Jlewis

A discrete discussion on "adult" films and their social impact

118 posts in this topic

You're right. Baby steps over the course of many years. Unfortunately, there's that old adage about "one step forward, two steps back" and we're now in an era which seems committed to taking those backward steps and undoing selected parts of the progress that's been made.

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Just a shout-out to the films of Paul Morrissey, who often worked under the mantle of Andy Warhol -

Films like - "Flesh", "Trash", "Women In Revolt", "Heat", "Flesh for Frankenstein", "Blood For Dracula", "Forty Deuce", "Mixed Blood", and "Spike Of Bensonhurst"- brought us into sexually-charged worlds that we could not possibly imagine. TURNED US ON. but always seemed to come with a warning, too -

 

the young men like Joe Dallesandro, Richard Ulacia and Sasha Mitchell were both inviting and forbidding, too -

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I did mention earlier (maybe on another thread) that the September 1968 release of Flesh was a major game changer, just two months before the new MPAA ratings went into effect. There were a handful of mainstream (but mostly European) features shown in the United States which, like the more discretely shown and more explicit "blue" movies, displayed fleeting full frontal male nudity. Examples include L'Inferno (1911, folks don't wear clothes "down below"), Kameradschaft (1931, a shower scene) and Zero de Conduite (1933, a few shots with the boys taking over the school in various states of undress), followed by envelope-pushing avant-garde experiments like Jean Genet's Un Chant d'Amour (1950, mostly seen in the U.S. in the sixties) and Jack Smith's Flaming Creatures (1963). One major turning point apparently was the nudist documentary The Raw Ones finally dropping the volleyballs in 1965; this managed a wider distribution simply because the guys on screen were sticking to sun bathing and sports in a "relaxed" rather than "alert" state. By this time, some of the Andy Warhol stuff was already teasing here and there. In January 1968, U.S. Customs blocked the entry of I Am Curious Yellow, the lifting occurring just over a year later.

For the most part, Joe Dallesandro was the first American actor to go full frontal. Also in the months of August through October 1968, filming was in full swing with Medium Cool (Robert Forster exposed) and Women In Love (Alan Bates and Oliver Reed ditto) and Andy Warhol's Blue Movie (with Louis Walden). All were released in 1969-70. By comparison, other X-rated films shot that same year like if... and Midnight Cowboy didn't show much of anything.

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This afternoon, I sat through again the 1968 film, Paul Morrissey's "Flesh".

It brings us into the daily routine of a gay hustler who sells himself on the street.

It is still "shocking" today.

Joe Dallesandro's constant full-frontal nudity is taken-for-granted and merely a fact of life for him.

His highly unconventional personal life is taken-for-granted, too.

The lengthy "sex scene" in which Joe "entertains" an elderly artist who wants him to pose in a number of provocative poses is still mind-blowing, too.

So, is the final scene in which Joe instructs some newbies on how to hustle and make a buck.

It opened in a smalll theater downtown  in the West Village (NYC).

And the floodgates - astonished by the very fact of Joe's persistent manhood - were blown open.

This late 60's film still packs quite a whallop.

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In July 1968, John Schlesinger was borrowing the Warhol factory and a few of its members to shoot the party scene for Midnight Cowboy (with fake snow outside to make it look like winter time). Andy Warhol was still in the hospital from the gun shot wound a month earlier. The story goes that Paul Morrissey felt he could make a more truthful story about "The Hustle" than the future Oscar winner. Thus, Flesh was filmed in August and rushed to NYC theaters after a very limited post-production editing period. It was a surprise smash at the time, getting reviewed in many prominent papers. The trio of Flesh, Radley Metzger's lesbian themed Theresa And Isabelle (released four months earlier) and Russ Meyer's Vixen! were the three most popular "adult" films that year. Not that many eyebrows would be raised today.

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40 minutes ago, Jlewis said:

In July 1968, John Schlesinger was borrowing the Warhol factory and a few of its members to shoot the party scene for Midnight Cowboy (with fake snow outside to make it look like winter time). Andy Warhol was still in the hospital from the gun shot wound a month earlier. The story goes that Paul Morrissey felt he could make a more truthful story about "The Hustle" than the future Oscar winner. Thus, Flesh was filmed in August and rushed to NYC theaters after a very limited post-production editing period. It was a surprise smash at the time, getting reviewed in many prominent papers. The trio of Flesh, Radley Metzger's lesbian themed Theresa And Isabelle (released four months earlier) and Russ Meyer's Vixen! were the three most popular "adult" films that year. Not that many eyebrows would be raised today.

I've read about all three (FleshTherese & Isabelle, and Vixen!) for many years, but have yet to see any of them. We had Therese & Isabelle at one of the video stores I worked in, but I just never got around to watching it. The store is long gone now, of course. A friend had a VHS copy of Flesh, as well as Bad, but I never saw either, although I have both Flesh for Frankenstein and Blood for Dracula on DVD. And Meyer's films have been difficult to get a hold of for years, unless you live in a big enough city for specialty video stores, or have the extra dough to shell out for the exorbitant prices they sell for online. To this day, despite wanting to see them all (I'm a trash movie aficionado, in case you haven't guessed it), the only Meyer films I've seen are MudhoneyFaster Pussycat, and Beyond the Valley of the Dolls.

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Made in 1968, I believe, the shock value of "Flesh" has not dimmed after all these years.

The opening scene which focuses on a sleeping Joe and his magnificent derriere lets us know that we will not be watching an ordinary movie.

And his pestering of his wife to do the laundry so he can have clean underwear for his johns takes us into very alien territory.

It's all about Joe, his beauty, his bod, his manhood and it is - still today - one hell of a ride!

How Paul Morrissey might've felt about the kind of life which is depicted in this film is a matter that you might want to seriously ponder.

I wouldn't say that this kind of life is lovingly depicted.

But the "shock value" sends you reeling.

 

 

 

 

 

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Although she showed less on screen 12 years earlier, the essential "point" resembled Bridget Bardot in And God Created Woman.

I guess a little history chronology is needed to put everything into perspective.

 

The Great Decline, year by year...

 

1953: First issue of Hugh Hefner's Playboy: Marilyn Monroe appears both there and in front of Grauman's Chinese Theater with her hands in the cement. Deborah Kerr and Burt Lancaster are making out in From Here To Eternity and The Moon Is Blue's use of the word "virgin" becomes a Code changer. A TV play The Bachelor Party, made into a film later, referenced the growing number of "stag" films shown in all-male groups, usually on 16mm or 8mm and sold under-the-counter at camera stores.

1954: Garden Of Eden is the first nudist feature since the middle 1930s when they were last tolerated in theaters (although a couple shorts were made in-between) and the first in color. Only bare bosoms and bare bottoms though, yet the former was still pretty much a novelty at the time. Also a catchy song with lyrics "Let's go native, sun your cares away, be creative, learn to live and play". Meanwhile, the New York censorship boards were furious over Walt Disney's The Vanishing Prairie showing the birth of a bison.

1955: The homoerotic Rebel Without A Cause and pretty steamy Picnic were hits even if everything was still left to the minds. One Summer Of Happiness, first shown in Sweden in 1951, manages to get screened in many U.S. theaters with its nude bathing sequence intact.

