Wednesday, February 07, 2018
Filthy Gorgeous: The Bob Guccione Story
Directed by Barry Avrich, Filthy Gorgeous: The Bob Guccione Story is a documentary film about the man who would find Penthouse magazine and become a subject of controversy over the magazines’ pornographic content. The film would feature interviews from the late Guccione as well as people in his family and others who knew the man who would also launch other magazines that had an impact on popular culture. The result is a compelling and tender film about one of publishing’s unsung heroes.
From its founding in 1965 in Great Britain, Penthouse magazine was considered one of the finest men’s magazine that started off as a softcore pornographic magazine with articles about science, art, and politics that was similar to what Playboy magazine offered. What Bob Guccione did that was different from Playboy was not only doing his own photography of the centerfolds but also wanting to give readers something different rather than present a lifestyle that Playboy wanted to show that many couldn’t afford. At the same time, Guccione preferred to present his women in a more natural light as well as be the first to show a woman’s pubic hair which Playboy wouldn’t do until the early 1970s. Yet, Guccione wouldn’t just do more in the world of publishing in creating magazines such as the science-based/science-fiction magazine Omni and the music-based magazine SPIN which was founded by his son Bob Jr.
Though Guccione would present himself as this man of success with a bit of sleaze on the side, the real Guccione was anything but the persona he created as he was someone that saw his magazines as art dating back to his early years as a painter who created portraits that never sold anything. In creating Penthouse magazine while living in London following the dissolution of his first marriage, Guccione would create something that was different but also had an artistic side to the photography in shooting women with natural light and such. Director Barry Avrich would interview two of Guccione’s sons in Bob Jr. and Nick as well as famed attorney Alan Dershowitz, writer Anthony Haden-Guest, 1978 Penthouse Pet of the Year in Victoria Lynn Johnson, and many others who worked in the magazine including Guccione’s longtime personal assistant Jane Homlish as they all talk about Guccione and the work he’s done.
Much of it involves wanting to create something unique as well as provide a platform where there is no censorship nor any kind of sexism. Many of the people who worked with Guccione were women including his third wife Kathy Keeton who would be his greatest partner at home and in the world of business as she would be responsible for the creation of the magazines Omni, Viva, and Longevity making Guccione a multi-millionaire. Guccione’s attempts to venture outside the world of publishing had been difficult such as his attempts to fund research on cold fusion as well as trying to start his own casino in Atlantic City that was a major failure. There were also some moments that were successful but also controversial such as the production of the film Caligula which was a box office success despite its troubled production. Yet, Guccione would attract controversy over the fact that he had nude photos of the then-1984 winner of Miss America in Vanessa Williams as well as battle the people in the world of government and religion over the content of his magazine.
With the help of cinematographer Ken Ng and art director Paul Grundy for creating the backgrounds in the interviews, much of Avrich’s direction is straightforward including the interviews as the person that is the most interesting is Guccione’s personal assistant Jane Homlish who worked for Guccione for nearly 30 years. Homlish would reveal the ups and downs working for Guccione where things changed following Keeton’s death in the mid-1990s where Guccione would struggle to compete with other magazines that were showing more pornographic material. Yet, it was the arrival of the Internet and Internet porn that would mark the beginning of the end for Penthouse where Guccione would lose a lot of money and having to sell his prized collection of paintings would be painful. Even as his sons admitted to having fallouts with him over businesses and such where they would be with him until his death in early 2010 at the age of 79.
Editor George Raulston would compile archival footage of interviews that Guccione has done as well as the collection of photos and rare footage of the man during a photo shoot with sound editor Marvyn Dennis providing some archival audio interviews for Guccione to tell bits of his own story. The film’s music by Jim McGrath is terrific for its low-key usage of orchestral music with some electronic pieces while music supervisor Michael Perlmutter provide a soundtrack that feature a lot of the music from the 70s including funk, rock, and soul music of the times.
Filthy Gorgeous: The Bob Guccione Story is a marvelous film from Barry Avrich. It’s a film that explores a man who wasn’t afraid to show sex but also allow women to be presented in a far more natural light despite venturing into more hardcore pornography in the later years. Even as it shows that Guccione was also willing to tackle censorship and other issues without trying to bullshit readers about how to live a certain lifestyle. In the end, Filthy Gorgeous: The Bob Guccione Story is a remarkable film from Barry Avrich.
© thevoid99 2018