In 1971, the theaters in the New York City 'burbs were showing a film called Summer of '42, a wartime coming-of-age story in which sex is wondrous, terrifying, and inextricably linked to romance.
Meanwhile, down in the dank little grindhouse joints of the combat zone around Times Square, you could see Terror in Orgy Castle, The Runaway Virgin, and countless little 8mm loops of burned-out hookers performing the filthiest acts of which the unwired 20th-century mind could conceive. In them, sex was tawdry, tired, and toneless.
Yet all that was to be stood on its head; gauzy romance was about to take a back seat to commercial coitus that was glamorous, exciting and very, very profitable. HBO's The Deuce is the spellbinding story of how flesh became flash, how the sex trade went from back alleys to boardrooms. Television critic Glenn Garvin takes a look.