1956: And God Created Woman shocks the French, while Baby Doll shocks the New World natives and the Catholic Legion of Decency. You either went to see these or Anne Baxter ordering Charlton Heston in The Ten Commandments "You will be king of Egypt and I will be your footstool."

1957: After several years in release, Excelsior Pictures vs. New York Board of Regents settles the debate as to whether or not Garden Of Eden is "obscene". From now on, bare bosoms are tolerated for "educational purposes" and nudist documentaries explode in popularity in the "grindhouse" theaters of the major cities.

1958: Once again, the French are pushing boundaries with Louis Malle's Les Amants. This film was battled over in U.S. courts in the name of "art".

1959: Russ Meyer's The Immoral Mr. Teas is a box office smash, giving rise to the golden age of "nudie cuties" (women seen topless on screen for the first time and their male co-stars looking more befuddled than aroused). New "gay" films get attention: Suddenly Last Summer and Compulsion included.

1960: Psycho and The Apartment may be mainstream, but they did cause troubles, as did the British import Peeping Tom.

1961: Hollywood and the British film industry are now embracing homosexuality as the "in" thing: Victim, A Taste Of Honey, The Children's Hour and, filmed for '62 release, Advise & Consent and Walk On The Wild Side. Sid Davis' short warning film Boys Beware was less sympathetic. Meanwhile the British import Naked As Nature Intended is one of the highest grossing nudist documentaries and makes Pamela Green the most popular "sun enthusiast" of the decade.

1962: Lawrence Of Arabia was only mildly nebulous about its lead character's sexual leanings. Meanwhile the Italians import a new kind of travelogue: Mondo Cane.

1963: Jack Smith's Flaming Creatures is subject to police theater shut-downs and court battles due to cross-dressing men shown with their "significant members" exposed. Blood Feast starts a new censorship battle with horror films.

1964: Kenneth Anger's short experiment Scorpio Rising is a big hit, mostly with the college crowd. Andy Warhol makes a "blue" movie Couch but very few see it. The Pawnbroker is the first bare-bosom feature to get passed by the Production Code for artistic reasons.

1965: The Raw Ones (directed by John Lamb) is the first widely released nudist documentary in the United States to show both full frontal male and female nudity instead of using volleyballs and foliage as props. Catherine Deneuve exposes more in magazine publicity shots for Repulsion than in the actual movie itself, but Julie Christie would earn an Oscar despite flaunting a bit more in Darling. Radley Metzger takes on the U.S. rights to Mac Ahlerg's Danish import I, A Woman (Jeg - en kvinde).

1966: The Production Code ends and a "mature audiences only" rating is used for Who's Afraid Of Virginia Woolf? and Blow-Up, the latter showing a little more female nudity than was fashionable at that time. On the other hand, bare male bottoms start to become fashionable thanks to The Bible... In The Beginning. Alan Bates shows his in The King Of Hearts. Yet the trend officially bottoms out two years later.

 

... and the floodgates begin to open...

 

March 14, 1967: No sex, but the dreaded F-bomb is spoken on screen for the first time in a British import: Joseph Strick's adaptation of James Joyce's Ulysses.

June 12, 1967: 007 goes the interracial bed-hopping route in You Only Live Twice. As Sean Connery's Bond asks "Why do Chinese girls taste differently than all other girls?"

October 9, 1967: I Am Curious, Yellow (Jag är nyfiken – en film i gult), directed by Vilgot Sjöman, opens in Sweden.

December 8, 1967: The Graduate opens in Los Angeles. Ben: "Oh Gawwwd" Mrs. Robinson: "Don't be nervous." By mid 1968, it is the highest grossing American release since The Sound of Music.

December 11, 1967: New York opening of Guess Who's Coming To Dinner, in which Katharine Houghton and Sydney Poitier do a No-No visible in a taxi mirror. Actually interracial kissing had already occurred in a number of limited-released and independently produced features and occasionally on even British TV shows, but Middle America needed more time to get used to it.

December 13, 1967: Warner Brothers-Seven Arts is going through a "gay phase" right now. Latest is the Canadian backed The Fox. Two months ago, it was John Huston's Reflections In A Golden Eye. Despite much publicity in the press, neither does particularly well.

December 18, 1967: Mick Jagger's girlfriend Marianne Faithful drops another F-bomb onto the soundtrack of I'll Never Forget What's'isname. However its notoriety is based more on what Carol White may or may not be doing with Oliver Reed just off camera view. Somehow it managed to make it into very select "art house" theaters in the United States thanks to Orson Welles' name in the credits.

December 25, 1967: Barbarella, a different kind of sci fi "thinking man's piece" than 2001: A Space Odyssey (scheduled for an April 1968 release) opens in Paris and gets plenty of publicity in America many months before it is shown there thanks to Jane Fonda struggling to keep her space suit on.

January 19, 1968: I Am Curious, Yellow gets into hot water with U.S. Customs on account of assistant attorney Arthur Olick saying "it leaves nothing to the imagination".

January 29, 1968: Planet Of The Apes is "blessed" with Charlton Heston's "end"

February 1968: James Broughton's classic short The Bed is shown in San Francisco, famous for its full frontal nudity and at least one shot of two guys together in embrace in the subject title

March 4, 1968 (UK premiere): Romeo & Juliet is "blessed" with Leonard Whiting's "end"

April 10, 1968: Bob Hope at the Oscars: "A year ago we introduced movies with dirty words. This year, we brought you the pictures to go with them." This same day, Luis Buñuel's Belle De Jour gets a limited release in the United States after scoring big at last year's Cannes and Venice film festivals. Catherine Deneuve plays a bored doctor's wife seeking a better daytime occupation.

May 15, 1968: The Swimmer is "blessed" with Burt Lancaster's "end"

May 24, 1968: Radley Metzger's Therese & Isabelle gives us two ladies' "ends" for the price of one. It is less doomsday than other gay and lesbian dramas of the period.

May 28, 1968: The Detective is Frankie Sinatra's the-gays-are-always-in-trouble picture

June 13, 1968: Rosemary's Baby: Frankie Sinatra's ex-wife, Mia Farrow, has a brief nude scene

June 26, 1968: A Los Angeles film festival hosted by Pat Rocco and including both his and other vintage 8mm and 16mm films (such as Andy Warhol, Jack Smith and Kenneth Anger) marks the first major U.S. theatrical showing of artistic films with full male nudity, as well as the first with homosexual content (but still "soft core" with mostly just kissing scenes and just nudity itself).

August 18, 1968: While I Am Curious, Yellow is still banned, the somewhat tamer Hugs And Kisses is successfully imported from Sweden

September 26, 1968: Flesh is "blessed" with both Joe Dallesandro's back and front "ends"

October 22, 1968: Russ Meyer's Vixen! really shakes up the drive-ins with a trailer bragging "the story of a girl who loves the joy of being alive and gives herself innocently to the merry chase of life".

November 1, 1968: The new MPAA ratings go into effect: "G", "M" (later "PG"), "R" and "X", prohibited under 17 years of age.

November 20, 1968: Inga is imported from Sweden. By now, I Am Curious, Yellow can't stay out of American circulation much longer.

