If you haven't been a slavering, sweaty mess waiting for The Deuce to drop on HBO this month I honestly don't know why we're even friends. First, it's a writing room dream team featuring creators David Simon and George Pelecanos alongside more of my favorite names like Richard Price and Megan Abbott.
Second, the time period and subject matter - 1970s New York City when Times Square was an open air vice bazaar - are a huge sweet spot for my interests.
If you, like me, are going to have a hard time waiting week to week or for DVD release in a year lemme suggest a few other items that might tickle your (funny) bone.
Across 110th Street - Barry Shear - Based on a novel by Wally Ferris and bolstered by the soundtrack by Bobby Womack this is probably the go-to crime film for getting into the time (1972) and place. Black and white cops have to work together to straddle the world where the only thing that is keeping black and white criminal organizations from killing each other is the love of money. When a trio of desperate characters rip off a mob joint, the under and over-worlds unite against them
The Forty-Two - Ed Kurtz - A love letter to the deuce circa 1979 disguised as a murder thriller, Kurtz packs more pop and poop culture references into this one than... y'know what? It's kind of the porn and horror version of Ready Player One (it's a lot better than that).
Hardcore - Paul Schrader - George C. Scott plays a religious man whose runaway daughter shows up in a stag film and he embarks on a rescue mission to save her. Of course his motives and her reality will require reckoning with before the movies' end. This is the decidedly non-groovy tour of the sex work underworld, but it's not square, daddy-o, it's shattering.
Inside Deep Throat - Fenton Bailey, Randy Barbato - Very engaging documentary about the seminal film's impact on cinema, crime and culture in general.
Johnny Porno - Charlie Stella - The fictional version of the mob and porno industry. Stella knows the period, the characters and may have even seen a blue movie or two in his life. Good shit.
King Suckerman - Geore Pelecanos - The Deuce is not Pelecanos' first trip to the seventies. This 1997 novel set twenty some years earlier recreates the vibe of the film, literature and music of the era. It's super funky.
The Mack - Michael Campus - In the golden age of blaxsploitation flicks this one stands out by not setting out to be exploitation at all. It's a socially engaged picture about a pimp in Oakland, but that doesn't keep it from being groovy too.
Mr. Untouchable - Marc Levin - This documentary about 1970s Harlem dope king Nicky Barnes is a terrific portrait of guts, greed and hubris that will probably run parallel to The Deuce's storyline if the show lasts a few years.
Peepland by Christa Faust, Gary Phillips and Andrea Camerini - a murder mystery/corruption thriller set against the backdrop of the peepshows and porno houses and punk rock venues of the early eighties - brought to life by in the know writing and lovingly recreated in gorgeous artwork. First trade collection is out now.
Sick City by Tony O'Neill - okay, not the 70s or New York City, but man, if you wanna get grimy, dig the squalor of this book's world. It's all shootin up, popping pills, sucking dick and stealing shit. It's a real good time. (And if you've already read it, get on the sequel Black Neon - it's crazy good too).
Summer of Sam - Spike Lee - Lee's neighborhood portrait looks at the summer of 1977 when David Berkowitz aka The Son of Sam killer was shooting folks on orders from a demon inside the dog next door. Paranoia and excessive heat inflame the already tense atmosphere of the residents of the Bronx and the strong ensemble criss cross in Altman-esque fashion. Kinda hypnotic. Great soundtrack too.
Taxi Driver - Martin Scorsese - Do I really need to tell you to watch this one? The disgust of Travis Bickle reads like a love letter to a bygone era that probably deserves its own iconic stamp on the back of an I HEART NY t-shirt - Listen, you fuckers, you screwheads. Here is a man who would not take it anymore. A man who stood up against the scum, the cunts, the dogs, the filth, the shit. Indeed.