The Pornographer  (1999) from Tuna and Johnny Web (Uncle Scoopy; Greg Wroblewski)

The Pornographer (1999) is a freshman effort from writer director Doug Atchison, starring Michael DeGood, who had done a couple of things on TV,  and Katherine Cain in her first feature film. Don't let the title and the fact that Rena Riffel and Monique Parent show breasts and buns in the film lead you to believe that this is a low budget soft core about the porn industry. What it is is a well made story of one man's decent into pornography, and the consequences.

DeGood plays a young paralegal who was raised in an anti sex and anti-female family who has zero experience in relating to the opposite sex, and has turned to porn and hookers for sexual outlet, but has become increasingly lonesome. When he complains to a video store clerk about the quality of some films he is returning, the clerk tells him to make his own if he doesn't like what is there. After some disastrous attempts with real women, he decides that making his own films, and doing them right, is an idea with merit. Things go well, until he connects with a major porn producer/distributor (Craig Wasson) who wants him to find and recruit new blood. He manages to start a relationship with a chance acquaintance  (Caine), and decides she is the one to recruit.

Atchison made a lot of great decisions in making this film with nearly no budget. First, he got some known talent, and picked his newcomers well. Second, he listened to his cast and crew, and changed the script when they had better ideas. Third, he found an impressive number of great locations that he was allowed to use free of charge. And, probably most important, he didn't go for a look and feel he couldn't afford to shoot well. Rather, he went for a straightforward photographic approach, and no tricky, distracting lighting. 

The film won first place at the Arizona International Film Festival, and IMDB readers have it at 6.8/10, with a staggering 8.1/10 among males aged 41+. As it presents a rather negative view of the porn industry, that could explain the higher rating among older people with enough perspective to see the relevance of the film. 

It would be a good character driven drama no matter what the budget, but it is exceptional work for a zero budget indie.  


a stripper is topless in the film's first minute

Rena Riffel is topless as a peep show girl

Monique Parent is topless in three scenes, and shows her buns in thong underwear

Scoop's notes in yellow:

I thought it was OK, but don't share the same degree of enthusiasm as Tuna. I thought it was superficial, too by-the-numbers predictable to be a real movie, and there was far too little sex and nudity for it to be a titillation flick, so I didn't really think it connected on either level. It was all right - much better than I expected - but not exceptional. It seemed to me like an adult version of one of those ABC Afterschool Specials, with all the correct sociology, but none of the real feel and grit of the industry, as if written by someone who studied the porno industry in a textbook and got all the facts exactly right, but was never actually in it and couldn't supply the color.

I think younger viewers probably found it preachy. Here's the age breakdown at IMDb


17 or less 5.3
18-29 5.9
30-44 6.0
45 or more 8.1

Other results are equally polarized. The gender breakdown is male 6.9, female 4.5. US Voters 7.1, others 5.4

So you are far more likely to appreciate it if you are an old American geezer. If you are a young European woman, I suspect this isn't your thing.

(All of the posted differences are statistically insignificant, but interesting nonetheless.) 

However, I do agree with some of Tuna's points. 

DVD info from Amazon.

  • Widescreen anamorphic, 1.85:1

  • Full-length director/actor commentary

  • two extra mini-films by the director: one about creating a scene and the other a general intro

  • deleted scenes

  • The usual bios, trailers, tv ads, and a music video

The main positive that stands out when you watch the film is its believability. It isn't dumb. When you watch as many zero budget films as we do, you do appreciate when one of them tells a story that is both possible and probable given the circumstances. It certainly wasn't pro-porn, but it wasn't one of those alarmist screeds either. It presented the case logically, with emotional detachment, and using typical circumstances to represent people who become addicted to porn, people who get into it, and people who profit from it. The strongest element of the script is that the protagonist is actually a good person who just isn't able to relate to women in a normal way, and who is overcome with remorse when he exploits and corrupts a "nice" girl. The film is more about his loneliness than it is about porn.

And the acting is generally good for such a cast of unknowns and fringe players.

I definitely had some problems with the ending. The film was moving along with some nice realism, when the ending made the descent into the ever-necessary gun-waving, and the characters seemed to be acting out of character relative to their previously demonstrated temperaments.

At any rate, the film is not bad. It is nice to see an indie that tries to portray real people doing real things, and the DVD is quite thorough for a no-budget flick. 

The Critics Vote

  • no reviews online

The People Vote ...

  • With their votes ... IMDB summary: IMDb voters score it 6.8 
IMDb guideline: 7.5 usually indicates a level of excellence, about like three and a half stars from the critics. 6.0 usually indicates lukewarm watchability, about like two and a half stars from the critics. The fives are generally not worthwhile unless they are really your kind of material, about like two stars from the critics. Films under five are generally awful even if you like that kind of film, equivalent to about one and a half stars from the critics or 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. 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.

Based on this description, this film is a C+ (Tuna) C (Scoop).

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