December 12, 1968: The Killing Of Sister George gives new meaning to soap opera queens

December 15, 1968: First X-rating is officially given to Greetings, a rather mild film more famous for a bit role by Robert de Niro

December 17, 1968: Richard Burton, Marlon Brando, John Huston, James Coburn, Walter Matthau and even Ringo Starr all want Candy, one of the great sex "bombs" of the era that has modern viewers scratching their heads in disbelief.

December 19, 1968: Malcolm McDowell wants his coffee "black" in if... This was the first X-rated feature from a major studio (Paramount).

December 20, 1968: Three In The Attic is "blessed" with Christopher Jones' "end". Concurrently released, Andy Warhol and Paul Morrissey's Lonesome Cowboys (filmed eleven months earlier in Oracle, Arizona) shows a few male "ends", peekaboo frontal shots, cacti getting "watered", Viva shown topless and discussing boys getting spanked, multiple F-bombs are spoken on the soundtrack and plenty of provocative talk of the homosexual variety. Predictably it gets banned practically everywhere outside of New York City with one Atlanta shutdown in 1969 getting plenty of publicity.

December 25, 1968: Rod Steiger goes nuts over John Phillip Law in The Sergeant

January 1969: Before leaving office, President Lyndon Johnson leads the Commission on Obscenity and Pornography to determine if sexually related material was actually dangerous to adult Americans. The findings were that they were not, but the new administration under Richard Nixon has other ideas. After all, there is a war that must continue in Vietnam and any distraction involving "too much smut in America" might be needed to keep the Silent Majority's vote.

March 10, 1969: I Am Curious, Yellow is finally given a much publicized release (in more ways than one) in the United States and... boy!... the lines are looooong.

One of the early naughty ones...
garden_of_eden_poster_02.jpg

 

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Might as well continue our merry little history lesson.

The Golden Age of you-know-what... Part 1

April 4, 1969: Life magazine cover reads "Sex in the lively arts: How far is far enough?" How little readers at the time knew what was in store for them.

May 25, 1969: Midnight Cowboy (United Artists) is released with an X-rating

June 13, 1969: Andy Warhol's Blue Movie, filmed in October 1968, is shown at the Warhol Factory in NYC. This is the first U.S. feature film to show the sex act on screen with Viva and Louis Waldon. Shortly after moving to the New Andy Warhol Garrick Theater, the film is confiscated, the staff arrested and the manager fined $250. Later Warhol decided to published uncensored stills in a book through Grove Press. It would get screened once again in New York without any fuss... in 2005.

WarholAndy-BlueMovie-GrovePress1970.jpg

After so much struggle with theater showings, the most famous pop artist decided to publish a book on his film in 1970, complete with provocative stills.

July 4, 1969: Artie and Jim Mitchell open their first theater in San Francisco showing explicit short films, one of 25 established in that city by the end of the year. Prior to 1972, over half of all adult films produced in the United States, both short and feature length, are also filmed here.

July 25, 1969: The Stewardesses combines the X-rated (still "soft core" in this case) genre with 3-D

August 8, 1969: Matt Cimber's Man & Wife: An Educational Film For Married Adults opens in Los Angeles, getting around some of the court room fuss by being quite "academic" in tone. In Sweden, its counterpart Ur Kärlekens språk (Language of Love) would premiere on October 2 and become an even bigger hit internationally with its fully clothed psychologists talking about sex on couches and nude models tastefully demonstrating how it is done in dimly lit, but psychedelic colorful, set-ups.

August 31, 1969: Medium Cool is the first major studio release (Paramount) to have male and female full frontal scenes.

September 1969: Bob Guccione's Penthouse competes with Playboy for the U.S. publishing market after modest success in the U.K. Both he and Hugh Hefner would actively get involved in movies as well. Before taking on Macbeth with Roman Polanski, Hefner would first back his Playmate of the Year, Victoria Vetri, on her limited acting career with a bit role in Polanski's earlier Rosemary's Baby and the mostly completed, but not released yet, When Dinosaurs Ruled The Earth. Guccione would later have ties with Polanski as well, adding additional financial assistance to Chinatown in 1973.

October 14, 1969: Opening in Rome, Luchino Visconti's The Damned marks Warner Brothers-Seven Arts as the third major studio (following Paramount and United Artists) to receive an X-rating from the MPAA. Even while filming in the autumn of 1968, the studio hastily grabbed the distribution rights and contributed to the production costs due to the director's established popularity. Set in Nazi Germany in the thirties, it recreates the "Night of the Long Knives" massacre.

November 10, 1969: Women In Love (Ken Russell director) opens in the U.K., reaching the U.S. the following February. Although Glenda Jackson would become the second actress after Julie Christie to win an Oscar despite appearing nude and the first to expose her bosom, it is more famous for its male leads, Alan Bates and Oliver Reed, baring it all.

February 25, 1970: Pat Rocco's Mondo Rocco is a key documentary on homosexual life with full frontal nude scenes.

March 1970: Producer/theater owner Alex de Renzy releases a documentary on sex films "for educational purposes". Censorship In Denmark: A New Approach features footage from one of the earliest adult film trade shows in Europe: the Copenhagen Sex Fair held the previous October. Rival producer John Lamb follows it up a few months later with another documentary, Sexual Freedom In Denmark.

April 7, 1970: Midnight Cowboy wins the Academy Award for Best Picture, the first and last X-rated film to do so. Its rating is soon changed to "R" without any cuts made.

Spring 1970: Stevin Touchin joins ranks with Paul Gonsky and Jeffrey Begun's Bijou theater and Festival group in Chicago, catering to the mid-west market.

June 17, 1970: Russ Meyer goes mainstream, courtesy of 20th Century Fox and Richard Zanuck, for that company's first X-rated feature,  Beyond The Valley Of The Dolls. This one boasts a prominent film critic (Roger Ebert) as a key writer. Also released this day is Alan Roberts and Bob Stein's trippy The Zodiac Couples, a pseudo-documentary that scores an even trippier follow-up by Mark Cimber in January 1971: Sex And Astrology.

June 24, 1970: Michael Sarne's Myra Breckinridge, another X-rated offering from 20th Century Fox, is more controversial for its idea (a man getting his gender changed in order to wreck havoc on the Hollywood establishment, much of it presented as a dream) than what was actually shown. On the plus side, Raquel Welch and Mae West still look great in some glitzy fashion and another film critic (Rex Reed) attempts to act. Gore Vidal, author of the original book, obviously hates it and makes sure his name is removed from the publicity credits. Legend has it that when he found out director Sarne was out of show business years later and working for a pizza place, he stated "this is proof of God's existence".  Intriguingly, United Artists quietly releases its more-to-the-point The Christine Jorgensen Story that same month with a lot less outrage from the press, but also seen by a far smaller crowd.

August 6, 1970: Bill Osco's Mona: The Virgin Nymph opens in San Francisco without screen credits to avoid legal attack. However it later cracks Variety's box office listings, a first for a "hard core" adult feature.

September 1970: Mike Henderson's Electro Sex '75 is the first adult feature advertised in New York City newspapers.

