Wadd: The Life & Times of John C. Holmes (1999)

wadd the life and times of john c holmes poster 1999 movie documentary
8.0 Overall Score
Story: 9/10
Acting: 8/10
Visuals: 8/10

Holmes was weird & interesting, fun to compare to Boogie Nights

Not very innovative

Movie Info

Movie Name:  Wadd:  The Life & Times of John C. Holmes

Studio:  Cassel Productions

Genre(s):  Documentary

Release Date(s):  April 23, 1999 (Deep Ellum Film Festival)

MPAA Rating:  NC-17

wadd the life and times of john c holmes

A devil in diguise?

John Curtis Holmes believed he was something more and that he could go places.  John thought he was going to be a big star…literally.  With a notable “member”, Holmes under the name of John C. Holmes became a pornography superstar.  As the years passed, Holmes’ demons began to catch up with him and consume him.  Remembered by his family, coworkers, and friends, John C. Holmes lived a life few can imagine and this is his story.

Produced and directed by Cass Paley, Wadd:  The Life & Times of John C. Holmes is a documentary of pornography star John Holmes (August 8, 1944-March 13, 1988).  The documentary made the festival rounds and received positive reviews.

wadd the life and times of john c holmes johnny wadd

Johnny Wadd: Action Star!

John C. Holmes (born John Estes) was a legend that has inspired other works.  Much of his life was wrapped up into Paul Thomas Anderson’s 1997 film Boogie Nights (Anderson appears here in this documentary), but other books and films like Wonderland (2003) also developed around Holmes.  While the drama Wonderland is much more polished and clean and focuses on the Wonderland slayings, Wadd:  The Life & Times of John C. Holmes is a much broader and more in depth look at Holmes and his history.

In many ways the documentary pulls no punches.  It portrays Holmes as an enigma more than anything.  He is a guy who is friendly, he’s a guy who is non-threatening and goofy, he is a bad man, and he is a sociopath that isn’t afraid to use anyone or endanger people.  The film portrays Holmes in all ways. While many of Holmes’ big problems seem to stem from his drug abuse, the John Holmes portrayed in the documentary didn’t seem like the most stable person before getting involved in drugs.

wadd the life and times of john c holmes wonderland killings

What happened on Wonderland?

The movie interviews a lot of people in Holmes life, and those people give wildly contrasting stories.  One person will say they were Holmes best friend and the next person will say that John had no friends.   The most interesting person in the story probably is John Holmes’ ex-wife Sharon who knew Holmes before and during his time in porn.  Her portrayal of Holmes seems the least “masked” version of Holmes and paints the saddest picture of a guy who never thought he was bigger than his big “attribute”.  She is in such contrast to everyone else in the film and especially John’s other wife Misty Dawn who seems like a user but at the same time in a toxic relationship with Holmes.

The fall of Holmes to drugs is probably the saddest aspect of the documentary.  You see a person on top of the world fall to a lowly depth which led to the murders of multiple people in Laurel Canyon and the risk to others because of his selfish reaction to being diagnosed with A.I.D.S.  You can forgive someone like Holmes who is screwed up in many ways, but some of his actions were unforgivable.

wadd the life and times of john c holmes

What is John hiding?

Unlike something like a story of a famous artist, musician, or actor, Wadd feels different and fresh.  It feels like it is pulling back the curtain on an industry that not a lot of people see or understand.  The admiration of the people for John C. Holmes in the film is often just for what he could do and how he brought something different to their industry instead of who he was as a person (at least as presented in the documentary).  It is also interesting to watch Wadd while comparing it to events and scenes in movies like Boogie Nights which borrowed some almost identical dialogue from some of Holmes’ interviews in the creation of Dirk Diggler.  Call him John Homes or by his alias Johnny Wadd, John C. Holmes was an original and the documentary is worth checking out.

Related Links:

Boogie Nights (1997)

Wonderland (2003)

Author: JPRoscoe View all posts by
Follow me on Twitter/Instagram/Letterboxd @JPRoscoe76! Loves all things pop-culture especially if it has a bit of a counter-culture twist. Plays video games (basically from the start when a neighbor brought home an Atari 2600), comic loving (for almost 30 years), and a true critic of movies. Enjoys the art house but also isn't afraid to let in one or two popular movies at the same time.

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