Vintage Movies: “Boogie Nights”

MAGNET contributing writer Jud Cost is sharing some of the wealth of classic films he’s been lucky enough to see over the past 40 years. Trolling the backwaters of cinema, he has worked up a list of more than 500 titles—from the silent era through the ’00s—that you may have missed. A new selection, all currently available on DVD, appears every week.


Boogie Nights (1997, 155 minutes)

Those who only remember Burt Reynolds for a series of hillbilly-flavored Smokey And The Bandit comedies back in the ’70s should be urged to see him as the owner of a Los Angeles-based, porn-movie outfit when that cottage industry was booming. With a cast that also includes Julianne Moore, Philip Seymour Hoffman, John C. Reilly, William H. Macy and a baby-faced, 26-year-old Mark Wahlberg, Boogie Nights is the sanitary way to sample a pay-for-sex world without the specter of an STD rearing its itchy little head.

Anyone who was around in 1968 might recall a ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court making local government the only entity that could regulate a growing industry depicting on-screen sex. And how little movie houses began to spring up like lawn daisies to show these poorly shot, barely scripted, feature-length films with complete impunity to a stupefied army, mostly of men, identified only by their onscreen shadows when they finally stumbled to their feet and returned to home and hearth. In San Francisco, the Mitchell Brothers even had curious society types visiting their North Beach theater, just out of curiosity, so they claimed.

It’s Saturday night in Reseda, Calif., in the heart of Los Angeles’ San Fernando Valley, and things are swinging like never before. Jack Horner (Reynolds) is back in his favorite nightclub after a couple of weeks spent with one of his film stars, Amber Waves (so tarted up, it’s hard to recognize Moore). Always on the prowl for new screen talent, Jack’s had his eye on one of the club’s employees to offer him some movie work on the side.

When Eddie Adams (Wahlberg, looking like he’s about 16) wanders out of the kitchen lugging a tray of glasses to the bar, Jack follows him back inside to his dish-washing station. “Hey, how old are you?” he asks the kid. “Seventeen, but I have a work permit,” answers Eddie defensively. “No, nothing like that,” assures Jack. “You from around here, Canoga Park?” The kid asks, “You know where Torrance is?” of a place 25 miles to the south.

“Yeah, how do you get here?” asks Jack. “I take the bus,” answers Eddie. “Can’t you get a job like this in Torrance?” Eddie changes direction: “Yeah, but I don’t want to. If you want to see me jack off, it’s 10. But if you just want to look, it’s only five.” The older man says, “My name is Jack Horner, and I make adult films. Now you know I’m not full of dog doo-doo. Come back to my table, and we’ll talk.” The kid answers, “Sorry, I just couldn’t leave work, but I know who you are.” Jack nods and says, “Well, I’ve got a feeling that underneath those jeans, something wonderful is just waiting to get out.”