Accomplished artist and writer, Robin Bougie, will no doubt be a familiar name to visitors of Mondo Exploito. I was introduced to Robin’s exploitation movie zine, Cinema Sewer, by fellow Mondo Exploito scribe Pierre who had provided some artwork for an issue. Flicking through Cinema Sewer, I was in fucking heaven. Handwritten lettering, great artwork, and reviews and articles about movies and genres I loved — I couldn’t believe I’d lived my life without it up until that point. I raided PolyEster Books buying every Cinema Sewer they had and a handful of Robin’s Sleazy Slice comics.
Outside of his self-published work, Robin has provided liner notes and cover art for several DVD and blu-ray releases. He has also recently wrapped up the first season of a fantastic podcast with Tim Hulsizer and caused many screams of terror with the release of Retard-O-Tron III. If that wasn’t enough, earlier this year, the always reliable FAB Press published Graphic Thrills: American XXX Movie Posters, 1970 to 1985 — a jaw-dropping journey through porn’s past.
It’s sort of funny how it came about — FAB brought the idea to me, fully formed. That’s not the funny part though. The awesome thing is that I came up with the exact same idea about 5 years earlier and was shopping it around to various publishers, although it never dawned on me to ask FAB at that time. The two book publishers that got back to me both told me that it was not really something they felt they could make money on, and that the posters in question were “lacking” aesthetically. My mistake is that I figured they must know know much better than I do, because they’re publishers, so I gave up the idea. Learn from my mistake, kids. NEVER let them tell you that the thing you’re so passionate about is stupid. If it needs to happen, make it happen. So yeah, imagine how thrilled I was when FAB came to me, asking me to write this book! It seemed predestined, somehow, and Graphic Thrills book one is the only project in my entire publishing career (I’ve been self-publishing since I was 17) that turned out exactly how I envisioned it when I sat down and started it. That’s incredibly rare for that to happen in the creative process. For me, anyhow.
The posters in the book are stunning, and kind of a depressing reminder how movie poster design has become something of a lost art form outside of a few niche artists. Do you have a favourite poster that features in Graphic Thrills?
I’m very fond of the one-sheet for the Essex pictures release, Hot Lunch. It’s from 1978. There are so many in here that I’m pumped about, but that one is just so iconic and aesthetically pleasing. The poster is more famous than the movie is, actually. Sadly, I’ve never been able to figure out who painted that one, but I guess that is part of the fun, right? The mystery, and trying to solve it! Due to extensive detective work by myself and some of my XXX-loving friends like Christian McLaughlin over at Westgate Gallery, we are figuring out the identities of these artists very slowly by surely, but Hot Lunch is one that we still haven’t managed to uncover. It’s really the last story to be told about these movies, when you think about it — who made the advertising art, I mean. It’s a real shame. It’s the only major credit for any given movie that the IMDB doesn’t bother to even have a placeholder for. The artists aren’t honored, and that’s what I’m looking to do with this series, if I can.
What was the process of sourcing the poster art for the book? Does it mostly come from private collections?
Various collectors around the world helped out with book one. Some came from my collection, some from FAB’s collection. All over the place. A bunch came from a local porn theater called The Venus in my neighborhood that was bulldozed a few years back, and a friend named Dimidtri Otis was smart enough to save the posters and the film prints before the wrecking ball came through. The collection from The Venus was the same one that Impulse made their 42nd Street Forever: XXX-Treme Special Edition DVD from. So yeah, I got all the posters from all over the place, and then everything was sent to the UK to be scanned on a big flatbed scanner, and then I cleaned everything up digitally. I used to work in a photography studio as a photo-retoucher back in the day, so it’s nice to finally get to use that training again. Keep in mind, many of these posters hung in the lobbies of the theaters, and had rips, pinholes, creases and such. Some of them were really banged up. It was hundreds of hours alone just restoring them back to their original brilliance. I’m really pleased and quite proud of how they reproduced in the end.
The book isn’t just comprised of posters — there’s a lot of text too. It looks like it was an enormous undertaking. How long did it take to complete?
Yeah, every other genre film poster book before this was just a bunch of pretty pictures and no context. I didn’t want that. I wanted to do it right. It took a year and a half to research and write, and then another 8 months or so of scanning the posters, restoring them, waiting on the printer to be ready to print it, and other such delays. That’s what the publishing industry is, a lot of the time. A lot of waiting, and then go go go, and then more waiting around. But I’m not complaining at all — every delay served to make the book better than it was going to be previously. It’s all part of that process. Anything really worthwhile takes some time to do, I find.
