Wild About Harry: Society Affairs (1982)

Dave dons a dickie bow and adopts a plummy accent as he mixes with the sexual degenerates of high society.

In the Adult DVD Talk review of SOCIETY AFFAIRS (1982), Gary Graver is called a true master of hardcore cinema, on par with such canonized luminaries as Radley Metzger, Gerard Damiano and Alex de Renzy. They’re right with this assertion, and they’re also correct in hailing this little golden era classic as a standout in Graver’s XXX career.

Its brilliance lies squarely at the hirsute six foot frame of the iconic Harry Reems. The dexterous New Yorker was bestowed with the threefold capability of being able to act, do comedy, and fuck like a train: attributes that were put to good use in this masterpiece. But then considering his salary, it’s the least you’d expect.

In a 1982 interview with Reems, the Kansas City Star reported that Society Affairs was “the most polished adult film yet made with a budget of $500,000” [1] before suggesting that Reems himself had been offered a six figure pay cheque [2] in order to make his return to the world of erotica after eight years away.

Back in ’74 of course, Reems had found himself indicted on a charge of ‘conspiracy to distribute pornography’ for his role in the seminal sex classic Deep Throat (1974) – a film he pocketed only $100 for. The charge was eventually dismissed two years later, but it was enough to push the actor away from the industry with the hope of making a transition into mainstream features and TV.

“It was hard to come by,” mused Reems to the paper. “I pursued it diligently, but it was not enough to make me feel secure going into my late thirties” [3]. Indeed, one of the most high profile knockbacks that he got was for Grease (1978). Originally cast as Coach Calhoun, the studio feared that his nororiety would jeopardize the film’s box office in the Midwest, so the role eventually went to Sid Caesar.

In Society Affairs, Reems plays Rick, a two-bit conman with an uncanny resemblance to Howard Austin II – the heir to a wealthy industrial dynasty. Spurred on by Alexis (Veronica Hart), his nefarious partner in crime, they drug the scion and set about pilfering a million dollars’ worth of wedding gifts on the eve of his forthcoming nuptials. For Rick, though, this lucrative little scam soon becomes something of a moral dilemma. H.K Austin Sr. (John Alderman, in possibly the same white wig as Co-Ed Fever (1980)) has hatched a scheme to screw over his son, and intends to use the impending union to wrestle back control of the family business. Rick can’t help but feel a pang of disgust at the way his doppelganger is being treated, musing how “the crooks I hang out with aren’t as bad as this family”, and sets in motion a plan of sabotage.

A satire about wealth, inequality and class might not be the traditional recipe for a porno flick, but Society Affairs manages it with gusto. The double-barrelled small screen glossy combo of Dynasty and Dallas were rising to their pomp by ’82, so screenwriter C.W O’Hara (in the second of four X-rated collaborations with Graver) lets rip at such socialite shenanigans with a delicious barbed wit.

Reems is so comfortable delivering acerbic one-liners and he justifiably earns his cash here. Robert Kerman (Cannibal Holocaust (1980)) is a perfect accompaniment too, although it’s Honey Wilder who nearly steals the entire picture in a hilarious gym sequence where she just can’t bring herself to cum despite Rick’s best efforts, while Kerman looks on nonchalantly, working out on an assortment of keep fit equipment.

Opening four weeks to the day before Trick or Treats (1982), Graver’s (largely self-financed) slice of fun Halloween hokum, Society Affairs ranks high on his blue movie resume. Thematically he’s at ease, with much of the hilarity in harmony with the director’s mischievous sense of humour, and stylistically he’s on form too. Scenes are lit and shots are composed in a way that’s clear why they gave him the nickname Rembrandt; be it the abstract of exploitation, the brushwork of horror, or the fine contours of pornography – Graver’s versatility never ceases to astound.

[1],[2] Kansas City Star, November 28th 1982
[3] As a comparison, the anaconda-wielding icon John Holmes was earning roughly $3,000 per day at the peak of his career. IMDb, however, alleges Reems’ salary to be closer to $75,000

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