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PORN CLUB: Adult Film Review Series Focuses on Peter Berlin

Porn Club: Peter Berlin

PinkLabel.TV’s PORN CLUB is like a book club for porn nerds. Each month, we offer a selection of titles in our new adult film review series in efforts to encourage discussion about porn as an indie film genre, reviewing of classic and contemporary titles available on our streaming network. Topics span technical aspects of how a movie was made, directorial influences, perceived social or historical impact, and other aspects of interest to the reviewer.

Our first edition kicked off with Radley Metzger, also known for his hardcore films under the pseudonym Henry Paris, with three of his earlier titles, CAMILLE 2000 (1969), The Lickerish Quartet (1970), and SCORE (1974). In the second edition, we followed SCORE’s star Cal Culver who was better known by his alias Casey Donovan to his work with Wakefield Poole in Boys In The Sand. The series continued with Wakefield Poole’s BIBLE! and Bijou. The third edition of PORN CLUB, hopped over to the lesbian made porn of the 80s and 90s with landmark film and distribution company Fatale Media and their films: Suburban Dykes, Safe is Desire, and Private Pleasures.

Now, we focus on the self-made gay porn icon, Peter Berlin, with the films Nights in Black Leather (1973), That Boy (1974), and a more recent documentary featuring interviews with the man himself, THAT MAN (2005).


THAT MAN: Peter Berlin (2005)

With his trademark Dutchboy haircut, “Tom of Finland” physique, and oh-so-tight trousers, Peter Berlin was the poster boy for the hedonistic and sexually-liberated 1970s. This fascinating, sexy, and ultimately touching documentary traces Berlin’s story over the past 40 years, from his birth in wartime Germany to his current life in San Francisco, and shows the human being behind the icon.

I’ll tell you where most people want to go. [They want] three things. They want to get fucked…get fucked…get fucked. And then the fourth thing is sucking cock.”
— Peter Berlin

 

PORN CLUB Reviews

That Man: Peter Berlin is a documentary on the iconic photographer and adult movie star Peter Berlin by director Jim Tushinski. Peter Berlin starred in two gay adult films in the early 70s, Nights in Black Leather that he made with Richard Abel and That Boy that he made on his own. What made Peter Berlin famous wasn’t either of these films though, it was his iconic branding of himself as a 70s gay sex idol. That Man: Peter Berlin digs into the life of the Polish-born Armin Hagen Freiherr von Hoyningen-Huene, who went on to become the iconic Peter Berlin.

Peter Berlin didn’t star in his first film until he was in his thirties, yet still managed to lock in the image of a gay heartthrob within the gay community. Not just on film but on the streets of San Francisco as well where Armin Hagen Freiherr von Hoyningen-Huene was no more, and Peter Berlin cruised the streets.

Jim Tushinski has broken his documentary on Peter Berlin into ten portion, starting with Peter Berlin Basics. This opening was a great way to open the film. This reviewer is a cishet who was born in 1975, and therefore wasn’t familiar with Peter Berlin, the person; however, he has screened Peter Berlin’s films. This reviewer suspects that, for various reasons, many viewers will be unfamiliar with Peter Berlin as a whole, and the opening segment helps explain why he warrants a documentary.

Flash, AdultDVDTalk

Sexuality and arousal are not monolithic concepts. Everybody’s got their something, and that’s okay. However fucking, or rather the act of force-thrusting a blunt peg into a round hole? The directness of the act makes it the epitome of singular, consensual carnal aggression. Thus, it’s the moment at which the basest human desire is satiated. Never since nor after the creative prime of hunk-chest man-dick thirst-trap Peter Berlin has the epitome of explosive and destructively wanton man-on-man fuck-lust been so succinctly presented in the flesh. Above all else, 2005’s documentary That Man: Peter Berlin succeeds in a proud act of gaping in awe at the fact that this artist, model, porn star — no, let’s just call it as we see it, Teutonic sex titan — roamed the Earth during the 1970s, the world’s most hedonistic era. During the 1970s, Peter Berlin was so good at the art of sex that it even superseded the best output of the most dominant creatives in the performing and visual arts of that era. How one handles the impressiveness of that as a legacy is an intriguing question worthy of contemplation.