What was your first experience with porn? What do you remember about it?Oh, you never forget your first time! haha! Well, since I’m a child of the 1970s I found my first soggy, mildew-covered magazines in the woods. I was just a little kid, you know? Elementary school — grade two I think. I was with three little girls at the time, one of which has since gone on to become a major news anchor on American network television (I won’t kiss and tell, so don’t ask who it was!) and we sat there on a log in the woods and looked at a bunch of hairy vaginas and purple boners with our eyes like saucers. I remember how amazed I was by it. Not turned on, and not disgusted (well, maybe a little), but more just… astounded. It really started a trend for me, an ongoing thing where I was fascinated with the adult world, the “sinful” aspects of it that I felt I wasn’t supposed to be seeing because I wasn’t old enough yet. Within a few years, I’d be sneaking out after midnight to go and talk to the street prostitutes downtown. I wanted so desperately to know them. I sort of idolized them, actually, because I imagined that they were so knowledgeable and mysterious. I didn’t know anything about sex, and I knew that they were experts. I was barely in junior high, and they would shoo me away. I don’t blame them! Haha! Stupid kid.
My first porn film was one that my older brother accidentally left in his VCR. It was called The Invitation of Cynthia, and it starred Amber Lynn, Colleen Brennan, John Leslie, George Payne, and Jerry Butler — all of whom have gone on to become classic porn faves of mine. The funny thing is that by the end of that summer, I had every single syllable of that film memorized, and when I finally returned to it a decade ago, when I finally tracked that VHS tape down again, I found that I still remembered most of the dialog! Haha! I always say if only they had been reciting math equations and Shakespeare, I’d have been the most brilliant kid on my fucking block! Haha!
Boogie Nights suggests that video tape “killed” porn. While I love the film, I don’t really agree considering there’s a whole stack of great SOV porn flicks from the 80s and even the 90s, and I can certainly understand why it upset the late great Jamie Gillis who took the On the Prowl parody as a personal insult. But I do think, somewhere down the line, mainstream porn became pretty boring. Why do you think mainstream porn has, for the most part, thrown aside story? And where did all the directors with passion and vision disappear to?
I don’t really think video “killed” porn as much as mutated it. It became something else. No matter how much anyone may love shot-on-video, they have to concede that it makes for a totally different viewing experience than shot-on-film. Even the way they shoot it was different. They could shoot all day and not worry about the cost of the film stock, and that changes how careful they were, it changed the mentality of the filmmaker. I don’t think shot-on-video is inherently bad or anything, but it’s very different. It cultivated a very different sex industry in the later half of the 1980s, mostly because of the amount of profit it allowed for. Profit does something interesting when added to the creative process, it perverts artistry when you make too much money. I don’t mean that money is bad, only that it changes the rules of the game.
Listen, the artists simply got pushed out of the business and were replaced by opportunists. And yeah, it led to the product becoming utterly homogenized and predictable. A color-by-numbers form of entertainment made up of cliches and somewhat devoid of creativity. American porn hasn’t held too much interest for me since the 1990s, over and above the few minutes it holds my attention before I cum. It’s pathetic how one-dimensional it is. Whereas the old stuff I can watch over and over again, finding new elements to entertain me every time! The music, the costumes, the real tits, the dialog, the storylines… hell even the fucking shag carpeting on the floor! It’s dynamic stuff, man. There is a lot to like about these movies, because they were actually movies, as opposed to simply some footage of sex happening. It’s a huge difference that many people don’t recognize. That was one of my goals with this book, to make a case for that, and why it’s important to see that distinction.
Porn has always been demonised by a whole slew of different banner waving moralists. The crusade against it still seems strong, but do you think things have gotten at least a little easier for those in the industry compared to the early days?
Talk to people in the UK. They’re seeing a return at this very moment in the way the government and the media is gearing up for another Thatcher-era porn-squash. The crusade against it is very strong depending what part of the world you’re in, but here in North America there is a bit of a lull at the moment. It comes in waves, though, and it’s interesting to see what each new generation sees as important in terms of freedom of expression. All of the hand-wringing, wrinkled brows about sexuality and moralizing about obscenity I witness is coming from the far left, now. They’re really worried about offending people, and making sure everything is fair, and “rape culture”, and “trigger warnings”, and making sure no one has a hurt feeling, ever. I’m a feminist myself and wholeheartedly believe in equality, but that only gets you so much cred with the far left. Being a member of the godless white male patriarchy means I have all the power and the money and zero compassion or morality, so it’s sort of fun to play with that as the blood coating the hands of my forefathers drips down and washes over me like a gore-shower. The offended generation get plenty worked up about it, though. They ain’t laughin’. What are you gonna do? Just smile and love your fellow peeps, I guess! Haha! That’s what I do.