October 1970: Charles Keating, the business tycoon and anti-smut crusader appointed by President Nixon to the Commission on Obscenity and Pornography, successfully delays the publication of the group's findings, which he feels are waaaaay too favorable towards the impact sexual material has on well adjusted American citizens. As he declares, "At a time when the spread of pornography has reached epidemic proportions in our country and when the moral fiber of our nation seems to be rapidly unravelling, the desperate need is for enlightenment and intelligent control of the poisons which threaten us – not the declaration of moral bankruptcy inherent in the repeal of the laws which have been the defense of decent people against the pornographer for profit." White House speech writer Pat Buchanan assists Keating in drafting a new "dissent report" to counter the findings of the other committee members. As successful as he is persuading politicians in Washington D.C., Keating is less successful shutting down a stage performance of Oh Calcutta! in his beloved Cincinnati, Ohio.

October 17, 1970: Ever the literary among the adult genre, Radley Metzger's The Lickerish Quartet supplies tasteful female and male nudity, with love making scenes in a library full of books. As the trailer brags, Andy Warhol calls it "an outrageously kinky masterpiece".

December 1, 1970: James Broughton's Golden Positions is a popular short film featuring full frontal nudity in a series of tableaux. It is part of the first International Erotic Film Festival organized by Arlene Elster in San Francisco.

December 1970: In New York City, Alex de Renzy's second documentary History Of The Blue Movie is tentatively shown, showcasing clips including A Free Ride (1915), The Beach (1921), Smart Alec (1951) through more recent scenes he himself had produced for his own theater in 1969-70.

January 15, 1971: Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer is Hollywood major #5 to receive its first X-rating for a documentary called The Body, co-produced by Anglo-EMI in the U.K.

Early 1971: Chuck Holmes launches Falcon Entertainment (with Jim Hodges and Vaughn Kincey) in San Francisco, one of the first gay porn distribution companies, initially in publishing and soon in film as well. It is also the the most durable of the early adult companies, continuing today.

April 23, 1971: Sweet Sweetback's Baadasssss Song is a landmark X-rated "blaxploitation" feature notorious for an under age scene involving the director and star Melvin Van Peebles' son.

October 1971: John C. Holmes (Estes) enjoys success as one of the very first male stars in the new genre with an X-rated spoof on private eye films, Johnny Wadd (directed by Bob Chinn)

October 13, 1971: W.R. - Mysteries Of An Organism, directed by Dušan Makavejev, is shown uncut and X-rated at Chicago's film festival. By now, all foreign imports are shown uncut in major U.S. cities and censored for the more conservative areas of the country.

November 20, 1971: Japan is much more prudish than the United States, focusing on very "soft" core, but the nation is mighty prolific. Nikkatsu of Tokyo, one of the big companies with a history going back to 1912, releases its first pinku eiga or "pink film", Danchizuma hirusagari no jōji (Apartment Wife: Affair In The Afternoon). This is part of a Roman Porn-o series. By 1988, 1100 features of this kind were put out by this one studio alone.

December 12, 1971: One year after it was previewed in Italy, Pier Pasolini's Decameron, featuring plenty of full frontal nudity in a medieval Italian setting, is successfully released in New York City by United Artists and Produzioni Europee Associati.

December 20, 1971: Probably more polarizing than any "blue" movie up to this time is Stanley Kubrick's A Clockwork Orange, also rated X due to its violent message.

December 29, 1971: Wakefield Poole's Boys In The Sand opens in New York City as the first feature length film with hard core male/male sex scenes featuring Casey Donovan/Calvin Culver in the lead. It was filmed that July-August in Fire Island, New York.

January 1972: Larry Flynt starts The Hustler Newsletter, which four years later later evolves into a major competitor to Playboy and Penthouse.

February 1, 1972: In an audio tape made public decades later, preacher Billy Graham is heard telling Richard Nixon in the Oval Office that "Liberal Jews are the ones putting out the pornographic stuff."

February 1, 1972: Ralph Bakshi's Fritz The Cat is the first animated feature to get an X-rating in the United States.

March 17, 1972 (per Wikipedia): John Water's Pink Flamingos... well, I did sit through it twice on VHS in the eighties. Couldn't get over the chicken scene.

April 1972: The second widely released all gay feature and the first shot in Los Angeles is L.A. Plays Itself, directed by Fred Halsted. Subsequent early gay features of prominence include Jerry Douglas' Park Row (also with Casey Donovan and released February 1973) and Peter Berlin's Nights In Black Leather (another early '73 limited release).

Also in April 1972, box-office star Burt Reynolds creates a mini-sensation appearing buck naked (but with Little Burt covered) in a Cosmopolitan magazine spread.

Around this time, William Rolster popularizes the three X-ratings used by film producers in Adam Film Quarterly, three Xs being the most explicit.

 

42nd Street in NYC at the start of the new decade.

42nd_Street_just_west_of_Seventh_Avenue_

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The Golden Age of you-know-what... Part 2

June 12, 1972: Gerard Damiano's strictly heterosexual Deep Throat, filmed in Miami that January with Linda Lovelace and Harry Reams in the lead, opens at New York City's New World theater. Subject to a flood of censorship battles and getting banned in several states, it becomes the most talked about feature of the decade. Johnny Carson and Bob Hope can't stop making jokes about it. Later the title is used in conjunction with an informant on Nixon's Watergate scandal.

bijou12.jpg

Early porn often had an art house quality about it: giant sea urchins in Bijou (1972)

October 10, 1972: Bijou, Wakefield Poole's second feature after his success with Boys In The Sand, is one of the trippier early gay films, featuring Lewis Caroll-ish settings (often blow-ups of the director's art pieces looking gigantic alongside star Bill Harrison / Ronnie Shark), dreamlike lighting (much shot in the director's apartment with black felt backdrops and special lights used) and erotic scenes set to classical music. Reportedly the popular rock band Led Zeppelin was quite impressed that they were "referenced" in a provocative shower scene.

October 14, 1972: Fresh from his success in The Godfather, Marlon Brando rocks the Hollywood establishment again with the New York Film Festival premiere of Bernardo Bertolucci's The Last Tango In Paris, distributed by United Artists. Some are offended by the rather abusive relationship depicted on screen. The fact that Brando only appears partially nude also gets criticism. Why should just Mara Schneider be shown full frontal? Bertolucci takes this criticism seriously though and will make sure both Robert de Niro and Gérard Depardieu are shown full frontal in his later 1900 (filmed 1975).

December 17, 1972: Artie and Jim Mitchell's Behind the Green Door features newly popular Ivory Snow soap box model Marilyn Chambers. It is famous today for the group lesbian scene, trapeze activities and artsy "climax" done with slow motion and solarized printing, but what was more controversial back then was her interracial scene with Johnny Keyes.

January 21, 1973: Ralph Blumenthal in the New York Times defines the word "porno chic" to describe the many "respectable" New Yorkers lining up to see Deep Throat and Behind The Green Door, a total contrast to what was earlier labeled the "raincoat crowd" (middle aged men sneaking into adult theaters fearful of getting exposed).

March 28, 1973: Gerard Damiano's second triple X feature, The Devil In Miss Jones featuring Georgina Spelvin, opens at the 57th Street Playhouse in NYC. It would gross a shocking $15 million dollars by early 1974.

