Billed as a "feel good flick with fun, filth and felonious assault",filmmaker James Guardino's "Porn King" (Blue Underground DVD) is a peephole-eyed profile of notorious "Screw Magazine" publisher Al Goldstein. After a perfunctory review of Goldstein's early years and subsequent rise to riches and infamy, the film directs its focus to the story of a three-year court battle kindled by a relatively minor verbal harassment charge brought against him by his ex-secretary in 2001.
Goldstein's "glory days" of first amendment battles were ancient history by the time Guardino started filming, and it becomes obvious that this final skirmish is less about freedom of speech and more about media attention (in this jaded age of mainstream post-Madonna porn chic,old-school "smut peddlers" like Goldstein appear to have lost their cachet).
The film bears unblinking witness to the dethroning, as his riches turn quite literally into rags (at one point, a humbled Goldstein is actually begging the cameraman for a few bucks because he doesn't want to spend another night in a homeless shelter). It's still tough to feel sorry for him, because up to this point in the story he is shown to be so unrelentingly self-destructive and compulsively abrasive toward everyone he comes in contact with. Still, there is a morbid fascination factor here that makes "Porn King" an interesting watch.