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Movie Sex in the 60′s

Submitted by Eric Russell on August 1, 2014 – 9:40 pmNo Comment

‘Those fine young men I could see down in Margaret Strand bathing place from the side of the rock standing up in the sun naked like a god or something and then plunging into the sea with them why aren’t all men like that it would be some consolation for a woman like that lovely little statue he bought I could look at him all day long there’s real beauty and poetry for you (I often felt I wanted to kiss him all over also his lovely young cock there so simply I wouldn’t mind taking him in my mouth if nobody was looking as if it was asking you to suck it so clean and white he looked with his boyish face I would too in half a minute even if
Sue Lyon as Lolita (Stanley Kubrick, 1962).
Maurice Roeves and Barbara Jefford (as Molly Bloom) in James Joyce’s Ulysses (Joseph Strick, 1967)-
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some of it went down what it’s only like a gruel or the dew there’s no danger besides he’d be so clean compared with those pigs of men I suppose never dream of washing it from one years end to the other the most of them only that what gives the women the moustaches I’m sure) it’ll be grand if I could get in with a handsome young poet at my age.’
The excision of these passages undoubtedly reduced the power of the prose, although Barbara Jefford’s extraordinarily sensitive rendering of these meandering sentences turned the monologue, cut or complete, into a forceful, accurate and realistic portrayal of a frustrated but normally sexed woman who is beset by desires and lusts on the one hand and revulsion, detestation and the deep-seated repression of her religion on the other. The British Board of Film Censors passed the film with the cuts, but the peculiar system of local licensing allowed it to pass unchallenged in Greater London despite heated attacks from censorial lobbies. A further row blew up at the Cannes Film Festival because some of the sub-titles had been blacked out. Controversy followed the film wherever it went, in fact, and contributed to the good business it recorded.
Nude with guitar. . . Peter Sellers as the accident-prone but intrepid Inspector Clouseau in the nudist-camp sequence from A Shot in the Dark (Blake Edwards, 1964).
In Britain, it was finally left to local authorities to decide whether or not to show the film (although ironically, three years later, in 1970, Trevelyan’s Board ‘felt able to pass the film uncut’; the full version even appeared on British television in 1972, admittedly on the minority channel, BBC2). In Ireland, the source of its inspiration, it was, inevitably, banned, while in New Zealand, it was shown to segregated male and female audiences! The United States thus took on, for the first time in its cinema history, the air of a leader of liberal expression in the movies.
The language barrier was also breached by Shirley Clarke in The Connection (1960), a study of drug addicts in which the word ‘shit’ was used as a euphemism for heroin. By the mid-’seventies, of course, there was hardly a film script without the word scattered liberally throughout it, but in 1960 the New York censors didn’t like it and clamped down on The Connection for two years. Later, Shirley Clarke made her acclaimed Portrait of Jason (1967), a two- hour interview with a Negro male prostitute, whose language is candid to say the least.
The films of Strick and Clarke represented the best of a brief spate of open-minded independent (as opposed to underground) film-making in the United States in the ’sixties. Others, like Leslie Stevens’s Private Property (1959), gained an overblown reputation based on their low budgets and supposed integrity and realistic handling of sexual themes, but censorship difficulties (Private Property attained no certificate in Great Britain) probably boosted their importance to an unjustified degree. Better was Alexander Singer’s much admired A Cold Wind in August (1962), about an affair between a teenage boy (Scott Marlowe) and a raddled stripper (Lola Albright), which Peter John Dyer thought had ‘moments of perception and reality that bring it closer to Kubrick’s early work than to such vehicles for personal advancement as Leslie Stevens’ Private Property. . . . The love scenes, often frankly written and directed, have a genuinely sensual impetus.’57
On the other side of the Atlantic, Anthony Harvey made the excellent Dutchman (1966), which uses sex (white girl arouses Negro in deserted subway carriage and then stabs him to death) to highlight the race problem. The fact that Harvey had to film and reconstruct his subway in England is an indication that some themes were still too strong for the American authorities.
The factor which most effectively undermined the censorship machinery of ’sixties America was nudity. As late as 1964, total nudity – even briefly glimpsed – was still unacceptable to both the Code and the Legion, and breast exposure was strictly taboo. The few attempts to break the decency barrier ended in compromise or scissor-work, including the bed scene in Bechet (1964), which had to be reshot in order to reveal less of Peter O’Toole’s comely companion; similar sequences in The Americanization of Emily (1964) involving James Coburn’s bed-
mates; and Barbara Bouchet’s swim in Otto Preminger’s In Harm’s Way (1965), originally planned without benefit of bikini but finally shot with the actress adequately clad. One or two commercial movies, such as The Prize (1964) and A Shot in the Dark (1964), tried to take advantage of the licence enjoyed by the neodocumentary nudist-camp films by throwing in a naturist sequence, but the camerawork was painstakingly discreet.
Curiously, the one notable exception to the nudity taboo involved a rear view rather than a front – to be precise, Elizabeth Taylor’s bare buttocks, revealed on a massage slab in Cleopatra, a film generally frowned on by the Legion of Decency for its ‘immodest costuming’. Another epic, The Bible (1966), also got away with bottom exposure in the scenes depicting Adam and Eve, but in this instance (as Arthur Knight and Hollis Alpert so neatly put it) ‘the Legion bowed to higher authority for the nude scene – the Bible itself’.58
‘In itself,’ the Legion declared in 1965, ‘nudity is not immoral and has long been recognized as a legitimate subject in painting and sculpture. However, in the very different medium of the motion picture, it is never an artistic necessity . . . the temptation for filmmakers to exploit the prurient appeal to nudity in this mass medium is so great that any concession to its use, even for otherwise valid reasons of art, would lead to wide abuse. For this reason, the National Legion of Decency will continue to apply the policy of resisting every effort to employ nudity in film production.’ At the end of the same year a leading official commented that ‘In the last two years, thirty- four films, of which twenty were maj or American productions, would have been released with
scenes employing nudity had not the producers realized that they would then have been condemned.’ Even when the Legion later underwent a mild bout of reform, renaming itself the National Catholic Office for Motion Pictures (or NCOMP) and conceding that some serious and morally worthwhile films could include erotic episodes, it nevertheless retained an especially severe attitude towards nudity on the screen.
However, the crunch came in 1965 when Sidney Lumet’s The Pawnbroker, an independent American production of intense seriousness, was condemned for showing a scene in which a young Negro prostitute bares her breasts at Rod Steiger. If they allowed this, the Legion argued, nudity would become rampant in movies – ‘just as common as blowing your nose’ was their rather spurious analogy. The film was also refused a Code seal. Instead of compromising, the producers stuck to their guns and appealed to the Motion Picture Association of America (or MPAA) – tacitly encouraged, as it happened, by the Code’s Geoffrey Shurlock, who saw this as the only way to achieve a relaxation of Code policy towards nudity.
The ‘objectionable’ scene in The Pawnbroker was crucial both to the plot and to the motivation of the central character, Nazerman (Rod Steiger). The girlfriend (Thelma Oliver) of Nazerman’s assistant Jesus is a whore who goes to the misanthropic survivor of Auschwitz to sell jewellery she’s received from private sessions conducted unbeknownst to her pimp. She wants the money to prevent Jesus falling in with a gang planning to rob the pawnshop. Nazerman offers her a sum, but she needs $20 more and offers her body to him. ‘I’m good,
Thelma Oliver’s attempted seduction of Rod Steiger in The Pawnbroker (Sidney Lumet, 1965), which fought to retain its controversial nude scenes, won its case, and caused the Production Code to be completely revised.
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The mirror masturbation scene from D.H. Lawrence’s The Fox (Mark Rydell, 1968) with Anne Heywood.
Opposite: Yugoslav heart- throb Bekim Fehmiu in The Adventurers (Lewis Gilbert, 1970).
pawnbroker, real good. I’ll do things you never even dreamed about,’ she says pathetically. She strips off her dress to reveal her naked breasts, saying, ‘I’ll show you how pretty I am. Look, look, look.’ The scene quickly flashes between the girl, Steiger and Auschwitz where girls are being forcibly scrubbed for work in the camp brothel. Nazerman sees his own wife sitting naked on a bed as a Nazi officer stands over her. Nazerman’s head is smashed through the window as he is forced to look at his wife’s humiliation. The girl’s voice comes back: ‘It don’t cost nothing to look. Look. Look.’ Disgusted and sick at heart, Nazerman gives the girl her coat and the money, and pushes her out. The sequence has no titillation; instead it is a poignant, moving exposition of two people’s desperation.
The MPAA gave The Pawnbroker its blessing, much to the chagrin of the Legion (sadly, it was later reissued with cuts and Catholic approval), and Shurlock had his wish. Criticism of the Code over The Pawnbroker spurred the new President of the MPAA, Jack Valenti, to revise it completely, and in 1966 all the hoary old Hays restrictions were removed and replaced by a set of ‘standards’ based, broadly speaking, on ‘good taste’.
A brief introduction indicated that the new Code was to be very different from the old. Its opening sentence explained that ‘This revised Code is designed to keep in close harmony with
the mores, the culture, the moral sense and the expectations of our society. The revised Code can more completely fulfil its objectives, which are:
(1) To encourage artistic expression by expanding creative freedom; and
(2) To assure that the freedom which encourages the artist remains responsible and sensitive to the standards of the larger society.’
The lengthy and detailed restrictions of the old Code were reduced to ten brief paragraphs, three of which refer to sex: ‘Indecent or undue exposure of the human body shall not be presented’; ‘Illicit sex relationships shall not be justified. Intimate sex scenes violating common standards of decency shall not be portrayed’; and ‘Restraint and care shall be exercised in presentations dealing with sex aberrations.’
The new Code made one major innovation, for it said that ‘The Administration, in approving a picture under the Code, may recommend that advertising for the picture carry the information line, “Suggested for Mature Audiences”. This element of classification ran contrary to all previous policy, for the film industry in America has always been bitterly opposed to anything that might limit audiences. But Warner Brothers had introduced the SMA tag as a way out of the impasse concerning Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, the S7^ million film
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which had originally been rejected by the PCA.
This had been intended as a ‘once-only’ exception, but it set a precedent that was bound to be followed, and within six weeks Alfie was also released in this way, although the abortion scene clearly violated the old Code, which prohibited such a subject. In recompense a number of apparently trivial cuts were made, the studio agreeing to remove the hint of the dogs in the act of sex and leaving only a preliminary shot of them sniffing intimately at each other. It also agreed to take out a shot of Alfie throwing a woman’s panties at her, as being too specific. Thirdly, there was a line, tossed by Alfie at Shelley Winters, while he is setting her up for a candid camera shot. Seemingly referring to the camera, but actually on the make for her, he says, ‘Well, I’ve got two positions [for taking pictures] – straight up or sideways, depending on your nationality.’ This, they thought, was too pointed.
The new Code thus gave official approval to the restriction of admission to certain films to adults, although use of the SMA was supposed to be cautious. However, Valenti’s new Code soon foundered in face of the type of film being made by a declining industry probing new areas in an attempt to attract a different audience from that now served by television. By 1968 over half the films passed by the PCA fell into the SMA category. Interestingly, both Alfi.e and Virginia Woolf were rated A4 by the National Catholic Office for Motion Pictures.
Meanwhile local censorship had been dealt a severe blow by the Supreme Court decision in the Freedman Case of 1965 that existing precensorship systems were unconstitutional on the grounds that they failed to ‘provide adequate safeguards against undue inhibition of expression’. Within months state and city censorship boards were challenged in the courts and found to be procedurally deficient. Many boards disappeared altogether; others were reformed in an attempt to comply with the court decision, but they were relatively toothless as a result.
The relaxation of the Code’s stern stance and the decreasing power of the NCOMP and local censorship created an ambivalence within the industry which persisted to a degree thereafter. On the one hand, producers continued to accede to calls for restraint, even in their more lurid offerings. In The Carpetbaggers (1964), for instance, Carroll Baker was rephotographed in a black negligee after a nude scene had been .objected to; in Harlow (1965), also with Carroll Baker, most of the scandalous ‘facts’ of the platinum blonde’s love life were toned down; and in The Victors (1963) and Bonnie and Clyde (1967) extensive nude shots of (respectively) Elke Sommer and Faye Dunaway were reduced to a few tantalizing glimpses. NCOMP’s dilemma was illustrated when a spokesman declared: ‘If there was a classification system that worked, we would reconsider our position on nudity.’
