|Friendly Fire by John Karr - Bay Area Reporter, Vol. 32, No. 26 June 27, 2002
Adjacent to the entrance of TITAN Media I see a door with a familiar pictogram, and above it the word, Men. That sign's on the wrong door, I think. The men are all at TITAN.
I had good reason to think that, having been immersed for over a week in an overwhelming TITAN retrospective. Under their own TITANMen.com logo, the company has just finished re-issuing their entire back catalogue on DVD, concluding with four classic titles of The Bruce Cam Collection, in Director's Expanded Edits, and each with savory Bonus content. Watching the movies in succession made me appreciate anew the TITAN brand of sexual performance and technical proficiency that are industry standard bearers. What I hadn't previously realized was how acutely aware of its product the company was. There's a liberating philosophy behind TITAN's sexual representations that heightens its effectiveness, and which makes it, truly, porn for a new century.
I watched the moody Desert Train, its heatedly romantic sex played out in rugged terrain. And Island Guardian, its impassioned jiz jousts with romancers like Brad Michaels and Adrian Marquez bedded in tropical splendor, along with Will Clark visibly menaced as York Powers grinds him into the mud. Even more lush is Eruption, filmed on the big island of Hawaii, with men like Eduardo and Dean Coulter throwing themselves heartily into some deep-lovin' amidst waterfall and tide pool. But what most typifies the TITAN style is presented with Úlan in their very first movie, made in 1995, and still one of my all time faves. In River Patrol, cockringed redhead Rusty Samuels
tenderizes some country cowpoke before getting horrendously humped himself. A svelte beauty named Sean Rider jacks off in a hot tub that would be comically overfilled with dry ice if its wisps of steam weren't caressing the rolling contours of his body so sensuously. Most memorably, however, that intimidating slab of cockman named York Powers throws darkly glamorous Cliff Parker down in the sand at the river's edge and pisses on him, then takes him home for an extended bout that finds the pair swapping top and bottom roles with eager ferocity. River Patrol is a swell flick, and the reissue has generously expanded the original edit with twenty minutes of previously unseen Powers and Parker passion, punching up their fierce role-playing. It's scary. And it's the most important thing that TITAN honchos Bruce Cam and Brian Mills talk about while discussing the stars and the movie on the Audio Commentary track included with the disc's Bonus Features: the company's hallmark feature, the eroticism of male aggressive behavior.
"It was important to us that we not portray aggressive sex as punishment," Cam says on the soundtrack. "It's powerplay between partners."
It was to hear Cam expand on this subject that I visited the TITAN office.
"We have our fetish moments," Cam told me with cool understatement, "but we always do our best to Portray it as consensual and positive. We like to think of it as Friendly Aggression. Historically, sex has often been shown as punishment, or humiliation. But degradation is not something that we want."
"Let me be more blunt: We feel that sex should be positive and take place in a clean well-lighted place. We want people to be proud of their sexuality. That's why I like shooting sex in a gorgeous afternoon sun."
"Sometimes," Cam conceded, "a dark, enclosed space is appropriate. But at other times it says that it's something to hide away."
That's why, despite the fact that TITAN's movies routinely include rough play (see Trespass) and extreme sport (watch the Fallen Angel series, and especially SeaMen for the full menu), you won't find coercion, kidnapping, or retributive initiation rites to an elite society in their films. And there are other TITAN choices that further inform their depiction of a sexuality that is masculine and aggressive, yet unfettered by negative psychology.
"We try to have as little dialogue as possible. That's because we don't hire actors; we hire exhibitionists, people who want to have sex in front of a camera. We cast men who are sexual animals, not pretty boy handsome. We choose them on their sexual personality before their physical looks. We try hard to work with men who are versatile. We think that flip-flop is great: sex is a full meal, bottom and top."
"And we like the men natural, too - TITAN is all about the adult, masculine image. So we don't shave our men, or use make-up on them. A hairy chest, some salt-and-pepper? That's great. And then we try hard to put them in natural settings and locations and not fabricate sets. I figure that God is a far better set designer than I'll ever be," concluded Cam, who is famous for filming in panoramic, outdoor surroundings while not overshadowing his performers.
These carefully calculated choices have produced a body of work that has not only stood the test of time, but will continue to look undated. Making these re-issues even more appealing are the DVD's newly added Bonus Features. Included are interviews and solos and watersports footage not seen in the films, along with something even more tasty -- fascinating backstage glimpses of the guys being guys, showering together, goofing around, and most gratifyingly, on the Island Guardian disc, good humored grappling, groping and making out as they play naked football while being drenched by a warm tropical rain. Like the Bonus footage of the men's carefree river frolicking included as a Bonus on the Trespass disc, it's the kind of rewarding footage I'd like to see in the movie itself. Yet I agree with director Cam that, while erotic, it would slow the constant flow of full sex. "In addition, we want to give our customers extra value when they purchase our DVD releases," Cam concludes.
"Seeing our TITAN guys in casual, behind-the-scenes moments," Cam confides to me, "touches on what other directors think is accomplished by dialogue -- it humanizes the performers. People want a touch of reality, to see some spontaneity and to get a taste of what the guys are like in real life."
But it's not merely the new Bonus Features that make the DVD re-issues groovier than their earlier, and still-available Atomic Video DVD releases of TITAN features. Each title of TITAN's new edition has been produced from the original camera masters, with improved compression and digitizing providing a warmer picture with higher resolution.
In the '70s, Wakefield Poole alerted us to the possibilities of gay produced porn. Then the Gage Brothers zeroed in on an ethos of the essentially masculine. And then, for a quarter century, Chuck Holmes led the way with a basically sunny but frequently overcast depiction of the gay burgeoning sexuality. Now, blooming into the 21st century, TITAN Media's carefully considered sexuality is bringing a refreshingly expansive attitude, without fiction or fraud, to some of the roughest male romancing and fetish play to be seen, making the company a singular leader in recognizing the responsibility that makers of erotica have to their audience. (www.TITANMen.com; 800 360-7204)
Reproduced by permission of John Karr, original publication: Bay Area Reporter, Vol. 32, No. 26 June 27, 2002