Are there any lost hardcore classics that you’ve heard about or read about that you’re desperate to see?
Tons! Hell, even some in the Graphic Thrills book itself. I tracked down and reviewed as many of the movies as I could, but in some cases I just had to write about the history and stories of the people who made them, because that particular movie is impossible to get on a home format. Hell, in some cases the poster and/or the pressbook is the only thing that still exists. Sexual Fantasies USA (1973) for instance, is one. We don’t even know who starred in it or who directed it, because they didn’t bother to put it on the poster. Another movie I’d love to finally see is Peepholes from 1982. I really like roughies, and that’s one that has never surfaced as of yet. Troll-like Bobby Astyr plays a pervert landlord who apparently hides in the walls of the building he manages, and spies on various tenants before molesting them. It’s pretty scuzzy from what I’ve read.
Wow! That sounds fucking amazing! You’ve interviewed porn stars and directors from both past and present. Have you noticed a change in attitudes towards the industry between those who worked during the early days and those working currently?
If you take into account how people change depending on how old they are, you see powerful similarities — you see some universal truths about who we are at different stages of our lives. The young men and women I’ve interviewed today working in porn are very very similar to the young men and women working in porn as they were when I read interviews with them from the 1970s and 1980s. And the people who were young back then, who I’ve interviewed today when they are in their 50s, 60s and 70s? Well, they’re very much like anyone else you might know at that age who wasn’t in XXX, even so far as to how they perceive today’s porn. For instance: I would say that 90% of the women who were doing porn back then are somewhat aghast at what they witness in porn today, even though there was all kinds of perverted kinky shit back then, too. It’s just something that happens to people in our culture, right? It’s almost a cliche. The older generation aren’t able relate to the younger generation. We always think they’re taking it too far, or just going through the motions, or being ignorant. We feel sort of alienated by them, and wish they could learn from our lessons. Meanwhile, they don’t seem to think they have anything to learn from us, and want to blaze their own path, and don’t want to be judged, and think we’re ignorant, etc etc. It doesn’t just happen in porn, it happens in every home on this continent.
How did The Cumming of Jizzus come about? Did you enjoy the experience of working in the porn genre?
A writer friend of mine, Karina Sims, wrote a script, and showed it to me. I thought it was pretty goddamn funny, and I showed it to a friend of mine named Chelsea Chainsaw, who had made a few student film shorts, and had told me she’d wanted to make a full-length porno. She was really excited about it, so she talked me into the whole idea of taking the script, and making a porn movie with it. The idea being that it would be a real adventure to make our first porn movie together. We had no real idea what the hell we were doing, but I had a friend who I’d written about in my magazine Cinema Sewer. He was a dick for hire in the local Vancouver BC porn industry named Matt Daddy. We asked him for advice, and he not only hooked us up with various connections, he even starred in the movie as Jizzus. So it was a real learning experience, overall. There were no clothes allowed on the set, so Chelsea had a blast telling myself and a bunch of other naked people what to do for the 4 or 5 evenings it took us to shoot it.
I got to be a producer, an actor, a boom guy, and the doofus in charge of sopping up piss and cum off the floor. We had planned to make a second movie, a post-apocalyptic porn movie about roving violent girl-gangs in muscle cars called Humpmonkey Wasteland, but it didn’t happen, and I just ended up making it into a 44 page porno comic book which appeared in the 6th issue of my comic series Sleazy Slice. All of this stuff, The Cumming of Jizzus, Sleazy Slice, Cinema Sewer — all of it — is available for purchase in my online webstore, which is at: http://cinemasewer.ecrater.com/
Some of the Japanese videos you’ve reviewed in Cinema Sewer are truly nuts – for example, Tampon Tango, which has to be among the maddest things to ever exist. Do you have any thoughts or theories on why Japan seems to have retained a sense of creativity in its pornography?
You know what? I have watched a lot of modern Japanese porn, and I have been amazed by, and have routinely commented on exactly what you describe, and yet I don’t have any good theories on why that is! I really don’t. I just enjoy the differences as they exist and appreciate them in print. I have some suspicions, but I really I wish I knew in an educated way. I guess those amazing cultural aspects are something to research, aren’t they? It’s yet another reason I’d like to go to Japan. Someday when I’m not poor, I guess.
My favourite thing about the way you write is that you have this uncanny ability to get me really, really excited about whatever you’re writing about. Your stuff reads like you’re having a blast writing it. Has there ever been any article that was a chore to write? Something you’ve been so unenthused about you struggled to muster the energy to put together an article? In the last Cinema Sewer, you review a porn parody of The Addams Family (hilariously retitled The Anus Family) that you really disliked, but it’s still written in a way that it had me laughing hard (and I kind of want to see The Anus Family now).
