like any porn star worth his weight in condoms, Ron does pack an impressive member and enough self-control to make Not-So-Little-Ron get off the money shot on cue. I would venture to say that it's this ability that separates Ron Jeremy from his legion of fans that identify so closely with him.

Full disclosure time. Thanks to my association with Troma, I actually know Ron a little bit. Usually, I try not to review movies where I personally know any of the people involved. But in this case, we thought it might be interesting to see how well the image of Ron Jeremy in Porn Star fits in with the Ron Jeremy I've dealt with in the real world. Besides, I've never met director Scott J. Gill or anyone else involved with this film. And it's not like I'm hanging out at parties in the Hollywood Hills with Ron every Saturday night.

As it happens, Porn Star is basically right on the money. Ron's an extremely nice, very friendly guy who just happens to work in the adult film industry. Off screen, he's as straight-laced as anyone I've met in Hollywood. He doesn't smoke, drink or do drugs. He's a shameless self-promoter but when he does stop talking about himself long enough to have a conversation with somebody, he actually listens to what you have to say. And unlike a lot of actors I've dealt with, Ron takes his work extremely seriously. This is the Ron Jeremy that Gill captures in his documentary. You get the feeling that if Ron wasn't working in show business, he'd be just as committed to teaching special education kids... which, in fact, is exactly what he was doing before he came to L.A..

Does Porn Star sugarcoat the porn industry? Sure, to a certain extent. But this isn't a film about adult films in general. It's about the life of Ron Jeremy and his experiences in porn have been by and large overwhelmingly positive. So you can't really fault Gill for not broadening his scope. If anything, he deserves praise for not pursuing an anti-porn agenda that wouldn't really fit in with his chosen subject matter. My main criticism with Porn Star would be that at less than an hour and a half, it seems way too short. It touches upon Ron's parents and his pre-stardom days just enough to make you realize that the early life of Ron Jeremy Hyatt and his family was pretty darn fascinating. Unfortunately, Gill wants to hurry up and get to the sex so these moments are shortchanged.

The rest of the film is funny, insightful and often surprisingly endearing. Ron's 70's heyday is depicted through well-chosen clips, interviews with contemporaries like Al Goldstein and Larry Flynt, and some extremely witty editing. While Gill doesn't cross the line into hardcore porn with his film clips, there is plenty of full-frontal nudity, both male and female, so if for some reason you pick up a movie called Porn Star but don't want to see any erect penises, beware of the unrated version. Later on, Gill zooms in on Ron's attempts to become a mainstream star, whether it's in music, standup comedy or non-porn films such as his blink-and-you'll-miss-it appearance in Killing Zoe.

Docurama, a relatively new company devoted to releasing non-fiction films on disc, has given Porn Star a DVD release almost as well endowed as Ron himself. Technically, the film's presentation is more than acceptable. The movie itself combines shot-on-video interviews and candid footage with vintage movie clips, TV appearances, and even home movies shot by Ron's dad. You can't really blame the sometimes-shaky quality of the vintage clips on either Gill or Docurama. Anyway, all of the original footage looks surprisingly good. It's crystal clear and looks just about as good as footage like this will ever look on disc. The stereo mix is equally fine. The main sound problem with documentaries like this is usually that interviewees are sometimes poorly miked. That's not the case here. The sound is uniformly solid and clean.

In terms of extras, the main draw is a full-length audio commentary by Ron Jeremy and Scott J. Gill. This is one of those love-it-or-hate-it tracks; often making you feel both ways within minutes. Ron and Scott basically talk all over each other throughout the film and, making matters worse, don't seem to be listening to what the other one is saying. Scott has a particularly irritating tendency to refer to Ron in the third person, as if he's not sitting right next to him the whole time. These inconveniences aside, this is a revealing and often hilarious commentary. It's certainly one of the few I've listened to where the star of the film repeatedly calls his director an asshole.

Eleven deleted scenes are also included which are worth looking at once but you'll probably never return to. None of them are as funny or interesting as the deleted scenes on the American Movie DVD. Other extras are text-based. You get bios for the key crewmembers, highlights from Mr. Jeremy's extensive filmography in both porn and non-porn (I don't blame them for not including his complete filmography... you'd wear out the arrow keys on your remote clicking through all those screens), as well as trailers and information on other Docurama releases.

Docurama is a pretty interesting company that's filling a valuable niche in the DVD market. With titles ranging from the Bob Dylan doc Don't Look Back to the Michael Moore series The Awful Truth, they seem to offer a documentary for everybody. Porn Star might not be the crown jewel in their catalog, but it is a funny, fast-paced glimpse at a truly unique character. There are plenty of documentaries out there about the porn industry, most of them dour cautionary tales that strike me as being fairly hypocritical ("Pornography is bad and to prove it, take a look at all this pornography!"). Porn Star is the antithesis of these movies. It's a lot of fun and after watching it; you'll still respect yourself in the morning.

Adam Jahnke
ajahnke@thedigitalbits.com




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