Behind the Green Door
|Behind the Green Door|
Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Artie Mitchell &
|Produced by||Artie Mitchell|
|Written by||Elliot Wax (original story), Artie Mitchell (screen adaptation)|
|Music by||Daniel Le Blanc|
|Editing by||Jon Fontana|
|Distributed by||Mitchell Brothers Film Group|
|Release dates||December 17, 1972|
|Running time||72 minutes|
Behind the Green Door is a 1972 American feature-length pornographic film, widely considered one of the genre's "classic" pictures and one of the films that ushered in The Golden Age of Porn. Featuring Marilyn Chambers, who became a mainstream celebrity, it was one of the first hardcore films widely released in the United States and the first feature-length film directed by the Mitchell brothers. It was adapted from an anonymous short story of the same title, which was circulated by means of numerous carbon copies. The story's title makes reference to the 1956 hit song "Green Door".
Chambers plays the role of Gloria. The story begins in a cafe, where a cook asks two truck drivers to tell the story of the green door. Gloria is then shown being kidnapped and taken to a sex theater, where she is placed on a stage and forced to perform various sexual acts with multiple partners in front of a masked audience. The Mitchell brothers appear in the film as her kidnappers. First she is fondled by several women wearing robes. Her first heterosexual scene in the film is with Johnny Keyes, accompanied by a jazz soundtrack. (This possibly makes Behind the Green Door the first U.S. feature-length hardcore film to include an interracial sex scene.)
Following this, Gloria is raped by four other men at once. The watching audience become aroused and begin having sex with each other. In a psychedelic key sequence, an ejaculation on Gloria's face is shown with semen flying through the air for seven minutes. The film features several multicolored, optically printed, slow-motion close-ups of money shots. Next the truck driver–narrator runs onto the stage and carries Gloria off through the green door. The film ends with Gloria and him making love alone.
Along with Deep Throat, released the same year, the movie launched the "porno chic" boom and started what is now referred to as the "Golden Age of Porn." Along with Deep Throat it was the first hardcore porn film to reach a mass mixed-sex audience. Prior to Behind the Green Door, most of the Mitchell Brothers' 200 or so films had only been shown in their O'Farrell Theater. Made with a budget of $60,000, it achieved a nationwide theatrical release which earned over $1 million. The movie ultimately grossed over $50 million including its video release, which was controlled exclusively by the Mitchells out of their headquarters in the O'Farrell Theatre, San Francisco. It was the one of the biggest box office successes of the 1970s, alongside Deep Throat and The Devil in Miss Jones. It was even screened at the Cannes Film Festival. After its release, organized crime figures used extortion in an attempt to obtain the rights to the film.
Chambers was relatively unknown at the time; however, the film made her a star. Immediately prior to the movie's release she was the "Ivory soap girl", having modeled for the Ivory Snow soap and detergent packaging holding a baby. The brand was sold under the slogan "99 and 44/100's % pure". The Mitchell brothers saw a publicity opportunity, and distributed press releases describing Chambers as "99 and 44/100's % impure". After the release of the movie, the advertising industry was scandalized, and Procter & Gamble recalled all Ivory Snow products and advertising materials featuring her, unintentionally adding to the movie's hype. The staid Procter & Gamble subsequently required of all of their advertising agencies that they thoroughly screen the background of any female model employed for print advertisements or commercials. That Chambers's image was so well known from Ivory Snow boosted the film's ticket sales, and led to several jokes on television talk shows. Critics have since debated whether she was really having orgasms in her scenes or just acting.
Upon its release the film received positive reviews in mainstream media. According to Peter Michelson[who?] there is, "a relatively small corpus of pornographic films – e.g., Deep Throat, The Devil in Miss Jones, and Behind the Green Door – that have a minimal but still sufficient artistic interest to distinguish themselves from the rest of the genre", and the film is "more artful than most smut films". It was the second film to be inducted into the XRCO Hall of Fame, following Deep Throat.
The Supreme Court's 1973 Miller v. California decision adversely affected the mainstream release of porn films, including Behind the Green Door. The Miller decision redefined obscenity from that of “utterly without socially redeeming value” to that that lacks "serious literary, artistic, political, or scientific value" and substituted contemporary community standards for national standards, as some prior tests required. Miller continued to hold that obscenity was not protected by the First Amendment, which gave leeway to local judges to seize and destroy prints of films adjudged to violate local community standards.
When Behind the Green Door opened in Suffolk County, New York in 1973, it was successfully prosecuted, as it was in New York City along with the 1973 porn film The New Comers. In addition to New York, Behind the Green Door was banned in California, Colorado, and Georgia.
In 1986, the Mitchells made a sequel to this film, Behind the Green Door: the Sequel, directed by cabaret singer Sharon McNight. The movie featured no famous performers, and starred an Elisa Florez who billed herself as Missy Manners (Artie Mitchell's girlfriend at the time and reportedly demanded the role). It was the first safe-sex themed porn film (produced as a response to the 1980s AIDS outbreak in San Francisco.) in which all the performers used condoms, birth control, and other protection. It was a critical and commercial disaster and cost the Mitchells hundreds of thousands of dollars. The O'Farrell Theatre contains a "Green Door Room" which is named for the two movies and was the principal set of the sequel.
In 2012, adult film company Vivid produced a loose remake/reimagining entitled "New Behind The Green Door." The updated film stars Brooklyn Lee as the main character Hope, a young, wealthy girl who is slowly drawn into a seedy underworld while on an erotic journey to find her birth mother. The movie also includes footage of the original "Behind The Green Door" as Hope describes a sexual fantasy that recalls the plot of the 1972 film. Other cast members include: Dana DeArmond, Penny Pax, Bailey Blue, Steven St. Croix and James Deen, with special appearances by original cast member Johnnie Keys and original star Marilyn Chambers' daughter McKenna Taylor.
In popular culture
- Footage from the film (none of which includes any nudity) is seen in the movie The Cannonball Run, when Jackie Chan's character watches it in his high-tech car, almost leading to an accident.
- The production of the movie is dramatized in the movie Rated X starring the brothers Charlie Sheen and Emilio Estevez as Artie and Jim Mitchell.
- Appears in Californication episode 3.07
- In the song "Hooks in You" by Iron Maiden, there is a reference to the movie in the first few lines.
- Shakin' Stevens got his first number one hit with the song "Green Door", also performed by Frankie Vaughan.
- On the TV sitcom Maude, the film is mentioned in the season 3 episode "Nostalgia Party" as being notorious for its time; though incorrectly mentioning the year of its release as 1974.
- American death metal band Dislimb released a song on their 2002 EP, "Bleeding Anxiety", called "Behind the Green Door".
- Swedish metal band Lake Of Tears released a song on their 2011 album, "Illwill", called "Behind The Green Door".
- In SAW - A Hardcore XXX Parody there's a brief moment that Ron Jeremy claims that he starred in "Behind the green door"
- Footage from the film is incorporated into Vivid's 2012 re-imagining "New Behind The Green Door" When the female protagonist Hope describes a sexual fantasy that resembles the plot of the film. The movie can also be seen playing on a TV in one of the characters' house and during an underground orgy.
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