When Will Smith promoted his superhero comedy Hancock he joked that when the inevitable porn knock-off was made, the schlockmeisters wouldn’t even have to change the title. Smith was acknowledging the near pandemic frequency of low-brow, low-budget pornographers who hijack mainstream movies and, with little evidence of wit, transform them into adult entertainment. Edward Scissorhands, West Side Story and Saving Private Ryan, to name a few, have been reimagined as the Edward Penis Hands, Breast Side Story and Shaving Ryan’s Privates. It’s easy to create a lascivious sounding title; it’s much harder to recreate the essence and look of the original source material.
Vivid Video, an adult film company, has recently released Batman XXX: A Porn Parody. CNBC.com reported that the film’s “two trailers garnered over 1 million views on YouTube and the DVD has topped sales charts for nearly two months.” The Hollywood Reporter estimated Vivid films sales account for a “$100 million slice of an industry that has been estimated to bring in as much as $13 billion a year (compared to mainstream box office of $10.6 billion).”
Judging from the two trailers, the filmmakers have accurately and slavishly copied the glossy and colorful look of the popular Batman 1960s TV show. The costumes are near perfect facsimiles of the outfits worn by the original cast (although I’m pretty sure that Adam West’s duds did not have “XXX” emblazed across his chest.) Reuters reported that Vivid implied that in an effort to make the outfits look authentic they hired the show’s original costume designers.
Batman XXX: The Porn Parody recreates hallmark moments from the original show including: Batman dancing the Batusi, Robin idiosyncratically using the interjection “Holy,” the Dynamic duo chit-chatting while climbing up the side of a building, purple-suited and green-haired Joker laughing maniacally, and sultry Catwoman slinking suggestively around her lair. Unlike the TV show, the porn version posits what happens when the heroes take off their costumes and make nice with the bad guys and gals.
During production of the original series, Caesar Romero didn’t want to shave off his famous mustache to play the Joker and the producers didn’t want to alter the look of the iconic baddie. A solution was devised whereby the make-up team covered up and mashed down the offending facial hair with copious amount of white paint. The near perfect result is that unless you know about the secret stash you wouldn’t notice it. Amusingly, the actor portraying The Joker in the porn parody also sports a mustache that is similarly but, in this case, purposefully not completely concealed.
In the trailer, we also see a Batmobile so authentic that I wondered at first if the filmmakers illegally used footage from the original show. They didn’t; they simply rented a replica. Familiar sound-alike music punctuates the action, and we are reminded of the cartoon that preceded the series starring Adam West and that words like “Kapow!” and “Thwack!” were sprinkled over fight scenes.
Batman XXX, sold for a whopping $36.79 at Vivid’s website, has proven to be so popular that the company created a new division called Vivid-Superhero which will be tasked with creating other superhero-inspired films. Superman XXX is already in preproduction and future films will feature other DC and Marvel characters, including Spider-Man, the Hulk, Wonder Woman and Captain America.
The roots of these superherocentric porn films lie somewhere between Slash fiction (where writers create stories that depict fictional characters engaged in sexual situations) and fan-films (where amateur filmmakers makes moves based on their favorite characters for their own amusement).
Because fan-films are rarely made as commercial ventures, the fan community was surprised that DC comics (as well as Paramount and other film studios) targeted them, aspiring Christopher Nolans, with legal cease-and-desist letters. The well-intentioned fans were relieved when DC changed its official position in 2008 by stating “We’re against anything that monetizes our assets and our copyrights without our permission. We are not against things where people use our assets if they don’t do anything monetarily with them.”
At the end of the Batman XXX trailer, a disclaimer states obviously that the film is a parody and that Batman and the gang are copyrighted characters that are owned by DC and Warner Bros. who are not affiliated with Batman XXX. Given the all-too-faithful recreations of the original show’s look and sound, Vivid Video is probably testing the legal limits between parody and copyright violation. The 2011 release of Star Wars XXX: A Porn Parody will no doubt further intensify the discussion.
© 2010 Mark Edlitz
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