June 21, 1973: The U.S. Supreme Court decides on Miller v. California, defining the word "obscenity" as lacking "serious literary, artistic, political, or scientific value". This began with a California publisher and mail order distributor named Marvin Miller facing charges in 1971. After 1973, X-rated films began to lose some of their temporary mainstream acceptance and became more common in major cities rather than suburban areas, often distributed with both "hard" and "soft" versions for different markets. On the plus side, story material and dialogue writing got better so that the producers could defend their product as "art".

August 1, 1973: After backing a production of Macbeth earlier, Hugh Hefner of Playboy puts money into something more in tune with his centerfolds. The Naked Ape is a slightly silly documentary/comedy with both female and male nude scenes and featuring singer Johnny Crawford and future Dallas star Victoria Principal. Yet the film is so tame compared to the competition that it later received just minor edits for a "PG" rating.

September 4, 1973: The line between porn and mainstream Hollywood narrows with Nicholas Roeg's Don't Look Now featuring Julie Christie and Donald Sutherland at their most intimate. It is widely speculated that the two "did it" on the set, but later the general consensus is "no, it was mostly clever editing".

December 1973: Preview of Radley Metzger's Score, based on Jerry Douglas' off-Broadway play and filmed in (then) Yugoslavia during the summer of 1972 with Calvin Culver/Casey Donovan, Claire Wilbur, Gerald Grant, Lynn Lowry and Carl Parker. Its release is held up until two versions are edited, one "soft" and one "hard", the latter mostly due to the male/male scenes. Unlike most other Metzger's films of the seventies, this is quite bisexual in tone with its swinging couples intermingling with their own genders.

Spring 1974: The Screen Actors Guild relaxes previous restrictions against performers appearing in hard core films.

June 26, 1974: The soft-core Emmanuelle opens in Paris, making a big star of Sylvia Kristal. Following United Artists' success with The Last Tango In Paris, Columbia quickly buys the U.S. distribution rights. Since the company went bankrupt the previous two years and The Way We Were was only helping slightly, it was obvious now that Hollywood had to conform to the new era. In later years, the character in this movie would receive criticism from feminist groups due to her playful willingness to allow men take advantage of her. On this same day, A Very Natural Thing, directed by Christopher Larkin, debuts in New York City; more limited in nudity than the porn films of the period (rated "R") but still provocative for its time as a gay answer to the 1970 mainstream (and referenced here) hit Love Story.

July 30, 1974: Release of Bill Osco's sci fi sex film called Flesh Gordon includes elaborate effects by future famous names like Rick Baker. Filmed mostly in 1971 on a $470,00 budget, its release is delayed due to law suits with Universal claiming authority over the earlier Flash Gordon serials. 

September 1974: Peter de Rome's Adam & Yves features a brief appearance by Greta Garbo walking outside her apartment in NYC. (Reportedly the screen legend was more amused than outraged by her "cameo" in an otherwise gay erotic movie.)

December 26, 1974: Radley Metzger is using the alias "Henry Paris" on his more explicit features such as the critically acclaimed The Private Afternoons Of Pamela Mann.

February 19, 1975: Richard Dreyfuss plays a 1930s stag film maker in the British feature Inserts.

Spring 1975: Directors Derek Jarman and Paul Humfress decide to combine full male nudity, Roman soldier bonding, religion and a Latin screenplay for the British produced Sebastiane, currently filming in Sardinia.

May 10, 1975: Sony launches Betamax in Japan, predating VHS as a new form of home entertainment. It is available in the United States by November.

November 4, 1975: Aside from the already popular "soft" Emmanuelle, Lasse Braun's Sensations is among the first "hard" European (Netherlands) features to make a substantial profit in the United States. Initially shown at Cannes in May.

November 23, 1975: Pier Pasolini's Salo is given its first showings in Paris, just a few weeks after the Italian director's murder, and becomes one of the most widely banned films of the era.

February 13, 1976: Ai No Corrida (In The Realm Of The Senses) is previewed. Due to some censorship in Japan, director Nagisa Oshima needed support from France's Argos films as well as that country's services in processing film.

March 1, 1976: Radley Metzger's The Opening Of Misty Beethoven is generally regarded as the "golden jewel" of the X-rated genre, "the one movie you can take the sex out of and still have a real reason to watch it". Filmed in New York, Paris and Rome on a big budget, Jamie Gillis plays a Professor Higgins role molding his "Pygmalion" (Constance Money).

 

05metzger-obit-3-blog427.jpg

March 2, 1976: Limited release of The First Nudie Musical. Paramount pulls the plug on its distribution when the higher ups discover that the company's top TV star Cindy Williams of Laverne & Shirley is featured, even though she is fully clothed the whole time.

May 13-28, 1976: In addition to Martin Scorsese's Taxi Driver and Bernardo Bertolucci's 1900, this year's Cannes Film Festival in France showcases a number of uncut and polarizing X-rated features such as Philippe Vallois' Johan.

September 1, 1976: The Autobiography Of A Flea, directed by Sharon McKnight with Jean Jennings, John Holmes and Paul Thomas included in the cast, is one of the new attempts to legitimize the genre with elaborate early 19th century costumes... that is, when the actors are wearing them.

September 21, 1976: The surprise murder of Paul Bonsky, a partner of Steve Toushin and Jeff Begun's Bijou theater in Chicago, exposes some of the organized crime element behind the business.

October 1976: Joe Cage (a.k.a. Tim Kincaid) releases the first of a trilogy of "working man" gay films, Kansas City Trucking Company featuring Jack Wrangler.

December 10, 1976: Even Lewis Carroll gets X-rated with Bill Osco's quite campy musical Alice In Wonderland. The more widely seen "soft core" version gets an R-rating.

January 1977: Principal photography ends at Dear Studios in Lazio, Italy with Bob Guccione's Caligula, starring Malcolm McDowell, John Gielgud, Peter O'Toole and Helen Mirren. This would be the most expensive feature of this genre and, according to the head of Penthouse, director Tinto Brass "shot enough film to make the original version of Ben Hur about 50 times over". However the producer felt it was too "soft" and decided to add more explicit scenes behind the director's back. In addition, Gore Vidal was involved in some of the writing but soon disowned his participation.

April 1977: After a series of arrests starting in July 1974 in different states due to his appearance in Deep Throat, Harry Reems' convictions are finally overturned on the grounds that the film was made before all of the red tape involving Miller v California. Many famous stars in Hollywood had rallied behind him during the past two years. He was even tentatively offered a role in Paramount's soon to be filmed Grease, but then the studio got nervous.

June 4, 1977: VHS ("video home system") tapes, standardized by JVC, are introduced to Americans at Chicago's Consumer Electronics Show after modest success in Japan and South Korea. JVC accepts the marketing of adult films with greater interest than Sony does with Betamax. Within a month, the first porn titles are made available for home consumption by Robert Sumner in Manhattan, NYC.

July 1977: Although officially directed by Joseph Sarno, Jennifer Welles gets credit on screen as both director and star of Inside Jennifer Welles.

October 1, 1977: On a local New York City TV show Emerald City (shown on cable only to avoid FCC troubles, being the first outspokenly "gay rights" TV show of the seventies), Frank O'Dowd interviews famous gay porn director Wakefield Poole and star Calvin Culver/Casey Donovan. (Can be seen on YouTube as Emerald City TV #47 Wakefield Poole Cal Culver.)

October 1977: The FBI gets involved in the industry with a program dubbed "MIPORN" to investigate possible Mafia ties.

