The Adult Film In Pearl Is Real Movie From The Era, Says Director Ti West [Exclusive]

While obviously embracing the grimy nature of "The Texas Chain Saw Massacre," director Ti West's "X" owes just as much to the tail end of the '70s pornography boom. West's smutty ode to this era of filmmaking checks off all of the boxes associated with some of the best slashers, resulting in some truly gnarly moments. It stands among the best films of the year, not just because of its horror DNA, but because it presents the world of sex through the empathetic presentation of Mia Goth's dual performance.

Youth and retrospection collide with Goth playing both the auspicious Maxine, a hopeful starlet looking to make her name in the movies, and the forlorn Pearl, a sick woman in her 80s who finds herself jealous of her excitable new guests. While not playing the same character, the thematic throughline between their characters' six decades age difference shows a tenuous connection nonetheless.

It would have been well enough to exhibit these two characters as they are in "X," but West and Goth saw an opportunity to explore how she came to this point with the prequel film "Pearl." Even Goth's youthful persona will be elaborated upon with the upcoming "MaXXXine."

With "Pearl," however, we find out how she became the "murdering sex fiend" we were introduced to. There's a scene in the new film where a significantly younger Pearl is shown a stag film at the movie theater, which in and of itself carries a notable distinction.

The first American stag film returns to theaters

In an interview with /Film's BJ Colangelo, West revealed that the stag film the projectionist shows Pearl is indeed real:

"It was called 'A Free Ride,' aka 'Grass Sandwich.' If I'm correct on this, and it's been a little while, I'm pretty sure it's the first one, I don't know if it's the first one ever, but it's one of the first ones that has been archived."

There's some contention among historians as to whether the 1915 one-reeler was the first American stag film, or if it was actually shot in the early '20s, but one thing's for sure: "Pearl" is likely the first time it returns to theaters in over 100 years. Talk about a timely re-release.

At the time of its creation, showing smut theatrically was an illegal offense, so "A Free Ride" had to be screened in secret. Even so, the stereotypical conventions of a cheesy porno are all present. A wealthy mustached man in his 1912 Touring Car picks up two women off the side of the road before they all engage in grassy hanky panky, complete with a three-way case of urophilia.

It even features such title cards as "what a beautiful dairy" when the man grabs one of the woman's breasts.

When it came to who masterminded the skin flick, I had thought someone on IMDb was having a goof, but according to the opening title card, "A Free Ride" is indeed credited to director A. Wise Guy and cinematographer Will B. Hard. I wouldn't have surmised Bart Simpson and early 20th century pornographers having a connective tissue through gag names, but that seems to be where we're at.

Early stag films play into Pearl's obsession

With the direction West's series is going in, he appears to be using pornography as the representative for cinema in the eyes of the two women. When Pearl was Maxine's age, her access to motion pictures in 1918 was limited, seeing as the form was in its infancy. Naturally, she's fascinated by what she sees and would give anything for people to look at her like that. Pearl appears to find herself chasing the same X factor prerequisite that Maxine was, albeit with notable differences.

I think it's a fascinating connection that the reason Pearl is so obsessed with Maxine's sexual prowess is because her path to stardom arises from the world of pornography itself. A niche piece of film history sets a dreamer on a path that leads to what looks like a technicolor nightmare about the leering and fatal gaze associated with fame.

The conservative backbone of slasher logic dictates that the promiscuous folks get slaughtered, and "X" follows that tradition not out of a made-up sense of morality, but envy on the part of the killers. You recognize that Pearl is dangerous, but also an empathetic figure who only wants to feel loved and special.

Having Goth adopt the dual personas is a huge reason why "X" rhymes as well as it does. How exactly did her rise to fame turn her from the innocent farmer's daughter to a psychopathic killer? Well, you'll have to see "Pearl" in order to find out.

"Pearl" is now playing in theaters.