'Raw! Uncut! Video!' Palm Drive's pioneering porn

  • by David-Elijah Nahmod
  • Tuesday August 16, 2022
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Two scenes from Palm Drive Video in the documentary 'Raw! Uncut! Video! The Story of Palm Drive Video' - Images © 1985-1995 Palm Drive Video - jackfritscher.com
Two scenes from Palm Drive Video in the documentary 'Raw! Uncut! Video! The Story of Palm Drive Video' - Images © 1985-1995 Palm Drive Video - jackfritscher.com

As "Raw! Uncut! Video: The Story of Palm Drive Video: a love story about fetish porn" begins, a conservative-looking woman from an organization called the National Decency Forum is talking about pornography.

"America has a problem," she says. "Her decency standards have nearly disappeared. The presence of pornography; is it a first amendment issue? Obscenity, that is hardcore pornography, is not protected speech. It is in fact unlawful. The commercial distribution of it is a crime."

'Raw! Uncut! Video!' co-directors/producers Ryan White and Alex Clausen  

Filmmakers Ryan White and Alex Clausen then immediately cut to a scene from a Palm Drive Video production. A man in a tank top and jeans, his jeans pulled down, is on the ground outdoors in a thick puddle of mud. He literally fucks the mud.

This is but one of the scores of clips from Palm Drive Videos that are seen in the film.

For twelve years beginning in 1985, Palm Drive Video produced hundreds of video scenes featuring a variety of men, gay and straight, many of them plus-sized bears, engaging in a wide array of fetishized sex.

Some of the scenes seem violent, such as one in which a man is repeatedly punched in the stomach, or another where a gentleman in a leather mask has his skin pulled by needles and threads that have been sewn into his body. It's all consensual, and we're assured that either the models or the filmmakers can call cut at any time. Palm Drive videos were top sellers.

The company was the brainchild of former Drummer Magazine editor and Bay Area Reporter contributor Jack Fritscher and his husband Mark Hemry. The two lead an idyllic life that's a far cry from the raunchy adult videos they produce. At their peaceful ranch in Sonoma County, they walk the countryside with their beloved dog. They kiss tenderly.

Palm Drive Video's Jack Fritscher and Mark Hemry  

White and Clausen became acquainted with Fritscher and Hemry when they approached the couple about documenting the queer history of Sonoma County. They asked Fritscher and Hemry if they had any photos of people who lived in the area. To their surprise, White and Clausen were handed a pile of DVDs with titles like 'Toilet Cigar Butt' and 'Cheesiest Uncut Cock in West Texas.'

"We were a bit flabbergasted at first," White told the Bay Area Reporter. "I mean, we thought they might have an old photo or two, but we weren't quite prepared for dick-cheese porn. Once we watched the films, we called each other up and said, 'Uhhh ... I think there might be a story here."

Someone's jam
Putting together a project like this took an enormous amount of work and entailed sifting through hundreds of hours of video to determine which ones they wanted to focus on. It took them five years to complete the film.

"When we started viewing the massive archive, it felt like there might not be limits to what we could find," said Clausen. "We still haven't viewed everything. It was so exciting to come across scenes that were outside of our own experience and think, 'Wow, this is someone's jam.' That became so much of what the movie is about, finding moments in that archive that would help folks understand that sexual tastes are so wild, varied and okay, even if they're not all for you. Jack and Mark really fostered that environment with the models, and for me that really came through their body of work."

Palm Drive Video actors Thrasher and Donnie Russo in 'Rough Night at the Jockstrap Gym.' Image © 1985-1995 Palm Drive Video - jackfritscher.com  

The seventy-three minute film indeed takes the viewer on a journey across a particular sexual spectrum. It's a type of sexuality that is often maligned and misunderstood. Without preaching, "Raw! Uncut! Video!" brings this world into the light for the curiously open-minded to see.

Very importantly, the film also teaches that Palm Drive provided a valuable service during the peak years of the AIDS crisis. At a time when sex was filled with fear, Palm Drive Video offered its audience a safe way to enjoy their fetishes.

"One major thing that came out of making the film that I hope folks take in is the importance of our queer archives," said Clausen. "We've been shown time and again that our history is considered unimportant, sometimes offensive and irrelevant to the greater human story. That's why we must protect and preserve our queer histories. And we especially need to help our queer elders tell and share their stories."

"I hope that 'Raw! Uncut! Video!' helps to open people's minds a bit, especially in regards to the importance of kink and sexual exploration," added White. "Exploring the uniqueness of one's own sexuality can be a really empowering experience."

'Raw! Uncut! Video! The Story of Palm Drive Video' will screen online on August 24 as part of the San Francisco Porn Film Festival. The entire festival runs through August 27. sfpff.pinklabel.tv www.rawuncutvideo.com

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