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Blue movies

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Blue Movie (1970) - Terry Southern
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Blue movies

Why are adult films called "blue" movies?
New York, New York

Dear Neil:
The color "blue" is symbolic of many things, yet the most curious may be matters of obscenity and puritanical decree. The Word Detective notes the phrase "blue laws" dates back to 1781 when the Reverend Samuel Peters published his history of Connecticut. He painted the strict laws of the puritan colonists as "blue laws," meaning "bloody laws" or laws that were enforced by brutality. "Blue laws" became shorthand for any strict, old-fashioned laws, such as laws forbidding liquor sales on Sundays.

The use of the word "blue" to refer to risqué content was first recorded in Scotland in 1824. According to World Wide Words, the Scottish Gallovidian Encyclopedia linked "blue" with a "smutty touch in song-singing, chatting, or piece of writing." One theory as to why "blue" meant "lewd" is that prostitutes in prison may have been dressed in blue gowns. Another theory mentions a series of ribald French books titled Bibliotéque Blue.

While there's no proven connection between these uses of "blue," it's not inconceivable that both influenced the term "blue movies." Pornography has been outlawed at various times and places, so blue laws might have forbidden the movies and thus the color became associated with the content. Also, when you curse a blue streak, you're talking dirty, and such language can be connected to explicit films. Another explanation for "blue movies" is that striptease acts may have once used blue spotlights. --http://ask.yahoo.com/ask/20031003.html

Blue movie notes - ode to an attic cinema

By Jack Stevenson © 1999

Those extinct fossils of underground sex culture known as Stag films today still baffle the paleontologists of cinema as they shine their lanterns back into the caves of film history. Here lie the pornographic remnants of Twentieth Century film culture - scratchy fragments of long ago fashions, scenes and styles that appear to modern man as antiquated as obscene stone-age drawings on cave walls.

Known variously as "smokers", "cooch reels" (which typically followed hoochie coochie dancers), "Stag films" (the values on display being exclusively male) and "Blue movies", these films have come to resonate with a nostalgic attraction and have figured in a number of feature film dramas like THE BACHELOR PARTY (1957) and INSERTS (1976).

Any offensive punch the Stag film once packed has largely been deactivated by the passing of time and they are regarded humorously by people who would find modern hard-core pornography beyond the bounds of tolerance. Yet some Stag films still manage to surprise relatively jaded modern viewers as extraordinarily vulgar, explicit and kinky. They can still retain the power to shock, even in today's sexually saturated media landscape where libidinous excess sulks from every liquor, blue-jean and perfume ad.

Today the debate over pornography has broadened into a range of discussions that touch on everything from economics to constitutional law to safe sex to municipal zoning ordinances, but from the 1920s to the late 1960s when Stag films were produced and circulated, there was no such debate. It was an outlaw cinema, as strictly illegal as drug dealing and armed robbery. --http://hjem.get2net.dk/jack_stevenson/blue.htm [Sept 2004]

A History of the Blue Movie (1970) - Alex de Renzy

See entry for Alex de Renzie

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