This week on Movies Worth Rewatching we’re talking about Trey Parker’s raunchily hilarious superhero film, Orgazmo (1997, Kuzui Enterprises).
Back in 1997, most of America had no idea who Trey Parker and Matt Stone were (perhaps, most still don’t). Shortly after selling the rights to Parker’s first film Cannibal: The Musical to Troma Entertainment, Trey Parker, Matt Stone and their film school friends moved from Colorado to Hollywood to make it in showbiz. Eager to create the next best “worst idea for a movie,” the team of friends settled on the idea of a Mormon who winds up working in the porn industry by day and is a superhero by night. The crew went about researching for the movie by volunteering on porn sets throughout Hollywood and used some of their connections from that research to get some adult entertainers to star in a fake trailer for the movie. Simultaneously, Trey Parker and Matt Stone were pitching ideas to several television studios, including what would eventually become South Park for Comedy Central. The money to make Orgazmo was eventually raised, the cast of friends and famous porn stars was assembled, and the second feature-length film from Trey Parker was finally on its way. A few months after completing the film, South Park had aired on cable television and was getting a massive amount of media attention due to its strong language and TV-MA rating (the first of its kind to air on cable), and Orgazmo had been shown at several film festivals and was garnering attention. In 1998 a subsidiary of Universal Pictures decided to distribute Orgazmo; however, the MPAA decided on an unjustifiable NC-17 rating for the film causing a majority of U.S. theaters to pass on showing the film. Most of the world, including me, wouldn’t even knowing that Orgazmo existed.
Cut to the summer of 2000, between graduating high school and starting college, my friends and I would spend most our time watching movies and hanging out at the local Steak ‘N Shake (exciting, I know). Those months were a period of tremendous cultural growth for me. A lot of my friends had a real passion for cinema and were preparing to study filmmaking in college, where as I was studying music and pretty ignorant to the world of film at large. My friends’ passion for filmmaking pushed them to seek out cutting edge stories from new filmmakers and, thanks to Troma Films, lead them to Cannibal: The Musical, Trey Parker and, finally, Orgazmo. I was hooked right from the first viewing of Orgazmo. Playing the wholesome good nature of the film’s Mormon protagonist Joe Young (played by Trey Parker) off of the depraved world of pornography with a super hero twist, Orgazmo immediately connected for me. My friends and I would sit and watch Orgazmo over and over, laughing even harder the more we watched it. Later that summer, as I went off on tour with my Drum and Bugle Corps for our summer of music competitions, Orgazmo went with me on the tour bus. As a Corps we must have watched Orgazmo at least a thousand times, ultimately wearing out my VHS copy of the film. Before we’d go on the field for competition my section and I, the drum line, would lead the whole Drum Corps in singing “Now You’re A Man,” the theme song and opening title of the film. Silly as it may sound, a film about a porn-star turned superhero was a huge part of my early college years.
So, how does it hold up 12 years later, and 20 years from it’s theatrical release?
I absolutely love Orgazmo, and I swear, I laugh harder at now than I ever did before. My absolute favorite thing about Orgazmo, and what ultimately keeps me coming back to rewatch it, is the film’s crazy cast of eccentric characters. I can’t get enough of Trey Parker’s crazy portrayal of Joe Young, a “bad, bad mormon.” All of Joe’s little character ticks, like his choir boy vernacular, his telephone etiquette, or the way his doofy smile hangs on for just a little too long, really endear him to me as a character. I especially love that despite his rash decisions, and the extreme lows he subjects himself to, Joe Young’s faith and wholesome nature remain intact throughout his character’s crazy journey. Ben Chapleski/Choda Boy, played by the hilarious Dian Bacher, works really well as the antithesis to Joe Young’s naivety and Orgazmo’s sidekick. Ben’s character, who is a well educated and successful man who has chosen to work unashamedly in pornography, is the best kind of disaster you can find. His cavalier spirit, moral fortitude and knack for making crazy weapons out of sex toys, mix together to make a really enjoyable character who Dian Bacher brings to the screen perfectly. The real scene stealer for me was Massao Maki as the gangster wanna-be and sushi restauranteur, G-Fresh. I laugh out loud just thinking about some of G-Fresh’s hysterical scenes in Orgazmo. I don’t want to church it up either. These are really low-brow and ridiculous scenes I’m referring to with G-Fresh, but I guess I’m just the kind of guy who laughs at really inappropriate and stupid things. Oh well. On top of all of that, there’s some really campy performances from porn legends like Ron Jeremy, Chasey Lain and Juli Ashton, playing amplified caricatures of porn stars that you really have to see to believe. All-in-all, Orgazmo works for me, and is elevated beyond it’s B-Movie appearance, because of its characters and the actors who brought them to life.
Trey Parker and Matt Stone have since gone on to be incredibly successful with their South Park television series. Just over a year after Orgazmo‘s run at the box office, Trey Parker returned to the silver screen with South Park: Bigger, Longer, & Uncut, a studio picture backed by Paramount Pictures and a financial success. Taking an unintentional dare from Jonathan Frakes (Commander William Riker from Star Trek: The Next Generation), Trey Parker and Matt Stone made a modern day, wire puppet, action flick, Team America; which, despite its ridiculous premise and crass humor, is a practical special effects and puppeteering masterpiece. They created their own production studio with which they continue to produce episodes of South Park to this day, with a turn around time for producing an episode of less than a week. Collectively, and individually, they’ve seen incredible success over the past decade and it’s fun to think it all started with a musical featuring cannibalism and a porno superhero.
If you’ve never heard of Orgazmo, and can stomach some raunchy, over the top humor, I highly recommend you check this film out for yourself. Don’t let the NC-17 rating fool you either, despite its subject matter, Orgazmo has no nudity to speak of (besides some well placed male butts) and got its undeserved rating mostly because of its handling of religious topics. Orgazmo failed at the box office, bringing in less than half of its estimated budget, thanks largely in part to that NC-17 rating; which meant they couldn’t advertise for the film with TV ads. Orgazmo has seen some success with a cult following on home video, which resulted in a special edition DVD from Universal Home Video, complete with amazingly extensive special features and commentaries. Orgazmo has a lot of heart and is well worth your time and money. Check it out, or as the film’s villain Maxxx Orbison says, “you’ll be sleeping with the fishes, see.”
by Mel Dale