Looking for the Mark III

I rarely share them here, but I’m known to go off on wild goose chases every now and then, trying my best to track down useless historical facts and obscure items that, for whatever reason, I’ve become obsessed by. A few years back, as you may recall, I decided that I needed to know what had happened to large brass bell that had figured prominently in a short, silent film that Orson Welles had made with his friends at the age of 19 in Woodstock, Illinois. [This reminds me that I still owe you a followup, telling you what I, assisted by a small army of local historians and reference librarians in Woodstock, was able to discover about said bell.] And then there was the time back in ’94, when I felt that I needed to know more about a painting of Don Knotts that showed up for a split second in the John Waters film Serial Mom. [That investigation, as I wrote about in Crimewave USA at the time, led me to Baltimore, and into an apartment once occupied by Edith Massey.] At any rate, I seem to be heading down a similar rabbit hole right now…

A few days ago, I posted an old photo here of North Washington Street in late ’74 or early ’75. Well, in that photo, on the marque of Ypsilanti’s Art 1&2 adult theater, were the names of four adult features; Frankie and Johnny were Lovers (1973), Hot Channels (1973), Pleasure Masters (1974), and Angel Above – The Devil Below (1974). And, in doing a bit of research on those four films, I found myself becoming more and more interested in Hot Channels, which, according to the online resources I could find, was about virtual reality. I began to wonder, among other things, if this might have been the first instance of virtually reality having been depicted in film.

So I started doing a little research as to what movies came out before the mid-90s when a slew of films like Virtuosity, The Lawnmower Man, and Johnny Mnemonic came out, paving the way for The Matrix at the end of the century. And, what I discovered was that most people seem to credit Rainer Werner Fassbinder’s German television serial Welt am Draht (World on a Wire) with being the first. The thing is, it came out in 1973 – the same year that Hot Channels came out. And now I’m wondering if, just maybe, Hot Channels might have come out earlier that year, thereby deserving the credit.

Last night, while the family was out, I watched Hot Channels, fast-forwarding through the grainy, poorly-lit sex scenes, looking for the depictions of the technology in use, and what I found was pretty fascinating. Here, to give you a sense of how the device, called the Mark III, worked, is a short video clip. [While the following clip does contain one expletive (“shit”), and the image of a blurry dong, I think it’s relatively safe for the home or workplace.]

Since watching Hot Channels, I’ve convinced myself that, if in fact it did come out before Fassbinder’s Welt am Draht, the Mark III should be located and put into a museum somewhere. [The fake pubic hair that surrounds the device’s controls, I’m sure, has gotten even more disgusting since 1973, but I suspect that the curators at either the Smithsonian or Henry Ford Museum could do something with it to make it a little less horrifying.] So I’ve started putting the word out to people who I know that may have an idea as to wether or not R.G. Benjamin, who produced and directed the film, or writers Alan Frybach and Paul Williams, may still be alive. [All I know for certain at this point is that Andrea True, the most famous of the actresses in Hot Channels, passed away at the age of 68 at in 2011. True, whose real name was Andrea Marie Truden, gained considerable fame in 1976, when her disco song, “More, More, More,” climbed to number four on the U.S. charts. The song’s lyrics, likely inspired by her career in adult films, included the phrase; “if you want to know how I really feel, get the camera’s rollin’, get the action going’.”]

As I said above in my Twitter post, I doubt that this social media campaign of mine will yield much in the way of tangible results, but I at least wanted to put it out there, just in case, by some strange coincidence, one of my readers may be related to someone involved in the production of Hot Channels, or, better yet, may know the whereabouts of the Mark III device, which really should be preserved somewhere. So, if what you see in this following photo looks at all familiar, or, if you watch Hot Channels, and think that one of the women looks like your mom, give me a call and let me know.

