Superior Video Shoots Its Wad: Part 1: NIGHT MOVES

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Peeping Nixon, Willem Lowen, Cindy Carver

The “redeeming social value” in Night Moves was the political statement made by having a peeping-Tom pervert wear a Nixon mask.  But, to my girlfriend, Night Moves had a whole different importance: The SCENE.

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Large Photo: Lilly Marlene and Shanna McCullough. Small Photos: (left to right) Cindy Carver, Robyn Everett, Carrie Bergman, Courtney

It starred the ever-reliable Mike Horner and two hot ladies: that sexual predator Lilly Marlene and the intense Robyn Everett.


 It was a typical night game at Candlestick Park, the stadium from Hell Frozen Over. The infamous icy winds had once blown pitcher Stu Miller off the mound in the midst of his windup. They were now turning hotdog wrappers, napkins, Giants caps and anything else not clutched in numb fingers into crazed satellites, making the rounds of our seating section.

Wrapped in a blanket, Shelly and I sat huddled together, arms around each other. It was so cold that Shelly’s favorite San Francisco Giant, Chili Davis, ignored his standard post-strikeout ritual of breaking his bat over his knee; he ran back to the dugout. The Giants were behind by five runs.

We were more excited from shivering, hugging and rubbing together under the blanket than from the events on the diamond. Shelly said, “I’m getting horny as an old cat. Let’s go home, turn on The Scene and trounce around.”

The Scene, in Night Moves, was Shelly’s favorite video stimulant. It came at 3067 on the digit counter of the Panasonic VCR in the bedroom. We always shuttled the tape back to that point after we were finished.

What really made that section of videotape come alive was the chemistry between Mike, Lilly and Robyn.

When taping the scene, there was no need for the “hurry up and use the erection before it goes away” approach. I let Horner and the two blonde actresses take their time.

There was lots of caressing, kissing, tonguing and fondling, more like real life than structured screen sex. The intensity built to a frenzy, and when Mike pulled out of Robyn–to be taken in Lilly’s waiting hand–he produced such volume that she exclaimed, “So much come!”

He had plenty left. We were disassembling the gear when Mike and Robyn started up again. I grabbed a camera and taped her fast, cowgirl position bouncing and Mike’s second orgasm. Then Mike and Robyn took a shower together–and had sex yet again.

During the long drive from Candlestick Park to San Rafael, the anticipation was an aphrodisiac. Shelly and I were still “trouncing around” long after the tape had ended.

Then we caught the late news: “The Giants’ six-run ninth inning rally was capped by Chili Davis’s three-run homer in a dramatic come-from-behind victory…”

“Oh no!” Shelly exclaimed. “Look what we missed!  It’s all my fault!”

I gave her a kiss. “We didn’t miss a thing.”


During 1983-84, Joe Farmer and I felt that we had the formula for shooting hot sex on videotape all to ourselves. (That would soon change as every sex-shooter and his bastard brother began cranking out crap videos–as described in Chapter 11: The Smut Glut.)

For that brief, glorious period, Superior Video went for the gold.

Next: Superior Video Shoots Its Wad: Part 2: Running Wild. Does Porn Go Better with Pot?




The “Smut Glut.” How the Porn Movie Industry almost Destroyed Itself Part 1: Stupidity

The distributor was screaming obscenities so fast in his New York accent that my office manager, Allyssa couldn’t understand him.  She had phoned to ask when Superior Video could expect overdue payment.  Between F-bombs, Allyssa managed to learn that the man’s partner had just been murdered. Sixteen .22 slugs in the head—the result of a much more serious unpaid debt.  Another of Superior’s distributors had just lost his warehouse to “arson.” (“For the insurance,” Allyssa guessed.)   And Ferris Alexander of AB Distributors in Minnesota, also in arrears, was preoccupied with the aftermath of an anti-porn demonstrator immolating herself in one of his bookstores.

In 1986, the porn video business became afflicted with three crises: the Traci Lords scandal (Chapter 12 in SKINFLICKS), the newly-declared War on Porn (the fried demonstrator being an extreme manifestation of the hysteria) and—the worst of the three—the “Smut Glut,” for which the industry had only itself to blame.

(Passages from SKINFLICKS are in italics.)

We were entering a time of rip-offs, lawsuits, arsons, and even murders; a time of bitter price wars, when even large, long-established companies would go bankrupt; a time when production of big-budget X-rated motion pictures would end.

The cause?  The same thing that had made Superior Video, Inc., successful.  We were the first to shoot full-length adult features entirely on videotape, with budgets of $20,000 instead of the $60-70,000 it would cost to shoot the same movies in 35 millimeter film.  For the first half of the 1980s, we produced hits like All the King’s Ladies, Physical, Night Moves, Running Wild, Chocolate Cream and our most lavish production, Deviations ($35,000 budget).   Our philosophy was to create adult movies as good as the 1970s “Golden Age of Porn” films. (Such as The Opening of Misty Beethoven, Sex World, and Behind the Green Door.)   When our competitors discovered the ease and economy of shooting in videotape, they didn’t share Superior’s philosophy.

