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Early exploitation film
The major exploitation topics included sex and sex hygiene, prostitution and vice, drug use, nudity, and any other subject considered at the time to be in bad taste. --"Bold! Daring! Shocking! True: A History of Exploitation Films, 1919-1959 (1999) - Eric Schaefer, page 5
Preceded by: cautionary tales - pulp fiction
Parent category: exploitation film - film - paracinema
Titles: Freaks (1932)
Related: Production Code (USA cinema)
People: Kroger Babb - Dwain Esper
Subgenres: sex hygiene films - white slavery film
Earliest exploitation films
Some of the earliest exploitation films were pitched as sensationalist exposÚs of some drug or sex-related scandal, and were made independently of the major Hollywood studios, thus avoiding restrictions of the Production Code and providing a revenue source for independent theaters. Now that the major motion picture studios allow much more latitude in subject matter, it is not necessary for independent producers to cater to audiences' desires to view such things. Thus, in modern cinema, roles have reversed somewhat, with major studios catering to the so-called "lowest common denominator", while art films are more typically made independently. --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Exploitation_film [Oct 2004]
Classic exploitation films made in the 1930s and 1940s were sensationalist fare at the time, and are now valued by aficionados for their nostalgic and ironic value. The most famous example of these is the cautionary tale Reefer Madness, a sensationalized and notoriously inaccurate attempt to demonize marijuana for Prohibition-era America.
A particularly important type of exploitation film of this era was the "sex hygiene" exploitation film, which featured white-coated "doctors" describing the how-tos of sex education to the fascinated and naive audience. Often times, the film would be attended by another "doctor" in a white coat selling sex-hygiene booklets in the lobby after the film screening. Usually the producers would make significantly more money from the sales of the booklets than the from the tickets to see the film. This type of film was also known as a "road show," because it was shown from town to town and was promoted in advance like a circus or carnival. One of the most famous of these was "Mom and Dad" which featured actual birth footage.
Sometimes the sex hygiene films would verge into what would be seen as shock exploitation today, showing graphic footage of the ravages of venereal disease. However, showman David Friedman said that in all his years presenting sex-hygiene films as a road show, patrons sometimes came out pale and shaken, but none asked for their money back. --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Exploitation_film#Classic_Exploitation [Nov 2005]
Road showA tour made for a particular purpose, especially a political campaign. For example, It was primary season, and every would-be candidate was planning a road show. This term originated about 1900 for touring theatrical productions and in the mid-1900s began to be transferred to other endeavors. --AHD
Production codeThe Hays code or the production code was partly a reaction against social and mental hygiene films of the early cinema days. It said:--from the original text, sourced here.
The sanctity of the institution of marriage and the home shall be upheld. Pictures shall not infer that low forms of sex relationship are the accepted or common thing.
1. Adultery, sometimes necessary plot material, must not be explicitly treated, or justified, or presented attractively.
2. Scenes of Passion
a. They should not be introduced when not essential to the plot.
b. Excessive and lustful kissing, lustful embraces, suggestive postures and gestures, are not to be shown.
c. In general passion should so be treated that these scenes do not stimulate the lower and baser element.
3. Seduction or Rape
a. They should never be more than suggested, and only when essential for the plot, and even then never shown by explicit method.
b. They are never the proper subject for comedy.
4. Sex perversion or any inference to it is forbidden.
5. White slavery shall not be treated.
6. Miscegenation (sex relationships between the white and black races) is forbidden.
7. Sex hygiene and venereal diseases are not subjects for motion pictures.
8. Scenes of actual child birth, in fact or in silhouette, are never to be presented.
9. Children's sex organs are never to be exposed.
"Bold! Daring! Shocking! True: A History of Exploitation Films, 1919-1959 (1999) - Eric Schaefer
(1999) - Eric Schaefer [FR] [DE] [UK]
Eric Schaefer's readable history of exploitation movies begins with a description of what the genre ain't--the rabid "nudie pics" of Russ Meyer (Faster, Pussycat, Kill! Kill!) and the drecky, knowing arthouse flicks made by Andy Warhol and Paul Morrissey (Andy Warhol's Dracula). Though these camp movies are sometimes labeled "exploitation," they do not exactly fit Schaefer's definition. For him, exploitation is the brand of movie that puts nudity and antisocial behavior up on the screen in the name of civic-mindedness and healthy social conscience--and with a wink. Between 1919 and 1959, sexual hygiene and antidrug movies with kicky, lascivious titles such as No Greater Sin (1939), Call Girls (1959), Nudist Land (1937), and Paroled from the Big House (1938) traveled through the country outside regular theater chains, advertising themselves as "shocking" yet educational. The posters didn't slouch either. No Greater Sin promised viewers, "You'll gasp, you'll wince, you'll shudder... so powerful, many will faint!" Schaefer argues that studying the films tells us cartloads about the way Puritanical America grappled with complex issues like premarital sex, drugs, infidelity, and alternative lifestyles. And he may be right: by 1959, audiences had begun turning to European films like And God Created Woman, films that treated exploitation movie subjects legitimately. The story of a lost culture, Bold! Daring! Shocking! True! is finally an archaeology of the immediate past that throws our present incoherence about sex, public-mindedness, virtue, and immediate gratification into high and sometimes hilarious relief. With priceless historical black-and-white photographs. --Lyall Bush, Amazon.com
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