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Andrew Leavold

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Andrew Leavold owns and manages Trash Video [trashvideo.com.au], the largest cult video rental store in Australia. As well as collecting obscure, forgotten, and unreleased films, he also curates the "Eat My Schlock" Bad Taste Short Film Festival, fronts a cowpunk caberet combo, co-runs the Turkeyneck Records label, churns out lurid posters and record covers for bands around the country, and is a filmmaker. --http://www.sensesofcinema.com/contents/02/23/doris.html, accessed Apr 2004

Melbourne Underground Film Festival


Christian Paranoia & Apocalypse Cinema 1972 to 2002 Narrated live by Trash Videos Andrew Leavold

A 60 minute compilation of true cult cinema rarely seen away from the preachers pulpit: from the Communist scare and hellfire visions of the former exploitation filmmaker family the Ormonds to the Rapture and Armageddon quartet from Iowas Mark IV Productions, recent biblical scare epics like Tribulation and Megiddo: Omega Code 2, and many more...Followed by a screening of the rare Baptist 1971 paranoia masterpiece, Ron and Tim Ormonds IF THE FOOTMEN TIRE YOU, WHAT WILL HORSES DO?, a gore-soaked, body-strewn vision of America under Godless Communism!
Sunday 6th July 2.45pm at the Palace George Cinemas, 135 Fitzroy Street St Kilda

SS GIRLS [...]

Introduced by Andrew Leavold

(aka Casa Privata Per Le SS/Private House Of The SS, 1977) Uber-sleazy Salon Kitty knockoff by Bruno Mattei aka "Jordan B. Matthews", and possibly the most dubiously entertaining in the Italian Nazi sexploitation cycle. Willing Teutonic nymphos are trained to pleasure the officers of the Third Reich while gathering information for the certifiably insane Herr Schellenberg (Gabriele Carrara), who rants and raves while having sex in front of an enormous swastika, and Frau Inge (Marina Daunia), a sadistic cross between Ilsa and Betty Page. Mattei also helmed the nastier SS Extermination Camp/Women's Camp 119 the same year before graduating to classier fare such as Night Of The Zombies (1981) and Rats: Night Of Terror (1984).

9pm Thursday 10th July (on double bill with Tokyo Decadence) at Onesixone, 161 High Street Prahran


Featuring a special forum with filmmakers from all the MUFF Oz guerilla films including, Shannon Young, Mark Savage, Andrew Leavold, Paul Moder and MUFF festival director Richard Wolstencroft afterward about how to make a low budget epic. Screening of Reign In Darkness prior to the forum.

6.45pm Saturday 12th July at Onesixone, 161 High Street Prahran

Porno Chic [...]

Or How America Turned Blue in 1972

by Andrew Leavold

*This article appears (fully illustrated!) in the current issue of "Adult Industry Review", published by the Eros Foundation in Canberra.

The year is 1972. Outside a swank first-run Manhatten cinema, a line of well-heeled sophisticates queue expectantly outside a marquee with three large X’s proudly proclaiming: "Linda Lovelace IS Deep Throat!" A few miles uptown on the infamous 42nd Street strip, the traditional raincoat brigade shuffle into a theater past posters for Terrorized Virgin, Perverted Passion and Girl In A Basket toward their waiting stain-covered seats. Both crowds have three things on their minds, and they ain’t Surf, Sand and Sun.

SEX, SEX and SEX. SEX is IN. Sex is NOW. Sex is on everyone’s lips. The Sexual Revolution has turned the previously unspeakable into a national obsession. Even outwardly respectable couples are now watching other couples copulate on the big screen. A new term is coined for the phenomenon: Porno Chic. Groovy.

Popular myth lets us believe that Deep Throat and the porn explosion of 1972 changed the cultural face of America forever. The reality is less a phenomenon than a minor blip. The media frenzy feeding on the obscenity trials over Deep Throat and its ilk made porno films a hot topic. People talked about them. The adventurous few may have even seen one. But Middle America soon tired of hearing about its new-found sexual freedom. It was time to make love with the lights out once again. And porno went back underground where it was generally agreed it belonged.

Pornography’s long road to semi-legitimacy is littered with the many bodies of the fallen. The Catholic Code was established in 1934 to combat the growing pruriency in motion pictures. As filmdom’s official watchdog to guard against anti-Christian elements, and smut being a main offender, the Code slapped a ‘Condemned’ rating on any film showing even an inch of thigh or a shadow of a nipple. Of course, ban anything and it instantly becomes forbidden fruit - ‘Burlesque’ films appeared in the early 50s complete with pasties and fishnets to skirt the boundaries of decency and drive their male audiences bananas. Imagine the reaction, then, to the 1954 film Garden Of Eden filmed entirely in - wait for it - a nudist camp!

