Wadd: The Life and Times of John Holmes

Wadd: The Life and Times of John Holmes

directed by Cass Paley

Not rated

USA 1999

Out of the cultural morass of 1960’s Los Angeles a new form thrust itself into American cinema — Hard Core Pornography. One man stood erect over this art — John Holmes. Legendary beyond proportion to his acting skills, his career penetrated the American psyche with a single brilliant thrust of marketing acumen — bigger is better. This film is his story.

Born into an abusive home in rural Ohio, John bounced around the country until he landed in LA and married his first wife. Not being all that bright, he eventually came to realize that his calling lay between his legs. He laid his wife low when he announced he would become a porn star. This lanky, likable kid took the industry by storm and was soon the biggest thing anyone had ever seen. Despite hours of hard work, fame eventually took its toll and left John spent, beginning a long slide into cocaine and petty theft. His decline reached its climax when he ran from both the police and the mob after his entanglement with a bloody drug murder in Hollywood. His career never again rose to its previous heights, and John died young in 1988 of a sexual disease.

As a documentary, this is a gem. Alternately funny, touching, and sad, dozens of Holmes’ friends, co-workers, and police investigators come forward to present an unusually deep and intimate portrait. Penetrating scenes from his thousands of films show how close life came to his art. Ultimately, Holmes shrank to a one dimensional person in a multidimensional world, tragically alone with only himself. As Al Goldstein says, “He should have been a Kennedy.”

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