Bob Chinn is a veritable legend in the adult film industry, quite literally changing it over night with the introduction of the Johnny Wadd series in which the late John Holmes played a hardboiled private eye. Having worked in the adult film industry for decades now, Chinn has recently made the jump to novelist by bringing Johnny Wadd back, this time on the printed page. Bob was kind enough to talk to Ian Jane about his latest endeavors and his life in the XXX film industry.
Rock! Shock! Pop! - So how did you get interested in filmmaking?
Bob Chinn - Films had always fascinated me from the time I was a child growing up in Hawaii. I was a Journalism major at the University of Miami when I went to a theatre showing foreign films in Coral Gables and saw Vittorio De Sicaâ€™s â€œBicycle Thievesâ€ and from that time on I was hooked â€“ I had to become a filmmaker. I moved to California and took Theatre Arts courses at Santa Monica City College before enrolling at UCLA to study motion picture production.
Rock! Shock! Pop! - With that said, how did you wind up working in the adult film industry?
BC - The adult film industry was the only aspect of the business that gave me steady employment, and I needed that since I had a wife and child to support. After finishing film school the only work I could find in the film industry was at the bottom of the ladder â€“ building sets for a company that made commercials. During a cameramenâ€™s strike when I got bumped up to assistant cameraman someone noticed that I really knew how to handle a camera so he put me in touch with someone who gave me a job shooting adult films. I soon moved from shooting them to directing them.
Rock! Shock! Pop! - Your first picture is listed as A History Of Pornography which you made under a European alias, Hons Wegmunsen. This picture doesnâ€™t appear to have been released on home video â€“ whatâ€™s the deal with this one?
BC - Actually â€œThe History of Pornographyâ€ was my third feature picture. I had previously made â€œAuto Eroticism and the Femaleâ€ and â€œThe Rise and Fall of Ricky Shuter.â€ I believe it is available on video from Something Weird Video. By 1969 pornography had been legalized in Denmark and toward the end of that year the San Francisco documentary filmmaker Alex de Renzy went there to attend the first porn trade show which was called Sex 69. Alex made a documentary about the show titled â€œPornography in Denmarkâ€ which had hardcore sex scenes in it. His documentary was released in theatres in the U.S. in early 1970. Showing hardcore on screen was still illegal in the U.S. at that time but since Alexâ€™s film was a documentary it didnâ€™t get busted and it kind of paved the way. Ed de Priest, who owned a company called Canyon Films was one of the first to cash in on this by commissioning me to put together a quick bargain-basement documentary that incorporated some old stag films and some new hardcore footage along with enough documentation from a historical perspective to make the thing fly. I wrote the script, edited and even narrated the film. Of course at the time we all used pseudonyms because making these films was still illegal and no one wanted to lead the cops directly to their door.
Rock! Shock! Pop! â€“ What can you tell us about Auto Eroticism Of The Female And The Rise And Fall Of Ricky Shuter? Were you nervous directing an adult picture for the first time? Worried about the â€˜stigmaâ€™ at all?
BC - Before I began directing features I made a whole bunch of short films known at the time as â€˜Beaver Girlâ€™ loops, which played in storefront mini-theatres and venues such as Shan Saylesâ€™ Paris Theatre in Los Angeles. â€œAuto Eroticism the Femaleâ€ was a feature made by stringing together an hourâ€™s worth of these loops and adding some music and narration. â€œThe Rise and Fall of Ricky Shuterâ€ was my first synch-sound story feature and it incorporated a single hardcore loop, which was a pretty risky thing to do at that time in a film that couldnâ€™t be considered a documentary. As for the stigma â€“ no, this didnâ€™t become an issue at all back then. Later it would, however.
Rock! Shock! Pop! - Youâ€™re best known for the Johnny Wadd films that you made with John Holmes who first approached you by entering your office and looking for work. What was your first impression of Holmes?
BC - When I first saw John he didnâ€™t really impress me at all. And then I saw him with his pants down and it occurred to me that, packaged right, this guy might have some big potential. Since he wasnâ€™t the stereotypical conventionally handsome lover-boy type I decided to cast him as a cynical hard-boiled private dick, which was a subject I had been waiting to experiment with in these films.
Rock! Shock! Pop! â€“ Heâ€™s definitely an interesting choice for that role. In the early films, before Johnâ€™s drug problem started to take over, you guys were doing all sorts of ambitious stuff, with John obviously quite enthusiastic about doing stunts and fight scenes in the films. How much collaboration with John were there on the Wadd films? Was he involved in the writing, and â€˜blockingâ€™ as he alluded to in an interview?
