The Private Pleasures of John C. Holmes
J.J. English, 1983, 83 min.
As the only known feature-length gay film made by the infamously well-endowed Mr. Holmes, Private Pleasures couldn't help but pique my interest when I saw it sitting on the shelf. Nevertheless, the film itself is a rather sorry affair. Holmes plays a sultan lording over a harem of young men and, after a delightfully chintzy fire-dance intro by one of the guys, he gets down to business and spends the rest of the film insatiably boffing his way through the entire cast. Um...that's it.
So yeah, it's not exactly a roller coaster ride in the plot department. As for the sex, it's serviceable, despite Holmes himself not being particularly attractive; the other boys range from not-bad to kinda gross. Joey Yale, of Fred Halsted's masterful L.A. Plays Itself, does his best to keep things interesting and seems to be holding himself together fairly well, but generally, the cast just seems to be doing its duty, nothing more.
Of note is one harem boy who always seems to have his back toward the camera and frequently disappears whenever anything starts to get heavy. Close examinations of "his" face during side shots, in addition to all of this trickery, makes it fairly obvious that the young man here is actually a woman in drag, which kind of adds insult to limpid injury.
Of similarly depressing note is the fact that the four primary cast-members all subsequently died of AIDS. Whether or not Private Pleasures itself is responsible is up for debate, depending on what source you consult; nevertheless, it's a shame to contemplate this rather lame flick as a kiss of death, particularly since things could have been made so much more interesting. The idea of porn as an exploration of fantasy seems a particularly fertile one and would seem to yield a great deal of possibility for exploration of human desire and for depiction of the kinds of fantastic sexual experimentation that canonly really be achieved through cinema. That so many productions, Private Pleasures most definitely included, simply use this notion as an excuse for more of the same wearying bump-and-grind is really a missed opportunity.
Nevertheless, despite not just its failings but its wasted potential, I'm at least glad I saw the film so that I may be able to discuss it. For better or worse, it's at least an interesting (if depressing) curiosity, if not a small milestone of alternative sexual culture, so for that alone, it at least merits one viewing to see what all the fuss is about. Nevertheless, it's really not a repeat-viewer. Who knows? Maybe if you're nice to me, you could score my copy...