Shaun Costello

From The Grindhouse Cinema Database




Outside of aficionados of smut very few people have heard of the name Shaun Costello. Costello is one of the most interesting and groundbreaking directors to have ever worked in the adult industry. Costello was a director and actor who started working in the industry in the late 60s and into the early 70s as a “loop” actor. A porno “loop” is generally a short clip of a general sexual act, which was popular during the days of quarter booths in New York City and around the rest of the United States. He started by doing 16 mm and 8 mm loops for Bob Wolfe and Ted Snyder and working with porn legends like Harry Reems, Fred Lincoln, Jamie Gillis, Georgina Spelvin, Linda Lovelace, and more. Costello would make what was called “One Day Wonders” (which were pornos shot in one day for for roughly about $5,000) in which he would actually make the adult version of his favorite films (he’s basically admitted that “Water Power” is his version of “Taxi Driver”).

At the time Costello wanted to make a feature length porn film but it was certainly something that was dangerous to attempt. Back then there was very vague obscenity laws about what could be shown in public and the only guidelines they had were that they had to have some sort of redeeming social value to not be considered obscene. So in 1971 Costello had the idea of making a film that focused on a disturbed Vietnam War veteran who returns home from war and started his own slicing and dicing women he picks up in Manhattan. This film would be the pioneering porno flick “Forced Entry” starring porno legend Harry Reems (under the name Tim Long) which is one of the most unrelenting and relentless films I’ve ever seen. It’s poorly made, but it stands up because there is a lot more there than your typical porno film. “Forced Entry” is a porn film frequently referred to as a “roughie” which is a film where the sexual activity usually involves forms of abuse, rape, torture, or just plain rough sex in general. “Forced Entry” is not only a film that contains just about all of those things but it contains the dialog and grittiness to make you quickly forget you're watching an “adult movie”. It would be remade years later by Rob Black, to very little fan fair except for it was one of the films that would actually land Black in hot water for obscenity charges in Pennsylvania.

Another extremely interesting thing about Shaun Costello is that for years he had made adult films but nobody knew him as Shaun Costello. See according to the man himself Costello never wanted to become a name in the world of pornography. He said that he would rather just be unknown and make his “weird little movies”. Make no mistake about it, Costello knew the industry he was working in and knew it well. He knew and worked alongside a lot of people that he saw the industry and the horrible effect that the stardom had on them. Linda Lovelace and Harry Reems are two great examples of this. Costello was also never shy about the fact that he was basically making movies for the mob (more specifically the Gambino Crime Family) as they were his primary financiers. Here is a list of names that Costello was known for making films as: Neil Almebor, Nicholas Berland, Russell Carlson, Russ Carlson, Jerry Conti, Alan De Fledermaus, Arthur Dietrich, Warren Evans, Jack Hammer, Josepi Masolini, Giuseppe Molinardo, Waldo Popper, Helmuth Richler, Kenneth Schwartz, Ken Schwartz, Stephen Steinberg, Howard Steinman, John Stover, and Oscar Tripe. One of Costello’s better known films “Water Power” was actually a film in which he would use one of the most famous names in porno history. See around that time “Deep Throat” was making serious money all over the country. So when “Water Power” opened and did horrible business the financiers that I spoke of earlier though it would be a good idea to throw the name Gerard Damiano (who was the director of “Deep Throat”) on the movie instead, this didn’t help at all. Costello managed to keep his birth name under wraps until he was ousted by Bill Landis and Michelle Clifford in their magazine “Matasex”.

Costello’s most infamous film though is the one I mentioned with Gerard Damiano’s name on it, “Water Power”. The movie was made much like many other of Costello’s pictures, at the request of a Capo in the Gambino Crime Family, Robert DiBernardo. DiBernardo was actually murdered by famous mafia hit man Sammy “The Bull” Gravano in 1986. Prior to “Water Power” there was actually a real life case in which a man was convicted for assault that started with the man performing enemas on his female victims. DiBernardo was thinking that making a porn movie based off the real life “Enema Bandit” might be a big money return at the box office. Although that wasn’t the case, Costello recalled DiBernardo not wanting anything to do with it due to embarrassment. The film did poor business in the United States but it would go on to actually do well when it was picked up by Rueben Sturman who would go on to distribute the film in Japan and Europe where it would go on to do pretty well.

Costello would go on to work again with Sturman many times on films that were certainly given bigger budgets than his prior work. He would make such films as “Hot Dreams”, “Beauty”, and “Dracula Exotica” which many people consider a important part of the “Golden Age” of adult movies. In 1983 however Costello would call it quits from the industry as he was completely burned out from living the lifestyle of a porn director. Later he would go on to have a successful career in directing television commercials for New York Ad agencies and would even go on to produce the 1991 horror film “Popcorn” under the name Warren Evans. Costello mentioned writing an autobiography about his life and career but that has yet to surface.

Written by Ed Demko - 5/12/2008

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