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Film

The forgotten erotic film that gave Wes Craven his start in cinema

Before his burgeoning horror career, Wes Craven was filming screams of a far different nature. The spookster’s beginnings behind the camera were less Nightmare on Elm Street and more wet dream and fantasies. This is the tale of how Hollywood’s horror hero went from directorial tempter to terroriser. 

In his early 30s, the future star left his role in academia and began working as a sound editor. While he wasn’t openly looking to pursue a pathway to becoming a legendary director, his next move would hint that he was eyeing up a future as a filmmaker. At the time, the porn industry was a lucrative way to put food on the table while getting to grips with… lenses and direction. Thus, Craven agreed to direct some one-handed flix with the proviso that he could use a pseudonym for the projects so that his prospective name wasn’t sullied.

One of these speculated pseudonyms is Abe Snake, the slithering director behind movies like Angela, the Fireworks Woman and Carhops. Why do people believe that Craven and Snake are one and the same? Well, as it happens Craven has a non-sexual cameo in the former as the titular Fireworks Man, a dark figure implied to be Satan who subjects a woman to orchestrated sexual torment until she can finally lure her brother away from priesthood and repentance to recommence an incestuous relationship. The film’s battle of faith and desire is starkly similar to his debut horror feature The Last House on the Left (albeit in a much more nettlesome manner).

Further adding to this theory, is that Craven himself admitted to directing (at least) one unnamed porno. What’s more, this Fireworks grumbleflick came during a five-year absence from directing horrors. The Last House on the Left wouldn’t have been successful enough at the time to support this fallow spell, so how else was Craven bringing home the bacon? Well, during a financial purple patch for the adult industry he was known to have a production credit on the hugely profitable porno Deep Throat

Thus, it would seem that between The Last House on the Left and The Hills Have Eyes, the star director tackled the hidden underbelly of suburbia and its repression of sin in the most bare-naked sense with erotica. His Friday the 13th pal, Sean Cunningham, also joined him on this journey with the pornbrokers producing other hardcore hits of the day like Together and It Happened in Hollywood

Porn awards bureau AVN says that Craven directed some of the adult industry’s “Golden Age’s greatest performers, including Helen Madigan, Sandy Fox, Jennifer Jordan, Jamie Gillis, Eric Edwards, Marc Stevens and Alan Marlow.” In fact, he even cast cocksmith and adult direct F.J. Lincoln in the pivotal Last House on the Left role of Fred ‘Weasel’ Podowski. Adding that Craven told Ashley West that he “edited ‘tens’ of XXX films in the early to mid-’70s”, but most are lost under a secretive pseudonym. 

Nevertheless, AVN rather comically conclude: “Craven, Cunningham and [Peter] Locke were all behind-the-camera talent who transitioned together from ’70s adult film to low-budget independent film to studio production. Their contributions should not be forgotten.” Even if Craven covertly wished they were. 

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