On the other hand, many film-makers were beginning to regard the Code as irrelevant and the NCOMP as ineffectual, and increasingly
the supposedly sacrosanct injunctions against excessive nudity, ‘illicit’ sex relationships and sex aberrations were ignored. When the Code refused its seal, films were simply exhibited through subsidiary companies which were not signatories to the Code. (Bob Hope then commented: ‘Nowadays when a film is awarded the Production Code Seal, the producer cries, “Where have we failed?” ’)
The same Bonnie and Clyde which worried about Faye Dunaway’s flesh thought nothing of implying oral sex, which was also an unmistakable feature of Hurry Sundown (1967) and two British films, Charlie Bubbles (1967) and I’ll Never Forget Whatsisname (1967). Both the last two named were rejected by Code officials in 1968 and released through subsidiaries without a seal. However, Charlie Bubbles was rated A3 by the NCOMP, probably because its sex was more associated with pain than joy. Another British film, Alfie (1966), had as its hero an unrepentant philanderer and contained an abortion sequence. Lesbianism was a motivation in The Group (1966) and, more particularly, in The Fox (1968), which also included female masturbation. Casual and extra-marital sex was becoming a common plot element in films, most candidly in Point Blank (1967), The Americanization of Emily, The Cincinnati Kid (1965), The Sandpiper (1965) and Two for the Road (1967), among many others. The hair-trigger theme of miscegenation was tackled (though as inoffensively as one could imagine – the lovers had not had pre-marital sex, at the man’s insistence!) in Stanley Kramer’s Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner (1967). And nudity, for some reason still the most
Robert Forster as the soldier in love with Elizabeth Taylor’s underwear in Reflections in a Golden Eye (John Huston, 1967).
Opposite, top: Marlon Brando and Maria Schneider in the Butter Scene’ from Last Tango in Paris (Bernardo Bertolucci, 1972).
Opposite, bottom: Oliver Reed and Georgina Hale in The Devils (Ken Russell, 1971).
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resilient bastion, made bolder and more frequent encroachments onto the screen. The native girls in Hawaii (1966) no longer wore the flesh- coloured breast-cups which had so amused the dusky extras in Mutiny on the Bounty (1962).
Antonioni’s British-made film, Blow-Up (1967), offered an early swift glimpse of female pubic hair. (Blow-Up precipitated a deadlock between the Administration and MGM, who had an enormous investment in a film which the director refused to cut by a single frame. The studio solved the problem by releasing the film through a subsidiary which it owned and which was not a specific signatory to the Code. The film was condemned by the Catholic Office and was a commercial success.) The distinguished male bare bottom positively flourished too, beginning with Anthony Quinn’s in Zorba the Greek (1964) and continuing with Alan Bates’s in Georgy Girl (1966), Kirk Douglas’s in The War Wagon (1967), Paul Newman’s in Cool Hand Luke (1967), Peter Fonda’s in The Trip (1967), and Burt Lancaster’s in The Swimmer (1967).
One film – John Huston’s Reflections in a Golden Eye (1967) – seemed to incorporate
everything. This catalogue of sexual hang-ups has Marlon Brando as a prissy homosexual, Elizabeth Taylor as his randy wife (displaying her rear again, only this time she used a stand- in), male and female nudity, voyeurism, knicker fetishism, and a next-door neighbour who has (off-screen, thank God) cut off her nipples with a pair of garden shears.
Two genres in particular seem to sum up the galloping amorality and screen permissiveness of the ’sixties: the low-budget American International pictures inspired by Jack Nicholson and Roger Corman, and the James Bond spy films and their numerous imitators.
American International, a small but enterprising independent company, started out with a successful formula for teenage beach-party films, and then, with a few fine words about ‘reflecting the exciting social changes, crises, rationalizations and adjustments of society in our time’, launched into a frenetic series of sensational dramatizations of modern delinquency. The most celebrated – and notorious – of these were the motorcycle and psychedelic drug pictures, particularly two directed by
:
Sean Connery (as James Bond) discovers Shirley Eaton painted to death in Go/dfinger (Guy Hamilton, 1964).
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Roger Corman, The Wild Angels (1966) and The Trip, both starring Peter Fonda. Concentration on rape, orgies, gang-bangs, nudity and, in The Trip, hallucination brought on by LSD, caused the films to be condemned by NCOMP and barred abroad (e.g. in Great Britain), but they were spectacularly successful in the United States and represented a further loosening of the censors’ stranglehold.
The spy genre began modestly, and without any particular expectation, with Dr No (1963), a tongue-in-cheek adaptation of Ian Fleming’s espionage adventure, featuring public-school playboy James Bond, in which even the erotic details of the original were toned down, despite the presence of Ursula Andress. The fantasy formula and rough charm of Sean Connery caught on, and the Bond films (British-made and American-financed) turned into one of the cinema’s most successful-ever series, topped by Thunderball (1967) and Diamonds Are Forever (1971), closely followed by Goldfinger (1964), You Only Live Twice (1967) and From Russia With Love (1964).
The secret of the Bond films’ appeal was that
they offered vicarious sex and violence without Dean Martl” and Beverly
i Pi. • i -i.i i i ■ Adams in the Matt Helm spy
guilt, and often spiced with sado-masochism, thriller The Silencers (Phil
Their lack of realism and their high entertain- Karlson, 1966). ment value, moreover, protected them from any serious confrontation with the censors. Spotting this, many producers jumped on the bandwagon. Columbia attempted a send-up version of Bond with Casino Roy ale (1967), a joke which misfired but was profitable none the less.
Elsewhere, rival spy-heroes, strong on virility, appeared in force, including Matt Helm (played by Dean Martin) in The Silencers (1966), the cocky Flint (James Coburn) in Our Man Flint (1966), the bespectacled Harry Palmer (Michael Caine) in The Ipcress File (1965) and Funeral in Berlin (1967), ‘The Men from UNCLE’
(Robert Vaughn and David McCallum) in a tiresome series of TV spin-offs, and (a rare change of sex) Modesty Blaise (1965), incarnated on film by Monica Vitti.
Towards the end of the ’sixties a new kind of hero began to emerge, seemingly in deliberate contrast to the SuperBond image. This was the randy adolescent, setting out on his first sex safari and encountering wild beasts of unimaginable voraciousness. Peter Kastner played him in Francis Ford Coppola’s You’re a Big Boy Now (1967), and Barry Evans in the British equivalent, Here We Go Round the Mulberry Bush (1967). But his most successful manifestation was Dustin Hoffman in Mike Nichols’s The Graduate (1967). Hoffman played a young, middle-class Jew who loses his innocence to the formidable Mrs Robinson (Anne Bancroft) and then complicates matters by falling in love with her daughter (Katharine Ross). Said David Shipman: ‘Hoffman represented every youth trapped for the first time in the adults’ world and the response of the world’s youth catapulted him into superstar status.’59
More significant, though, was the entry of
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The Bed (1967), a Surrealistic, good-humoured celebration of uninhibited sexuality by avant-garde film-maker James Broughton.
Claudia Cardinale, earthy Italian star in the mould of Loren and Lollobrigida, in The Legend of Frenchie King (Christian-Jaque, 1971).
American film-making into the adults’ world, as exemplified by mature, irreverent movies like The Graduate. In the face of intelligent, humorous film-making of this kind, Code Administrator Geoffrey Shurlock’s hopeful pronouncement that, while no subject need be taboo, films should restrict themselves to ‘the areas of integrity, good taste and a decent consideration for the sensibilities of the audience’ no longer seemed particularly relevant.
Late in the ’sixties Valenti was forced to capitulate and abandon the Code altogether. It was replaced by a system of classification, despite the fact that only six years earlier the MPAA had pronounced that classification ‘represents a dangerous infringement of the democratic American freedoms of communication and opinion and of the American tradition of parental responsibility’. The categories now in use were:
G – all ages admitted. General audiences.
GP – all ages admitted. Parental guidance suggested.
R- restricted. Under 17 requires accompanying parent or adult guardian.
X – no one under 17 admitted.
The administration remained tougher on sex than violence, true to the tradition of the Code. As early as January 1969, a commentator remarked that ‘I rather suspect that the G category is really aimed against the portrayal of sex in films.’ One member of the PCA resigned within six months claiming that there was too much concern with ‘pubic hair and breasts’. Innocuous sex comedies devoid of full-frontal nudity were invariably rated X while violent films like Straw Dogs were accepted for the R category.
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British Breakthrough
It was (surprisingly enough in view of its previous record) the British cinema which suddenly found itself in the van of permissiveness and social realism at the end of the ’fifties. For possibly the first time in their history, British feature films achieved international recognition and exerted a measurable influence on world cinema.
Several factors combined to produce this minor phenomenon, the most important being the massive cultural shakedown which, virtually at a stroke, lifted the drama of human relationships out of the comfortable middle- class drawing-room and dumped it rudely down in the working-class kitchen. At the same time, the new avant-garde directors like Tony Richardson, Lindsay Anderson and Karel Reisz (and even Establishment film personnel like Richard Attenborough) chose to make their films independently – just as their foreign counterparts, Bergman, Antonioni, and so on, had been doing – and their success encouraged American film-makers, traditionally shackled to the big studios, to do the same. American backers were suddenly anxious to pour huge helpings of dollars into British productions, or to set up lucrative co-productions (such as the James Bond films), while the film-makers for their part were only too happy to accept the freedom and scope for their artistic ambitions which these financial transfusions gave them.
More realism meant more explicit themes – particularly in the spheres of sex and violence – and the breaking of old cinematic taboos, and here, too, the climate proved suddenly favourable. The British censorship system (operated by the British Board of Film Censors [or BBFC]), although ineffably stuffy at times, had always been pragmatic and paternal and less influenced than America by a religiously-motivated, prurient sense of sin.
As early as 1908 ‘sex’ films were being made in Britain. An advertisement in Kinematograph Weekly in that year referred to ‘special for Gentleman Performances, Very Piquant Films and Lantern Slides’, while the cinema’s doubtful reputation had inclined the Electric Cinema in 1901 to proclaim its aim of showing only ‘clean and moral pictures’. Calls for censorship were soon heard, but its eventual appearance came by a roundabout route.
The Cinematograph Act of 1909 was intended solely to establish safety precautions in cinemas which were vulnerable to fire hazards. Through loose drafting, however, the way was cleared for local authorities to impose conditions that were far removed from measures related to fire precaution. In 1911 the courts confirmed that the Act gave them the right to control film content. Already films were being subjected to widespread attacks in the press, while a number of chief constables declared ‘with almost complete unanimity that the recent great
increase in juvenile delinquency is, to a considerable extent, due to demoralizing cinematograph films’.
The rapid growth of local-authority activity encouraged the industry to seek a solution to the confusion and disruption of business that was ensuing. The trade organizations approached the Home Office, but failed to gain official support for the establishment of a national censor. In July, 1912, a meeting of exhibitors passed a motion that ‘censorship is necessary and advisable’ and the formation of the British Board of Film Censors was announced in November. It started work on 1 January, 1913, with the brief that it was to be ‘a purely independent and impartial body, whose duty will be to induce confidence in the minds of the licensing authorities, and of those who have in their charge the moral welfare of the community generally’.
For some years the Board’s situation remained precarious: the submission of films was voluntary and the autonomy of the local authorities threatened its existence. However, slowly at first, and more rapidly after the Home Office had given encouragement, the authorities
began to adopt clauses in their licensing condi- 0di|e Versois and Diana Dors tions that impelled cinemas to show only films Ah/in* *
certificated by the Board. By the end of 1924 the 1959).
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James Fox is vamped by Sarah Miles in The Servant (Joseph Losey, 1 963).
Dirk Bogarde as a man whose homosexual past (in the shape of Donald Churchill) catches up with him in Victim (Basil Dearden, 1961).
majority of authorities had acknowledged the Board in this way and the London County Council had introduced a set of conditions which were to form the basis of local-authority licensing for the future.
Originally the Board had only two invariable rules – no nudity and no representation of Christ – but a longer list of prohibitions was soon developed. There is no truth in the fiction that the Board has never had a written code; as early as 1917 the President, T.P. O’Connor, had evolved forty-three rules which he boasted ‘cover pretty well all the grounds that you can think of. They were indeed extremely restrictive. On the subject of sex alone these rules prohibited the inclusion of unnecessary exhibitions of underclothing, of nude figures, offensive vulgarity, and impropriety in conduct and dress, indecorous dancing, excessively passionate love scenes, bathing scenes passing the limits of propriety, subjects dealing with the
premeditated seduction of girls, ‘first night’ scenes, scenes suggestive of immorality, situations accentuating delicate marital relations, men and women in bed together, illicit sexual relationships, prostitution and procuration, scenes depicting the effect of venereal diseases, and incidents suggestive of incestuous relations.
