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Wonderland: The King is Dead

Porn Valley- As far as the porn industry goes, the year’s biggest flop was not Mary Carey’s breasts popping out of a brassiere but the film Wonderland starring Val Kilmer as porn star John “The King” Holmes.

So much for the theory about porn making its way into the mainstream, because the film played with scant distribution and a total gross of $1,031,087- a sum which wouldn’t even cover the cost of wig glue in New Line Cinema’s $300 million The Return of The King’s budget. Wonderland comes out on video on February 10. What you might find remotely interesting, if not ironic, is the fact that Kilmer as Jim Morrison in The Doors meets up briefly with John Holmes [Michael Madsen in a cameo] at an Andy Warhol party and tells him he likes his films.

Earlier, we had spoken to Bill Margold who reviewed Wonderland.

Margold: I had spoken to the filmmaker [James Cox] and congratulated him for making me miserable. I wept openly at the end of the movie because it, basically, shows the complete waste of a person’s life in John Holmes. I had read the script and had spoken with him in the beginning and told him I didn’t like the script so they never came back to me. They went to Cass Paley and Bob Chin. They’ll never get it right because nobody will ever know what happened on the mountain. At moments Kilmer gets pretty close. But only moments. When he starts to tell the story, Johnny comes alive. The person that steals the film is [Eric] Bogosian as Eddie Nash. I, of course, knew Nash. I ran the buildings that he owned and this guy must have studied film of Nash because he was frightening. Absolutely frightening.

Some of the people are more caricatured and all it does is validate the sentiment I said to the police when they came to see me, after the murders, what do you know about those people. I said, ‘were they drug dealers?’ I said that naively. They said, yeah. I said good. Then they all deserve to be dead. They thanked me and they left. If ever a movie proved that people deserve to die, that movie proves it. You talk about rotten human beings? There isn’t a sympathetic character in the whole movie. Well, the Chihuahua, I guess is marginally sympathetic. But I don’t like Chihuahuas. Everybody else gets what fate they deserve because they’re in hell. If you’re playing around with that kind of shit you deserve to die.

I guess they’ll say that Lisa Kudrow’s character as Sharon Holmes who came out of the woodwork after the fact- we never even knew he was married- she does get down into the role and is very homely and very maternal. But I think she enjoyed the maternal quality of watching over these overaged juvenile delinquents. No one ever bothered to point that out. She challenged my sentiment that the king was a legend. I never said the man was a hero. I just said he was a legend. You don’t have to be a hero to be a legend.

We wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for him. He single dickedly brought this industry into the modern era. He was the Babe Ruth of the X-rated industry. Not the Hedgehog. Not Harry Reems. Not Jamie or Leslie or Thomas or Silvera. The king was synonymous with the history of this business. And is the history of the business. But very wisely James Cox [the director] made sure that the movie has nothing to with the X-rated industry and that’s what I called to thank him about. He said it sort of made his day, I guess, because he was getting vilified by critics who are jealous that he made a movie that will probably wind up as a cult film at midnight screenings.

It’s not a commercial movie. The audience I was with was groaning during the bludgeoning. Pieces of brain and bone flying out; blood splattering. That’s a little much. It’s brilliant in that respect. It makes death painful and that’s what death is all about. But, boy, a brutal film. Unrelenting and very artistic in its own way.





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