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The film director and production designer Alfred Sole passed away this past Tuesday at the age of 78.
I first became aware of Alfred about 15 years ago when I was looking through the New York Times archives. I came across a 1973 article about a controversial adult film called Deep Sleep. The article caught my eye because the Times almost never covered porn movies and because the story started out pretty folksy. A young guy in a small New Jersey suburb with a love of cinema had made an adult film. He’d never seen one before but he desperately wanted to make a movie and porn was the only type he could get backing for. With money from members of the local community, he enlisted his family, friends and some local actors to shoot the picture. Even the mayor’s wife was in it, though like many of Alfred’s family and friends, she performed in a non-sex role.
But then the tone of the article took a turn: it said Alfred and the film’s lead performers were now under investigation by the FBI and facing significant jail time.
Eager to learn more, I submitted a Freedom of Information Act request for the FBI files. I eventually got back about a hundred pages of field reports and interviews detailing a robust investigation. What wasn’t included was any hint of how the case ended.
So I called adult performer Kim Pope, an early sexploitation actress who’d made the transition to hardcore films. She had been the female star of Deep Sleep and shared her memories of making the movie and the prosecution that followed. I asked if she’d kept in touch with Alfred and she said no – but that if I found him to please send her best wishes. Despite the controversy, she had only fond memories of him.
Lucky for me Alfred wasn’t hard to find. After Deep Sleep he directed a few horror films, including the cult favorite Alice, Sweet Alice from 1976 which featured a young Brooke Shields. He then went on to a prolific career in Hollywood as a production designer, working on popular TV shows like Veronica Mars, Castle and MacGuyver.
Alfred generously shared the story of Deep Sleep with me. I was fascinated by the tale, I decided to make a short film about it – something that tickled Alfred to no end. You can watch that early film below.
Our coverage of Deep Sleep was picked up by the Daily Beast. And that coverage led to a major documentary company deal to produce the story.
Over the past months, as a producer on the documentary project, I spoke with Alfred often. We were in pre-production and there were lots of details to work through. Alfred worried about the fact that we all wanted to make him the heart of the story. He was concerned that his memory wasn’t as good as it used to be. That in recent months he’d found himself searching for words much more than he used to. He said he didn’t want to let us down. I reassured him that there was no way that he could. In the end though, Alfred was just so excited about the project.
Then, like everyone else, I learned the news of Alfred’s death this past week. I’m so saddened by the loss of someone I was fortunate enough to call my friend these past 15 years. I’m grateful that so much of his creative output is available for audiences to appreciate. And I will keep doing all I can for the story of Alfred Sole and Deep Sleep to reach as many people as possible.
To mark his passing, we are premiering our short film, and reprising the 2015 podcast we made on Alfred Sole and the Ballad of Deep Sleep.
Deep Sleep – The Short Film
Deep Sleep – The Podcast
In 1972, Alfred Sole, a first time filmmaker, made an X-rated film called ‘Deep Sleep’.
He didn’t know much about adult films or the industry, so he shot it in his hometown of Paterson, New Jersey and using a cast and crew made up of friends and family members.
This meant that the local lawyer, banker, policeman, high school teachers, funeral home director, the mayor’s wife, even Alfred’s wife and his mother were part of the film-making group. It seemed like everyone in Paterson knew someone who was involved in the making of ‘Deep Sleep’.
And so predictably when it came out it was a smash hit in New Jersey, with long lines of people breaking box office records trying to get into the theaters to see it.
But not everyone was impressed. And what followed was one of the most remarkable and notorious prosecutions of an adult film in American history. First the filmmakers were indicted on a state basis under an ancient anti-fornication statute, and then on a federal level for interstate transportation of pornography. Suddenly Alfred Sole found himself at the center of a storm. He was under attack both from the law and from everyone who’d helped him make the film in the first place.
On this Rialto Report, the people involved speak out for the first time in 40 years. We speak to –
Alfred Sole, Deep Sleep’s director
Kim Pope, Deep Sleep actress
Joseph Friedman, Deep Sleep cinematographer
Butch Taylor, Deep Sleep’s soundtrack composer
John Niccollai, Assistant District Prosecutor
This episode’s running time is 69 minutes.
Deep Sleep – The Stills
Kim Pope (aka Mary Canary), Anthony De Marco (aka Anthony Dema)
Kim Pope, Anthony De Marco drive past the Bishop’s residence
Kim Pope, Anthony De Marco, with the whip taken in evidence
Willard Butts looks on
Jamie Gillis, in hammock
Deep Sleep – Press Coverage
The short film is amazing………. yet another string to your bow. You keen expanding and getting better and better.
Thank you so much John – we really appreciate it!
Awesome Article And Podcast Keep Up Good work
A great short, initially entertaining and then infuriating. With luck, this and the eventual docco will finally bring Sole and company vindication.
Meanwhile, where’s that print the court claimed they were going to hold onto for Christmas…
Thank you Marc! And good question on where that print is today…
Just wild, RR!
Thank you as always JWP!
Even today, the prosecutor is a real piece of work. I find this story really interesting. Thank you for the video and all the other hard work that’s gone into it.
Thank you Art!
Outstanding archive of a time and place. Thank you everyone at the RR for sharing another great story. The archive really is Outstanding 🙂 Phil
We really appreciate that Philip!
I would love to watch this film. I guess it’s not available for purchase?
Phil, go to TubePornClassic.com and search for Deep Sleep.
Great job on the short film. Thanks for everything you do.
Hollywood Reporter said that his death was by suicide and that he left behind a husband and a son. I feel so bad for him and his family. Did you find out what was going on the last few weeks of his life for him to want to end it?
Kim Pope looks amazing. Always loved her 😊
Well that was phenomenally good. Deserves a much wider audience. Well done.
Absolutely LOVED the short film!!! Excellent work
I found it ironic that the bribe the judge took to drop the case was the same amount that it cost to make the film. It was as if his freedom was being bought at the same price that he made the film. Is this movie available in any way for me to actually see it or were all the prints destroyed?
This is great! Anyone know where to find Alfred Sole’s short film, “Daydreams”?
It allegedly won a prize at the New York Film Festival