This comprehensive list clearly ruled out any inclusion of sex in films to be shown in Britain. The Board saw its role in terms of ‘eliminating certain subjects which are altogether unsuitable for British audiences, and further of raising the general standards of films exhibited in this country’. The policy was unashamedly paternalistic and the Board worked on the assumption that cinema audiences included ‘a not inconsiderable proportion of people of immature judgment’.
The essential point was, as a later President pointed out, that for its first thirty-five years ‘the policy of the Board was based on the principle adopted by the trade that the cinema should provide for a family audience’. To ensure that all material was suitable, certain aspects of life were therefore entirely eliminated from the screen. Any film that depicted ‘manifestations of the pursuit of lust’, ‘indelicate sexual situations’ or ‘women leading immoral lives’ were banned. As Rachael Low has noted, ‘drunkenness among women, brutality to women, fights between women, prostitution and procuration, “illegal operations”, brothels, rape, confinements and puerperal pains were not just to be banned if “excessive” but were actually not to be mentioned at all. Girls were not made drunk or seduced, incest and the white slave trade did not exist.’
The sort of thinking that lay behind this extraordinarily extreme approach may be gathered from a statement made by a Home Secretary of the ’twenties, Sir William Joynson- Hicks: ‘One side of this question, and one of terrible and far-reaching importance, is the effect of films produced either in America or in this country and exhibited in India and in the East, showing the white woman as an object of degradation … it is undoubtedly essential that all nations which rule in Eastern countries should see to it that the pride and character of their womanhood is maintained unimpaired.’
Very soon the Board was able to boast that its influence was ‘having the desired effect of eliminating certain subjects which are altogether unsuitable for British audiences’. Advances being made by film-makers abroad were entirely hidden from the British public and film-makers. Rachael Low has concluded that ‘To some extent the very poverty of imagination in British film production, and the early contempt in which it was held, may have been due to the fact that people simply did not know what could be done, and in fact was being done abroad, with the film medium.’
The coming of Sound in the late ’twenties added to the concern felt about the strong impressions that films might make on their audiences. The problems of cutting Talkies led
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to the practice of studying scripts at the pre- production stage, and this gave the Board an even closer control on content.
Meanwhile sex was continuing to disturb the censors. In 1925 the Board announced that it wished ‘to deprecate what seems to be a growing habit with actors of both sexes to divest themselves of their clothing on slight or no provocation’, lamenting the tendency even for ‘leading film actresses’ to pull their dresses ‘well off their shoulders’.
Six years later the Board was still inveighing on the same subject, criticizing those producers ‘who delight to show the female form divine in a state of attractive undress’, and who, for this purpose, ‘drag in scenes of undressing, bathroom scenes and the exhibition of feminine underclothing’ without any real need. The Board went so far as to conclude that ‘the cumulative effect of a repetition of such scenes as can be described as “suggestive” is very harmful’, although, as usual, no basis for this belief was stated.
By the following year it appears that such problems were over, for the Board was able to report that ‘there is a beginning of a wholesome reaction in public opinion against the emphasizing of this sex-phase of life’. This prophecy was hardly fulfilled, but the Board continued to do its best to discourage films dealing with ‘the sex elements in life’ up to and after the war.
Shortly after the war the Board found itself with both a new president and a new secretary on the deaths of their predecessors. While there had already been four presidents, Brooks Wilkinson had been Secretary since 1912. His influence had been one reason for the Board’s resistance to change: he continued to see his job in the terms in which he had created it. His departure meant the possibility of a new approach, and Wilkinson’s successor, Arthur Watkins, was prepared to concede that the ’fifties offered a different set of conditions to those existing before the First World War. However, it was not essentially the personalities involved who, over the next fifteen years, were dramatically to alter the policy of the Board, but society and events which forced evolution upon them.
In Britain, as in America, the effects of affluence and, in particular, television had brought an end to the cinema as the main form of mass entertainment. By 1950 admissions had ceased to rise and were starting the rapid slide that continues today. In an attempt to appeal to audiences other than the family, which had hitherto been considered the only economic unit, the cinema was forced to venture into new areas.
In 1951 the X certificate was introduced, limiting audiences to people over the age of sixteen. The Board announced this as a move towards ‘the reduction of censorship for adults to the minimum’, but continued to affirm its intention to remove ‘offensive and distasteful material which cannot be regarded as entertainment and which if not excluded would in the
long run do harm to the cinema’s claim to that universal patronage on which its economy rests.’
The industry felt the same way, for at first the new certificate was avoided as far as possible on the outdated theory that the cinema had to appeal to all the family. The Rank circuit released the only fourteen X films throughout the ’fifties, while ABC’s total of fifty was heavily concentrated in the last two or three years. As a result, the certificate was limited to largely unprepossessing material and acquired a low reputation.
In 1957 John Trevelyan became Secretary and soon began to utter statements that contrasted powerfully with those of his predecessors: ‘Censorship of the Arts may still be necessary, but it should exist only to stop what is dangerous and what could degrade and harm human personality.’ Under pressure from the radically changing atmosphere in the arts, the
Kenneth Connor, Kenneth Williams and Joan Sims in Carry On C/eo (Gerald Thomas, 1964).
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That
special
feeling
Recurring images of erotic cinema: 3
Don Alvardo and Dolores del Rio {right) in The Loves of Carmen (Raoul Walsh, 1927). Erich von Stroheim and Francilla Billington (centre, right) in Blind Husbands (Stroheim,
1918). Onibaba {far right, Kaneto Shindo, 1964). John Gilbert and Aileen Pringle {bottom) in Elinor Glyn’s His Hour (King Vidor, 1924).
Yutte Stensgaard and Pippa Steel in Lust for a Vampire (Jimmy Sangster, 1970).
British censorship system was now ready to recognize an intelligent, responsible approach to sex, especially as it had a classification system (including the X category, for adults only) which would readily accommodate it without putting the morals of the whole nation at risk.
It was this attitude (plus, of course, the stimulating content of the films) which, in turn, encouraged American distributors to defy their own Code by showing the offending movies without a seal. They did this by forming quasi-independent subsidiary distribution companies not answerable to the Code’s authority. There even came a point where over-exposure which had been cut from British films by the Board (such as the nude swimming scene in Here We Go Round the Mulberry Bush) was
retained for American distribution.
The first glimmerings of a harder, more serious approach to sex and other adult themes in the British cinema had appeared in the latter half of the ’fifties, although the films themselves weren’t always much to write home about. There was a particular vogue for drab, doomladen dramas about the evils of prostitution, among which The Flesh is Weak (1957) acquired an inflated reputation after running into censorship trouble. More typical was Passport to Shame (1959), which starred England’s very own home-grown sex symbol, Diana Dors. Said the Monthly Film Bulletin (of the British Film Institute): ‘This wildly incredible story introduced as a social document by Fabian of the Yard [a famous ex-Scotland Yard detective] must be the most wholeheartedly absurd prosti-
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tute drama yet.’ This film and others like it were usually poor imitations of no less dismal Continental imports, such as Girl of Shame (1958, made by Veit Harlan, a one-time director of pernicious Nazi propaganda films) which tackled both prostitution and drug addiction, and Dolls of Vice (1958), a white-slave melodrama which came in for a good deal of scissor- work and drew some rare tongue-in-cheekiness from the Bulletin (‘Several climaxes appear to have been cut by the censor’).
Curiously, the critics’ attitude to censorship at this time was often a good deal less bold than the films which suffered from it. When Expresso Bongo (1959), a mild send-up of the pop-music scene with a pimp (Laurence Harvey) as its main character, was given an A certificate, allowing children to see it in the company of adults, one commentator said: ‘The censor seems to have viewed the film with an indulgent eye (and ear). Parents who take children should be warned to expect embarrassment.’60
A number of previously untouchable topics had begun to creep into movie plots, sometimes incidentally, sometimes as a principal theme. Town on Trial (1957) was a thoughtful crime drama in which detective John Mills explores the murder of a pregnant girl. The Story of Esther Costello (1957) depicted – though not too explicitly – the rape of a blind, dumb and deaf girl (played by Heather Sears). A Question of Adultery (1958) was about a sterile man who takes out a divorce action when his wife receives artificial insemination. Sapphire (1959) delved into race prejudice and miscegenation. Too Young to Love (1960) traced a fifteen-year- old’s sufferings, from seduction through abortion to syphilis. Never Take Sweets from a Stranger (I960), The Mark (1961) and Term of
Trial (1962, with Laurence Olivier and newcomer Sarah Miles) were all centred on the seduction or assault of under-age girls. Peeping Tom (1960) was a more than usually explicit exercise in perversion and morbid sadism. And No Love for Johnnie (1961) dragged extramarital sex into the sacred world of politics.
The most significant breakthrough, perhaps – or at least the most controversial – was the recognition of homosexuality as a valid dramatic theme. It first cropped up as a crucial part of the plot in Serious Charge (1959), in which Anthony Quayle, as a vicar who runs a youth club, is falsely accused of assaulting a teenage boy. It was self-evident in Oscar Wilde and The Ti’ials of Oscar Wilde (both 1960). And it was the underlying corrupting force in Joseph Losey’s celebrated study of decadence, The Servant (1963).
The bravest film to tackle this tricky subject was Victim (1961), with Dirk Bogarde, which dared not only to have as its leading character a man with a homosexual past, but also to plead strongly and humanely for a repeal of the obnoxious laws which exposed homosexuals to the constant, terrifying threat of blackmail. Said Bogarde in an interview with Barry Norman in The Times: ‘It was the first film to treat homosexuality seriously. It was the first film in which a man said “I love you” to another man. I wrote that scene in. I said “There’s no point in half measures. We either make a film about queers or we don’t.” I believe that picture made a lot of difference to a lot of people’s lives.’
Not least, as it happened, to his own, and not so much for the obvious reason that the theme had tarnished his heart-throb image. Suddenly, the hordes of adoring teeny-boppers who had made him the biggest British movie
Yvonne Mitchell (centre) as the sluttish wife in Woman in a Dressing Gown (J. Lee- Thompson, 1957), with Sylvia Syms and Anthony Quayle.
Above: Laurence Harvey and Simone Signoret in Jack Clayton’s Room at the Top (1959).
Right: Richard Burton and Mary Ure in John Osborne’s Look Back in Anger (Tony Richardson, 1959).
Opposite, top: Rachel Roberts and Albert Finney in Saturday Night and Sunday Morning (Karel Reisz, 1960).
Far right: Alan Bates tries to titillate June Ritchie with a nudie magazine in A Kind of Loving (John Schlesinger, 1962).
star ever to remain faithful to the native film scene, simply vanished into thin air. ‘Overnight,’ he said, ‘I didn’t have a single fan left – not because I had portrayed a homosexual (because in England the word “queer” used to mean that you weren’t feeling very well, so they didn’t get it anyway) as much as I had played the part of a man of forty-five, which was my real age. “You ’re old,” wrote the shattered fans who could still bring themselves to put pen to paper. “You’re older than my dad!”’
There were lighter aspects to the British cinema’s more permissive mood at the end of the ’fifties. In 1959, for example, Britain had taken a belated cue from Swedish and other foreign imports and launched her first nudist- camp film, Nudist Paradise, an innocuous piece of supposed propagandizing on behalf of naturism, full of coy poses backed by an excruciatingly nudging commentary. So harm-
less was it considered to be, in fact, that it earned nothing more censorious than an A certificate, which meant that children (accompanied by an adult) could, if they so wished, get their first legitimate glimpse of the full female bosom in the cinema. There followed numerous similar celebrations of the goose-pimple, including one (Some Like It Cool, 1961) directed by Michael Winner.
This watershed period in British film-making also saw the birth of two peculiarly indigenous genres – the Carry On .. . film and the Hammer horror movie. The seemingly never-ending series of farces produced by Peter Rogers, written by Talbot Rothwell and directed by Gerald Thomas began innocently enough with Carry On Sergeant (1958) and then got rapidly into its vulgar stride with Carry On Nurse (1959), Carry On Teacher (1959) and Carry On Constable (1960), since when it has blithely
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Richard Harris attempts to break down Rachel Roberts’s frigidity in This Sporting Life (Lindsay Anderson, 1963).
milked the same lavatorial jokes through more than a score of successive movies, without losing any popularity.
The appeal of the Carry On… films lies in their uniquely English flavour, deriving partly from the traditions of bawdy British music-hall. What they most resemble, though, are Donald McGill’s celebrated saucy seaside postcards, with their shameless emphasis on breasts, buttocks and double entendres. Barbara Windsor, opulently endowed doyenne of the Carry On . . . films, could almost have stepped out of one of McGill’s pink-cheeked drawings.