BC - When I worked with him John was always enthusiastic about doing stunts and fight scenes. In the early days he was very anxious to please me so it was relatively easy for me to work with him. We got along very well with each other. He was never involved in the writing or creative aspects of any of the films. His work was limited to appearing before the camera or sometimes helping out as a crew member behind the camera. Our collaboration was a successful one because after awhile he almost instinctively knew what I wanted and expected from him. I did all of the blocking for the regular scenes as well as the sex scenes in all of our films because I was the one who placed the camera and knew how and where the scene should be played. Iâ€™ll give you an example, something that I also mentioned in my autobiography. I was shooting the final scene for a Johnny Wadd movie on location at a deserted beach outside of Ensenada, Mexico at sunset. I told John to enter frame right, go over to the rock outcropping, sit down on the big rock and look thoughtfully out to sea. â€œWhat am I thinking about,â€ he asked. I told him, â€œYouâ€™re thinking about love and death and the manifold waking of mankind to suffering and endurance, you bonehead. What the hell else do you think youâ€™d be thinking about at the end of the fucking film?â€ He nodded and I rolled the camera and he entered frame and went over and sat on the rock like I told him to. Then suddenly he leans forward and wraps his arms below his knees, hugging them close to him and keeps sitting there and Iâ€™m thinking, hey, this works better this way than I had originally envisioned it. John was a natural and he usually required very little direction. Iâ€™d also give him a lot of latitude. He was a quick study with dialogue and always delivered the lines exactly as they were written. Occasionally he came up with some interesting bits of business or mannerisms, but that was about the extent of his actual input. Sometimes, in the course of a sex scene I would tell him where I wanted him to do the come shot â€“ say for example on the girlâ€™s mouth and chin and I would ask him to show me how he was going to get into position from where he was and do that so I could position the camera properly. Perhaps thatâ€™s what he was thinking of in the interview when he said that I allowed him to block his own sex scenes.
Rock! Shock! Pop! â€“ The Wadd films obviously pull from old crime noir films and classic detective movies â€“ what films would you say were the biggest influences on these pictures?
BC - As a kid in Hawaii the Saturday matinees that interested me the most were those old black and white film noir crime and detective movies. These films had a dark and gritty realism that appealed to me. If I were to pick the ones that would have had the biggest influence on me Iâ€™d have to say films such as Robert Aldrichâ€™s â€œKiss Me Deadly,â€ John Hustonâ€™s â€œThe Maltese Falconâ€ and â€œThe Asphalt Jungle,â€ and Billy Wilderâ€™s â€œAce in the Hole.â€
Rock! Shock! Pop! â€“ In addition to working with Holmes, youâ€™ve also worked with a lot of other legends of the golden age of adult filmmaking. Who would you say was the best to work with and who would you say was the worst?
BC - It would be difficult to pick out the best because Iâ€™ve truly enjoyed working with all of them! There were the intelligent and challenging stars such as Georgina Spelvin, Annette Haven and Candida Royalle; girls like Shauna Grant, Linda Wong, Laurien Dominique, Desiree Cousteau, Jesie St. James, Sandi Carey, Sandy Dempsey â€“ the list could go on and on â€“ were all true delights to work with. I was also fortunate to have directed a number of young ladies who would subsequently become big stars in their very first screen appearances â€“ Seka, Hyapatia Lee and Ronda Jo Petty, for example. There are really no â€˜worstâ€™ to speak of because I got along well with pretty much anybody. On the extremely rare occasion that I was confronted with someone I didnâ€™t get along with I simply fired him or her the first day they came on the shoot and hired someone else.
Rock! Shock! Pop! â€“ Whatâ€™s the most insane thing that ever happened on the set of one of your shoots?
BC - There were a lot of crazy things that happened on the sets of many of my shoots. One of them happened on one of the old one-day-wonders I made for a guy named Ruby Gottesman. The film was called â€œThe Married Womanâ€ (it was released on video with the title â€œMy Wife the Hookerâ€) and it starred Stephanie Silva. Here is a passage taken directly from my autobiography â€“ a current work-in-progress. The cameraman mentioned in it is Frank Mills.
â€œI was about half way into the shoot when I realized that the film really needed something more in it, something to set it above the ordinary. I wracked my mind for an idea but was having a hard time coming up with one. During a shooting break, while Frank was setting up for another scene, it finally came to me. I decided to do something I had never done before with one of these features, so as a spectacular climax to the film I decided to shoot a golden shower scene. I brought the idea up with Stephanie and asked her if she was willing.
