Ed D. Louie (pseudonym)
NOTE: Although my review contains no "adult" content (i.e. pornography), some of the sources quoted in this article include strong language and sexual references. For the purposes of journalistic candour, all are reproduced here in their full, unexpurgated form. Reader discretion is advised.
Are you curious about HIS sexual life? If this ad is a little too coy about giving away exactly whose sexual life it is referring to, let me spell it out for you: J-E-S-U-S - H - C-H-R-I-S-T.
But this isn't just any old scandal-baiting religious art-flick, no siree. Look a little closer, at the strapline under the title: "X-Rated... All Male Cast".
That's right boys and ghouls, Him was a hardcore gay porno... about Jesus.
Oddly enough, despite the explosively controversial potential of the subject matter, surprisingly little is known about the film. It seems to be an example of a truly "lost" movie; to all appearances, it has fallen off the face of the Earth, with nary a dusty bootleg videotape or a scratched-up old film print having shown up to prove it ever existed. Indeed, there are some who maintain it never did, but, by piecing together all known information on the film, as well as dabbling in a little original research of my own, I reckon I've proven the naysayers wrong. Him did exist, and it may still be out there... somewhere.
The film's first, and to date only, mainstream media exposure didn't come until 1980, in Michael and Harry Medved's book The Golden Turkey Awards. In this book and its sequels, the Medveds would hand out "Golden Turkeys" to films, in numerous categories, that they considered to be of particularly low quality. In the first book of the series, Him appears as the winning nominee in the "Most Un-Erotic Concept in Pornography" category and is described as follows:
This innovative film, designed exclusively for gay audiences, goes into excruciating detail concerning the erotic career of Jesus Christ. The ads for the film show the face of The Savior (with a cross glistening in one eye) while the headline inquires "Are You Curious About HIS Sexual Life?" Filmmaker Ed D. Louie satisfies that curiosity by showing us that the Son of Man was a voracious homosexual. (After all, why did he spend all that time hanging around with the Apostles?) The central character of the film is actually a young gay male in contemporary America whose sexual obsession with Jesus helps him to understand the "hidden meaning" of the Gospels.However, on the very first page of the book, the Medveds proclaim: "Over 425 actual films are described in this book, but one is a complete hoax. Can you find it?"
For sheer tastelessness, this film has no equals. In one scene, our homosexual hero goes to his local priest to confess his erotic fixation on Jesus Christ. The priest sits in the confessional, listening to the young man breathlessly elaborating his perverted fantasies, while taking advantage of the situation to reach under his cassock and masturbate grotesquely on camera. This charming episode surely marks one of the absolute low points in the history of American cinema. Those pathetic few who might want to see Him ought to come to the theater dressed in plain, brown paper wrappers, that hopefully cover their eyes along with the rest of their faces.
This statement has prompted many to believe that Him was the fake film in question, to assume that it never actually existed outside the pages of the book. Likely, given the uniquely obscure and outlandish nature of the alleged picture (in comparison to other films featured in the book), any Golden Turkey readers whose interest might otherwise have been piqued into researching further would have come up against this mention of a hoax, put two and two together, and declared that the end of the issue. Possibly, this goes some way towards explaining why such little interest and controversy surrounds the matter today.
The big spanner in this theory, however is Dog of Norway; a supposed boy-and-his-dog film nominated in a different category, illustrated with a "screenshot" that is, in actuality, a photograph of the Medveds' pet pooch who also appears with them on the "meet the authors" page. Dog of Norway is the true fake. This is quickly backed-up by a simple Google search which turns up no relevant results, except those that specifically connect the title with the Medveds' hoax.
Nevertheless, there has been grumbling from some of the more conspiratorially-minded denizens of the interwebs about the motives the Brothers Medved might have had in including (and, according to some, fabricating) Him in The Golden Turkey Awards. Not as part of a jovial game, in this case, but in furthering an ulterior agenda. Dog or no dog...
These days, Michael Medved is better known for being a cultural firebrand and religiously-motivated right-wing political crusader than he is for reviewing films. Of course, there is nothing a conservative media commentator loves more than a good, old-fashioned furore to help whip up support for their personal brand of "family values", and on the surface Him - with its magic trinity of sacrilege, homosexuality and pornography - reads almost like a pre-packaged moral panic in a (conspicuously absent) film can. All in all, a little too perfect, according to some suspicious souls. Could it really be that Medved invented the movie, gruesome details and all, to help surreptitiously plant the seeds of righteous protest against the "liberal" media of his day? There have been other, more recent, hoaxes about gay Jesus films. Most of these appear to have gestated in America's bible-belt, and have been propagated across the face of the earth via waves of angry chain emails (Snopes has an excellent article on these, although their reference to Him could do with updating, as we shall soon see). Whether we look upon these panics as the fruition of Medved's "secret scheme" or more simply as evidence of the politically emotive power of such claims, they do seem to help the conspiracy theorists' case. But, as with everything surrounding this movie, look a little closer and another layer of the onion peels away:
The first problem with the "conspiracy theory" is timing. The book was first published in 1980 and, although Medved began to voice his political support for the Republican party in this year, he did not become a true fire-breathing political commentator until much later. Secondly, Medved is devoutly Jewish, so his alleged motives for trying to rile specifically the Christian Right into a religious frenzy just don't seem as clear and characteristic as they might at first glance. Moreover, if the description of the film was intended to be inflammatory, it was planted in the wrong place; latterly, Medved has proven himself to be an expert at targeting his intended audience (his talk show on the Salem Radio Network has been ranked as the eighth-most listened-to in the USA), and even in the 1970s Medved was already a seasoned author and journalist who would have had no problem with getting his message out via a more suitably conservative channel than a humour book aimed at transgressive movie buffs.