Garden Of Eden was immediately barred from New York screens for its "unwholesome sexually alluring positions", noting that disrobing for the camera did not constitute nudist camp protocol. The film’s distributor threw himself on the New York Court of Appeals in 1957. He argued the film was "highly educational" in probing the therapeutic qualities of nudism. Strangely enough the court relented. The judge declared that "nudism in itself, and without lewdness or dirtiness, is not obscenity in law or in common sense." The decision was a virtual green light for skin flicks now that nipples were finally legal.

A flood of nudist movies immediately poured in from the Continent. Open-jawed audiences were treated time and time again (and we assume they kept coming back for more) to more or less the same scenario: young girl inhibited by modern life (and clothing) accidentally books into a nudist camp, where she discovers a new freedom in naked volleyball. Unfettered breasts were the order of the day. Cameramen, however, faced a logistical nightmare of finding objects - pot plants, newspapers, post boxes - to place strategically in front of the other offending parts.

The onslaught of filmic flesh caught the eye of one ‘glamour’ photographer, Russ Meyer. Mr Meyer came up with a novel excuse to disrobe the female form: his hero is cursed with the ability to mentally undress any unfortunate lass paraded before his eyes. Released in 1959, The Immoral Mr Teas made over a million dollars on a $24,000 budget, and ushered in the Age of the ‘Nudie-Cutie’.

By the end of 1963, over 150 of these topless comedies had been made in the United States, using every possible combination of Mr Teas and the nudist camp formulas: Nude On The Moon, The Monster And The Stripper, Goldilocks And The Three Bares, and the ominously-titled Boing-g-g-g! They were insanely cheap to make - most were slated at the $7,000 to $10,000 mark. Their cornball humour helped diffuse the potential embarrassment of first-time voyeurs, and were (in theory at least) protected by the 1957 New York ruling. But audiences were getting bored with their ludicrously sterile depiction of sex on screen. Between 1963 and 1970, skin flicks would edge closer to the final taboo - actual fucking.

First came the ‘kinkies’, which featured mild deviation and bogus S&M (Satan In High Heels, Olga’s House Of Shame). Then came the increasingly brutal rape fantasies of the ‘roughies’ (The Defilers, Love Camp 7) and the sex-and-gore-drenched ‘ghoulies’ (the Flesh trilogy, Adult Version Of Dr Jekyll). Pubic hair made a coy appearance around 1968, along with group sex, lesbian couplings...all revealed gradually to test the legal waters toe by toe.

But it was smut of the imported variety that made pornography’s legal position clear. The Swedish I Am Curious (Yellow) was seized by bemused New York Customs and went to trial in May 1968 after it was found to contain full female AND male nudity, and most horrifying of all, a male erection. Sociologists, psychologists and art critics were paraded endlessly through court by the defense, but the jury took just two hours to brand the film ‘obscene’. However, as in the 1957 case before it, the more liberal-minded Court Of Appeals overturned the verdict on the grounds I Am Curious (Erection) was an "intellectual effort".

The message was out: anything could be shown on screen, as long as the courts could be convinced of a film’s artistic or educational worth. Documentaries had traditionally pushed the boundaries of permissiveness further than the sexploitation crowd; topless natives were allowed to jiggle through 1930s exposes like Goona Goona, if only to highlight how far White Civilized Man has come. In the wake of the Curious ruling, Continental ‘shockumentaries’ appeared on the new Sexual Freedom in Europe, showing not only erections but coitus (note the scientific lingo) within a safe educational framework. Seedy American entrepreneurs were quick on the double-take. Adult cinemas began to show domestic intellectual offerings like He And She (featuring a former husband of Jayne Mansfield!) emanating from so-called Centres of Sexual Research, and often with fake Swedish credentials. A snow job of the first order, but miraculously, no prosecutions. Enter the first full-length hardcore feature.

Let there be no confusion - explicit depictions of sex on film have existed since the invention of the movie camera. Call them ‘stag’ films, ‘smokers’ (named after the clubs in which they were shown), ‘beaver loops’ or whatever you like. They were the filmic equivalent of the old-fashioned dirty postcard. And just as illegal.

