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Hardcore Circus
Box cover courtesy of Hardcore Circus

Erica McLean's "Hardcore Circus" Is the Greatest Show on Earth

It's impossible to divorce porn from personality; since we can be reasonably assured of how each porn scene will end, we keep watching because the performers themselves are appealing or accessible to us, and we want to see that personality come through, no matter how predictable the outcome. Erica McLean's Hardcore Circus is full of personality, not the least of which is McLean's.

Erica McLean is a former model and today has a style that is part Earth Mother, part slick Beat poet, and all the best parts of the California lifestyle. She took up directing Hustler's Barely Legal franchise after the death of her husband (and the series' founder), Clive McLean, and the atmosphere on locations of her movies is refreshingly fun, easygoing and assured.

But Barely Legal, which is now approaching its 100th episode, is a proven formula, whereas Hardcore Circus, which McLean financed herself and is distributing though Hustler, is like a sexy acid trip freakout or, as Joni Mitchell said, "a dream some of us had."

"We got a tent from a party rental place for $1500, bought $500 worth of props, and Kenny (DeMartines, Hustler's long-time set designer) set the whole thing up," McLean said.

Hardcore Circus borrows some elements from The Wizard of Oz, with McLean herself playing "The Pimp of Hollywood." I can't help but think it was the director's presence - the movie was shot last November on McLean's ranch northeast of Los Angeles - that made this movie so much more than picking up a check.

The movie beings with McLean the adult director being accosted outside the Flynt Building by anti-porn protesters, where she is cornered at home by cookie-wielding religious zealots (Audrey Hollander without makeup is exponentially more alluring than Audrey Hollander in full Fuck Me I'm Audrey Hollander regalia). McLean takes a header on the floor, waking up to the porny Oz of the rest of the movie, a big top tent where filthy/wonderful things happen.

First comes strongman Lee Stone with gymnast Madison Scott. Right off the bat, we get a sex scene that looks so difficult, beautiful, and dirty that we're glad it was left up to professionals. Stone, who looks like a porn version of the Fantastic Four's Thing, is known for the standing 69, during which he upends Porn Valley's legion of spinners to blow him while he holds their tiny legs.

But Scott, who is no wispy thing, instead performs such Cirque du Soleil moves atop Stone that porn fans are offered a rare look at a scene in which the woman does as much work as the man. I'm surprised the set wasn't shut down.

Then Hollander and Otto Bauer (she is made up like a cat, and I take back the earlier comment about her being hotter without makeup: she's hottest when made up like an animal) return for a scene of their own, during which Hollander hisses.

As you can see, Hardcore Circus falls lightly into the standard porn format, but each scene has its own thing going on and is, since it's part of McLean's fever dream, both goodhearted and raunchy.

"I had this dream about the movie," McLean said, "and I went up to Larry Flynt, explained it to him for about a minute and a half, and he just said, 'What do you need?'" McLean said. "I told him, 'Distribution.'"

Running off and joining the circus seems like less the desperate move that it once was. We begin to imagine traveling with these show folk (next up are Aiden Starr and Rob Rotten) as they fuck from town to town in their carnie getups. Starr, with her comic book vixen's body, gets her knees covered in sawdust as she takes one in the face. There's a cocksucker born every minute.

Ringmaster Evan Stone and ballerina Kimberly Kane are next. Kane's skin is such a contrast to her hair that I had to check if the scene had been shot in black and white (it just looks that way). This pairing was especially effective because the tall, cool Kane is the least cartoonish of all Porn Valley's talent and Stone is the hammiest, Fabio-est, Playgirl-fodder-est of them all. As they take their time and fuck the hell out of each other, Kane often looks right at the camera with a Wish I Was Me expression.

The revelation of the movie is Lavish Styles. Light-skinned with tight curls and a voluptuous body, Styles is adorable. In her you-can't-really-call-it-interracial scene with the very appreciative Tommy Gunn, Styles says "Oh, Tommy" in such a way that you wish him the best. She'd have America's Sweetheart written all over her if Gunn hadn't just come there.

McLean eventually wakes up and tells her friends all about the dream. As a framing device, the circus works very well. There are even interstitials of stilt-walkers, fire-breathers, and juggling dwarves. But the biggest trick of all, of course, is when Ron Jeremy executes his perfect countdown technique, in which he tells his partner exactly when he is going to bust his hedge fund, and then does.

There are few people in the adult business who have generated as much goodwill as Erica McLean, and this movie, which is equal parts warm, quirky, and dirty, is porn's feel-good movie of the summer.


GameLink's Editorial Department is proud to bring you entertaining and informative articles by America's Beloved Porn Journalist, Gram Ponante. Reporting from the trenches of Porn Valley, Gram brings you up-to-the-second news, reviews and commentary that you can't find anywhere else.

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