Of course, not one of these points actually disproves the "Medved Conspiracy" and, in the absence of any actual prints, images, footage, reviews, or (apparently) anyone who had actually seen the damn movie, for the longest time the only things inquisitive folks had to go on were the unsupported claims of the Medveds and pure speculation. It wasn't until the mid-2000s that new information would start to bubble up from the depths of the internet.
In 2003, the now-defunct Pimpadelic Wonderland, a site dedicated to 1970s psychotronica, included Him on a list of lost films, and featured what appeared to be an actual newspaper ad-slick for the film (the one reproduced at the top of this page). The text itself simply states: "Yes, this gay porn take on the life of Christ does (or at least did) actually exist!". Given the address of the cinema mentioned - the 55th Street Playhouse, a small arthouse theatre-cum-porno fleapit, now long defunct - it seemed likely that the ad originated in one of several mainstream newspapers in the New York City area that were regularly publishing advertisements for adult films at the time. Unfortunately, the image was presented out of context with no additional information on its source. Short of catching a plane to New York and trawling though newspapers on microfiche, there was no way of corroborating the ad's authenticity. (You can see an archive of Pimpadelic Wonderland's lost film list here).
Others since claimed to have seen similar ads for the film in own local papers, including The Ottawa Citizen. According to contributors to the 55th Street Playhouse page on Cinema Treasures, the film may have played there for as long as two months and was later shown at the South Station Cinema in Boston. One poster, "Samschad", even quotes a Variety review dated April 17, 1974:
Pic depicts graphic sex acts involving Jesus Christ and includes a scene in which a priest is seen masturbating while listening to a confession. The gay-oriented film is about a young man with a sexual obsession for Christ.This would be a groundbreaking discovery if only the review was verifiably real. Unfortunately, no such write-up existed in Variety's extensive online archive. Had it been omitted or overlooked, or was Samschad lying? One step forward, one step back...
Then, out of the blue, in December 2005, "Billy A. Anderson", a contributor to the Mesmerize forums, uploaded a full, detailed review of Him by Al Goldstein, editor of Screw, from the April 29, 1974 edition of that magazine:
DIRTY DIVERSIONSUntil now, the Screw article has been the strongest piece of available evidence supporting the existence of the film. Granted, it was not an actual scan of the page, simply a typed-out re-quoting of the text, but where it differed from the Variety review was in the fact that it appeared on a message forum where its poster is a respected and long-standing contributor and who, it would seem, is unlikely to jeopardise his reputation by fraudulently referencing non-existent information from a checkable source. Furthermore, the discussion is linked to by both Him's Wikipedia and IMDB pages, receiving a relatively high volume of traffic from these sites, and the review has also been re-posted in various other message boards, so it seemed fair to assume that, in the five years since its re-appearance, someone with access to back issues of Screw would have come forward to debunk the Goldstein review, if it was a hoax. In any case, there was absolutely no reason to believe Billy A. Anderson was trying to scam us.
By Al Goldstein
Queen of the Jews
CHRIST'S SECOND COMING
A bizarrely engrossing new film called HIM, playing at the 55th St. Playhouse, between 6th and 7th Avenues, has more to recommend it than some of its mismatched shots, mishmash editing and cheap budget would have allowed. I sat in the theatre next to the delicious Marcia Bronstein, editor of BITCH, so much of my enthusiasm for this film may simply have been the proximity of my thighs to hers. Then again it may have been the vividly poetic photography that loudly proclaimed in favor of cocksucking, ass fucking and other lofty pursuits of this downtrodden group of perverts.
The plot of HIM theoretically is about a faggot who is preoccupied with Christ and constantly has sexual reveries about balling that great Son of God. The plot might have worked, had it been explained to the viewer, but the movie begins inexorably slowly and, for its first 40 minutes, it consists of some solid hard-core in the gay vein and the meaning of the title HIM eludes the spectator. Only deeply into the film does one get the necessary material to permit the audience to comprehend the meaning of the plot. By then it's too late and you really don't give a shit, which is a shame, since so much of this film transcends most of the porno pap that permeates our perimiters.