The Gothic horror film, previously the preserve of Hollywood, was first successfully moulded to the British market by Hammer in 1958 with Terence Fisher’s Dracula, which apart from setting another interminable trend, ensured regular, lucrative employment thereafter for its two stars, Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee. Although blood and mayhem have always been the prime contents of the Hammer productions and their countless imitators, sexual sadism was never far from the surface and became an increasingly overt part of the proceedings as producers tried to wring yet more variations out of the Dracula and
Frankenstein themes – even to the point of transferring the traditional focus for the fanged bite from the jugular vein to the female nipple in The Vampire Lovers (1970)!
Dominating all these peripheral trends and developments, however, was the cultural revolution which temporarily transformed the British cinema from a medium of tired entertainment into an authentic branch of the social arts. The whirlwind of change had first blown up in the theatre, where John Osborne’s epoch- making play, ‘Look Back in Anger’, had scythed through all the Establishment’s concepts of what constituted Good Drama. The terms ‘kitchen sink’, ‘angry young man’ and ‘anti- hero’ were coined and became common currency, and a new, refreshing wave of social realism swept through British drama, literature and film-making.
Ted (later Lord) Willis was responsible for the first tentative steps towards the kitchen sink in the cinema, with adaptations of his plays Woman in a Dressing Gown (1957) and No Trees in the Street (1959). The first of these – about a sluttish, middle-aged woman unable to cope with her husband’s infidelity with his secretary – retained a certain reputation as a
bold study of adultery and menopause among The aphrodisiacal eating the working classes, thanks largely to a pivotal s(j60nney R°c^a^son °l?963) performance by Yvonne Mitchell, but neither with Albert Finney and film stood the test of time. Woman in a Dressing J°yce Redman.
Gown was really little more than a poor man’s Brief Encounter, while No Trees i?i the Street, a social problem picture about London slum life, never rose above being drab, hysterical and depleted. More importantly, though, both movies dared to depict, with some attempt at explicitness and authenticity, the life and problems – including the sexual hang-ups – of ordinary men and women.
The time was ripe for a much more audacious response to the new cultural climate, and in 1958 Jack Clayton duly obliged with his screen version of John Braine’s Room at the Top.
This told the cynical tale of Joe Lampton (Laurence Harvey), an ambitious clerk in
Michael Caine takes a break between seductions during the shooting of Alfie (Lewis Gilbert, 1 966).
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industrial Yorkshire who makes his boss’s daughter (Heather Sears) pregnant in order to marry into the family wealth, despite his passion for his married mistress (Simone Signoret). Peter John Dyer spoke with mild disparagement of the film’s ‘slightly self- conscious determination to bring sex to the British screen’,61 but its significance went deeper than that. It was virtually the first reputable, critically acclaimed main feature to earn an X certificate and profit by it, and its success encouraged other respectable directors to tackle more adventurous themes in a proletarian setting.
With the flood-gates opened, British cinema suddenly came alive and kicking into the new decade. The progenitor of the whole revival, Look Back in Anger, was brought faithfully to the screen in 1959 by Tony Richardson, with Richard Burton as Jimmy Porter, the frustrated, embittered working-class intellectual who vents his scorn for the bourgeois Establishment on his pregnant, middle-class wife (Mary Ure), and has an affair with her best friend (Claire Bloom). This was followed in 1960 by another Richardson/Osborne collaboration, The Entertainer, with Laurence Olivier repeating his triumphant stage role as Archie Rice, faded pier- end comic and seducer of beauty queens. Shirley Anne Field played one such conquest, and Albert Finney had a small part as the younger son who dies in the abortive Suez campaign.
These two went on to star in the smash hit of 1960, Alan Sillitoe’s Saturday Night and Sunday Morning, directed by Karel Reisz, the most uncompromising slice of working-class life up to that time. This saga of an irresponsible Nottingham factory worker (Albert Finney) who conducts a carefree affair with the wife (Rachel Roberts) of a colleague (Bryan Pringle) on the night shift and seduces a hard-bitten teaser (Shirley Anne Field) only to be trapped into
marriage, contained some startlingly frank sequences, including an implied, tragi-comic abortion scene in which Rachel Roberts fails to dislodge her unwelcome foetus with a hot bath and a bottle of gin. Despite critical approval and the censor’s indulgence, the film was too strong for some local authorities, who banned it.
The critical success of 1961 was another Tony Richardson film, A Taste of Honey, adapted from Shelagh Delaney’s play about a teenage girl (Rita Tushingham) who is seduced by an itinerant Negro sailor (Paul Danquah) and cared for throughout pregnancy by an overt homosexual (Murray Melvin). This oddly romantic tale broke further new ground with its unabashed handling of miscegenation and Murray Melvin’s camp, but quite serious, sympathetic and well-observed characterization as the homosexual. It was, strangely, Miss Delaney who later commented sadly that ‘the cinema has become more and more like the theatre; it’s all mauling and muttering’.
Similar in mood and frankness of theme was John Schlesinger’s A Kind of Loving (1962), adapted from Stan Barstow’s novel about a draughtsman (Alan Bates) who can’t come to terms with his shotgun marriage to a girl (June Ritchie) he lusts after but doesn’t love. This is claimed to be the first film in which a man is depicted buying contraceptives. Bates enters a chemist’s shop with the intention of purchasing condoms but is overcome by shyness and emerges to present his eager friend (James Bolam) with a bottle of health tonic! This sequence was thought greatly daring at the time. More extra-marital pregnancy, with Leslie Caron the long-sufferer, occurred in Bryan Forbes’s The L-Shaped. Room (1962), which also tested another taboo with its clear references to lesbianism. The Leather Boys (1963) treated homosexuality more ambiguously with its story of a teenage ton-up boy who marries a
Frustration for young newlyweds Hywel Bennett and Hayley Mills, unable to consummate their marriage in The Family Way (Roy Boulting, 1 966).
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schoolgirl but abandons her for the companionship of a fellow motorcycle enthusiast.
The high point of this brief, vintage period of British social realism was reached in 1963 with Lindsay Anderson’s film of the David Storey novel, This Sporting Life, about a Yorkshire miner who becomes a professional rugby player and nurses an intense but unfulfilled passion for his sexually turned-off, widowed landlady. The strength of Anderson’s film, as with the others of its genre, lay in its candid, serious and totally adult approach to the sexual problems of its characters and the way they are affected by their social background. Extensive location shooting, ranging from dockside to dance-hall (and to which, despite their theatrical and/or literary origins, these pieces proved readily adaptable), added the extra dimension of reality.
As film-makers became more confident in their handling of erotic themes, and the censor, impressed with the artistic integrity of the new directors, became increasingly indulgent, so sex took on a more prominent and unashamed role in all types of films. Comedies and satires, in particular, began to have a field day. Sidney Gilliat’s Only Two Can Play (1962, from the Kingsley Amis novel, ‘That Uncertain Feeling’) gave audiences a glimpse of Mai Zetterling’s bare bottom in its story of a randy Welsh librarian (Peter Sellers) and his failure (in true British tradition) to consummate an affair with the willing wife of a local dignitary; and in Live Now – Pay Later (1962), Ian Hendry’s door-to-door salesman gave his housewifely customers more satisfaction than they were likely to get from their hire-purchase agreements.
The comic blockbuster of the early ’sixties was Tony Richardson’s ambitious, bawdy, trend-setting, multi-Academy Award-winning adaptation of Henry Fielding’s satirical eighteenth-century novel, Tom Jones (1963). This free-wheeling affair, full of over-imitated cinematic tricks such as speeded-up action and characters talking to camera, made few concessions to conventional movie morality with its story of a bastard son (Albert Finney) who loves the daughter (Susannah York) of his adoptive father (Hugh Griffith) but can’t resist sowing a few wild oats round the county.
The film became famous for its abandoned sexual encounters, for its superbly erotic, aphrodisiacal eating scene between Finney and Joyce Redman, and for the latter’s deliciously wry glance at the camera (i.e. audience) on learning (erroneously, as it turns out) that the same Tom Jones with whom she has romped the night away is her very own son. In 1965, Terence Young tried to exploit the success of Tom Jones by adapting a trio of Daniel Defoe novels and calling the result The Amorous Adventures of Moll Flanders, but in spite of the obvious erotic charms of Kim Novak and the presence of a prestige cast, it was heavy going and proved only that Richardson’s film had milked the formula dry.
Directors thereafter favoured sex comedies
with more modern settings. One of the most Intruders Tony Beckley and
enjoyable was another by-product of the kSmo °Thl7emhous? theatrical new wave, Ann Jellicoe’s The Knack (Peter Collinson, 1967).
(‘… and how to get it’, 1965), directed by Richard Lester, a gentle satire on innocence and amorality about a shy young teacher (Michael Crawford) who learns his friend’s (Ray Brooks) knack with girls and wins Rita Tushingham.
Another character who had the ‘knack’ was Alfie (1966), Bill Naughton’s Cockney philanderer, whose string of carefree seductions and line in candid sex-chat established Michael Caine’s screen image and promoted him to international stardom.
Alfie inspired a brief mini-genre of jocular British comedies with serious socio-sexual undertones, including another Bill Naughton adaptation, The Family Way (1966), in which domestic circumstances make it hard for Hy wel Bennett to consummate his brand-new marriage to Hayley Mills (who finally lost her celluloid innocence in a modest nude scene), and the over-modish Georgy Girl (1966), in which Alan Bates, having impregnated his girlfriend
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Charlotte Rampling), seduces her ugly-duckling room-mate (Lynn Redgrave) while she’s away having the baby; James Mason, to complete the four-sided triangle, played a slavering sugar- daddy who lusts after Lynn. Eventually, and inevitably, the old-fashioned smutty British farce met the new permissiveness half-way to produce bland, polarized pictures like Prudence and. the Pill (1968), a thin joke about a mother’s contraceptive pills being swapped for aspirins.
As the ’sixties ran their course, British filmmakers tried, with only limited success, to recapture the heady flavour of social realism with which the decade had so splendidly begun. Edna O’Brien’s Irish romance, ‘The Lonely Girl’, filmed as Girl with Green Eyes (1964), about an innocent farmer’s daughter (Rita Tushingham) who lives with a worldly, middle- aged writer (Peter Finch), was pleasant but novelettish. Another literary adaptation, Somerset Maugham’s Of Human Bondage
(1964) , failed to retain the subtle eroticism of the original novel and became merely sordid, largely through the miscasting of Kim Novak as Mildred, the waitress turned prostitute. Life at the Top (1965), likewise, though it retained Laurence Harvey as Joe Lampton, was a pale and clumsy sequel to Room at the Top. An early Michael Winner effort, The System (1964), about casual seaside sex, was merely synthetic.
Anthony Simmons’s Four in the Morning
(1965) , a double-tale about the sexual crises of two couples during one night, had pretensions which nearly came off, thanks to fine acting by Judi Dench, Norman Rodway, Joe Melia and AnnLynn, and evocative Thames-side locations. Two adaptations of Nell Dunn’s lively, observant books about life in the raw in South London, Peter Collinson’s Up the Junction and Ken Loach’s Poor Cow (both 1967), did good
Julie Christie in her Oscar- winning performance as John Schlesinger’s Darting . . . (1965).
Roman Polanski’s Repulsion (1965), with Catherine Deneuve as the schizophrenic whose rape fantasies drive her to murder.
business – the former exceptionally so – but lost much of the original’s rampant eroticism. Another Peter Collinson drama, The Penthouse (1967). about a married man and his mistress tormented by psychopaths in an apartment, was simply an unpleasant and exploitative piece of sex-sadism, matched in pointlessness only by Jack Cardiff’s Girl on a Motorcycle (1968), in which Marianne Faithfull emoted erotically in a riot of black leather and zips. Much better was David Greene’s wry study of a novice policeman, The Strange Affair (1968), climaxed by a remarkably steamy bath scene involving Michael York and the nubile Susan George.
The British film with the biggest international reputation at this time was John Schlesinger’s Darling . . . (1965), which cornered three Academy Awards, including one for its female star, Julie Christie. This succeeded by seeming to capture the trendy amorality of the times in its story of the rise and fall of a hard, ambitious young model (Julie Christie) who jilts her lover (Dirk Bogarde) and has an abortion, only to sink into depravity and a lonely marriage to a rich Italian nobleman.
Oddly enough, the most original talent to emerge on the British film scene in the latter half of the ’sixties was not a Briton at all, but an expatriate Pole called Roman Polanski. This former actor had made his reputation in Poland with a surrealistic short, Two Men and a Wardrobe (1958), and a disturbing feature, Knife in the Water (1962), which revealed his interest in the neurotic behaviour of people at sexual odds with each other. Yet his themes were regarded as bizarre and anti-social – ‘the product,’ according to the Polish Communist Party, ‘of an over-stimulated and sick imagination’ – and he deemed it prudent to leave his native country. Settling mainly in Britain, he has demonstrated in his English-language films an amused, sometimes cruel interest in people’s sexual obsessions, emphasizing the sadistic and the perverse.