March 8, 1978: The anti-porn movement among conservative Americans takes a bizarre detour when extremist Joseph Paul Franklin shoots Hustler publisher Larry Flynt outside a court house in Gwinnett County, Georgia. Flynt survives but is mostly confined to a wheel chair for the rest of his life.

August 1978: David Jennings directs the very first commercial title shot on videotape instead of motion picture film: Lights! Camera! O rgy! 

October 1978: Debbie Does Dallas, starring Bambi Woods and widely distributed by David F. Friedman and Dan Sonney's theater chains, gets into all sorts of legal problems with the Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders due to thematic elements.

November 23, 1978: The newest trend is fruit titles. Pretty Peaches is released, following the success of Metzger's Marischino Cherry. That same month, Radley Metzger also successfully releases a PG-rated film, an update of The Cat And The Canary.

February 9, 1979: Columbia Pictures releases the mainstream feature Hardcore in which George C. Scott plays a father shocked by his daughter entering the business.

March 24, 1979: James Broughton and Joel Singer's Hermes Bird is a bit more unusual than other 11 minute experimental short films. It utilizes the same camera technique used for atomic bomb explosions to show a "male member" (since I can't use the proper word here) growing in slow motion, accompanied by Broughton's thoughtful poetry. At least it is an alternative to all of those time-lapse shots of flowers blooming that everybody had gotten bored with during the past six to seven decades. (No offense to F. Percy Smith.)

May 11, 1979: After releasing Beneath The Valley Of The Ultra Vixens, Russ Meyer decides to retire, mostly appearing in documentaries after this point. His favored genre was the "nudie cutie" kind that had long been overtaken by the other.

August 29, 1979: Al Parker has his biggest hit of the era with the gay themed Inches. Later he would take on film and video producing, being one of the first to advocate "protection" (since I can't use the proper word here) use among performers in the early 1980s even though he himself would pass away to AIDS.

October 20, 1979: Roughly between 6000 and 7000 attend a Women Against Pornography rally on Times Square, NYC. This marks a major turning point when not just the Christian Right is upset with the new screen freedoms.

February 1, 1980: Bob Guccione's Caligula is finally given a respectable showing in the United States. Mostly filmed in Italy during 1976-77 with all editing done by "production crew" instead of actual names, Guccione refuses to submit the film to the MPAA because he considered the rating system "demeaning". 

February 1980: Linda Lovelace (a.k.a. Linda Borman Marciano) slams the industry that made her a star with a best selling book Ordeal, although many of her accusations were later proven false by multiple witnesses involved in the making of her films. She joins Gloria Steineim in the Women Against Pornography movement. By now, many actresses within the industry start to counter this movement, claiming everybody they worked with acted professionally and have no shame for their profession. Among the outspoken are top stars Marilyn Chambers and Sharon Mitchell.

August 14, 1980: The gunshot death of Playboy centerfold Dorothy Stratton is a major news event of the era.

September 24, 1980: Marilyn Chambers' big hit Insatiable is released by Miracle Films theatrically and later becomes one of the highest selling VHS releases by 1982 (through Caballero Home Video and VCA Pictures). By this time, it is estimated that one half of all VHS videos (but a much smaller number of Sony Betamax) are adult films. This is because Americans are more comfortable watching this material in the privacy of their own home, while producers are able to get over state by state public obscenity charges thanks to an earlier Stanley v. Georgia "right to privacy" case of 1969.

April 15, 1981: John Christopher's Centurions Of Rome (Hand In Hand Productions) is the most expensive gay film up to that time, although most of it was shot in New York instead of Italy. George Payne plays Demetrius. Bizarre back story can be read here: http://www.therialtoreport.com/2016/06/05/centurians-rome/

June 5, 1981: The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in its Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report newsletter reports an outbreak involving Pneumocystis pneumonia (PCP) among mostly homosexual men. This marks the dawn of the AIDS epidemic.

July 1, 1981: The much discussed "Wonderland" murders call into question leading porn star John Holmes as either potentially involved or a witness. Nothing is confirmed, but his career as the most prolific performer in the business ends rather abruptly, hampered further by his addiction to cocaine. Later this same month, a documentary is released called Exhausted: John C. Holmes, The Real Story.

October 1981: Francis Delia's Nightdreams is a bizarre avant garde horror experiment that even includes a Cream of Wheat box.

December 1981: Anthony Spinelli's Nothing To Hide... included here simply because it was my first to see and be shocked by (around 1984 on VHS). About this time, Deep Inside Annie Sprinkle is released both theatrically in 35mm and on VHS, historically significant as both an autobiography and a guidance instructional for women.

April 23, 1982: Chuck Vincent's Roommates is one of the most critically acclaimed titles of the later "golden age".

October 1982: Cafe Flesh, directed by Rinse Dream (Stephen Sayadian), is a sci fi film suggestive of the new AIDS epidemic. It features a future world where only a select few are sexually active and all other humans can only watch.

November 1, 1982: Hugh Hefner's Playboy TV is launched to compete with HBO and other early cable networks, offering a stay-at-home alternative to adult theaters. The material offered is quite soft with little sex, but plenty of female nudity.

December 10, 1982: Jane Fonda's Workout Video offers a major VHS alternative to porn.

Spring 1983: Adult Video News is started by Paul Fishbein, Irv Slifkin, and Barry Rosenblatt to begin monitoring sales success much like Billboard did popular music.

December 1983: The first gay porn feature shot exclusively on video for VHS is Matt Sterling's A Matter Of Size.

April 1984: Anthony Spinelli's Reel People (for Arrow Film & Video) utilizes both professional porn actors with "amateur" enthusiasts with no prior camera experience, a fore shadowing of Reality TV.

May 21, 1984: To please his conservative base, President Reagan agrees to revive the old Presidential Commission on Obscenity and Pornography to determine exactly how harmful the industry is with innocent Americans, especially now with home video dominating. Many question if 1969's right-to-privacy Stanley v. Georgia case should be overturned for the protection of children who shouldn't be watching such filth when their parents aren't home supervising. The following year, Attorney General Edwin Meese would preside, prompting a new name: The Meese Commission.

September 1984: The poorly received The Princess And The Call Girl marks the end of Radley Metzger's two decade career as the top producer of high quality adult films. Unlike his earlier efforts, it receives little theatrical distribution and is mostly shown on the Playboy Channel.

January 28, 1985: Wade Nichols (Dennis Posa a.k.a. Parker) would be the first porn star (and later daytime soap star) to die from HIV complications... and sadly NOT the last.

 

Al Parker, Casey Donovan and Richard Fisk below them in Falcon Studios' The Other Side of Aspen (1978)

3a982dacacf16f6cb5ec1795e6692109--vintag
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I double checked everything. I hope it all reads as G-rated here. I try my best to be a good Scout.

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Here are two PG-rated documentaries covering the above material, with all nude scenes "blurred" and just the occasional anatomical discussion left in to shock the Victorians. One curio: while frank technical sex words are left in, the mention of "drugs" as recreation in the first video is bleeped out even though there's little question what the word is.

VH1 had an interesting 12-part series called When ____ Ruled The World, profiling all kinds of pop culture from stand up comics to The Partridge Family. This August 4, 2004 edition covers the golden age of porn. What is really great about it are the interviews with those involved in the industry, some like Marilyn Chambers, Jamie Gillis and John Leslie regrettably passing away a couple years after this.

