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USA: Lions Gate Films
UK: Tartan Films
Cast: Val Kilmer, Lisa Kudrow, Kate Bosworth, Dylan McDermott, Josh Lucas, Franky G, Tim Blake Nelson, Carrie Fisher, Eric Bogosian, Ted Levine, M C Gainey, Faizon Love, Christina Applegate, Natasha Gregson Wagner, Janeane Garofalo, Louis Lombardi, Chris Ellis, Tess Parker, Julianne Steiger, Kim Marriner, Joliegh Pulsonetti, Michelle Borth, George Leonardopoulos, Joel Michaely, Stephanie Roth, Letterman Meathead, Russell Sams, David Solomini, Scoot McNairy, Alexis Dziena, Karen LaKritz, Steve Cox, Paris Hilton, Max Wiersma, Jeff Sanders
Director: James Cox
Countries: USA / Canada
USA: 99 mins
UK: 104 mins
USA Rated: R for strong violence/grisly images, pervasive drug use and language, some sexuality/nudity
UK Certificate: 18 contains strong bloody violence and frequent hard drug use
USA Release Date: 17 October 2003
USA Release Date: 3 October 2003 (Limited Release - Los Angeles and New York)
UK Release Date: 7 May 2004
WONDERLAND is based on a true story and starring Val Kilmer, Lisa Kudrow, Kate Bosworth, Dylan McDermott, Josh Lucas, Eric Bogosian, Tim Blake Nelson, Christina Applegate, Natasha Gregson Wagner, Janeane Garafolo, Franky G. and Carrie Fisher.
WONDERLAND explores, in Rashomon-like fashion, the brutal multiple murders that took place high atop Wonderland Avenue in L.A.'s Laurel Canyon during the Summer of 1981. At first the case seemed to involve only the usual strung-out drug dealers and party hounds, but it quickly became elevated to a classic L.A. noir when it was discovered to be connected to the infamous porn king John C "Johnny Wadd" Holmes.
By the time our story begins, Holmes had fallen from being the biggest and most famous star in the hardcore industry into a state of financial and pharmaceutical ruin. As played by Kilmer, Holmes is devoted to his teenage girlfriend Dawn (Bosworth) while still married to his wife Sharon (Kudrow) and the three form a most unconventional love triangle.
In the midst of his spiraling demise, Holmes befriends local drug dealers Ron (Lucas) and Susan Launius (Applegate) along with their "business partner" David Lind (McDermott), who operate out of the Wonderland party house. But Holmes is out of his element in the life-and-death world of high stakes drug crime and he soon gets himself neck deep into trouble. Desperate for cash and drugs, the Wonderland gang decides to rob another dealer friend of John's - the notorious gangster Eddie Nash (Bogosian).
Soon after the robbery, the slaughter at Wonderland occurs. Did Holmes set up his Wonderland cohorts for murder to save himself from the wrath of Nash? It all depends on whose story you believe.
The Wonderland Murders
The infamous 1981 murders on Wonderland Avenue are an indelible part of low-brow Hollywood lore, a crime that combined every sleazy tabloid ingredient -- drugs, guns, gore, sex and death. Labelled by the LAPD as the most gruesome crime scene since the Tate/LaBianca slaughter, the tangled web of participants and victims at the Wonderland house made a clear-cut solution to the case elusive. Four people were dead (Ron Launius, Joy Miller, Barbara Richardson and Billy Deverell) and the one survivor, Susan Launius, suffered severe head injuries and was never able to identify her attackers.
John Holmes was arrested in Florida six months after the murders as a suspect in the killing of four people at Wonderland. He was acquitted the following year. The notorious drug kingpin Adel Nasrallah, known as Eddie Nash and played in the film by Eric Bogosian, was charged with the slayings in 1988, went to trial in 1990, but was freed due to a hung jury. In 2001, at the age of 72, he pled no contest to a large number of racketeering charges and conspiracy to commit the Wonderland murders. He was freed because of medical reasons after spending eight months in a federal prison.
The Wonderland murders also epitomized the end of an era - the promiscuous, potsmoking Hollywood of the '70's ended at Wonderland, heralding the cracked-out, AIDS-decimated '80's. The man at the center of the Wonderland murders, former porn king John Holmes, would die of an AIDS-related illness in 1988, after a career that was rumored to include having sex with over 14,000 women in more than 2,000 hard-core films.
John Holmes - The Evolution Of "Johnny Wadd"
John Holmes did not seem predestined for a career in porn. Born in Ohio, John grew up with his devout Southern Baptist mother, five siblings, and stepfather. He enlisted in the Army at the age of 16 and spent three years in Germany. Upon his discharge, Holmes headed to the promise land -- Los Angeles -- where he worked a variety of jobs including a stint as an ambulance driver that introduced him to a young nurse named Sharon, whom he married in 1965.
For the next two years, Holmes and his wife lived quiet, uneventful lives. Holmes found work at a frozen food warehouse but the frigid conditions caused his lung to collapse. While recovering, Holmes frequented a poker parlor in Gardena. It was in the men's room of the parlor that, legend has it, a stag photographer first noticed John's amazing potential for smut success. The prodigiously endowed Holmes decided he'd found his calling, much to the displeasure of his wife. Although disgusted with him and furious, Sharon was loyal to John and even though they stopped sleeping together, their bond and marriage endured.
With the success of 1972's DEEP THROAT, THE DEVIL IN MISS JONES and BEHIND THE GREEN DOOR, porn crossed into the mainstream. In 1973, Holmes' career began to take off with a porn series built around a private eye named Johnny Wadd. With John's career now in full swing, having escalated quickly from print to short films to features, Sharon and John moved into an apartment complex in Glendale, which they managed.
In was there that he met the 15 year-old Dawn Schiller, who was living there with her family. Their friendship grew into romance but by then, John's experimentation with drugs had escalated into a serious and expensive coke habit. As his addiction and life spun out of control, John took Dawn with him. It is at this point where WONDERLAND begins.