While the stag film and various striptease loops of the primitive era and beyond had already introduced the ''meat shot,'' or extreme close-up of female genitals, it was not until Deep Throat that the ubiquitous ''money shot'' became a staple of hard-core film. Speaking to the documentary truth of the sex act, the visible ejaculation of the male performer allows the truth of male sexual pleasure to become visible. Notably, Behind the Green Door contains an extensive, slow motion ejaculation scene, enhanced by psychedelic colors and special effects. The necessity for these penis close-ups is facilitated by numerous scenes of heterosexually-oriented fellatio and scenes of penetrating intercourse where the penis is withdrawn prior to orgasm and then ejaculates onto the female partner—on her breasts, her buttocks, or her face (known as a facial).
Since female porn performers do not have the same visible evidence of orgasm as men, hard-core films make up for this lack by enhanced, nonsynchronous post-dubbed soundtracks where women aurally reveal their pleasure through a series of moans and cries of encouragement; these sound effects also verify the realism of the image shown onscreen. Furthermore, the camera's focus, when not intent on meat or money shots, often stays on the ecstatic reactions of the woman's face as another indicator of sexual pleasure and desire. Thus, for much of the golden age, porn films rarely needed to employ classically ''handsome'' male actors. The ability to remain erect (or maintain ''wood'') throughout a scene and ejaculate on command in front of cameras was a challenge that limited the pool of male porn performers. One of the most famous was John Holmes (also known as Johnny Wadd), a performer well known for his exceptional penis size (estimated to be between ten and fourteen inches); he starred in such films as Johnny Wadd (1971), The Life and Times of the Happy Hooker (1974), and All Night Long (1976). Before dying of AIDS in 1988, Holmes had starred in more than 220 pornographic films.
Classic feature-length, hard-core porn films (from the 1970s and early 1980s) have been compared to Hollywood musicals, both in terms of how they alternate scenes of narrative with moments of spectacle and in terms of how their narratives create utopias. Some of the more typical scenarios common to the heterosexual hard-core theatrical film are masturbation scenes, straight sex (male-to-female with penetration through intercourse), lesbianism, oral sex (either cunnilingus or fellatio), ménage a trois (threesomes), orgies, and anal sex. While most of these particular sexual numbers are inserted into typical heterosexual hard-core films, the films with elaborate narratives usually culminate in a final sex scene that displays ultimate fulfillment. For example, in The Opening of Misty Beethoven (1976) when Dr. Seymour Love (Jamie Gillis) finds Misty Beethoven (Constance Money) giving hand jobs in a Paris porn theater, his enthusiasm to transform her, Pygmalionstyle, into a sophisticated sexual performer motivates a series of training sessions and tests, as Misty becomes increasingly skilled. Over the course of the film, Misty and Seymour develop feelings for each other, and the film culminates in a straight sex number as their heterosexual desire for each other is fulfilled.
Golden era hard-core pornographic films were usually shot with color film, employed fairly cohesive narratives, and were shown in X-rated theatrical venues. This type of film exhibition did inhibit some of porn film's masturbatory potential, and the placement of porn theaters in unsavory or dangerous neighborhoods often hindered women from attending pornographic films. Unsurprisingly, when video technology began to take hold in the late 1970s, the adult film industry pushed for home video's increased development, thereby opening the porn market to more women and couples and creating a wider variety of niche markets aimed at the individual porn spectator—interracial, gay, lesbian, bisexual, girl-on-girl, fetish, and so on. Also, as technology became more accessible in the mid- to late 1980s, the amateur market took off as all variety of couples shot their own porn films and distributed them through amateur porn companies such as Purely Amateur, Home Maid, and Amateur Home Video of California. Additionally, the genre of Gonzo porn—where the camera operator or director takes an overt part in the action, either by talking to the actors or by being a performer himself or herself— popularized by directors such as John Stagliano (also known as Buttman) proliferated due to the accessibility of hand-held and mobile camera equipment.
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