The Saga of 2 Men, A 3-D Camera Rig, And Big Screen Sex Stories
Famous Hollywood Bookseller Arnold Herr, author of “The Wild Ride of a Hollywood Bookseller”, has a new book out. It is the story of his life before books: Arnold was in the adult film business, churning out porn films, but with a kicker, his films were in 3-D. (His memoir on Hollywood bookselling is currently out of print, with copies going for about $100 if you could find one.)
Arnold Herr’s new book “Skinflick” is important for two reasons. The first is the “deep dive” into his years of work in the field of 3-D photography and his experiences in working and producing 3-D sex films. The second, equally important reason, although not stated in the book, shows how outsiders can affect an entire industry by thinking outside the box, in this case outside the camera, and use their inventiveness and creativity to explore unknown territory.
When Mr. Herr began to be interested in film in the late 1960s, he must have looked at the established ladder of cinematic success, and experienced a sinking feeling. The ladder running up from the USC, UCLA, and New York film schools was packed with thousands of young folks from rich and well-off families who had absolutely jammed the rungs of the ladder. Even a monkey couldn’t find a hand hold.
So Arnold Herr began his career by going in the opposite direction, down the ladder through a few layers of our tawdry civilization to find a starting point that wasn’t so crowded with the offspring of the well-to-do. He took a film class at L.A. City College, a well-worn series of buildings in an edgy part of Los Angeles. To supplement his income, he got a low-paying job as a projectionist in a porn theater. He later jumped into porn filmmaking finding an even lower paying job with a local porn film company. He was on his way.
“Skinflick” charts his journey not just into the production of erotic films, but into the world of 3-D filmmaking with his partner, 3-D pioneer and inventor Steve Gibson. You will enjoy reading how they developed techniques of setting up specialized 3-D cameras, lenses, and special effects. There is a lot of inside information here. And because 3-D needed glasses, Mr. Gibson became the king of them, filling a warehouse with millions of pairs that he had manufactured. (He still has a few hundred thousand if you know someone who could use them.)
The secret lesson of this story is that Mr. Herr and Mr. Gibson together invented new techniques and explored new areas of movie making that 99% of the graduates of the expensive film schools have failed to do. This is not directly mentioned in the story, but is a lesson that will be evident in absorbing it. Sometimes coming up in an industry the hard way, from the bottom, gives a person a perspective that can’t be purchased by being pegged in near the top. The hardships of start-up entrepreneurs puts pressure on the creative section of their brain, if they have one, to come up with solutions to vexing problems.
Although not discussed in the book, Mr. Herr and Mr. Gibson went on to film a 3-D horror film that won awards in 3-D festivals, but has still not seen release several years afterwards, a real shame. As the Movie Theater business has been slammed by many factors like the Covid Lockdowns, big finance buyouts, and competition from streaming and internet, many movie theater chains are either in bankruptcy or looking at it. Maybe a 3-D film revival will bring some crowds back to the theaters. It’s tough to have a home set-up for a 3-D film, but certainly a lot of fun to experience it in a movie theater.
“Skinflick” is a fun read, but is also informative for those interested in filmmaking. It also appeals to those who have an interest in some of the guys and gals in the “adult” film industry, quite a few of them are present in the book, including Bill Margold, (RIP), actor, writer, and Hollywood Press film critic with the great adult film reviews; Serena, John Holmes and many more.