Exhausted (1981) from Johnny Wadd Web

Exhausted is a self-serving softball "documentary" about John C. Holmes, who was the biggest star in the adult film industry in two ways. He was the most famous, and he was just the biggest where it really counts in that business, about 13 inches worth. The film combines footage from actual porn films, "man on the street" interviews, and interviews with industry insiders: director Bob Chinn, actress Seka, and John Holmes himself. Between the film and the special features, Holmes is interviewed for nearly an hour.


plenty - hardcore sex scenes from porn films

Although it is a clumsy and fundamentally dishonest film, the DVD has a lot of extra material and a fascinating commentary track, making the Exhausted DVD one of four films you'll need to watch in order to understand the life of Mr. Holmes.

  • Boogie Nights (1997) - a highly regarded fictionalized version of Holmes' life directed by Paul Thomas Anderson (called PTA hereinafter).
  • Exhausted (1981) - a pseudo-documentary, actually more of an apologetic, made when Holmes was in his prime, or just past it. The Exhausted DVD also includes a commentary track in which the characters look back on the era. They also comment on the accuracy of Boogie Nights. (Their opinions differ widely)
  • Wadd (1998) - the Cass Paley documentary about Holmes.
  • Wonderland (2003)- a Holmes biopic in docudrama style. This film concentrates on Holmes's violent life after porn, and tries to stay as close to the facts as possible within the format.

Exhausted was a critical piece of reference material for PTA's script for Boogie Nights.

  • One scene from a porn film, presented in Exhausted, is re-created moment by moment in Boogie Nights, even to the point of intentionally duplicating a continuity error. PTA told an interviewer, "Yep. That is taken, shot for shot, from a real porno. Even up to the point that if you look closely, you see Mark at the bar. He's sitting in the wide-shot with a toothpick and then cut to the close-up and he's holding a cigarette in the other hand."
  • One of Exhausted's sample action sequences - taken from a "Johnny Wadd" porno/detective film - is copied closely in Boogie Nights.
  • The Mark Wahlberg character is based on Holmes. The correspondence is nearly perfect, right down to Holmes's posturing, his incessant bullshitting, and his clumsy and imprecise use of language in his interviews. Wahlberg was an excellent casting choice, and nailed the characterization in many ways.
  • The Burt Reynolds character is based on porn director Bob Chinn.
  • The Julianne Moore character is very similar to Seka, and the relationship between Holmes and Seka is reflected in the relationships between the corresponding characters in Boogie Nights, but "Amber Waves" is actually an amalgam of several women, including the director of Exhausted.
  • The Amber character makes her own film about "Dirk Diggler". Amber's film-within-a-film is essentially a whitewash which is modeled closely after Exhausted itself. David Poland asked PTA, "How important was Exhausted in the development of your film?". The response:  "Critical. It was so clearly made by someone who was just blind to what John Holmes clearly was. She tried to make this wonderful portrait of who he was. So here's this narration saying how he's a wonderful guy, and in the background, he's slapping some woman around saying, 'Shut up, bitch! Answer my question!' And that's how it came to Amber doing a kind of damage control for Dirk, doing her own kind of Exhausted for him."
  • Snippets of dialogue in Boogie Nights are quoted verbatim from the interviews in Exhausted. The most entertaining example is Holmes's claim that "Bob lets me block my own sex scenes", followed by Bob Chinn's laconic, "I don't let you block your own sex scenes".

I recommend listening to the commentary track for Exhausted, which was recorded recently, and has much more perspective and honesty than the whitewashed film.

The Critics Vote

The People Vote ...


The meaning of the IMDb score: 7.5 usually indicates a level of excellence equivalent to about three and a half stars from the critics. 6.0 usually indicates lukewarm watchability, comparable to approximately two and a half stars from the critics. The fives are generally not worthwhile unless they are really your kind of material, equivalent to about a two star rating from the critics, or a C- from our system. Films rated below five are generally awful even if you like that kind of film - this score is roughly equivalent to one and a half stars from the critics or a D on our scale. (Possibly even less, depending on just how far below five the rating is.

My own guideline: A means the movie is so good it will appeal to you even if you hate the genre. B means the movie is not good enough to win you over if you hate the genre, but is good enough to do so if you have an open mind about this type of film. C means it will only appeal to genre addicts, and has no crossover appeal. (C+ means it has no crossover appeal, but will be considered excellent by genre fans, while C- indicates that it we found it to be a poor movie although genre addicts find it watchable). D means you'll hate it even if you like the genre. E means that you'll hate it even if you love the genre. F means that the film is not only unappealing across-the-board, but technically inept as well. Any film rated C- or better is recommended for fans of that type of film. Any film rated B- or better is recommended for just about anyone. We don't score films below C- that often, because we like movies and we think that most of them have at least a solid niche audience. Now that you know that, you should have serious reservations about any movie below C-.

Based on this description, this is a C. It is worth watching, not because it is so well done, but because of the glimpse it allows into the attitudes (and the porn films) of the times, as well as the unique personality Holmes shows during the interviews.

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