And by now, Holmes pretty much is a legend, from his career to his controversial living arrangements, to his alleged involvement in the murders of four people in Los Angeles to his addictions and ultimately to his HIV-related death! (Hell, he even inspired the bio-pic Wonderland) But as I said... John Holmes was a man, and the Alan Smithee film (really) somewhat unfortunately titled Wadd: The Life and Times of John C. Holmes does a hell of a job proving just that. Holmes was a man, taken for all with all.
Wadd is the consistent documentary detailing a very inconsistent man, and through photographs, video clips, and interviews with both his wives, his lovers and coworkers (many of the same people), Smithee (here a pseudonym for filmmaker Cass Paley) shows exactly what a mixed bag John Holmes was. No two people have exactly the same take on Holmes. Was he some bastard, or the sweetest man alive? Was he a not-too-bright guy who amounted to a victim of circumstances beyond his control, or was he the ultimate Con-Man? The answer keeps coming back "Yes" no matter how varied and opposite the views.
Though this film is easiest found as released by VCA Pictures (known exclusively for their Porno-film distribution), this is no montage of erotica aimed to titillate. While there is a fair share of nudity and foul language (the rating is NC-17), there is an honest attempt at making a serious documentary here. Holmes' life included pornography, so that element is shown. Before that, though, Paley takes us deep into Holmes' past to show how this simple, yet gifted young man became a nudie-icon. From his abusive childhood to his college try at marriage, the evolution of John is covered, especially when the hints of his downfall come.
There is no white-wash of Holmes' character here either. While he's not demonized, he's not deified either. Holmes probably meant well, but by the time he became famous he was embroiled in his most hedonistic exploits to the point that it's true he did some very bad things, and potentially some even worse things. Paley remains fair and balanced, though, showing multiple sides of this many-faceted, yet still simple guy. The thinking viewer probably won't like Holmes per-se, but they'll have a hard time not finding sympathy for him.
And, yes, there are a couple of glimpses at Holmes' mighty saber for the curious and biologically interested.
The cons of this documentary include the lack of conclusion here. There is no narration, which is fine, however this lends itself to an unfocused whole equating to a tennis-match of opinions and ideas. There are enough "I didn't see..."; "I think that..."; and "What I saw..."; comments in this documentary to last a lifetime, and because, as I've said, these are so widely varied and amount to a contradictory amalgam of Holmes, there is some need of mediation here. Commentators like Ron Jeremy, Bill Amerson, Bob Chinn, Don Fernando, Ilona "Cicciolina" Staller, Laurie "Misty Dawn" Holmes, Paul Thomas Anderson, Sharon Holmes and Dawn Schiller amongst others, might never agree on who or what John Holmes was, and there's no resolution or reconciliation to be found in Wadd!
It's still a good documentary, but, like Holmes' real life, there's enough ambiguity to make this unfocused and opinion-based, without any decisive tie-breakers with which to determine the truth. It could be that with someone as ironically complex as Holmes, all we have are opinions, and opinions may just have to do. The murders he's alleged to be involved with still aren't solved, for example. There may be no one single truth about this man (well, there is ONE big truth) but it's interesting, funny and quite sad to try and piece together what and who he was.
Three and one Half stars out of Five for Wadd: The Life and Times of John C. Holmes. It's a good documentary, which is ironic because my first Alan Smithee film should probably have been more indicative of an Alan Smithee film. There's enough sleaze and nudity to pique the interest of Holmes' fans, the quality of the documentary will appeal to documentary fans, and hell, a good movie is a good movie. It's sad on far too many levels, and the underbelly of society is the teat on which this film gets its sustenance, but all told you could do a lot worse!
Wadd: The Life and Times of John C. Holmes reviewed by J.C. Mašek III who is solely responsible for this site and for his 7.5 inches... and that's pretty good!
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