Instead, they followed the pornographer’s dictum: If it works once, do it a thousand times. They began cranking out cheap videos.  Adult Video News noted that the number of porn video releases soared from 400 in 1983 to 1100 in ’84 and 1610 in ’85.  The market couldn’t absorb them all.  “There used to be 25 new titles a month and the store owner would buy 15 or 20 of them,” lamented VCA’s Russ Hampshire. “He’s still buying the same number of tapes, but now he has hundreds to choose from.”   Retailers began buying those 15 or 20 videos based on price alone.  As prices plunged, so did pornographers’ profits.  Companies had to crank out more titles to maintain their cash flows: a vicious cycle.  Something had to give, and that something was quality.

“What’s the difference between the old silent 8 millimeter loops and the video features of today?” asked reviewer Steve Austin in the February ’91 AVN issue. His answer: “The guys take their sox off now.”  

In the mid-‘80s, director Bruce Seven groaned, “What kind of quality can you turn out in two days?”  By 1993, the “one-day wonder” had become standard, and AVN editor Gene Ross recalled Seven’s earlier complaint: “Seven, as any other director in the business, would probably kill for that kind of latitude nowadays.”   Then, even one-day wonders became too expensive.

Henri Pachard was forced to crank out three features in one day! (Not as impossible as it sounds: the trick is to shoot three separate dialog scenes with the same cast on each setup, to fit three separate stories.)  

The demand for tons of titles at micro-budgets led to the Stallion Productions debacle of 100 titles in thirty days, after which the producers and their tapes disappeared without paying cast and crew.  AVN’s Gene Ross made the sarcastic prediction that “thanks to new Japanese technology that actually condenses time, some adult video company will hit on the brilliant concept of producing 100 videos in thirty minutes.”

As the downward vortex continued, porn companies resorted to cutting out production entirely.  The “Smut Glut.” Part 2: Scams will discuss “wraparounds,” re-titles, Hollywood rip-offs, Disney lawsuits, “borderline” child porn, bankruptcy epidemics, and desperate promotions such as pubic hair in cassette boxes.

My All-time Favorite Stars: Shanna McCullough

A buzz went through the audience.  The singer had stopped singing, but her voice continued.  She called out to someone offstage, “That’s the wrong cut!”
During the previous five takes (needed for changes in camera angles) the “singer” had been lip-syncing so perfectly that the audience had thought she was actually doing the singing.  As they realized that this woman—a porn actress no less—was turning in a great performance, the crowd burst into applause.

Shanna McCullough, “singing” in Deviations

When I cast Shanna McCullough for a lead role in my 1983 extravaganza, Deviations, I was taking a chance.  Women who are new to porn might freeze up or panic when they are called upon to have sex under hot lights, with a crew watching and a director barking orders.  Standard practice had been to break in ingénues as “nude extras,” who shed their clothes in a film but don’t have sex.  But when I met Shanna at agent Joe Elliot’s casting session, I had a hunch that she was one special lady.  I was so right!

This redhead with the creamy, alabaster skin and luminous eyes was much more sexually sophisticated than most porn newcomers. Shanna and her husband (at that time) were swingers. She had a wardrobe of kinky outfits. She was a professional actress, starring every Saturday night in a Berkeley stage production of The Rocky Horror Show.  She also had an eight-foot boa constrictor that crawled all over her nude body in Deviations.

From SKINFLICKS: The Inside Story of the X-Rated Video Industry Her “screen cherry” debut with Mike Horner was so sizzling hot that during a break, I swore I saw steam rising from her bottom.

Shanna McCullough in Night Moves

Of course, I gave her the starring role in my next video, Night Moves.  Shanna McCullough would go on to make over 200 movies in the next seven years, establishing herself as one of porn’s all-time great stars.  She was an inspiration to others: In his speech at the 1991 AVN Awards, Rick Savage said, “I want to thank the first actress I ever had sex with in a video. Because if she hadn’t been so hot and such a fucking inspiration, I may not have ever made another video. So thank you, Shanna McCullough!”  (In contrast, a future post will recount how the bitch-goddess Barbara Dare had the opposite effect on another would-be screen stud.)

As described in SKINFLICKS, Shanna’s performance in a Henri Pachard flick, left one of porn’s prima donna-type actresses puzzled: “So that was Shanna McCullough.  She’s a big star.  But she didn’t act like a star.”  Pachard sighed. “The real ones never do.”

Shanna’s retirement in pursuit of a mainstream career was another class act.  Unlike most adult actresses who skulk away licking their wounds and snarling invective, Shanna wrote a letter to AVN (May ’91 issue), thanking readers for voting her into the magazine’s Hall of Fame. “I had such a good time when I made my first movie, Deviations,” she wrote, “that I wanted to do it again.”  She thanked directors, actors and porn fans, adding, “I got a chance to live out many of my fantasies…I met a lot of great people, made some close friends and got to travel around the world. What more could you ask for in a job?”

Evidently she could ask for more.  Shanna McCullough “unretired” and went on to choose certain, select roles in adult movies throughout the next decade.