‘Stags’ were usually the length of the formulaic sex act itself, between five and ten minutes long. A brief excuse to engage in coupling - randy housewife opens door to traveling salesman, country lass comes across rampant farmhand behind haystack - quickly followed with the act itself, culminating with the ‘cum’ or ‘money’ shot. The end. These one-reelers could only be seen in secret men’s clubs across America, or by ordering from discreet advertisements in ‘glamour’ magazines. They were spoken about in hushed tones in male company but rarely seen, if at all. The social stigma of attending a stag film would prove too much for many a moral-minded member of the community. Until the 60s, that is. Russ Meyer’s 1968 soft-core opus Vixen broke box-office records for a sex film due to the number of couples in attendance. Meyer’s titular heroine (Erika Gavin) played such a commanding role, a marked contrast to most stock 60s submissive fare. "See why 6 million women have seen Vixen" may be A-grade Meyer ballyhoo, but it was the birth of couples’ porn, and history shows that Porno Chic was just around the corner.

And so to Mona (1970), the first feature-length movie on record to string its hardcore couplings between an admittedly flimsy premise. The synopsis in the Alpha Blue catalogue from the States is given thus: "Bride-to-be refuses intercourse but loves giving head to fiance and strangers." Not ground-breaking stuff by any means, but inflammatory charges were immediately slapped on its bony ass. More hardcore features eased cautiously into New York theaters between 1970 and 1972. Even Ed Wood Jr, notorious schlockmonger of Plan 9 From Outer Space fame, completed his first hardcore film (and last completed project), the insane sex-horror atrocity Necromania, in 1971. Most have sunk without trace. The most famous porno film of that era survived, however, and was the final blow to the anti-smut brigade.

Linda Lovelace was a fairly average looking frizzy haired porno starlet wannabe with an unusual gift for...shall we say, "far-reaching oral relief". Her then-husband-cum-manager Chuck Traynor cornered former softcore director and now hardcore impresario Gerard Damiano at a Manhatten "cocktail" party; Damiano was so impressed with Lovelace’s performing seal trick that he wrote an entire script around it. In case you’ve never seen it (or were too stoned to remember), Deep Throat features Lovelace as a girl who can’t seem to find pleasure through the usual channels. She visits a specialist (porno veteran and now born-again Harry Reems) who discovers after much probing that her clitoris is in her larynx. The film clocks in at under an hour and is played strictly for cheap yuks. Even the on-screen schlepping is accompanied by beer hall oompah tunes. Even so, it was far less offensive than the violent drug-fueled softcore features that were catering to the dark fantasies of the raincoat crowd, a soiled by-product of the Summer of Love. It is little wonder that Deep Throat caused a sensation when it opened at New York’s New World Cinema in 1972.

It proved a watershed year for the opposing forces of sexual repression and liberation. Before the first discarded Kleenex hit the carpet, New World was dragged into court on obscenity charges. The judge found Deep Throat to be totally without merit, and declared: "This is one throat that deserves to be cut." The film was withdrawn and the theater was dealt a $3 million fine. New World Cinema appealed later that year and - true to form - the decision was overturned by a more liberal judge. This was a legal milestone. Hardcore pornography was, in the New York courts at least, NOT OBSCENE.

The media whipped themselves into a dervish, touting Deep Throat as a major happening rather than a tawdry little fuck film. Dinner parties buzzed with heated conversations about the New Permissiveness. There’s a great scene in the recent Ang Lee film The Ice Storm, set in the early 70s, where table talk switches from Watergate to Linda Lovelace without anyone batting an eyelid. Deep Throat’s box-office demand shifted the film downtown into "respectable" Manhatten cinemas, to be greeted by queues of socialites, students, swingers and the morbidly curious type who spend most of their time at traffic accidents. Speculation was rife over Hollywood’s response to the XXX phenomenon - when would top crowd-pullers like Jane Fonda and Dustin Hoffman drop their strides and get down to serious business?

Cut to early 1973, and porno was old news. Deep Throat’s ticket sales dropped and the film returned to the stain-ravaged flea pits on 42nd Street. Audiences must have discovered porn was plain BORING. Think about it - after the second or third round of pounding pink panoramas, the novelty factor must have worn off, and audiences were left with the same old hoary bollocks from the previous 70 years of stag loops - small talk, sex, spurt.