Repulsion (1965), with Catherine Deneuve, was a brilliant and horrifying study of schizophrenia in a girl pathologically revolted by sex, who has grotesque rape fantasies and ends up slaughtering her boyfriend and landlord in hideous fashion. Repulsion can also claim a dubious first for reproducing the sounds of orgasm most realistically, albeit off-screen! Cul-de-Sac (1966) had Donald Pleasence, as a pathetic transvestite, and Frangoise Dorleac, as his French wife (permitted a muted nude scene by the censor), forced to harbour wounded criminals. And Rosemary’s Baby (1968), made in the USA and Polanski’s first commercial success, delved into the more erotic areas of black magic (the censor objecting to one brief scene in which Rosemary, played by Mia Farrow, is tied to a bed prior to impregnation by the Devil; the rape was acceptable but not the bondage). Latterly, Polanski’sstandingsuffered somewhat following a badly botched satirical horror movie, Dance of the Vampires (1967), and a tedious Candy-style sex fantasy, What.? (1974), although his highly subjective version
of Macbeth (1971) contained some interesting ideas, including a youthful, naked Lady Macbeth (Francesca Annis).
Permissiveness in British’movies took one more major step forward in the final years of the ’sixties when the first transient shots of full- frontal female nudity were passed by the censor. The total ban on nudity had survived until 1950. After that date it began to be gradually eroded, first in foreign films like the Swedish One Summer of Happiness. In the mid-’fifties there was a spate of American, and later British, nudist films. At first the Board had refused to pass these, but when local authorities accepted them in large numbers, it was forced to change its policy. Over the following ten years even greater expanses of flesh were allowed, but strict limits were still operative in 1964 when the President noted that ‘clearly the exhibition of human genital organs would in general be objectionable, but not (unless offensively pictured) breasts, chests, or buttocks. Nor should
Sven-Bertil Taube and Agneta Ekmanner in Jonas Cornell’s Hugs and Kisses (1966), the first film in which the British Board of Film Censors gave its official blessing to pubic hair.
David Hemmings’s sexual romp with a pair of photographic models in Blow-Up (Michelangelo Antonioni, 1967) gave British audiences their second glimpse of pubic hair.
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The fuss over Eva Ras’s pubic hair in The Switchboard Operator (1967) brought fortuitous fame to talented Yugoslav film-maker Dusan Makavejev and led to a more tolerant attitude to censorship in Britain.
the sexual act be implied, nor physical caresses.’ By this time nudes were even admitted in ‘dramatic or other’ films, provided that ‘the. sight of the nude is not prolonged’, though ‘there might be objection to full breasts in such circumstances’.
This double standard seems comical but it is not entirely illogical. Part of the Board’s function is to protect films from prosecution, and while nudist and other sex films appeal to a small and pre-selected audience in specialized cinemas, other films may be seen by a wider section of the population, more likely to be offended or shocked if not actually corrupted.
Somehow the Board must gauge public opinion, although, in effect, it is more concerned with judging what local authorities will allow, for they hold the statutory power and are theoretically supposed to represent the wishes of the electorate. In fact throughout the ’fifties and ’sixties the authorities were more liberal than the censors. Many films banned by the Board were passed for local exhibition up and down the country, while reversals in the other direction were extremely rare. Yet few local authorities aroused controversy or opposition as a result of their actions.
The female full-frontal breakthrough came not in any dubious products of the sexploitation market, but in three highly regarded films by reputable film-makers, Jonas Cornell’s Hugs and Kisses (1966), Antonioni’s Blow-Up (1967) and Lindsay Anderson’s If. . . (1968).
Hugs and Kisses, said John Trevelyan later, was the turning-point as far as the pudendum was concerned. The vital scene was one in which a woman is shown standing and admiring herself
before a mirror, her pubic hair plainly revealed. At first, the BBFC cut the shot, but later reinstated it, thus making pubic hair acceptable thereafter on both stage and screen.
Blow-Up, however, in which female pubic hair is briefly revealed during a mini-orgy scene involving photographer David Hemmings and two models, was of particular interest because of its timing. The Board of Film Censors were in the middle of a public row caused by their decision to cut a similar glimpse of pubic hair from a Yugoslavian film which, being by an unknown director and having no critical pedigree, they had dismissed as of no account. This was Dusan Makavejev’s The Switchboard Operator (1967), which was quickly recognized by the cognoscenti as a film of some merit and not one to be lightly snipped at by the censor. Embarrassingly for the Board, in the midst of the controversy Blow-Up, which had met with their approval on artistic grounds, pubic hair and all, entered distribution and made their decision on The Switchboard Operator look patently ridiculous.
Such errors of judgment had been almost inevitable since the middle of the decade when the Board made a major break with tradition and began to take quality into consideration. Trevelyan was loath to interfere with films of real merit, but the new approach also involved more pragmatic motives, for it was clearly felt that more intellectual audiences could be allowed a stronger helping of sex on the grounds that they were less likely to be shocked or offended. In addition the paternalistic belief that the less educated were more corruptible still remained. Trevelyan later said, ‘We used
at this time to be more generous to sex scenes in films with foreign dialogue than to films with English dialogue, since the former usually had a more limited distribution, normally only to art theatres, and were less likely to produce criticism.’
This policy naturally led to difficulties in deciding which films merited this special treatment. The Board, with no particular qualifications as film critics, tended to rely to some extent on the reputation of the director and this can lead to an underestimation of films by relatively unknown makers. The Switchboard Operator (or Love Dossier as it was first called) was submitted to the Board by a small company with the accompanying message: T am sending you a film which has a few tits in it. I don’t think much of it but I can sell it to the sex theatres.’ Trevelyan and his colleagues were similarly unimpressed and made considerable cuts.
Nevertheless the Board’s new approach led to a much greater freedom in its decision-making, and while it may be impossible to defend logically, its results have been beneficial. The affair of The Switchboard Operator had a happy
outcome too. The effect on British censorship was that much more beneficial, for the Board immediately relaxed its attitude to female nudity, gave its blessing to Christine Noonan’s full exposure in If , and adjusted itself to taking a far more lenient line on the sexual content of the films in the fast-approaching ’seventies.
Malcolm McDowell made explicit love to a briefly full- frontal Christine Noonan in this fantasy sex scene from Lindsay Anderson’s If. . . • (1968).
From Europe with Love
The liberated film-makers of Continental Europe continued to set world cinema trends in the ’sixties from both an artistic and an erotic point of view. The trick – still only half understood in Britain and America – was to make art and eroticism go hand in hand, thus allowing sex to ride profitably on the back of respectability.
Not that the best directors necessarily took this question into account – they merely harnessed their artistic instincts to the exploration of themes which interested them most, and sex in human relationships naturally came high on their list. There was, it is true, a ceaseless outpouring from the Continent of worthless, drab, unrevealing dramas, purporting to be social documents, about prostitution, unmarried mothers, homosexuality, smalltown immorality, and so on, but these were simply an inevitable, exploitative by-product of the success formula stumbled upon by doyens like Bergman, Fellini, Antonioni and their peers.
The importance of these master film-makers to the English-speaking cinema was threefold: they expanded the artistic and erotic possibilities of movie-making and inspired emulation ; they demonstrated that art, as well as sex (but usually the two combined), could equal profits; and they helped to eradicate the more senseless repressions of British and American censorship (although the censors of both countries still rallied occasionally to fight a rearguard action against what they regarded as liberty-taking).
The ’sixties began in a flurry of controversy and inconsistency as the first wave of critically acclaimed but sexually ultra-liberated foreign films reached the British and American markets,
some of them several years old. Bergman’s delightful study of young love leading to disillusionment, Summer with Monika, made in 1952, was given an A certificate (children accompanied by adults) in Britain, despite a decorous but revealing shot of Harriet Anders- son stepping into a lake with nothing on. Claude Chabrol’s Les Cousins (1958) was permitted to preach the message that sensuality and unfettered eroticism are good for you. The Case of Dr Laurent (1957) was climaxed by a real-life, unblinkingly photographed childbirth – a deliberate act of medical propaganda. And Huis Clos (made in 1954), though inexplicit in visual terms, explored without undue interference Sartre’s hellish triangle of impotence, lesbianism and nymphomania. Louis Malle’s The Lovers (1958), on the other hand, hit a censorial nerve with its adulterous love-making scenes between Jeanne Moreau and Jean-Marc Bory; these were, in fact, poetic, romantic and quite modest, but had, nevertheless, to be re- edited for English eyes.
French film-making, as the above selection indicates, was particularly bold and influential at this time. Alain Resnais, one of the major talents of the nouvelle vague, depicted candid love-making between a Japanese man and a Frenchwoman in his multi-layered allegory of peace, love and war, Hiroshima Mon Amour (1958), and followed it with his celebrated, enigmatic, implicitly erotic L’Annie Derniere a Marienbad (1961). Jean-Luc Godard, after his dazzling debut with Breathless, explored the status of sex in and out of marriage, particularly as it relates to women, in such polemics as Une Femme Mariee (1964), Masculin-Feminin (1966) and Deux ou Trois Choses que Je Sais d’Elle
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(1966). Frangois Truffaut consolidated a more popular and lasting reputation with his dazzling study of an offbeat menage a trois, Jules el Jim (1961), which anticipated his later, good- humoured explorations of the fragility of sexual relationships in La Peau Douce (1964), Baisers Voles (1968) and Domicile Conjugal (1970). Chabrol caused a small stir with his melodrama about lesbianism and bisexualism, Les Biches (1968). Marcel Camus enjoyed some temporary fame with his Black Orpheus (1958), a sensuous, occasionally bare-bosomed modern version of the Greek myth, set in Rio de Janeiro at carnival time and played entirely by black actors. Claude Autant-Lara scored a box- office success with The Green Mare’s Nest (1959), best known and most typical of a rather silly French sub-genre devoted to bucolic rape and farmyard sex.
And Roger Vadim with his ‘taste for carefully calculated eroticism’62 soldiered blithely and stylistically on, secure in the knowledge that (as one critic said of La Ronde) he ‘certainly knows how to photograph his ladies’. His ladies in the ’sixties – Bardot having moved on – included Annette Stroyberg, whom he directed in Les Liaisons Dangereuses (1960), and Jane Fonda, who undressed for him in La Ronde (1964), The Game is Over (1966) and his lively comic-strip fantasy, Barbarella (1968), before rebelling against the exploitation of women as sex objects. Barbarella, it is revealing to note, shocked audiences with its frank, freewheeling sex scenes, launched with a weightless space- strip and climaxed by a sequence in which Miss Fonda survives a machine designed to execute people by giving them prolonged orgasms. Yet only six years later it was shown on British television and provoked barely a single word of protest. Vadim’s work eventually sank into absurdity with Pretty Maids All in a Row (1970 – Rock Hudson as a homicidal seducer of college nymphs) and Don Juan . . . , his 1974 reunion with Bardot. Margaret Hinxman has summed him up best – as a director ‘whose films are on occasion less distinguished than his gift for remoulding interesting actresses
In Roger Vadim’s Les Liaisons Dangereuses (1960) Jeanne Moreau solved the problem of her husband’s infidelity by seducing the woman (Annette Vadim, formerly Stroyberg) she suspected he was falling in love with.
Jeanne Moreau and Jean- Marc Bory in Louis Malle’s The Lovers (1958). Their bathtime love-in was lyrical as well as hygienic, but it had to be toned down for British release. In the States, a Supreme Court decision cleared it uncut and paved the way for greater freedom on American screens.
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Spread a little
happiness
Recurring images of erotic cinema: 4
Glynis Johns {right) in The Chapman Report (George Cukor, 1962). Jeanne Moreau {far right) in Mademoiselle (Tony Richardson, 1965). Elliott Gould {bottom) in Getting Straight (Richard Rush, 1969).
into sex symbols … and then marrying them.’63
Luis Bunuel, semi-exilecl Spanish director, made many of his films in France, including his great popular success, Belle de Jour (1967), in which Catherine Deneuve played a woman who, finding her husband’s attentions inadequate, becomes a high-class whore during the afternoons.