Unfortunately this was first shown when there still wasn't as much acceptance and discussion of gays on TV as today. Although it is quite possible that this show might have planned to mention key films like Boys In The Sand, all material discussed in the final edited-for-TV version is strictly heterosexual with just a fleeting reference to lesbianism.

https://youtu.be/hcykfUuAYf8

 

Making up for what VH1 overlooked is this talking heads piece with just frank talk and no pictures. First shown in 2008 as a companion piece to another documentary Wrangler: Anatomy Of An Icon. I may have covered this video on another thread a while back. Jamie Gillis is also featured here too, sadly only two years or so before he died.

https://youtu.be/VFWnSh3Xfzo

 

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JLewis:  You are to be congratulated for presenting an awesome history of porn film making.  I remember when a lot of these films came out in the 1970's and porn went through its "respectable" phase and the movies played at regular theaters where couples would attend instead of just the old grindhouse scene.

When my husband was still alive, he liked porn so we watched some of the films you mentioned.  I always thought Georgina Spelvin (The Devil in Miss Jones) was one of the better actresses because she seemed to enjoy what she was doing instead of just going through the motions.

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Hey! The more couples do together, the longer they stay together. That VH1 video enforces the popular belief emphasized in recreations of the era like The Ice Storm that many were "spouse swapping" with keys at parties. While it is true that happened on occasion, a far greater number of married couples were happily faithful to each other but watched these movies simply to get new ideas to make their marriages better. It isn't so much about finding new partners as finding new things to do with the same partner. Lol!

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I read about a lot of these 70's era figures in the industry in the excellent book The Other Hollywood by Legs McNeil & Jennifer Osborne. I recommend it to anyone with any interest in the subject or in underground culture.

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I guess there was something wrong with my above movie trailer post. Oh well... at least I didn't get any messageboard "demerits" this time. This is why I always give plenty of warning in every post in case there is anything to be concerned about so that all readers can tread lightly. Never want to offend anybody. Sometimes I do get too opinionated and this is not good in the era we live in today where opinions are seldom neutral.

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On YouTube (and you will need some age verification to watch it), there is an old murky VHS upload of Mondo Rocco, a film I added above to 1970 in the "chronology" list. Pat Rocco produced and appeared in it for his "Bizarre Pictures" and it is kinda bizarre. Bizarre but enormously amusing. There is no graphic sex shown, but plenty of nudity and same sex kissing that was still very taboo at that time and certainly prevented it from being shown outside of L.A. or other major cities. Like many early gay documentaries, you get the usual very funny drag performers imitating Mae West, Babs Streisand and Phyllis Diller (?!).

Among the highlights is a comic tale of a "golly gee" rural-from-Idaho 19 year old crashing the L.A. apartment of a much more streetwise chap sporting James Dean-ish sideburns. "What kind of work do you think I'd be good at?" (hint hint... think Midnight Cowboy)

Most pointless, but also oddly touching, are throwaway shots of hunky guys relaxing in the raw with cute, furry kittens. I vaguely recall seeing the same kind of clips involving attractive ladies-in-the-raw doing the same but purring on the soundtrack as well. Yet I would not know what vintage title that was off-hand. In another scene, Pat Rocco interviews a male "free to express himself" dancer who informs him he once appeared on TV with Hugh Hefner's Playboy show, but obviously with clothes on there.

For me, what was most interesting was the you-are-there early liberation march in downtown Hollywood led by Rev. Troy Perry, certainly a pioneer in his day being both religious and supportive of the gay lifestyle. Still alive and doing well today per Wikipedia. You can see that 007's On Her Majesty's Secret Service just opened at a theater there in the background, the title probably sums up how mainstream America wished all gays to be: secretive and not "out".

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11 hours ago, Jlewis said:

On YouTube (and you will need some age verification to watch it), there is an old murky VHS upload of Mondo Rocco, a film I added above to 1970 in the "chronology" list. Pat Rocco produced and appeared in it for his "Bizarre Pictures" and it is kinda bizarre. Bizarre but enormously amusing. There is no graphic sex shown, but plenty of nudity and same sex kissing that was still very taboo at that time and certainly prevented it from being shown outside of L.A. or other major cities. Like many early gay documentaries, you get the usual very funny drag performers imitating Mae West, Babs Streisand and Phyllis Diller (?!).

Among the highlights is a comic tale of a "golly gee" rural-from-Idaho 19 year old crashing the L.A. apartment of a much more streetwise chap sporting James Dean-ish sideburns. "What kind of work do you think I'd be good at?" (hint hint... think Midnight Cowboy)

Most pointless, but also oddly touching, are throwaway shots of hunky guys relaxing in the raw with cute, furry kittens. I vaguely recall seeing the same kind of clips involving attractive ladies-in-the-raw doing the same but purring on the soundtrack as well. Yet I would not know what vintage title that was off-hand. In another scene, Pat Rocco interviews a male "free to express himself" dancer who informs him he once appeared on TV with Hugh Hefner's Playboy show, but obviously with clothes on there.

For me, what was most interesting was the you-are-there early liberation march in downtown Hollywood led by Rev. Troy Perry, certainly a pioneer in his day being both religious and supportive of the gay lifestyle. Still alive and doing well today per Wikipedia. You can see that 007's On Her Majesty's Secret Service just opened at a theater there in the background, the title probably sums up how mainstream America wished all gays to be: secretive and not "out".

Thanks for letting us know about this fascinating piece of gay film history.  My favorite scene was the "golly gee" guy and his street wise friend who reminded me of young Clint Eastwood.  We need a Criterion special edition of this treasure

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The music during that particular series of segments is probably worth a Criterion commentary. While Clint Eastwood's little brother "George" opens the door to his new visitor, we hear an instrumental version of "Hang On Sloopy". Um... not sure what to make of that. Later we hear the Supremes' "Baby Love", but I don't think there was much difference in their ages. Just a difference in levels of boyhood innocence, I guess. Then, of course, Janis Joplin with Big Brother & the Holding Company sings "Down On Me" for the... you know... scene that didn't show anything shocking within camera view but I felt that choice of song was a little TOO blatant. Then it all culminates with a touching instrumental of "Our Day Will Come"... and you would have to know the title of that Ruby & the Romantics' melody in order to analyze that situation.

Apparently Mister Rocco is well covered by UCLA.

https://www.cinema.ucla.edu/collections/inthelife/history/hey-look-me-over-films-pat-rocco

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I'm not kidding when I mean this film deserves some sort of Criterion level treatment. It combines documentary footage of political events, the comic drag show and the erotic gay segments.  The blond dude with the cats is both silly and erotic.  There is a kind of innocent romantic tone to the love scenes

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13 hours ago, jaragon said:

I'm not kidding when I mean this film deserves some sort of Criterion level treatment. It combines documentary footage of political events, the comic drag show and the erotic gay segments.  The blond dude with the cats is both silly and erotic.  There is a kind of innocent romantic tone to the love scenes

It sounds more like a Kino Lorber release.

