Before 'JAWS' made its splash into theaters, before 'Stand By Me', 'Mr. Holland's Opus', and even 'Krippendorf's Tribe', the iconic actor and narrator Richard Dreyfuss played a known pornographer in an X rated film called 'Inserts', and that comes with all of the puns intended. I imagine Paul T. Anderson took a bit of inspiration from this movie when he made 'Boogie Nights'. There are definitely some similarities. Back in 1975, 'Inserts' was released and was written and directed by John Byrum and plays out like a stage play with some very interesting characters that all takes place in one setting. While it doesn't claim to be a comedy or a drama in the traditional sense, you can't help but laugh and experience the unfortunate deep emotions of each character here.
In addition to the character development and story that actually takes place in real time, there is quite a bit of historical fact and scenarios here from the Golden Age of Hollywood, particularly in the early 1930's. With an all-star cast, including Dreyfuss, Veronica Cartwright, and Bob Hoskins, 'Inserts' is one of those hidden gems that has gotten lost in the shuffle over the years. The story takes place when a bunch of filmmakers were transitioning from silent films to talkies back in the 1930's in Hollywood. A lot of those filmmakers had a difficult time with their transition as the studios were compromising their artistic visions during this time, which made quite a few of these filmmakers turn to pornography.
That's where Boy Wonder (Dreyfuss) enters the picture as a former successful silent film director who has a severe drinking problem and a case of agoraphobia. This director who goes by Boy Wonder stays in his dilapidated mansion, plays his piano, drinks, and makes adult films. It's a rather sad existence. A former silent film actress turned waitress named Harlene (Cartwright) comes over and agrees to do a porn film, but before they start shooting, she shoots up heroine. The male star shows up by the name of Rex The Wonder Dog and Boy Wonder starts to film, but due to Harlene's heroine induced state, nothing is looking good on film.
Big Mac (Hoskins), the producer of the film, comes over with female star Cathy Cake to see if things are going smoothly. He has heroine, cash, ans cigars for everyone. Due to an unfortunate accident with Harlene, Boy Wonder must ask Cathy Cake for help in more ways than one, which goes back to the 'Inserts' title. Boy Wonder starts to fall for Cathy Cake, but soon finds out that his life and Hollywood are just one big charade and facade. John Byrum wanted to show this dirty little side of Hollywood that forced some rather good filmmakers into this life, but there is a chaotic tone to the film, where parts are darkly comical and others are fairly melodramatic.
It's not a feel good movie by any means, but it shows how one person just wants to loved and accepted, as well as get back to their creative side. The Clark Gable references are a bit strange, but he was a big name in Hollywood and actually shows up in an odd way in this movie. Dreyfuss and Cartwright turn in amazing performances and the story is just to weird to actually be true, but I imagine a ton of these stories actually happened under the radar in Hollywood all those years ago. 'Inserts' isn't for everyone, but it's a hidden gem that is finally seeing the light with the new NC-17 rating.
The Blu-Ray: Vital Disc Stats
'Inserts' comes with a 50GB Blu-ray Disc that is Region A Locked from Twilight Time and is limited to 3,000 copies. There is an insert of a booklet with an essay by Julie Kirgo on the film. The disc is housed in a clear, hard plastic case.
'Inserts' comes with a 1080p HD transfer and is presented in 1.85:1 aspect ratio from Twilight Time. The film is 41 years old and hasn't exactly held up, visually speaking. There are still some issues with the picture, but overall, Twilight Time has done a decent enough job with this new transfer, despite a few problems. I wouldn't go as far as to say any particular scene is very sharp or vivid.
Closeups do reveal some minor detail in the actor's faces and clothing, but still, there is some murkiness to the image. There are varying levels of grain here on display, which hinder the detail at times, particularly in the darker scenes, which there tends to be a lot, since this film takes place in a dreary old house. Colors aren't bright either, but rather decaying on the brown and yellowish side of things. Everything just looks a bit pale. During the black and white sequences, the black and gray levels are balanced fairly well, but it doesn't have a very wide spectrum.
Skin tones are a bit pale as well here with black levels looking a little lighter than normal. There is some image instability and some aliasing throughout too, but part of the charm in this video presentation is that it's supposed to take place in the 1930's with all of the warts and issues from back then. Still, this isn't exactly a flawless video presentation, given the age of this film.
There isn't much to the audio presentation either as this release comes with a DTS-HD MA 2.0 mix, even though the box art says 1.0. There aren't any explosions or gun fire here. There really isn't a fully immersive experience either. Sound effects are decently applied and mixed well, but sound a tiny bit soft. The music is the spotlight here, whether it be the score or when Richard Dreyfuss is playing the old piano.
The both sound good and add to the somber mood here. Dialogue is always crystal clear and easy to follow, and free of any real pops, cracks, hiss, or high shrills. There isn't any bass here, so there isn's a ton of depth and since the film basically just takes place in an old house, there isn't much room for any ambient noise.
Isolated Score Track - You can listen to the music and score of the film only in this DTS-HD 2.0 option.
Trailers (HD, 4 Mins.) - Trailers for the film.
Booklet - Twilight Time has included a booklet with an essay by Julie Kirgo.
'Inserts' has an all-star cast and shows the seedy underbelly of Hollywood filmmakers in the 1930's who were forced to do pornography to make ends meet when silent films transitioned over into talkies. Veronica Cartwright and Richard Dreyfuss turn in excellent performances that are quite memorable. Despite the chaotic tone, this real-time NC-17 rated film is quite good. The video and audio are passable, and there really isn't any decent extras here. Still, for the sheer story and cast here, this long lost film is worth it before it goes out of print. Recommended!