Darker My Love: New Wave Hookers (1985) & New Wave Hookers 2 (1991)

Dave gets freaky with Gregory Dark’s pioneering – if flawed – skin flick and its equally interesting sequel.

It was when Gregory Dark was out on the west coast working as an assistant to legendary producer Edward R. Pressman that the adult industry came knocking. It was contact with a woman called Wendy Apple, an editor by trade, and a guy by the name of Richard Lerner, a diamond merchant who’d experienced a degree of film success as the producer of comedy flick The Cheerleaders (1973). Apple and Lerner were hot on the idea of making a documentary about the porn business – an expose if you will – and with Dark having previous experience at NBC doing factual work, he seemed like the right man for the job.

The result of this collaboration was the gripping Fallen Angels (1985): a fly-on-the-wall feature that took a camera to Jim South’s notorious World Modelling Agency. South had cornered the market representing budding XXX stars, and Dark’s film followed their journeys from entering his office for the first time to them getting it on in front of a cast and crew.

Although the project whisked Dark to the next level in terms of profile, it was riddled with creative differences. A staunch feminist, Apple in particular was keen to present the women of Fallen Angels as a group of individuals who were goaded into prostituting themselves on-screen against their will. Not only was Dark opposed to this perspective, but he also found himself aghast at the formulaic nature of a money-printing machine that was growing increasingly out of touch with its younger audience.

With an offer on the table from Walter Gernert – a partner in porno production house VCA, who, in tandem with founder Russ Hampshire, were major players in the adult industry – Dark bit. Desperate for a gimmick, and keen for his name to be the selling point, Dark (real-name: Gregory Hippolyte Brown) convinced Gernert to adopt the same pseudonymous surname.

The Dark Bros. were born.

Early success came with the rough intensity of Let Me Tell Ya Bout Black Chicks (1984), which shifted a tidy 15,000 units at $40 a pop. It galvanised Dark – and using his master’s in fine art from Stanford as inspiration, he began to evolve his style of pornography into conceptual art, with sex scenes a key part of it.

NEW WAVE HOOKERS (1985) was the big breakthrough. For the hungry filmmaker, the reasons for that were clear:

“It sold so many units!” Dark told Ashley West in 2017. “They hadn’t seen anything like it before. The sex was good. The girls were pretty. But none of the people in the industry who were all over thirty-five had been casting the club girls. These were today’s women.” [1]

Ironically, New Wave Hookers was led by a member of the old guard. Jamie Gillis stars as Jimmy, who, along with best bud Jamal (the ever-hysterical Jack Baker), falls asleep watching porn. There, the two share a dream of owning a luxury bordello which causes a series of carnal encounters to take place – and, naturally, it’s the titular tunes du jour that serve as the aphrodisiac to their spread of libidinous ladies (“Gotta play that new wave music, then they’ll fuck you all day,” says Jimmy).

Credited with launching the alt-porn movement, the impact New Wave Hookers had on the adult industry is undeniable. Having said that, despite its reputation, the film is far from primo Dark (Black Throat (1985) and The Devil in Miss Jones 3 (1986) and 4 (1986) are all better), and it’s clear that he’s still honing what would become his style. True, there are elements that epitomise the filmmaker, like the breathless double penetration scene with Tom Byron, Steve Powers and Ginger Lynn. But there’s also generic filler, such as a threesome with Brooke Fields, Kimberly Carson and Peter North that would blend in to any of the more standard hardcore flicks of the era.

Nevertheless, there’s enough ingenuity to make New Wave Hookers stand out – be it an earworm-heavy soundtrack topped by The Plugz’s Electrify Me; the surreal touches (Jimmy’s assistant is a guy referred to as ‘The Dog’ who verbalises “ring, ring” as a cue to answer the phone); or the colour-drenched set design.

Opening with a wide theatrical release in May 1985, New Wave Hookers became embroiled in the Traci Lords scandal twelve months later. Lords had filmed a sequence dressed as the devil, surrounded by dry ice and having sex with a cherubic Rick Cassidy. Thankfully for VCA, those illicit few minutes could be snipped out without much hassle – although the posters and VHS covers proved more of a challenge (Lynn ultimately replaced Lords as the USP).

For Dark, the whole episode was an unsavoury one:

“I had never experienced anything like that,” he stated. “We were shocked that the passport and the driver’s licence were incorrect. We were naïve I guess.” [1]

“We were all terrified,” added Star Virgin (1979) director Humphry Knipe in an interview with Legs McNeil. “Greg Dark rang me every day, whispering, ‘Have you heard anything else?’” [2]

Dark recovered, as did the bulk of the porn industry for that matter. Still, it took the helmer six years to come back to his most lucrative title for a sequel – and arguably, it was at a point in Dark’s career when he could have easily walked away from the business in exchange for concentrating on his burgeoning run in the mainstream as the chief supplier of erotic thrillers.

Kicking things off with The Plugz once more, it initially seems that NEW WAVE HOOKERS 2 (1991) is going to dance to the same tune of its predecessor. Half a decade is about thirty years in the porn industry, though, and what strikes about New Wave Hookers 2 is the tangibly crisp vibe that plays in contrast to the abstract chaos of its predecessor. Jack Baker returns, but this time as the titular owner of the House of Willie: a bordello where, with one wave of his wand, he transforms ladies of the night into oversexed nymphos. In a distinctly Darkian twist of surrealism (of which there are plenty – note: the fella dressed as a lamp), it’s all part of a plan for world domination that stems from a control centre in the mythical undersea city of Atlantis.

Dark insisted that by shooting New Wave Hookers 2 on 35mm it would be given an impressive look. He’s right, of course, but, as with the original New Wave Hookers, there’s an erratic inconsistency to its sex scenes. The alt-porn hedonism that was Dark’s calling card frequently feels diluted when it gives way to more sedate moments of sensuality; conversely, an oil-soaked gangbang centred around Ashley Nicole is impressively decadent, and the film’s sacrilegious finale – an orgy in a church, bedecked with collars, leashes, and lashings of leather – ranks among the best sequences of the director’s XXX canon.

New Wave Hookers 2 found itself being broadcast on the Playboy Channel by October 1991, off the back of a lengthy theatrical stint in Philly the preceding January, and a shorter theatrical showing in New York in July of the same year. Prefixed in ads with “The Dark Bros. Are At It Again!”, New Wave Hookers 2 somewhat lives up to the billing.

It’s just a shame that, like the first film, its actual quality doesn’t quite match the rabid ambition.

[1] Gregory Dark Interview by Ashley West, The Rialto Report, August 2017.
[2] The Other Hollywood: The Uncensored Oral History of the Porn Film Industry by Legs McNeil and Jennifer Osborne, Regan Books, 2005.

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