â€œSure,â€ she said.
The guy who volunteered to do it with her was Stephanieâ€™s real-life boyfriend who had been hanging around the set waiting for her to finish. We gave him a six-pack of beer to consume so heâ€™d be truly ready for the scene when it came time to shoot it. That scene would be the last thing we would shoot. After we finished shooting all of the film that had been scripted, Frank was busily setting up the lights to shoot that final spectacular final scene when our brave volunteer, the boyfriend who had been drinking beer all afternoon and had finished the six pack, announced in a panic, â€œI got to pee!â€
â€œHold it,â€ I said. â€œWe still got to set up the lights.â€
â€œI really donâ€™t think I can,â€ he continued.
â€œSure you can,â€ I assured him. â€œItâ€™s just a matter of mind over matter. Get into a Zen thing or something. You know how to do that, donâ€™t you?â€
Sweat had formed on his forehead and he was straining to hold all that beer in. I could feel danger in the air. â€œShit! How long â€˜till weâ€™re ready?â€ I asked Frank.
â€œTen minutes,â€ he said, adjusting the lights.
â€œOhh nooo,â€ came a long painful moan from the bloated boyfriend. â€œItâ€™s coming!â€ These were not the words that I wanted to hear.
â€œHold it in for ten more seconds,â€ I yelled at him. â€œQuick, Stephanie! Get those towels spread on the floor and kneel on them! Frank, get behind the camera now!â€ Stephanie rushed to do as I asked and her boyfriend took his position standing over her.
Frank immediately rushed to the camera, framed the scene, quickly focused the lens and turned on the camera just in time. It seemed as if the guy peed forever. Poor Stephanie was literally drowning. It was all over her, face, her hair, her body â€“ just all over the place. When Stephanieâ€™s boyfriend finally squeezed out the last drop, I yelled â€œCut!â€ Then I turned to Frank and asked, â€œWhat do you think?â€
â€œI think the lighting sucks,â€ he replied.
In spite of the sucky lighting it ended up being a pretty spectacular scene but it definitely was not something that I would really care to ever do again.â€
Rock! Shock! Pop! â€“ You also acted in a few of your own films â€“ do you enjoy appearing in front of the camera or do you prefer to direct?
BC - Iâ€™m much too self-conscious so I loathe appearing in front of the camera and only did so when I absolutely had to. Yes, I do prefer to direct.
Rock! Shock! Pop! â€“ With that being the case, why did you appear in those films?
BC - I appeared in the films either to save money by not having to hire an additional actor or simply because there was no one else around to do the part.
Rock! Shock! Pop! â€“ Youâ€™re credited with co-directing Little Orphan Dusty, a fairly rough film and a rather notorious one at that. Do you feel the content of your movies ever went too far?
BC - When â€œLittle Orphan Dustyâ€ was made there were no parameters yet set so we still enjoyed a certain degree of freedom in making adult films. You have to remember that even at that time what we were doing was still considered only quasi-legal in some states and illegal in others. We were trying to find and define the limits that we could set with regard to Freedom of Speech. Now that pornography has been legalized and become a big business there are a whole series of rules and regulations based on political correctness. I have always been a strong advocate of the First Amendment and I felt back then as I still feel now, that if a story can justify the showing of rape or violence then such content should be acceptable as an integral part of that picture. So no, I donâ€™t feel that the content of my movies ever went too far.
Rock! Shock! Pop! â€“ What was Ronda Jo Petty like to work with on that picture? Was she game for the rape scene? You also worked with her on Disco Lady, so obviously you guys go along well enough.
BC - Ronda Jo was wonderful to work with on that picture. Of course she was game for the rape scene, although it was a hell of a lot of work to film in the very short time we had to film it. Iâ€™ve always got along well with Ronda Jo and she is a friend even to this day. â€œDisco Ladyâ€ was her first film, and she also appeared in another film of mine called â€œBaby Cakes.â€
Rock! Shock! Pop! â€“ That scene always struck a chord with me for whatever reason. Itâ€™s very effective. A lot of rape scenes in adult films wind up seeming to turn it into a fantasy on the part of the woman, whereas in Dusty itâ€™s just got a harder, nastier edge to it. Was your intent here to make it seem abhorrent or were you going for the â€˜rape fantasyâ€™ angle?