French censorship being principally concerned with political matters, sex and nudity generally had an easy ride in French films, but under De Gaulle’s regime, a puritanical backlash began to create new problems for moviemakers. An extreme case was Jacques Rivette’s La Religieuse (1966), which offended the Catholic Church by mixing sex and religion in its story of a nun (Anna Karina) driven to suicide by lesbianism and other worldly corruptions. The theme was handled responsibly and un- sensationally by Rivette, and the film was twice approved by the official French censor, but Catholic pressure caused it to be banned. Only after a threat by sixty French directors to boycott the Cannes Film Festival was Minister of Culture Andre Malraux prompted to find a face-saving solution, but the film remained
Part-time prostitute Catherine Deneuve prepares to satisfy Francis Blanche’s desires in Belle c!e Jour (Luis Bunuel, 1967).
Anna Karina as the nun beset by worldly corruption in La Religieuse (Jacques Rivette, 1966).
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Tor Isedal about to rape Birgitta Pettersson in The Virgin Spring (Ingmar Bergman, 1960).
Gunnel Lindblom as Ingrid Thulin’s nymphomaniac sister and Birger Malmsten as the barman she picks up for a one-night stand in The Silence (Bergman, 1963).
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Per Oscarsson – though incestuously in love with Bibi Andersson in My Sister, My Love (Vilgot Sjoman, 1966) – still finds time for the local whores.
unseen outside France for two years.
The acknowledged leaders of the erotic revolution in the ’sixties were the Scandinavians – in particular Sweden. One of the most controversial films of 1960 was Swedish, Ingmar Bergman’s The Virgin Spring. This austere, fourteenth-century folk-myth about the murder by herdsmen of the innocent daughter of a landowner contained a brutal rape sequence which, though photographed with skill and no trace of salaciousness, lost several shots in the American-released version and practically disappeared from that shown in Britain. Bergman went on to make his sombre trilogy about human relationships crippled by repression, sexual incompatibility and spiritual barrenness: Through a Glass Darkly (1961), Winter Light (1963) and The Silence (1963).
The third of these ran a gamut of explicit erotic sequences which even the Swedish
censors mulled over for a long period before consenting to its release. The film is about two sisters, Ester (Ingrid Thulin) and Anna (Gunnel Lindblom), who have had an incestuous lesbian relationship but have become totally alienated. Anna has nymphomaniacal tendencies and, stimulated by the sight of a couple copulating in a cinema, picks up a barman and makes love to him in front of her sister and young son. Ester, suffering from a breakdown, resorts to drink and masturbation, the latter graphically (though dispassionately) conveyed by Bergman’s camera. Sweden and Germany eventually accepted the film’s sexual content uncut, but elsewhere it suffered varying amounts of cropping. In Britain, censor John Trevelyan simply warned Bergman to tone down the film before sending it over, and the resulting hybrid lacked many of the original’s erotic details.
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Bergman has never again depicted sex as explicitly as in The Silence, although Persona (1966) had moments of intense erotic activity, and Cries and Whispers (1973) contained one notorious scene in which a woman mutilates her vagina with a piece of broken glass. The strong, underlying eroticism in many of his films, however, helped to create a climate in which serious exploration of overtly sexual themes could take place relatively unhampered.
A far less subtle director than Bergman, Vilgot Sjoman, aroused a good deal more controversy with his blatant depictions of multifarious sex. His record of censorial rows began with 491 (1966), a study of delinquency which included homosexual seduction, perversion with a prostitute, and clear hints of bestiality. The Swedish censor board, extraordinarily, banned it completely. Sjoman appealed eventually to the Swedish parliament, and his film
was finally cleared with a few cuts and some tampering with the soundtrack. Sjoman complained: ‘The censorship board is working to some very strange rules, judging films by an Ingmar Bergman from one moral standpoint and films by other directors on different ones.
What Bergman shows is “great art”, but if another director shows the same thing, it seems to be pornography.’64 491 predictably had an even harder time getting shown in the States.
My Sister, My Love (1966), an aesthetically superior and occasionally lyrical study of incest between an eighteenth-century nobleman (Per Oscarsson) and his sister (Bibi Andersson) proved more acceptable, but Sjoman’s next film,
1 Am Curious – Yellow (1967), caused as much controversy as any film during the decade, principally for its extensive scenes of fully fledged intercourse and total male and female nudity. The Swedish censors, perversely, balked mainly at the film’s strongly left-wing political stance, but passed the film uncut, whereupon it drew enormous audiences. Elsewhere, the film was either banned or the unprecedented sex scenes were radically cut before distribution, the British censor docking a full eleven minutes (including a scene of rear-entry copulation and the full-frontal nudity).
A Danish film, Johan Jacobsen’s A Stranger Knocks (1960), had also portrayed the complete sex act, including orgasm (albeit entirely simulated, the actors wearing clothes throughout), thereby unwittingly advancing the cause of anti-censorship in America. When New York refused to show the film, the US Supreme Court ruled, correctly, that the orgasm was the film’s dramatic as well as sexual climax and essential to the plot, and passed the film uncut- declaring at the same time that the New York censor
board had no legal standing. Lena Nyman and Borje
Led and inspired by the bleak eroticism of Ahlstedt in the most Bergman on the one hand and the provocative ^xtiesVMm^ permissiveness of Sjoman on the other, the Yellow (Sjoman, 1967).
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Christina Schollin and Jarl Kulle as the happy lovers in Dear John (Lars Magnus Lindgren, 1 964).
Scandinavians continually proved themselves throughout the ’sixties the most uninhibited of the world’s film-makers when it came to showing sex on the screen. Lars Magnus Lindgren’s Dear John (1964), a concentrated study of a brief but unhesitant love affair between a middle-aged man (Jarl Kulle) and a waitress, was notable for its candid dialogue, and for the obvious enjoyment its leading characters got from their sex play. Feminist Mai Zetterling’s Night Games (1966), which included among its themes an ambiguous Oedipal relationship, boyhood masturbation and homosexuality, shocked Americans to such an extent that it was barred from the San Francisco Film Festival. And Lars Gorling’s Guilt (1965) provided one of the earliest glimpses of a man’s penis. Finnish director Jorn Donner, meanwhile, built up an international reputation (or perhaps notoriety) and established a
large following of admiring young film-makers with his unrestrained sex adventures, To Love (1964), Black on White (1968) and Portraits of Women (1970).
Denmark made an impression in the ’sixties far out of proportion to the small size of its film industry with such films as Palle Kjaerulff- Schmidt’s nudity-packed Weekend (1963) and Knud Thomasen’s Venom. The latter contained footage from an actual hard-core blue movie which, being essential to the plot, was simply scratched out rather than cut in some countries.
One of the most successful Danish sex films from this period was the relatively stylish comedy, Seventeen (1965), the adventures of a randy but inexperienced adolescent (Ole S^ltoft) who is initiated into the pleasures of sex by a variety of willing ladies. Many of the scenes, including fairly explicit nude love- making in a number of positions and facial
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orgasm reactions, as well as an implied (if not actually observed) erection, were too revealing for the British Board of Film Censors, who refused to pass the film without cuts. The distributors managed to exploit the situation by getting the film approved for showing in its complete form by the Greater London Council, and then, having milked the highly profitable publicity dry, making compromise cuts agreed with the BBFC for general release outside London.
Italy, like Sweden, began the ’sixties in controversial fashion with films depicting rape. One of these was Vittorio De Sica’s internationally acclaimed Two Women (1960), which won Sophia Loren an Oscar, but also had a number of censorship boards reaching for their scissors. The offending scene was a gang-rape in which a refugee mother and daughter (Loren and Eleanora Brown) are violated in a church
by a squad of Moroccan soldiers in the closing stages of the Second World War. Although the camera concentrated mainly on facial shots and the rape’s aftermath, the British censor, for one, found plenty to cut. Another rape scene, in Luchino Visconti’s Rocco and His Brothers (1960), was rendered harmless in the States by being darkened to a degree which made it virtually impossible to discern what was going on.
The true liberators of sexual attitudes on the Italian screen in the ’sixties, however, were Federico Fellini and Michelangelo Antonioni.
Fellini’s films emphasize very powerfully the corruptibility of love and the ugliness of both lust and repression, and they are fundamentally pessimistic, showing ‘a world without love, people who exploit others, a world in which there is always an ordinary person who wants to give love and lives for love’. Since the grand decadence and depravity of La Dolce Vita and the satirical voluptuousness of the Anita Ekberg episode of Boccacio ’70, Fellini’s films have become more obsessively autobiographical and steeped in sexual fantasy (notably 81,1963, and Juliet of the Spirits, 1965). At the same time, his characters and images have become more and more grotesque, as demonstrated by the monstrous beings who inhabit the erotic nightmare of Satyricon (1969) and the ogrish prostitutes who parade before the young hero of Roma (1972), Fellini’s scathing satire on life in the Italian capital.
Antonioni shot to fame with his ‘erotic adventure story’, L’Avventura (1960), in which he established his themes – the impermanence and barrenness of sexual relationships, and the frustration of women trapped in a bourgeois
society – and perfected his ascetic technique of The mutual deflowering of detachment and cold observation: almost the m AnneHse Mei^eche’s °rt opposite, in fact, of Fellini. With La Notte Seventeen (1965).
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Right: Sophia Loren and Eleanora Brown played a refugee mother and daughter raped by Allied troops in Alberto Moravia’s Two Women (Vittorio de Sica, 1961).
Far right: Roman dinner guests enjoy a pre-banquet bathe in Fellini’s Satyricon (1969).
(1960) and L’Eclisse (1962), he completed a trilogy begun by L’Avventura, and these films remain his collective masterpiece. In his later films, particularly Blow-Up and Zabriskie Point (1969), the underlying eroticism of Antonioni’s themes is less subtle and his sex scenes are more explicit, although there is still a strong feeling of dehumanization in the scene in Blow-Up in which David Hemmings ‘makes love’ to a model with his camera, bringing her near to a sexual One of the fearsome inmates climax with a series of swiftly taken, lens- of an exotic Roman brothel thrusting snapshots on his studio floor.
ex^iePnMro°w“Xhs«’(n“ There waS als0′ haPPil5r’ some Ught relief
Fellini’s Roma (1972). to be had from Italian attitudes to sex. One of
the funniest and most successful comedies to emerge during the decade was Pietro Germi’s Divorce – Italian Style (1961), in which Marcello Mastroianni, as a slightly seedy baron, plots to rid himself of his fat, moustachioed wife – with the law’s connivance – so he can marry his pretty young cousin.
The influence of the major European film directors of the ’sixties – particularly those of France, Italy and Scandinavia – was radical and wide-ranging, and by the end of the decade there was barely a single film industry in the world which could not, with impunity, depict some degree of sexual activity on the screen
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m
with reasonable explicitness and authenticity. Even the Eastern bloc proved capable of producing an occasional example of delightful and disarming erotica, particularly, thanks to a period of political relaxation, Czechoslovakia.
Among the best to reach Western cinemas was Milos Forman’s A Blonde in Love (1965), a bitter-sweet story about a young factory girl’s brief affair with a pianist, which includes a nude love-making sequence that is both sensual and discreet. Even better was Jiri Menzel’s Closely Observed Trains (1966) which, remarkably, won an Academy Award. This wartime tragi-comedy of a young partisan whose impotence is cured (in a remarkably candid love scene) by a willing railway conductress, is chiefly and justly famous for a sequence in which a lecherous stationmaster rubber-stamps the bare bottom
of one of his conquests to denote mission accomplished.
Japan, too, ever ready to imitate Occidental trends and attitudes, swept away old taboos and began to introduce overt eroticism into both its commercial and serious films, often with violence an added ingredient, as in Kaneto Shindo’s Onibaba (The Hole, 1964), about the sexual rivalry of a woman and her daughter-in- law who murder wounded Samurai and sell their armour, and Hiroshi Teshigahara’s Woman of the Dunes (1964), an allegory about love, passion and survival.
And yet, even by the end of the ’sixties the erotic progress made by the commercial cinema was as nothing compared to the sexual stampede which was to take place during the next few years.
The bizarre fantasy sequence from Antonioni’s Zabriskie Point (1969), in which the youthful love-making of Mark Frechette and Daria Halprin causes the Arizona Desert to blossom forth with copulating couples.
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Sexploitation
Garden of Eden (1 954), pronounced decent by the New York Court of Appeals, launched the tidal wave of nudist-camp films in Britain and America.
It did not take the cinema’s commercial substrata long to recognize the pocket-lining possibilities of the greater freedom of expression enjoyed by movies from the ’fifties onwards, and the legitimate cinema was increasingly infiltrated by films which set out cynically to exploit the public’s appetite for eroticism on the screen.
Efforts in this direction in the ’fifties were mainly devoted to finding an acceptable format in which to show nudity. (American hypocrisy and ambivalence towards nudity was neatly and self-deprecatingly satirized by Shelley Winters, who said: ‘I think it is disgusting, shameful and damaging to all things American. But if I were twenty-two with a great body, it would be artistic, tasteful, patriotic, and a progressive, religious experience.’)