Filmmakers looked for new ways to make mutton look like lamb. Pornotown paraded its freaks of nature with carny gusto: the monstrous top shelving of Candy Samples, the low-flying largess of Ron Jeremy and Long John Silver. There was a well-known performer at the time with a three-inch clitoris, and an amputee who would unfasten the straps on her wooden leg at the scene’s climax. The most famous freak of all was John C Holmes, star of literally thousands of loops and features, whose eye-popping thirteen inches detracted from his shambolic on-screen performances. On 42nd Street you could find hardcore horror (The Devil In Miss Jones, also by Gerard Damiano), musical fairy tales (Cinderella, Alice In Wonderland), the first and last porno disaster film (Deluge) and even the 1976 Let My Puppets Come, also from the prolific Mr Damiano, which predates the porno muppets of Meet The Feebles by almost twenty years!

Early hardcore also had its share of serious-minded filmmakers that dared venture beyond the tired old suck’n’fuck routines. Radley Metzger was a softcore director and distributor, respected by audiences and critics alike, who crossed into hardcore territory in 1974, taking advantage of the new liberalism but hiding under the "Henry Paris" pseudonym. Films like The Opening Of Misty Beethoven and Naked Came The Stranger were almost crossover hits, combining his erotic sensibilities of sleaze-and-tease with well-choreographed sexual gymnastics and, rarest of all, an intelligent story.

Meanwhile in San Francisco, the Mitchell brothers made a splash with Behind The Green Door and made the second porno superstar out of newcomer Marilyn Chambers. The Mitchells had cranked out a staggering 230 films and shorts before they decided to up the ante and spent an unheard-of $40,000 on BTGD. Chambers was previously known as the Ivory Snow girl, her virginal smile plastered across America on adverts for soap powder next to the line "99 and 44/100% Pure!" She also proved to be a first-rate performer and a top drawcard over a ten-year-plus career. The Mitchell’s vision was more a product of San Francisco’s Flower Power scene than their grubby Stateside counterparts, so BTGD was like a lavishly arty and quasi-experimental Love In (described by one critic as "a sexual Space Odyssey"), culminating in the famous two minute ultra-slow-mo money shot. BTGD joined Deep Throat in a high profile obscenity case in New York that guaranteed the Mitchells a long and successful porno career until Jim shot Artie in 1991.

But for every Mitchell and Metzger with artistic pretensions and forty grand to burn, there were a thousand rank amateurs in front and behind the cameras. Foreign and experimental films had threatened sexploitation since the 1950s with their highbrow intellectual visions of sexuality; given the green light, ‘legitimate’ filmmakers could now portray sex on the big screen as never before. The scene from Bernardo Bertolucci’s Last Tango In Paris (1973) where Marlon Brando buggers Maria Schneider with the aid of a butter stick was considered far more explosive than any scene from Damiano and co. On the whole, hardcore lacked two important elements: fantasy and restraint. By bulldozing its way to the sexual act itself, any possible erotic buildup was destroyed. In fact, hardcore was considered by many to be entirely unerotic. Performers hardly ever kissed or engaged in foreplay other than oral sex, and nudity above the waist was often forsaken for the microscopic closeups on the genitalia. This new wave of pseudo-erotica was in contrast to the tease antics of 60s softcore and before, which were foreplay and little else. No wonder the hardcore audience was primarily male. The great Porno Chic myth - that switched-on couples sat nuzzling through these pantomimes - is just a myth. Softcore features from Europe conquered the couples market for erotica, replacing the grind-and-poke tactics of hardcore with the vaseline-lensed simulated romps of Emmanuelle (and Black Emanuelle, Yellow Emanuelle...).

Of course, hardcore breeds and prospers in its own corner of the world. A 1973 Supreme Court ruling delegated the power to prosecute obscenity from the federal courts back to the individual States; producers were now less likely to gamble a hefty budget on a film with limited distribution prospects, and hardcore now sticks to its tried and true cheapskate formulas. The adult industry creates its own superstars within the narrow confines of its audience, and is yet to unearth a cultural icon, even flash-in-the-pan ones like Linda Lovelace, that isn’t tainted with tabloid scandal. Thanks to the instant access of video, hardcore pornography accounts for an estimated one-third of the video industry. That’s a mind-blowing multi-billion dollar trade that never makes it to Entertainment Tonight unless someone dies of AIDS or blows their brains out. Who do you know who reads Hustler more often than TV Week? Probably a lot more than we realize. They just don’t talk about it. Remember, it’s just not chic. This ain’t 1972 any more, Toto. --http://www.trashvideo.com.au/Trash%20Confidential/Back%20Issues/Porno%20Chic.htm [May 2004]

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