When Jeannie Hamilton (Patti Lee) goes missing, her girlfriend (Andy Bellamy) calls on Johnny Wadd (John Holmes), a private detective who lives in a groovy beachside condo in Marina del Rey. After taking the case, the plot thickens when Sandy Hamilton (Sandy Dempsey) hires Wadd to drop the inquest into her missing sister.

The first cumshot gets almost entirely missed, half of the characters call him “Johnny Wade”, the crime that’s central to the plot is hazy and makes little sense, the character of “Jeannie” arbitrarily becomes “Jenny”, and the film’s down-and-dirty production keeps the action mostly static. But absolutely none of that matters because John Homes’s dick, revealed at around the ten minute mark, is really the star of the film and it gets the most play (Gerard Broulard, the kidnapper in the story, is the film’s only other male performer in the joint). And as a showcase for Holmes’s enormous appendage, Bob Chinn’s Johnny Wadd works like gangbusters. Though he’d been acting in loops and had done some feature film work before, Johnny Wadd was probably the first time most people got to drink in all of John Holmes on the big screen and the unfurling of his monster cock in the opening reel is really the adult movie equivalent of John Ford’s dolly-in to John Wayne in Stagecoach back in 1939.

The performances in Johnny Wadd aren’t always great but they’re also about on par with the naturalistic and grinning awkwardness found in early John Waters films (an element that makes them so endearing). In Johnny Wadd, Andy Bellamy’s disaffected and deadpan delivery of her quotable dialogue isn’t at all a detriment from a certain vantage point and, regardless, it is more than made up for in her well-directed sex scene with Holmes. Completely opposite to this is Sandy Dempsey who saunters in, decked out in full regalia as if she were an old hand who owned the joint. In both cases, the film gets a sheen of cinéma vérité by the use of Chinn’s magazine-devouring long takes and the sometimes-employed synch sound.

And, like Waters’s earliest efforts, there is a geek show appeal (beyond Holmes’s giant dick) with the addition of the pivotal character of Mrs. Hamilton, the mother of the missing girl. Needing cigarette and bingo money in the worst way, the actress employed has every inch the look of someone who was sent to the set rather than being chosen to be there. Rattling off lines like “After all, every time I walk down the street, somebody wants me; someone offers me a lift,” this unknown one-and-done is either a high mark of camp spectacle or low ebb of grotesque desperation. Either way, John Holmes’s non-performance wasn’t a performance and her trick with the empty pop bottle was borne out of necessity in order for the scene to have any kind of plausible resolution.

From a cinematic point of view, Johnny Wadd is The Big Sleep boiled down to the prurient basics. Though Howard Hawks’s film dealt with two mysteries that bisected under the House of Sternwood, there are few women involved in either one of them who aren’t throwing themselves at Humphrey Bogart’s Philip Marlowe. Here, Chinn sort of comically shows how strange it would be if, say, we explicitly saw what occurred between Bogart and Dorothy Malone within the dissolve that bridges the audience to the conclusion of the bookstore stakeout scene.

In all honesty, Johnny Wadd isn’t much more than about four loops strung together. For the most part, the camera stays parked and each sex scene represents a small eternity. But ever the professional who is actually trying to make a feature that resembles a feature, Bob Chinn breaks it up a bit by venturing outside every now and again to grab some establishing shots and to also open it up and, most notably in the film’s beachfront climax, give the audience a taste of his sense of play which always conveys a adults traversing a slipstream into having the kind of fun folks generally only have when they’re kids.

But does it look like the best a film made in one day for $750 with a script that was written on the back of an envelope could possibly look? You bet your ass it does. And if the oblique world of porn accounting would or could allow such a thing, actually reckoning with Johnny Wadd’s cost-to profit ratio would likely make one’s head explode.

(C) Copyright 2023, Patrick Crain

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