Haha! That Anus Family review was really fun to write, actually. There was a lot in that video to complain about! Haha! I generally don’t like to have a lot of negativity in Cinema Sewer, because I find that a little bit of it goes a long way, and it is sort of becomes a crutch that a lot of modern reviewers fall back on to be funny. Especially reviewers on YouTube like The Angry Video Game Nerd, or “That Guy with the Glasses”? You know who I mean? It’s a real gimmicky shtick to just pick something apart, and try to be all hilarious as you get all mock-angry about how bad a movie is. I find it gets really old when the reader/viewer gets a feel for the tropes of it. You can tell that they’re really laying it on thick when a movie doesn’t even remotely deserve to be ranted about, because it’s what their fans expect of them. I’d hate to get into that kind of trap, so I save those sorts of rants for shit that really steams me when I see it. Then I try to make something really fun to read from it, if I can. If something is pretty average or not that great, I just pass on it, and wait until I see something really cool that people might want to know about. I can still happily pick apart and be critical about the parts of it that could have been better and just have that be part of the enthusiasm for the medium and the genre. I think my readers love these types of movies as much as I do, so to me it’s like we’re all at a party and watching the movies together!
We try to steer away from that kind of over the top negativity too (unless the film really deserves it). I love that Cinema Sewer is mostly hand-lettered and clearly so much love and attention goes into each issue. Why is this hands on approach important to you?
Because as soon as it’s hand-lettered, then it’s the work of an individual. It’s personal. It’s special. That’s entirely the reason, to set myself apart from a corporate and anonymous world of media that surrounds us every single day, and harken back to an age of zines lettered by hand, drawn by hand, and printed by hand. There is an artistry and a soul to that way of working which makes your audience feel cared for and warm, like they’ve got a nice big comfy blanket on. Where you really feel like you’re getting to know an individual through their creative work. That’s very important to me, and I can’t figure out why it isn’t more important to more writers, but oh well.
You and Roelewapper did an amazing job with Retard-O-Tron III [a video mixtape of hilarious and nightmarish clips]. I think it’s the best one yet. I had to look away from the screen twice: the Japanese adult video where an attractive girl projectile vomits all over a nicely cooked meal and then her date’s face, and the bit with the redneck guy pulling his toenail off and eating peanut butter with it. Outside of death videos, have you ever seen anything so foul or fucked up that you had to look away from the television?
Yes, that toenail peanut butter clip you just mentioned! I have to look away every single time. I was able to watch “two girls one cup” several times without so much as a blink, but that one gets me. Glad to hear I wasn’t the only one!
I’ve been really digging the Cinema Sewer Podcast. You and Tim seem perfectly matched as hosts. Are there plans to continue with the podcast? It’s been a few months since the last one.
Yes, we’re taking a break between seasons, which are 6 episodes long each. The new season just started. I’m really glad you like it! Tim Hulsizer is doing a great job editing it, and helping me host. He’s the reason it even exists. The reason I waited so long to do one was that I wanted just the right person to do it with, because I felt like it would be boring just having me on there alone. I like the back-and-forth of conversation, but conversation that is informed, you know? I wanted someone who was funny, but also knows their shit, and can help me with editing because I don’t have time to do that, and the books, and the comics, and work my day job at the videostore, and everything else. I needed the help. Unfortunately, Tim works a full-time job too, so it’s a real challenge for us to get it together as often as we’d like, but when we can it seems to work out well.
To return to Graphic Thrills, you’ve referred to it as “book one”. Are there plans to make more volumes? What will the followup volumes focus on? Or is that a surprise?
Working on the second volume right now! The plan is to make it 3 volumes. It’s sort of a surprise, but expect more of the same, and I should say that I’m really excited about the stuff I’m writing about, and the fucked up and interesting info I’m uncovering for it. It’s coming along amazing, and I can’t wait for people to see volume two. You should expect it for June or perhaps July 2015.
Where is the best place for people to buy Graphic Thrills?
If they want it it signed and doodled in, they should get it from my online store: http://cinemasewer.ecrater.com/
If they live overseas, it might be cheaper shipping to order it from my publisher in the UK, which is at:
Otherwise, just order it from your favorite online or local retail bookseller! And if they don’t have it, get them to order it for you! They might see how cool it looks, and get a few more copies in for their other customers, so that works great for me.
Huge thanks to Robin for the interview. I can’t tell you how much I recommend picking up Graphic Thrills. It is definitely the swankiest looking hardcover on my shelf, and I can’t wait to read the whole thing. Like Robin said, this is not your average poster book of pretty pictures.