Monday, February 25, 2008

Two Seasons of Sleaze

Hardcore and Vice Squad are two gritty looks at West Coast vice realesed three years apart. Hardcore is a cerebral look at a conservative midwesterner searching for his runaway daughter in the underworld of the seventies LA porno scene, plus you get Calvinist theology! Vice Squad is a classic sleazy, violent 1982 exploitation film that, although flawed, is genuinely dramatic with some great performances.

Hardcore writer-director Paul Schrader drew upon his own background growing up in the Dutch Reformed Church in Grand Rapids, Michigan. George C. Scott plays Jake, a pious middle-aged businessman with no wife and a teenage daughter. His daughter disappears on a church trip to a Calvinst youth convention in Southern California.

The film contrasts the simple piety of the Grand Rapids church members with the seedy world of Hollywood (the city, not the industry). Scott travels to SoCal to meet with the police, who are of little assistance. He hires a low-rent Private Investigator (Peter Boyle), who is as coarse as Scott is refined, and openly contemptuous of Scott's midwetern values. Boyle refers to his client as Pilgrim. After several weeks, the PI brings the news home, suddenly appearing in Grand Rapids to show Scott a porno reel featuring his missing daughter.

Scott returns to LA and slowly begins edging himself into the porn world. He meets a stripper/porn actress/prostitute (Season Hubley) who he pays to help him find his daughter.

While Hardcore sure is gritty, it has some light comic moments, especially with Scott and Hubley together. The Calvinist background really develops Scott's character, who seems to have gone through a metamorphosis when relative Dick Sargeant tracks him down in LA.


  • Scott calmly explaining the tenants of Calvinism to porno-stripper-whore Hubley
  • Scott going undercover with toupee and designer jeans
  • Scott beating up the guy from RoboJox
  • Strippers doing Star Wars light sabre routine in club
  • San Francisco's North Beach porno area circa 1979
  • Reb Brown is the bouncer at a massage parlor

Season Hubley, convincing here, would also play a very different kind of prostitute in 1982's Vice Squad, which I'll get to next ...

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