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On 11/10/2017 at 10:08 PM, Jlewis said:

The Golden Age of you-know-what... Part 2
 

March 1, 1976: Radley Metzger's The Opening Of Misty Beethoven is generally regarded as the "golden jewel" of the X-rated genre, "the one movie you can take the sex out of and still have a real reason to watch it". Filmed in New York, Paris and Rome on a big budget, Jamie Gillis plays a Professor Higgins role molding his "Pygmalion" (Constance Money).

 

05metzger-obit-3-blog427.jpg

 


December 1981: Anthony Spinelli's Nothing To Hide... included here simply because it was my first to see and be shocked by (around 1984 on VHS).

Finally got around to seeing both of these in their complete forms. Saw the first only in sections before. Was too shocked by the latter in my youth, but was able to see a complete version online for the first time in ages.

OK... starting with the first and keeping my descriptions PG-rated.

Remember all of those Hopalong Cassidy B-westerns with repeated shots of our hero on horseback? Or, rather, 1970s Saturday Morning cartoons that featured the same trees and houses in the backgrounds going past as Scrappy Doo and Fangface did their same boring run cycles? Well... that is how I felt about The Opening Of Misty Beethoven with so many close up shots of certain body parts. A little of it goes a long, long way and it all gets pretty boring after a while, especially when so much of the activity tends to be the same. Granted, we do see different parts from different bodies so I don't think any footage is recycled. Yet I wonder if so much of it was really necessary and maybe Metzger's cast did not need to exhaust themselves by providing "fresh" material every time.

Radley Metzger, using his original name instead of "Henry Paris" as here, previously made the wonderful Score, a very funny film with lovable characters and some tastefully done, but still explicit, scenes that involve men being intimate with men and women being intimate with women along side some "heteronormal" scenes involving men and women just so "heteronormal" people who aren't comfortable with anything they don't consider "normal" won't walk out of the theater right away. Also that one was shot in 1972 when the censorship boundaries were still being tested in those Deep Throat formative years and its release was delayed, in fact, until a decision was made to release two versions, one of which was edited down to something resembling a standard R-rated mainstream feature for better theatrical bookings. Misty Beethoven was shot in 1975 after the market for more graphic material had mushroomed and filmmakers did not have to hold back.

However, Misty Beethoven is a bit backward in some ways, seeming like a much older film than the more progressive Score. We see strictly male/female and female/female relationships while the one "gay" male character, played by Calvin Culver/Casey Donovan, is "straightened out" by Misty. This is not done with a lot of prayer like so many religious conversion therapy sessions, but with the standard attitude that "all a gay man really needs is a good woman who knows what she is doing". Culver's appearance is downright weird: he is sporting bizarre eye shadow and make up and displays some "swishy" manners to feed into certain stereotypes of the era. Score, which gave Culver a bigger role, was not stereotyped at all and is a very modern and inoffensive film to watch today.

It is easy to see why so many consider this film a masterpiece for the Golden Age of Porn. It has more "production" than, say, Three Days On The Condor. The Italian villa scenes are breathtaking, as are the shots of Paris and New York. Also love the art deco design of Dr. Seymour Love's head quarters. The editing is dazzling. The music and dialogue is so great that none of the "close-ups" were really necessary to keep this film sexy and entertaining.

As mentioned before, this film borrows a lot from Pygmalion and My Fair Lady. Dr. Seymour Love (Jaimie Gillis) = Professor Higgins. Geraldine Rich (Jacqueline Beudant) = General Pickering.  Misty a.k.a. Dolores (Constance Money) = Eliza Doolittle, but, instead of being a struggling dealer in flowers, she works the inner city porn theater providing manual "help" to its male patrons for a fast buck, wears gawdy lipstick and smacks gum. Dr. Seymour spots her, writes in his note pad just like Higgins and sees potential with the proper grooming and, yes, she morphs into The Ultimate Sex Worker with great grace and sophistication and gets her name in the newspapers. Instead of "rain in Spain" dictation lessons, she learns the proper way to please a man with many "toys" and human "surrogates" to guide her. Instead of passing as a "duchess" at a royal ball like the earlier stories, she attends a lavish party of movie and magazine tycoons and succeeds with the most powerful man of the business along with his scheming wife/mistress/not-sure-what-her-role-is but, gee, Gloria Leonard is absolutely wonderful in her role.

At the end of My Fair Lady, Rex Harrison is still demanding his slippers and Audrey still brings them. Yet here, Misty is calling the shots in the end while Seymour is... surprise!... wearing a collar like he is her dog on a harness! No, he is the one who must give HER her slippers, not that she wears any. Yet he loves her just as every other man, heterosexual or not (i.e. Calvin Culver), and is forever at her beck and call. She is no longer the student of the professor but a professor in charge of his school.

Anthony Spinelli's Nothing To Hide (1981) was only shocking to me as a teenager because I lived a sheltered life and only just discovered The Act on screen in these movies. Re-watching it now, I found it to be a simple, but pleasing, little romantic film with plenty of interesting heterosexual "bro bonding" going on.

It vaguely resembles John Steinbeck's Of Mice And Men. Two guys named Jack and (what else?) Lenny are played by John Leslie and Richard Pachecho (both a star in porn and the most popular Playgirl centerfold of the era) respectively. The former is sophisticated and smooth with the ladies while the other seems to be a virgin and a trifle "slow". One lady calls Lenny the R-word and this gets Jack angry since he is very protective of his buddy. Although nothing happens between these two physically, they still share an apartment (since Lenny was initially homeless), sleep in side by side sleeping bags and are often shirtless together. While Jack has many, many conquests, Lenny literally "crashes" into a fellow virginal girl on roller skates who lives with her equally protective brother and, as in all romantic dramedies, the two get a happily ever after in the end.

1981 was an interesting transitional year and Nothing To Hide is an interesting time capsule. Like Score, there was both an X-rated and edited down R-rated version, but the reasoning might have been a bit different this time around. In 1972-74, there weren't many theaters showing the more graphic material as there were in the later seventies but, by 1981, the so called boom period was starting to subside as "home theaters" began replacing the public ones thanks to the arrival of VHS and Betamax formats. A movie with a bigger budget like this one still needed to cater to a wider audience as was the case almost a decade, but not a few years, before in order to make a profit.

Despite Ronald Reagan and a more conservative agenda entering the White House, we are still living through the last stages of the swinging seventies and "anything goes". Jack is very much a bachelor of the era, unafraid of adventure even if it involves a cheating house wife whose husband arrives at the wrong time and Lenny as his "watch" is hopping up and down outside the bedroom window. Although Jack is a bit of a male chauvinist in his talk, none of the women he is in cahoots with are weaker than him and the last one who is treated rather poorly by him quickly cuts him down to size. This film followed a busy newsworthy period when Gloria Steinheim and others attacked the porn industry for its "representation of women".

In addition, AIDS first hit the news right around the time this was being filmed, following reports of many other transmitted diseases taking their toll in the wake of the sexual revolution. Therefore, we get Lenny demonstrating on how to wear "protection". Reportedly the married Richard Pachecho stopped performing a few years later because he didn't feel producers allowed him to use "protection" enough. In a way, Lenny is the character whom the 1980s would applaud as the committed to just one woman type while Jack still needs to "grow up".

Yet what I find very charming about this movie is that these two guys really care about each other almost as if they are married to each other.

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