Continental films-especially those of France, Italy and Scandinavia – already exposed the bare flesh of their female stars with considerable alacrity, but in Britain and America the wheels of tolerance turned more slowly. The only American films which had so far succeeded in showing publicly, and without censure, a degree of nudity were a number of pseudo- ethnological documentaries about non-white cultures (black breasts in their natural, native environment being considered less corrupting
to gaze upon than white ones) and a handful of cheaply re-created, shoddily photographed burlesque shows containing striptease acts. Even in the latter, exposure often stopped discreetly short of total toplessness.
The taboo against nudity was eventually challenged by giving it a setting which was essentially unerotic – the nudist camp. There had been some tentative precedents for this, including a whole sub-genre of foreign films (the French had even attempted a comic version of a nudist-camp film, L’lle aux Femmes Nues, in 1952) and, more interestingly, an American production of 1933 called Elysia, generally considered to be the first of its kind. But the crunch came with a skilfully made semidocumentary, shot in a Florida nudist colony, entitled Garden of Eden (1954).
This was considered indecent by the New York censors and banned throughout the state, the judgment being that ‘the motion picture depicts in color the life in a nudist camp with views of nude men, women and children, singly and in pairs, walking, talking, swimming and playing together. … In addition the picture contains specific protracted scenes of women in unwholesome, sexually alluring postures which are completely unnecessary to – and, in fact, a radical departure from – the activities of the nudist camp depicted. For example, there is a dream sequence where the principal actress, a comely young lady, completely disrobes in
full view of the audience ’ The producer,
Walter Bibo, fought the decision, claiming that his film had educational value, and in 1957 he was exonerated by a New York Court of Appeals ruling which said that ‘Nudity in itself, and without lewdness or dirtiness, is not obscenity in law or in common sense.’
This declaration was adopted as a fundamental freedom by American film-makers, who quickly abandoned their careful, documentary approach to nudism and began to fill outdoor sets with uniformly attractive, well-endowed models and strippers and call the result things like Daughters of the Sun (1962). Eventually, in a 1966 production, The Raw Ones, total, full- frontal male and female nudity was depicted for the first time in a nudist-camp film, although it was hardly ever programmed owing to cinema managers’ fear of prosecution.
Garden of Eden was the first nudist film to be shown in Britain with a British Board of Film Censors’ certificate, leading the way for a spate of European imports, such as the two Swiss features, Isle of Levant (1957) and Around the World with Nothing On (1958), and the first home-grown example, Nudist Paradise (1958). And so, rather curiously, while films of quality were being treated leniently, Trevelyan, Secretary of the BBFC, was also tending to be generous to films at quite the other end of the market. Speaking of the proliferation of sex
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Tommy Noonan’s Promises, Promises! (1963) with Jayne Mansfield.
Three Nuts in Search of a Bolt (Noonan, 1964) with Mamie Van Doren.
pictures in Scandinavia, Germany, America and elsewhere which was a major feature of the ’sixties, he said, ‘We were as reasonable as possible with these films, taking into account that there was a demand for them, and that since their publicity usually indicated what kind of films they were, the people who would object to them would probably not go to see them.’ However, even in the permissive early ’seventies the Board continued to cut those films clearly aimed at the limited ‘dirty- mackintosh’ market. Sex films from Germany, Sweden and France were usually cut first by distributors and then by the censors. Indeed, as these productions became more and more explicit, importers were increasingly having trouble finding material that would survive British censorship and still be exhibitable.
Still, after Nudist Paradise in 1958 Britain proceeded, somewhat improbably, more or less to take over the sunshine movie genre, turning out a long string of flesh-operas disguised as naturist propaganda in the early ’sixties. Occasionally these were glossy and reasonably well made, like Sunswept (1961) and Michael Winner’s Some Like It Cool (1960), or employed a genuine documentary approach, like Search for the Sun (1962), which examined the past and present philosophy of nudism in Britain and showed some historic clips of the Speil- platz colony. But they were, for the most part, cheap, unforgivably dull tit-and-bum parades,
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Most outspoken of the sex- education films was Language of Love (Torgny Wickman, 1969).
Uncle Tom (1971), a sexploitative study of slavery in America’s Deep South by Gualtiero Jacopetti and Franco Prosperi.
coyly photographed and rarely redeemed by by the pulchritude of their players.. Answering to such titles as The Nudist Story (1960), Nudes of the World. (1961), Naked, as Nature Intended (1961), My Bare Lady (1962), Take Off Your Clothes and Live (1962), Eves on Skis (1963), The Reluctant Nudist (1963) and It’s a Bare, Bare World (1964), these films generally shared a common theme: shy secretary (or clerk) reluctantly fetches up in nudist camp, finds personality blossoms when clothes are abandoned, and falls for boss/colleague who has, unbeknownst, been going there for years.
The nudist-camp genre rapidly fizzled out as equivalent amounts of flesh began to be exposed far more aesthetically in mainstream features. There were attempts to find another formula for the gratuitous presentation of nudity, including
hooking otherwise forgettable movies on to the impressive physiques of big-name sex stars like Jayne Mansfield (T have fine, healthy, normal girlish impulses and I always make sure to obey them’) and Mamie Van Doren – as producer Tommy Noonan did in, respectively, Promises, Promises! (1963) and Three Nuts in Search of a Bolt (1964). But although these films were successful at the box-office, not even Jayne or Mamie could thereafter claim special mammary attention in an increasingly topless world. By the end of the ’sixties, simple nudity no longer had the power to shock, and exploitation of it as often as not reached the frivolous level of Allen Funt’s Candid Camera exercise, What Do You Say to a Naked Lady? (1969), which tested (for laughs) the reactions of people encountering a naked girl in the street.
One of the least pleasant but most persistent by-products of the more tolerant movie atmosphere was a repellent cycle of voyeuristic, pseudo-anthropological ‘documentaries’ which sensationalized various bizarre happenings throughout the world, usually with a grotesquely violent or sado-sexual emphasis. The first, most notorious and technically the best of these was Mondo Cane (1961), an Italian- made hotch-potch of supposedly true incidents cruelly designed to catch mankind with its trousers down. The catalogue of depravity and degradation, loosely soldered with a commentary claiming spurious sociological connections between the various incidents, included the gorging of geese in Strasbourg to produce prime pate de foie gras, a New Guinea native woman suckling a pig at her breast, hysterical female fans tearing the clothes off actor Rossano Brazzi, naked, rapacious tribal women pursuing an eligible male, and so on ad nauseam.
Critic John Gillett called Mondo Cane ‘a hymn to death and mutilation’, but it played a highly profitable tune at the box-office and
imitation was instant and rife. The directors of the film, Gualtiero Jacopetti and Franco Pros- peri, made a whole career out of the genre, following up their first production with Women of the World, a chauvinistic nude show which made little pretence at being other than gratuitous voyeurism.
Spin-offs inspired by the success of the Jacopetti movies included further Italian efforts with interchangeable titles like Women by Night (1962) and This Shocking World (1963); a string of equally unsubtle American hybrids, such as Sexy Proibitissimo, Mondo Freudo and Mondo Bizarro; and some feeble but curious ‘investigations’ of undercover vice in London by British imitators, including West End Jungle (which failed to secure a certificate from either the BBFC or the London County Council) and London in the Raw (1964). Even Claude Lelouch essayed a dubiously motivated study in feminine behaviour with La Femme Spectacle (Paris in the Raw, 1964). As late as 1969 the genre was still a viable proposition, as the returns from Marcello Avallone’s excessively tedious The Queer . . . the Erotic demonstrated. This was a hypocritically high-minded study of sexual attitudes in Europe’s more permissive societies (sex education for children in Germany, an orgiastic wake in Sweden, a homosexual marriage in Rotterdam, and so on) contrasted with erotic rites in African countries, including a public celebration of the sex act.
Jacopetti and Prosperi kept their own pot boiling with Mondo Cane 2 (1965), Africa Addio (1965, more tribal sensationalism from the Dark Continent), and Uncle Tom (1971). The last of these was a particularly repulsive piece of exploitation disguised as a factual reconstruction of the abuses of slavery in America’s Deep South. Concentrating on the more bestial and erotic aspects of its theme (selective breeding, feeding from troughs, etc.), the film in fact looked more like a logistical exercise in how much naked flesh could be crammed into a wide-angle lens (hundreds of naked, superbly built Haitians were employed to portray the slaves) – a massively cynical reminder of the old Hollywood ethic that you can show as many tits as you like so long as they’re primitive and black.
The cutting of the film from 130 minutes to 90 for British distribution sheds an interesting sidelight on modern censorship attitudes. The Board of Film Censors recognized that Uncle Tom was a blatant and particularly offensive example of the exploitation of an emotive theme, yet did not want to run the risk of appearing to take up either a pro- or anti-racist stance (a rule of the Board is to remain politically uninvolved) by banning it outright. It therefore hacked sufficient footage out of the film to render it, in effect, commercially unviable.
Another kind of documentary emerged at the end of’the ’sixties as a result of Denmark’s virtual abandonment of film censorship – the investigation of pornography for ‘sociological’ purposes. One example, Sexual Freedom in Denmark (1970), was in fact a report on the
Pornography and censorship satirized by Gabriel Axel in Danish Blue (1968).
Gabriel Axel’s satirical documentary about the relaxation of censorship in Denmark cut little ice with censors elsewhere, most of whom banned it.
Lesbian cabaret act from Scxus.
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lifting of censorship in that country, although the principal excuse for making this and others of its type – such as Pornography in Denmark (1970) or Pornography: Copenhagen 1970 (1970) – was to include blue-movie footage or sex-show activity on the pretext that they .were essential ‘informational’ elements of the documentary. These thinly veneered sexploitation vehicles cut little ice with the British censor, but found a legitimate market in the States on the grounds that they had ‘redeeming social values’ and avoided appealing to ‘prurient interest’ – two precepts which had been the subject of court rulings.
Earlier, Gabriel Axel had made a comedy documentary about the relaxation of censorship, Danish Blue (1968), which again received no certificate in Britain, but was much admired by critics when shown at Derek Hill’s New Cinema Club, a membership-only organization (now defunct) dedicated to the breakdown of film censorship. The humour, aimed at the clumsy antics of a nation dutifully practising pornography almost as a state religion, was a little heavy at times, but nevertheless apt and a welcome change from the pretentiousness of the pseudo-sociological products it was parodying.
A related, and equally ambivalent genre, which also came strongly into vogue in the late ’sixties, was that embracing sex-education films. These were considerably more explicit than anything previously intended for public exhibition and caused some hard thinking by the British censor, but, as sex education was by now common in schools, it would have seemed odd to ban this material even for adults. Numerous books had been published without serious complaint, and, while the Board had never admitted that what is available in book form should be acceptable on the screen, there was strong reason to believe that those in need of sex education were unlikely to get it from books.
Nevertheless the Board was unable to make up its mind over these films. Some it banned, others were passed after great deliberation and some misgivings. Others were not passed but local authorities were advised that the Board was not strongly opposed to them and were almost invited to pass them. On a number of occasions films were submitted to the local censors, some of whom accepted them, thus encouraging the Board to follow suit. Many local councils grew increasingly irritated at this apparent inconsistency on the part of the Board, while others became aware, for the first time, of their real power in relation to film censorship. The episode probably played some part in the growth of local-authority interference that was to follow. As far as sex- education films were concerned, the end result was that most were ultimately passed, and by the time the genre lost favour, some considerable fortunes had been made, and new aspects of sexual behaviour had been seen on British screens. In America, they qualified under the ‘redeeming social values’ ruling.
The first, phenomenally successful examples came from Germany, beginning with Helga (1967), which tried, by dramatizing the sexual adventures and hang-ups of a (presumably) typical young German woman, to emphasize the importance of courtship, marriage, preparation for motherhood, childbirth, etc. A sequel, Michael and Helga (1968), continued the process with Helga ‘happily’ married, but its speciousness drew a bitter outburst from an anonymous reviewer in the Monthly Film Bulletin: ‘As in Helga and the rest, statistics are twisted to fit a particular thesis, the tone is irritatingly patronising throughout, and the mixture of ponderous dialogue and overt titillation is offensive. It’s surely about time someone called a halt to these gross distortions of sexual fact and fantasy. As for Helga, if she is representative (as she is undoubtedly supposed to be) of German womanhood, German men have a good reason to wish that Dr Kinsey and his disciples had kept their theories to themselves.’