I thought I had seen everything, but this movie brings in a whole new battery of barnyard banterings, from the opening credits, which are played against a stiff cock being licked by a very pretty white pussycat, to a delicious decadent sequel where a guy fucks a vacuum cleaner with such love that I started to hum, "I want a vacuum cleaner just like the vacuum cleaner that married dear old dad." As they say on Fire Island, it was one of the more legendarily meaningful relationships of last summer, and a blowjob par excellence. Another torrid little scene had a priest jerking off in his confession box as he listened to the tawdry and tear-stained confession of the wandering faggot. The sex on the cross, in particular the graphic anal probings, which is not unlike a World War II boat launching depth charges, was exciting, and, of course, the hot searching lips of Marccia waxing poetic over my body kept me truly excited. At least I thought it was Marcia. Then when I looked down I saw it was the manager of the theatre.
HIM is a hymn to sodomy and the other brazen activities that mark the twilight world of perversity with so much pain and prurience, yet to those who are not so frightened by any blemish on their masculinity and can respond to the heated sensuality of another human being, it's a film that will be innervating and titillating.
Mr. Goldstein's "Peter Meter" Rating of the film, from 0-100 %
I PETER-METER HIM AS FOLLOWS:
INTEREST--POSSIBLE- 60%, ACTUAL-45%
EROTIC POSSIBLE-20%, ACTUAL-20 %
EXPLICIT POSSIBLE-10%, ACTUAL-10%
TECHNICAL-POSSIBLE-10 %, ACTUAL- 10 %
Which leaves Al Goldstein himself. A love-him or hate-him character, Goldstein is well known for being... well, a bit of a rogue. It doesn't stretch the bounds of credulity very far to picture him slipping fake reviews into his magazine for shits and giggles. I have attempted to contact Mr. Goldstein by email, regarding Him, but received no reply. Failing that, I tried my best to research Marcia Bronstein and Bitch magazine, in the hope that she may have followed up with a review in her publication. Sadly, Bitch went out of business soon after it launched, and precious little in the way of information on the magazine exists today.
So was the whole kitt'n cabootle Goldstein's invention, which subsequently escaped into the wild, and picked up by the Medveds? Unlikely perhaps, given the other information available, but not entirely outwith the realm of possibility. Until now.
The impasse may finally be at an end. New information has come to light, thanks to the wonders of Google News Archive, a recent spin-off of Google News and Google Books. The site allows searchable access to the digitized back issues of various newspapers which providers have chosen to make available.
Among them is The Village Voice, the famous arts oriented alternative weekly based out of the Greenwich Village district of New York. While preparing to write this article, and speculatively browsing through issues of The Village Voice from around the period of March-May 1974, I uncovered not only another review of the film, but a whole series of different large-format advertisements for Him, some including actual screenshots from the film!
From The Village Voice, March 28th 1974 (click):
From The Village Voice, April 11th 1974 (click):
From The Village Voice, April 25th 1974 (click):
From The Village Voice, May 16th 1974 (click):
This is The Village Voice review of Him from April 18 1974 (click for higher res):
So there we have it, it would seem that reasonable doubt has been quashed - the Medveds, Al Goldstein, Pimpadelic Wonderland, Billy Anderson and the guys on Cinema Treasures - they are all vindicated. Both the Variety and Screw reviews are quoted in the ads, and I was also able to track down the source of the Time quote, which is, to my knowledge, the first time that publication has been drawn into this search.
Whew! God knows, as a straight male, I never imagined I would ever spend so much time trying to prove the existence of some gay porn! Now only one question remains: where the hell is it now!?
More investigation is required, and perhaps you can help. Do you have any info on the subject that I haven't covered here? Maybe you saw Him on its release in New York, or elsewhere? Perhaps you saw a copy on video years ago (was this thing ever even released on video?) or hell, maybe you were involved in its production, or know someone who was (someone made this movie)? If you know anything, I'd love to hear from you so drop me a line via the comments box below.
The hunt goes on...
Having read this article, "Billy A. Anderson", credited above as the "re-discoverer" of Al Goldstein's Him review, contacted me and very kindly supplied some photographs of the pages in question (available here and here). In the very same issue of Screw, he also uncovered some new information on the 55th Street Playhouse (pic available here), including, perhaps crucially, the fact that it seems to have shown films exclusively in 16mm format, which helps narrow down the search for any would-be film detectives out there...
More info from Billy Anderson. By perusing the pages of The Village Voice and The New York Times for ads, he has definitively pinpointed the exact start and end dates of Him's theatrical run at the 55th Street Playhouse. It played from 27th March to 23rd May 1974, a total run of over eight weeks! Here is an ad for the same theatre, from the preceding day, advertising a "Jaguar film festival", and here is a familiar ad from the 27th, Him's opening day. Finally, here is an ad from the last day of Him's run (note the small print beneath the Cowboy and the Old Man ad: "Last times: Ed D. Louie's Him"). Kudos, once again, to Billy for his perseverance and inquisitiveness.
A couple of weeks ago, a man named Vinny Parrillo saw this article and contacted me to say that his late partner, New York muralist Tava (aka. Gustav Von Will), was the actor who portrayed Jesus in the film. He was kindly able to provide me with a photograph - either a production still or a frame from the actual movie - of Tava as Jesus carrying the cross through Manhattan. I have censored the image here to comply with Google's Blogger content guidelines.