BC - I certainly wasnâ€™t going for a â€˜rape fantasyâ€™ scene. If anything I was angling more toward realism. It was supposed to be a truly frightening thing, what was happening to poor little Dusty, so it was primarily the depiction of a terrible and brutal out and out rape by a gang of violent sociopaths. Thatâ€™s the way it appeared in the screenplay which, by the way, was written by a woman named Svetlana Mishoff.
Rock! Shock! Pop! â€“ You directed Seka in Blonde Fire and then later in Prisoner Of Paradise. How was she to work with? Stories seem to vary, some say she was a complete sweetheart, others say she was a prima donna. She seemed to enjoy working with Holmes enough.
BC - Seka was a total delight to work with. â€œBlonde Fireâ€ was her first film appearance and I only got to work with her for half a day on that one. She impressed me then as somewhat quiet and reserved but she was obviously a cool and savvy businesswoman. By the time I made â€œPrisoner of Paradiseâ€ she had become a big star and this time I found that aside from being fun to work with she had a great sense of humor. She was also something of a practical joker on the set, usually at the expense of the actor that played the Nazi colonel.
Rock! Shock! Pop! - Was Prisoner Of Paradise influenced by any of the Nazisploitation pictures that had come out in the late seventies, like the Ilsa movies or the Italian Nazi films? Is Sekaâ€™s character named after Dyanne Thorneâ€™s character or is it just coincidence?
BC - You are the first person to draw that parallel. Of course I saw the Italian Nazi exploitation pictures of that time and I knew Don Edmunds â€“ who made the Ilsa films. You might say that Sekaâ€™s character name in the film was some kind of an in-joke.
Rock! Shock! Pop! â€“ How did you know Don?
BC - I was introduced to Don by Dave Friedman.
Rock! Shock! Pop! â€“ You also worked with Lee Carroll and Lisa De Leeuw on The Seductress. Any stories about those two grand ladies of the golden age? Lisa in particular seems to be enjoying a resurgence in popularity in certain circles these days.
BC - At first Lisa De Leeuw was nervous about working with me because apparently I had this reputation about being one of the most important film directors in the business. I had to take her aside to calm her down and gently guide her through her scene. This upset my wife at the time â€“ who was working as the script supervisor on the film. She rushed off the set in tears and when I caught up with her she said, â€œYou never talk as nicely to me as you do to that porn slut.â€ I could only reply, â€œHey, Iâ€™m just trying to get a film made here.â€
It was interesting because onscreen Lisa can come off as this big, brash lady while off screen she could at times be so very afraid and insecure. We got along well after this first film and she even appeared in a brief cameo role for me in â€œAll the Way In.â€
Lee Carroll, on the other hand, was the complete opposite of Lisa. Leeâ€™s confidence and ego were as big as her tits and she was very easy to work with.
Rock! Shock! Pop! â€“ That raises an interesting point â€“ did your career in pornography ever have a negative effect on your personal life (and off the record if you donâ€™t want to answer this one just say so and Iâ€™ll omit it from the interview)?
BC - Iâ€™d have to say that yes, it did sometimes have a negative effect on my marriages and relationships. It also had a pretty negative effect whenever I tried to get work in the mainstream film industry because I had become so identified with the genre.
Rock! Shock! Pop! â€“ You made another World War II based film, Tropic of Desire, in 1982. Why did you decide to make another film based around that setting and what was it like to work with the amazing Georgina Spelvin? Iâ€™ve always felt she was one of the best actual actresses in the business.
BC - Although it was a critical disaster â€“ perhaps because of its deliberate pace â€“ â€œTropic of Desireâ€ remains one of my favorite films. It was shot back-to-back with â€œFantasyworldâ€ on a very low budget, sharing some of the same cast and sets. Iâ€™ve always liked making films with period tropical and exotic settings which allowed me to try and create my own world within the film.
Georgina Spelvin is a remarkable actress and a great person. It was always an honor and a privilege to work with her. I first directed her in the Johnny Wadd film â€œThe Jade Pussycat.â€ In â€œTropic of Desireâ€ I thought that she was perfectly cast as the Madam of the bordello. Georgina has always been one of my favorite people.
Rock! Shock! Pop! â€“ The late great Russ Meyer is credited as appearing in your 1984 film All The Way In. How did this come about?
BC - Russ was one of the great pioneers of the adult film industry. I asked him to appear beside me in a small cameo in â€œAll the Way In,â€ which was Candy Samplesâ€™ first feature picture, by the way, and he agreed. The last time I saw Russ was in 2000 at the Cult Movies Convention where I was presented with a Lifetime Achievement Award.