These criticisms of the Helga series could apply equally to the similar Oswalt Kolle cycle (which included The Wonder of Love, 1967, and Sexual Partnership, 1968), though the Kolle films added another convention to the format – the panel of doctors and ‘experts’ commenting cosily on the various erotic problems presented. These pundits featured more prominently in the better, slightly less nudging movies which concentrated clinically on techniques of love- making and its psychologically remedial effects, notably the German Freedom to Love (written and directed by respected sexologists Doctors Phyllis and Eberhard Kronhausen) and Anatomy of Love, and the Swedish Language of Love. All of these explored graphically, and with much practical advice from the experts, the various aspects of a satisfactory or problematical sex life-coital positions, masturbation, contraception, impotence, frigidity, use of vibrators, oral sex, and so on.
Anatomy of Love was chiefly remarkable also for a ‘balletic’ set-piece in which a couple copulate in time to Ravel’s ‘Bolero’, the lovers and the music reaching their climaxes simultaneously. Language of Love was by far the most overt of the sex-education films, portraying (among other things) erection, actual intercourse (as opposed to simulation) performed on a revolving platform like a cake stand, cunnilingus (as a remedy for premature ejaculation), and the fitting of female contraceptives. It was also, at times, guilty of sublime absurdity, particularly in the American-dubbed version: in one of several dramatized vignettes designed to demonstrate sexual hang-ups in marriage, a husband rejects his wife’s advances with the excuse, ‘I’ve had the boss on my back all day’!
Outside Germany and Sweden, production of sex-education films was desultory and, in some instances, inevitably and transparently exploitative. The Molesters (1966), for example, was a thoroughly bogus affair claiming to be a clinical study of voyeurism, fetishism, flagellation, child molestation, and other aberrations.
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Mixed
bathing
Recurring images of erotic cinema: 5
Gina Lollobrigida {right) in Solomon and Sheba (King Vidor, 1959). Mick Jagger, Anita Pallenberg and Michele Breton [far right) in Performance (Donald Cammell and Klicolas Roeg, 1970). Martine Carol {bottom, right) in Lucrece Borgia (Christian- Jaque, 1952). Claudette Colbert’s famous bath of asses’ milk {bottom, far right) in The Sign of the Cross (Cecil B. De Mille, 1932). Legend has it that the milk curdled under the blazing arc lights and formed a crust on the surface. A visitor, mistaking the result for a marble floor, attempted to walk across it, and found himself up to his neck in rancid cheese.

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Erica Gavin in Vixen (1969), Britain managed some conventional examples
most lurid of Russ Meyer s 0f genre including Terry Gould’s Love
highly charged sex . & ’nn • u 4. •
melodramas. Variations (1969), a well-meaning but in
effectual (and motionless) demonstration of about forty coital positions. Less obviously ‘educational’ was The Perfumed Garden (1969), a tasteful visual representation of the celebrated Persian love manual, with a commentary culled from the original text as translated by Sir Richard Burton.
A stir was caused in Britain in the early ’seventies by a controversial short film made privately and strictly for limited educational use by a Birmingham school-teacher, Dr Martin Cole. This innocuous, indifferently made little movie demonstrated in simple terms the physiology of boys and girls at puberty, showed a boy’s and man’s penises flaccid and erect, and contained a sequence showing a female teacher masturbating – but because it was aimed at schoolchildren, the film provoked an outcry among parents and educational authorities, and Dr Cole was suspended from his job. After taking his case to court, Dr Cole was exonerated and reinstated, but not before the whole affair had provided a perfect example of the prurience and double standard of a society prepared to allow its children to be exposed daily to cynical sexploitation through the media, yet take violent objection to any serious attempt to
teach them the real facts of life in their own schools.
In America, the ‘educational’ tag on a movie could also operate, it was discovered, in favour of fiction films. A key case concerned the Danish-made Without a Stitch (1960), which recounted the sexual experiments undertaken by an attractive girl suffering from frigidity. The Los Angeles Customs authorities objected to the film and tried to have it banned. It was successfully defended, however, on two counts: it did not, as the Los Angeles Customs Office claimed, exceed ‘contemporary community standards’ (another legal yardstick used in judgments on films) since equally uninhibited films like I Am Curious – Yellow had been showing for months in Los Angeles unremarked; on the other hand it did (and a female social scientist was able to persuade the court to this effect) offer the same advice to its heroine as a responsible clinic would have given under the circumstances described in the film. It had, therefore, ‘redeeming social values’, which meant that it could be passed for exhibition.
Meanwhile, in Britain, more extreme examples of sexploitation found another outlet in the private-member clubs which had appeared in the early ’sixties. Clubs such as the Gala and Compton chains avoided the licensing regulations by restricting admission to members. They were therefore able to show films not passed by either the Board or the local censors, although the threat of common-law proceedings meant that most such films were cut anyway, and went only a little further than the ‘official’ product. Far from considering this a loophole, Trevelyan actively encouraged the development, feeling that the existence of the club would remove some responsibility from the Board by providing an alternative form of exhibition for unacceptable films. He was thus tacitly agreeing that the Board’s role was now restricted to that of ‘protecting the mass undiscriminating cinema audience from unwelcome shock’.
For the most part, however, sexploitation was handled far more warily in the fiction films of the ’sixties than in their ‘documentary’ counterparts, simply because (with the exception of isolated examples like Without a Stitch) it was more difficult to find a valid sociological excuse for depicting nudity and eroticism therein. The more blatant ‘nudie’ films and movies of obviously lurid intent, like West Germany’s Dolls of Vice (1958) or France’s Paris Vice Patrol (1958), were therefore largely restricted to the club cinemas and dirty-mac circuit. Nevertheless, the gap between what was becoming permissible in the legitimate, mainstream cinema and what could be got away with in sexploitation movies was narrowing rapidly, as evidence of which the occasional stray sex film acquired a more public reputation than might have been expected.
An extreme example of a club movie wandering into the public arena was Moonlighting Wives (1968), a dismal American sex drama about bored housewives taking up whoring in
The British comedy discovers sex . . . Games That Lovers Play (Malcolm Leigh, 1970),
the afternoons, which was so heavily cut in Britain as to be rendered both sexless and meaningless. More acceptable and more successful was The Notorious Daughter of Fanny Hill (1965), the first American costume sex film, so it was claimed, whose scenes of simulated love-making were considered particularly daring at the time it originally appeared.
The most popular sexploitation features came, not surprisingly, from the Continent with Denmark and Germany prominent as usual. The Danish I, A Woman (1965) was one of the first successes in this field. It used a superficial study of nymphomania as an excuse
to expose as much of Essy Persson’s impressive physique as it possibly could, and became a big hit on both sides of the Atlantic, although in Britain it had to settle for a certificate from the Greater London Council after the Board had refused it one.
The unattractive hero of Seventeen, Ole S01toft, found himself, after the phenomenal success of that venture, being typecast as a sexual beginner seeking initiation, in a series of nudging, largely unerotic comedies which included Song of the Red Ruby (1970), Bedroom Mazurka (1970) and Danish Dentist on the Job (1971). The better, more lightweight erotic
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Edy Williams seduces a noticeably unresisting David Gurian in Russ Meyer’s spoof sexploiter for Twentieth Century-Fox, Beyond the Valley of the Dolls (1970).
comedies, such as Elbow Play (1969) and the comparatively amusing and high-spirited Do You Want to Remain a Virgin Forever? (1968), came from Germany; while it took a coproduction team from Austria, Hungary and Italy to come up with the most popular sexual romp of them all, The Sweet Sins of Sexy Susan (1967), which generated a whole cycle of virtually indistinguishable sequels.
Britain’s film-makers, as usual, climbed on the bandwagon in their own good time and in their own familiar half-hearted way, achieving in such inept imitations of the genre as Sweet and, Sexy (1970) what sexploitation expert Kenneth Thompson described as ‘a peculiar and significant fatuity’. There was little improvement in Monique (1970), about a French au pair girl who has sexual relations with both her employers, husband and wife, but at least Malcolm Leigh’s Games That Lovers Play (1970), for all its arch awfulness, looked like an
original, home-grown product rather than a cheap copy of a foreign import. (Leigh’s film also had the odd distinction of casting Richard Wattis, archetypally prudish civil servant in countless British comedies, as an insatiable sexual athlete who can only get satisfaction with two women at once.)
An earlier British sex movie of more than passing interest was The Yellow Teddybears (1963), which had few merits as a film, but which had, enterprisingly, capitalized on highly controversial press reports about a group of schoolgirls who signified their loss of virginity by wearing small golliwogs on their lapels. The film substituted teddybears for golliwogs and threw in pregnancy and attempted abortion for good measure.
The one film-maker who demonstrated to perfection how blurred were the lines between sexploitation and the commercial cinema at the beginning of the ’seventies was Russ Meyer.
184
This ex-Second-World-War cameraman made his reputation in Hollywood first as a skilful photographer of glamour girls, then as the originator of a formula for making nude films which were acceptable to the censors. His method, first demonstrated in The humoral Mr Teas (1959), was simply to fill the screen with the most delectable bodies he could find, concentrating on breasts and bottoms, and keep it all strictly at arm’s length – a voyeuristic exercise, in other words, with no sexual activity.
Mr Teas, for example, was about a man who, as a result of an anaesthetic administered for a tooth extraction, undresses with his eyes every girl he sees. The film was prosecuted from time to time, but always won, on the premise already established that nudity per se is not obscene. The reputation of Mr Teas grew along with its box-office returns and inspired an avalanche of imitations over the next half-dozen years, as well as encouraging mainstream film-makers to begin inserting nude shots into their more ‘legitimate’ products. Meyer’s own follow-ups included Eve and the Handyman (1961) and the satirical Wild Gals of the Naked West (1962).
Meyer himself realized that the sexless nude film had a limited life, that audiences would soon demand something more stimulating than untouchable flesh, and in 1963 he set a new trend with Lorna. This was a violent, sensational melodrama about a much-desired back- woods girl in America’s Deep South, still strong on nudity, but with the added ingredients of lust, rape, explicit sex and murder. ‘I realized the nudies had had it,’ said Meyer. ‘Women had been presented in every conceivable way. There was nothing left to the imagination. Now there was required, in addition to the exposure of flesh, some sort of simple story. So from Lorna on, I have concentrated on action melodramas, violence and sex, presenting lovemaking in the most realistic manner, and, when the situation required, photographing our actresses pretty much in the nude.’65
Again, imitation (and prosecution) was widespread, Meyer showing the way with such sagas of bloody excess as Motor Psycho (1965); Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill! (1966), about a gang of psychopathic girls who kill men for kicks; Cherry, Harry and Raquel (1969), which includes (unusually for Meyer) a glimpse of male frontal nudity; Rope of Flesh (1969); and – most controversial of all – Vixen (1969), which, in the space of a year, was prosecuted twenty-three times across the States on charges of obscenity, pornography and committing a public nuisance. A measure of the explicitness of Vixen’s nymphomaniac theme and the frequency of its couplings can be gauged by the fact that the British censor cut it down from seventy-one minutes to forty-seven.
Appropriately, it was Meyer who was chosen,
in 1970, to effect the final fusion between sexploitation and mainstream film-making. This he did by agreeing to make Beyond the Valley of the Dolls for Twentieth Century-Fox, a desperate measure by Richard Zanuck to revive his company’s ailing finances. The result was an outrageously camp, gratifyingly funny pastiche of pornography, about a busty, allfemale rock group getting endlessly laid in Hollywood, packed with nymphomaniacs and homosexuals, and brought to a hilariously gruesome climax by a homicidal transvestite. Meyer even found an opportunity to mock his sponsors by playing the Twentieth Century-Fox fanfare during a decapitation sequence.
Fox used Meyer again in 1971 for the Irving Wallace adaptation, The Seven Minutes (i.e. the average time it supposedly takes a woman to achieve orgasm), about the unsuccessful prosecution of an allegedly pornographic novel. But instead of sensationalizing an exploitable subject and indulging his taste for excess, Meyer used the assignment as an opportunity for yet another transition. He concentrated relatively seriously on the anti-censorship argument he was trying to put across, and kept nudity and explicit sex to a minimum.
William Rotsler, in his book ‘Contemporary Erotic Cinema’, puts the case more strongly: ‘Russ Meyer … has never made a pornographic movie and his latest films don’t even have nudity. The brief”pornographic” scene used as such in The Seven Minutes was not pornographic at all, but so powerful is the Meyer touch that you think it is, or might be!’ The creator of The Immoral. Mr Teas had, it seems, become the Moral Mr Tease – but not before he had helped to set Hollywood on the path towards a degree of permissiveness which even in 1971 no one could have thought possible.
Laura Antonelli in Venus in Furs (Massimo Dallamano, 1968), a piece of German sexploitation which pressed a rather thin claim to being based on the Sacher- Masoch novel of the same name.
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