Saturday, April 07, 2018

Back Issues: The Hustler Magazine Story

Directed and designed by Michael Lee Nirenberg and written by Nirenberg and Flynn Hundhausen, Back Issues: The Hustler Magazine Story is about the creation of the pornographic magazine and its creator Larry Flynt along with various people who worked in the controversial magazine. The film follows the magazine’s history from a nightclub in Cincinnati to becoming the magazine that would challenge the Moral Majority in the late 1980s over what is obscene. The result is a fascinating look into one of the most polarizing pornographic magazines that was ever created.

When Hustler magazine was first published in 1974 by Larry Flynt, it was an admitted knock-off of Al Goldstein’s Screw magazine in terms of just displaying bawdy content yet the magazine went one-step further than their competitors by showing fully-explicit nudity including a woman’s genitals right inside. For some, the magazine pushed the boundaries of bad taste and Flynt made no apologizes for it as he aimed to offend everyone and anyone while also having the balls to make fun of advertisements so that the magazine can remain independent. The magazine gained notoriety a year later when it published high-quality photos of Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis sunbathing nude as it helped the magazine make a lot of money. The film that is directed and set designed by Michael Lee Nirenberg doesn’t just explore the magazine’s history but also some of the people who contributed to the magazine including his father William who had been the magazine’s art director in the late 70s and later one of its production designers in the early 1980s.

Flynt and his brother Jimmy are among those interviewed as well as famed photographers Suze Randall and her daughter Holly, writers Chris Gore and Lonn Friend, and the late Al Goldstein interviewed months before his death talk about the magazine and its evolution where it would write articles that would raise discussions as well as be respectful to the readers by not making them buy this or that to get women. Among those that contributed to the magazine greatly was Flynt’s late wife Althea who was a stripper at a club he and Jimmy ran in the late 1960s. Even as she would bring in Paul Krassner, a key figure of the counterculture movement, to run the magazine during a time when Flynt had become a born-again Christian in 1977 until his assassination a year later as the shooter Joseph Paul Franklin is interviewed in the film months before his execution.

With the help of co-writer and cinematographer Flynn Hundhausen, Nirenberg would shoot the interviews in a straightforward approach as well as getting insights from porno actors Ron Jeremy, Nina Hartley, and Kitten Natividad about the magazine as well as the fan base it got where people such as Dennis Hopper and Frank Zappa would make contributions to the magazine. Even in some of the infamous moments such as the image of a naked woman only seen from the waist down as she is seen being put through a meat grinder which was a joke towards the magazine’s depiction of women which outraged feminists. Though Nirenberg doesn’t touch upon Flynt’s legendary court battle with the televangelist Jerry Falwell, he does go into Flynt’s personality as Flynt would confess he’s bipolar as he knows he’s made some stupid decisions in his life. One major discussion is about the Internet where Flynt was able to take advantage of despite the lack of circulation for the magazine where he’s able to make money through selling pornography on the Internet.

Editor John Torrani would do excellent work in compiling many of the news footage of Flynt from the 70s and 80s as well as many of the archives relating to the magazine that include the special effects work of Ian Jarvis bringing the visuals to life. The film’s music soundtrack largely consists of punk rock music with contributions from the Adolescents and the Circle Jerks.

Back Issues: The Hustler Magazine Story is a brilliant film from Michael Lee Nirenberg. It’s a compelling documentary film that explores a magazine that people either love or hate but can’t deny Larry Flynt’s place in popular culture as well as being a first amendment advocate proving that it can protect anyone. In the end, Back Issues: The Hustler Magazine Story is an excellent film from Michael Lee Nirenberg.

Related: (The People vs. Larry Flynt)

© thevoid99 2018


Anonymous said...

I’ve been looking to watch more documentaries lately and this could be the ticket.

thevoid99 said...

@vinnieh-If you have ePIX, seek it out. It's an interesting doc as I enjoyed it though I wish more was on the battle between Flynt and Jerry Falwell.