Marcus K. Dowling


THAT BOY

Peter Berlin stars as Helmut, who drifts around the South of Market and Polk Street areas of San Francisco. When Helmut meets a blind boy and becomes fascinated by him, the film begins a series of fantasies within fantasies that quickly take it out of the realm of standard gay porn.
PORN CLUB Reviews

Before his eventual meeting with the blind boy, he crosses paths with a leather man who propositions him. When Helmut kindly refuses he’s then told “You’ll be sorry, bitch”. Like, wha…? This part left me a little confused. He then comes across the blind boy attempting to cross the street and the narration begins, from the perspective of the blind boy. Helmut helps across the street, and the blind boy knows it’s him. An object of his affections. The narration continues, with the blind boy saying how he confided his fantasies about Helmut to him. How in his thoughts he imagines himself as photographer taking pictures of Helmut. As he snaps his pictures he instructs him strip down to smaller and smaller pieces of clothing. Alternating between thin white lace up pants and sexy black leather. This is scene is so heavy with narration that you get the feel that your almost watching an audiobook. There’s lots of moaning and sucking sounds as the blind boy photographer sucks Helmut’s leather sheathed cock. Which they say a lot in this film. More times than I can count on both hands. So much gorgeous cock…

Overall I loved this film. Definitely much more sexual and pornographic than the others I have reviewed. Still artsy, and with a bit of a plot line but, not so much that it feels like just a feature film. It’s great masturbation material, and shows a lot of historical gay San Francisco. With the South of Market and Polk Street areas of San Francisco serving as much of the setting and backdrop of the film. Peter Berlin made an erotic gay masterpiece here that I think will stand the test of time. It’s made for gay men, by a gay man, but is also hot vintage smut that anyone can enjoy.

— VoodooSexMagick

 


Nights in Black Leather

Peter Berlin stars as himself, a German immigrant walking around San Francisco looking for adventure. With scenes shot in North Beach, Land’s End, and all over San Francisco, Nights in Black Leather is both an exciting erotic romp and a time capsule of gay life in San Francisco circa 1973.

Directed by Ignatio Rutkowski, aka Richard Abel.

 

PORN CLUB Reviews

I’m constantly reminding myself how important it is to shift my brain and see with the eyes of the audience from an era. I can’t watch porn from 1973 with 2019 eyes. I can’t consider modern heteronormative #ConsentCulture when I’m diving into a period piece from the gay culture of 1970s San Francisco. I’d never heard of Peter Berlin before diving into Nights In Black Leather. By the end of the film, I understood his appeal. However, it took me a while to get there.

If you’re a cisgender heterosexual man, what are some ways that you can learn more about what you desire? I’m not talking about pursuing desires, just understanding what you desire and the arousal of others (even if you’re not attracted to them). I encourage everyone to watch porn. If you have an image of porn that repulses you, I encourage you to watch better porn, I encourage you to #PayForYourPorn.

Jet Noir

Before we slip into our holiday finery, let’s have one more session of #PornClub, shall we? Over at @pinklabeltv, we’ve been watching the films of Peter Berlin, a 70s gay icon who mastered the art of erotic self-portraiture long before Grindr and Instagram. The streaming service is showing both his San Francisco-based features films and a doc about his life and art. I can’t get over the detail that he always, always dressed like this (John Waters vouches for this fact) and had all his clothes tailored to showcase his rippling torso, slender legs and formidable bulge.

Nights In Black Leather was my pick of the selection. What can I say? What I love about B-movies, I love about vintage porn: the setting, that slice of life as it was because budgets don’t allow for remaking a place in your fantasy image. In a cinema vérité style, we follow a German immigrant who arrives in San Francisco and uncovers his very own gay paradise. With each sexual encounter—phone sex, sex in a treehouse-like hideaway in the woods, cruising the streets of North Beach—Berlin moves away from conventional ideas of sex and into the diversity (and particularity) of his desires. A lanky Tom of Finland leatherman with a pageboy haircut, the film focuses on him, lingering on his ripped body, his golden curls, hid bulge, his low slung leather trousers, driving home the idea of sexual self-exploration.

We’re watching him, but the way he interacts with the camera is self-aware in a tantalizing way. There’s no question: this is about his body, our eyes on his body. Throughout the film he keeps a journal about his encounters and erotic transformation, an act one reviewer says prefigures Sex and The City. I was reminded of another film, not as well known: New York City Inferno, Jacques Scandelari’s 1978 feature about a Parisian man who travels to New York to reclaim his lover, who has left him for the master in leather. Like Berlin’s film, it gives us a raw understanding of what it must have felt like to be a gay man in these cities: the cruising spaces, the clubs and dives, the furtive glances, the way you might have occupied that urban space. A sensual yet bittersweet portrait of gay life pre-AIDS.

— Saskia Vogel


PORN CLUB is an adult film review series presented by PinkLabel.TV. Tune in next month for our next set of reviews, spanning classics to contemporary.

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