Rock! Shock! Pop! â€“ Thatâ€™s quite an honor. What was Russ like to work with on the picture? Iâ€™ve interviewed a few performers from his filmography, and people seemed to either love working with him or hate working with him when he was behind the camera â€“ but what was he like taking direction?
BC - I found Russ to be a very pleasant person, cooperative and willing to do whatever needed to be done. Of course there wasnâ€™t a whole lot for him to do in that small part.
Rock! Shock! Pop! â€“ In the early 2000s you brought back another detective character with your Nick Grande series. How influenced were these movies by the Johnny Wadd films that you made with John Holmes?
BC - In 1999 I returned to the business after being away from it for 13 years. For one of my initial projects I dusted off an old Johnny Wadd script that had never been filmed, updated it and changed the characterâ€™s name to Peter Magnum and kicked off the Peter Magnum series which eventually ran to ten features. The Nick Grande pictures were a spin-off from this series only this time we had a private detective based in Tijuana and the features were shot in both Spanish and English language versions. There were six Nick Grande features. Both of these series were directly influenced by the Johnny Wadd films, as was another series of six pictures that I did that featured a San Pedro private investigator who was Johnny Waddâ€™s son.
Rock! Shock! Pop! - Out of all the pictures youâ€™ve made, of which one do you like the best and which one do you like the least? Why?
BC - This is really a tough question because I actually donâ€™t much care for any of them. Whenever I see one of them I can only think of how much better I should have made it.
Rock! Shock! Pop! â€“ Weâ€™re always our own harshest critics! I happen to think your stuff, particularly the 70s and early 80s films, are a whole lot of fun. A few years back you did a great commentary track for a special edition of the first Johnny Wadd movie â€“ any chance youâ€™re going to do the same for reissues of the other films in the series?
BC - If Iâ€™m asked to do so Iâ€™d probably be willing.
Rock! Shock! Pop! - You remained an active director in the adult film industry right up through the early 2000s, but havenâ€™t made a picture since 2003. Will there be a return anytime soon or are you officially retired?
BC - As of now I consider myself to be officially retired from the adult film industry â€“ but I canâ€™t rule out another comeback if I feel so inclined.
Rock! Shock! Pop! - Youâ€™ve recently published the first in what should hopefully be a series of Johnny Wadd novels. How was the transition from writing for the screen versus writing for the printed page?
BC - The transition was extremely easy, strangely enough. Just about all of my screenplays were written in a day or less. It takes a lot longer to write a novel but to me itâ€™s much more satisfying. I can flesh out my characters and situations and be more imaginative and creative without being concerned about the budget restrictions that apply to filming.
Rock! Shock! Pop! - What will the next Johnny Wadd novel be? Do you have plans on adapting the entire series of films?
BC - The next Johnny Wadd novel, â€œBlonde in Black Laceâ€ is nearly finished at this time. I have already outlined â€œTropic of Passionâ€ and â€œHellâ€™s Half Acreâ€ which are set in Hawaii. â€œWhite Goldâ€ (which incorporates the films â€œTell Them Johnny Wadd Is Hereâ€ and â€œLiquid Lipsâ€), â€œThe Jade Pussycat,â€ â€œBlonde Fireâ€ and â€œMagnum Loveâ€ will follow. So yes, Iâ€™m adapting the entire series of films as well as the un-filmed Johnny Wadd projects.
Rock! Shock! Pop! â€“ Youâ€™ve got a lot of work ahead of you â€“ what can you tell us about the unfilmed Johnny Wadd projects?
BC - Some footage was actually shot for a project tentatively titled â€œWaikiki Waddâ€ while I was filming the location footage for â€œPrisoner of Paradiseâ€ in Hawaii. By the time we had completed shooting the rest of â€œPrisonerâ€ on the Mainland, however, John had become so involved with drugs that I no longer wanted to work with him. I also had in hand a completed script for another Wadd project that was never made titled â€œMagnum Love.â€ I will be novelizing â€œWaikiki Waddâ€ under the title â€œHellâ€™s Half Acre.â€
Rock! Shock! Pop! â€“ Anything else youâ€™d like to mention?
BC - Iâ€™d like to say that Iâ€™m extremely grateful to all of you who have enjoyed my films and I sincerely hope that you will do me the honor to read and enjoy my books!
Rock! Shock! Pop! â€“ Bob, Thanks again for taking the time to do this and for sharing these great stories.
For more information on Bob's novels, check out this blog page here!
Special thanks to Alyss N. for help with the banner!