Fresh off of the success of his script for Taxi Driver, and his directorial debut, Blue Collar, Paul Schrader delved into the, then, fairly mysterious world of pornography with his next film Hardcore. George C. Scott plays Jake Van Doorn, a mid-western business man who's painfully average family life is shaken when his daughter disappears on a trip to California. He hires a seedy private detective, Peter Boyle as Andy Mast, who has connections in a little bit of everything. Mast finds out the Van Doorn girl has fallen into drugs, prostitution, and making pornographic films. Jake decides to take off to Los Angeles to track her down, something that Mast seems incapable of, a journey which takes him through the bowels of an industry that, during the time this film was made (the 70's) was still a whisper.
Hardcore doesn't quite hit the mark of intensity that Taxi Driver did, but is still on par with a lot of Schrader's early work. Scott plays it subdued in the early parts of the film, an echo of a mid-westerner who has achieved all of his success, and now seems to just be going through motions, until an event forces him to step out and take control of his life. Peter Boyle plays a seedy detective well because, let's face it, he was kind of a creepy dude.
The thing that is most interesting about this film to me is its relationship to pornography in the time it was made. With the dawn of the high speed internet access, all kinds of things are available to us, at any time, and are almost impossible to control. A thirteen year old can get on the internet and find it. In the 70's, though, pornography was something that was still illegal in many states, or sold illicitly in seedy stores where the customers tried their best to hide themselves from being identified. It was something that people didn't know very much about, and you only talked about it with someone you trusted. It wasn't something flippant or casual as it is today, and I think Schrader really captures that. In that sense, I think Hardcore works really well as a time capsule, a historical piece that was contemporary for its time.