If there is one innovative feature that the adult video market has spawned, it is the appearance of full-length productions shot directly on videotape. It is unlikely that this practice will soon be adopted by "filmmakers" in general outside of the adult area, so it is a method that X-rated producers can truly call their own. There's only one question that remains: Is this a good thing or not?
Consider Malibu Summer and Dinner With Samantha, both of which were shot directly on videotape. One is immediately struck by the intimacy that videotape engenders. The viewing public is accustomed to the "distance" that film creates between the viewer and the filmed subject. To see a feature film, even an X-rated film, whose production values (sound, color, lighting, etc.) are so similar to most sitcoms currently on TV is a bit of a shock.
It is legitimate to ask, does this technique work? Well, yes and no. Least convincing are Malibu Summer's outdoor shots. Viewers find it much more difficult to bring about the "willing suspension of disbelief" (as Coleridge put it) needed to watch certain types of scenes on video than on film. Outdoor action scenes shot on videotape just don't have the distance needed between the viewer and the filmed subject. On the other hand, intimate scenes shot directly on tape are that much more exciting because the distance has been shrunk. One could put the TV on one's bed and really feel like a voyeur.
Let's be clear, neither of these features are works of art. Of the two, Dinner With Samantha looks worth (though the acting is better) because it was apparently shot with a consumer-grade video camera, which is simply not broadcast quality. The plot is simple: Samantha wants to buy a restaurant. Husband Bobby Astyr wants to steal the money. He plots with his girlfriend to do so, but she doublecrosses him.
Malibu Summer's plot is even simpler: there isn't one. It's more like an adult beach party. The camera-work, however, is much better, and the sex scenes generally more interesting. Ron Jeremy and Dominique both perform adequately, though better in bed than out, but neither holds the viewer's interest for extended lengths.
Videotape is an interesting experiment, but it's not a substitute for good acting and strong direction.