Saturday, January 15, 2011

Pornonomy Reviews: Exhausted

Exhausted: John C. Holmes, the Real Story (1981)

Directed by:
Julia St. Vincent

One thing you can't help but take away from I, Goldstein was Al Goldstein's obsession with John Holmes. While talking about Holmes, and the Wonderland murder trials, he brought up Exhausted, "a strange fuck film, a pastiche of interviews, clips, and testimonials, a 'documentary' on John Holmes the man.... The film was fascinating but...phony."

From the outset, it's obvious that Exhausted was the inspiration for Amber Waves's Dirk Diggler documentary in Boogie Nights. (Although it should be said that at his rock-bottom Diggler never looks as haggard as Holmes.) While P.T. Anderson basing Boogie Nights on the rise and fall of John Holmes is well known, I was amazed to see two things in Exhausted that were recreated almost identically in Boogie Nights: a clip from a Wadd scene that became a scene in a Brock Landers film ("Good? No it's not good. It's probably the best place to eat in Los Angeles,"; San Francisco, for Wadd) and the Holmes/Bob Chinn, Diggler/Jack Horner sex scene blocking interview.

(Two other brief Boogie Nights observations: 1. The character Jessie St. Vincent must be named for Julia St. Vincent. 2. While I've read that Veronica Hart was a major part of the composite porn actress that was Amber Waves, the most Amber Waves-like performance I've seen to date was Honey Wilder in Sweet Alice, a film that I'll definitely have to review for this site.)

Goldstein mentions that Exhausted was cobbled together by St. Vincent, Holmes's 21 year old girlfriend, to take advantage of the notorious press of the Wonderland murder trials, and there's nothing to make you assume otherwise. The documentary approach is an interesting spin on what would otherwise have been a standard compilation film. While the "man on the street" aspect is fairly pointless (and, in fact, one of the "interviews" is obviously staged), the direct question and answer bits with Holmes are quite interesting. He speaks with such earnestness and feeling that it's a kind of chilling reminder that he was, by all accounts, a compulsive liar, completely delusional, or both. It's also interesting that while Holmes performed with scores of women in his career, the only actress interviewed is Seka. On the one hand it makes sense considering he had more scenes with her than any other actress (although Annette Haven and Desiree Costeau were right up there, too, according to IAFD), but on there other it begs the question why there were no other interviews. If the production of the film was as hurried as it seems, time and scheduling may have been a factor, but frankly, burned bridges and an obviously biased portrayal of Holmes seems more likely.

If you've got an opinion of John Holmes, Exhausted isn't going to change it (for the better, anyway), but is quite a fascinating film, and I'd definitely recommend it, if for no other reason than it's a trip to see a full-length version of the fictional documentary from Boogie Nights. A


  1. I saw pieces of this (the "blocking scenes" pieces) in a really bad documentary from Britain, and couldn't believe the Boogie Nights stuff was actually accurate. I remember loving that film but finding those segments too over the top. Go figure -- truth is stranger than fiction. I will certainly pick this one up.

  2. I remember reading a review with a Golden Era-er - Veronica Hart, I think; who, as a point of interest, is the judge in the custody hearing in BN - saying that the only real inaccuracy of the film was that it was set in Los Angeles, when the industry was really based in San Francisco at the time.