Also, I should probably note that the movie wasn’t just known as Hot Channels. Likely in an attempt to make more money at the box office, producer R.G. Benjamin appears to have edited the film a bit and rereleased it later in ’73, under the title Computer Game, in hopes of tricking a few folks into paying to see it again. Here’s the add for that iteration of the film. [If you’d like to compare, an ad for Hot Channels can be found here.]

I should add that, if I do find the Mark III, I have no intention of trying it out. My interest is not that of a pervert, but that of an historian… which, I think, is a little different.

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  1. Jean Henry
    Posted August 19, 2018 at 9:19 pm | Permalink

    Mark only watches porn for the glimpses of technology bearing his name.

    Three thoughts:
    1) Computer Game poster is awesome.
    2)Sleeper also came out in ’73. I think the Orgasmatron qualifies as virtual reality. My bet is Allen pulled it for parody from the Fassbinder.
    3) Mario Cajones! Best Porn name ever.

  2. Posted August 19, 2018 at 10:33 pm | Permalink

    It’s never explained in Sleeper how the orgasmatron induces orgasms. If I had to guess, I’d say, given how fast it works, the orgasmatron doesn’t rely on virtual reality. It’s effects are more immediate. You walk in. You get an orgasm. Virtual reality, I suspect, would take a bit longer.

    And, for what it’s worth, I really did fast forward through the sex. I mentioned it because I thought it was funny to be home alone, searching for porn, and then just fast forwarding to the parts where characters talk about technology.

  3. iRobert
    Posted August 20, 2018 at 4:30 am | Permalink

    I apologize for suggesting Laura Ingraham needs to get laid. It was so offensive and degrading.

  4. Anonymous
    Posted August 20, 2018 at 6:06 am | Permalink

    Meanwhile, other archeologists are finding the lost cities of indigenous peoples in Kansas.


  5. James Brown's Ghost
    Posted August 20, 2018 at 8:30 am | Permalink

    I feel slighted.

    Never forget.


  6. site admin
    Posted August 20, 2018 at 8:38 am | Permalink

    We have a response from the Rialto Report:

    “We’ve spoken to a number of the actors in Hot Channels but none who remember any of the production crew.. sorry.”

  7. Jean Henry
    Posted August 20, 2018 at 11:56 am | Permalink

    Mark— I think you need to make better use if your alone time going forward.

    PS my understanding of even virtual reality sex play is that direct stimation is involved. So the orgasmstron, assuming it included visual stimulation as well, would qualify. While it’s not impossible for both women and men to have orgasms without direct stimulation, it’s less reliable and the effect is much less intense. It is easier for women than for post-adolescent men however. In fact women retain the capacity for orgasm their entire lives. They die with it. While men whither on the vine… So, IRobert, Laura Ingraham has a longtime left on her sexual satisfaction clock. Mark however better get on the stick… as it were.

  8. Eel
    Posted August 20, 2018 at 1:05 pm | Permalink

    My parents have what I’ve always thought to be a small black refrigerator in their basement. I’ll inspect it more closely they next time I’m visiting.

  9. Steve Swan Jr.
    Posted August 20, 2018 at 1:27 pm | Permalink

    I didn’t realize that I have a fetish for curlers. Thank you, universe.

  10. Posted August 2, 2019 at 10:46 am | Permalink

    Damn, sometimes I forget just how truly great this website is.

  11. iRobert
    Posted August 2, 2019 at 11:04 am | Permalink

    Do we have a development in the hunt for the Mark III?

  12. dogmatic dolt
    Posted August 2, 2019 at 11:06 am | Permalink

    Aloha MM, and where do I find ” [This reminds me that I still owe you a followup, telling you what I, assisted by a small army of local historians and reference librarians in Woodstock, was able to discover about said bell.]” the update you promised us a year ago. This is a great site, but promises are promises.

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  1. […] I want desperately to put on some comically large fake glasses, tuck all my hair up into a baseball cap, and drive the three hours to Kent State, just so I can get on Twitter and post, “Today I went undercover at Kent State to ask students what they thought about Mark Maynard, the Hot Channels boy of Ypsilanti.” […]

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