[Note: all English quotes are from the English dub.]
The relaxation of film censorship in the 1960s and 1970s, both in the US and abroad, created an interesting period in mainstream films were much more daring in terms of sexuality and violence, while some porn films had bigger budgets and higher production values to play in mainstream theatres and reach a larger audience. Naturally, someone would try to adapt arguably the most famous novel about BDSM to the big screen, Histoire d’O by “Pauline Reage” (aka Anne Desclos), published 1954.
The Story of Joanna (IMDB) is a 1975 X-rated drama directed and written by Gerard Damiano and starring Terri Hall in the title role and Jamie Gillis as Jason.
Joanna comes from the “Golden Age of porn” in the 70s and early 80s when some hardcore adult films were made with higher production values for release with X-ratings in mainstream theatres, trying to reach a broader audience. This was also the heyday of mainstream softcore erotica films like Just Jaeckin’s Histoire D’O (1975) and the original Emmanuelle (1974), and edgier material like Nazisploitation classicsThe Night Porter (1974),Ilsa: She-Wolf of the SS (1975) and Salon Kitty (1976). (I’ve heard that Damiano wanted to film Story of O but couldn’t get the rights, and made his own knock-off.)
Maîtresse (IMDB) is a 1976 French romance film, directed by Barbet Schroeder and written by Barbet Schroeder and Paul Voujargol. (All dialog quotations are from the subtitles.)
Maîtresse concerns Olivier (Gerard Depardieu), a young petty criminal, who tries to burgle an apartment and instead enters the dungeon of a professional dominatrix, Ariane (Bulle Ogier). They start an unlikely and troubled romance.
In my discussion of Pets, I neglected to mention that it was based on an off-Broadway play. The Temple of Schlock has a post on the history of the original work and its adaptation into film.
Pets was originally three one-act plays, first produced in May 1969, all based on the idea of women being kept as pets.
It’s not surprising that few critics gave PETS a clean bill of health. Newsday‘s George Oppenheimer summed it up by writing, “Mr. Reich has given us three playlets which, to put it kindly, stagger the imagination,” while Daphne Kraft of the Newark Evening News commented, “PETS, the three one-act satchels of emotion which got hurled on the stage of the Provincetown Playhouse last night, suffers from bad dialogue. The plays sizzle like wet firecrackers and make all of life look like exercises in hysteria.” In the Manhattan Tribune, Clayton Riley wrote, “Nothing to recommend but a superb air-conditioning unit at the Provincetown. Doubtless it will outlive, by a good while, Richard Reich’s slender trio.” Worst of all were the opinions of a critic in Cue: “Richard Reich is a playwright who has discovered a fascinating new toy — sadomasochism. So enthralled is he by the S&M mystique of discipline, power, sexual mastery and submission, torture and self-flagellation, that he has written no less than three one-acters in which people cage, whip, stab, and rape each other with gay abandon, all the while pontificating in language duller than an Abnormal Psych textbook.”
The film combined the three young women characters into one character, Bonnie, combined two older women into Geraldine, and added a few other scenes.
Hardcore (IMDB) is a 1979 crime drama film written and directed by Paul Schrader.
The plot is that Jake (George C. Scott), a mid-Western family man and devout Calvinist, searches through the sex work underground for his daughter after she disappears in Los Angeles, then turns up in a porn film.
Hardcore bears a strong resemblance to 8MM. Both are Orpheus narratives: a man descends into the underworld to find a lost loved one. It also taps into the American captivity narrative. It provides an interesting glimpse into the sex work underworld of Los Angeles in the late 1970s. Again, like 8MM, there’s no particular investigation of the people who work in the sex industry. (Somebody did do enough research to drop names like the Mitchell brothers.)
Pets (IMDB) is a 1973 exploitation drama. It’s a picaresque story set in Southern California of a young homeless girl, Bonnie, who falls from one situation to another, not unlike Sade’s Juliette or Voltaire’s Candide.
The Image (1975), also known as The Punishment of Anne, is an erotic drama directed by Radley Metzger, which he adapted from the novel L’Image (1956) by “Jean de Berg”, a pseudonym of Catherine Robbe-Grillet.
The Image is on the threshold between porn and “real” movies, characteristic of the mid-1970s; it got an X rating in the USA. It makes good use of Paris locations and professional directing, but the plot and characterization are a bit lacking. It. Also unlike a lot of the movies discussed in this project, this has frontal male and female nudity and even shots of fellatio and Anne urinating. There are, however, no shots of genital penetration.
The film takes place in the rarefied, aspirational movie world in which writers can afford gigantic luxurious apartments in major cities. Jean, a writer, goes to a black tie literary cocktail party and meets a former acquaintance, Claire, another writer, and a younger woman, Anne. Claire describes her as “Just a young model…. She belongs to me.” They go to a restaurant for an afterparty, where Claire fondles Anne under the table. Later, the trio go for a walk in the Paris rose gardens, where Claire makes Anne urinate before them.
Samuel Cook was a serial rapist who attacked
women in their homes in Cambridge, England, between October
1974 and April 1975. He was known in the press as the “Cambridge
Cook’s crimes were peculiarly theatrical. Today, we are still grappling with the idea that most rapes are committed by people the victim knew. Cook fit the stereotypical view of a rapist at the time, a socially marginal figure who broke into homes and assaulted strangers. Reportedly, if he didn’t find a victim, he would write taunting messages on their bathroom mirrors.
What’s significant for this discussion is that he wore a black leather hood with the word “RAPIST” literally written across the forehead. What puzzled me was, why and how did Cook get a leather mask? An ordinary cloth or wool ski mask or balaclava would have sufficed to conceal his identity.
High Anxiety (1977) (IMDB) is a comedy film, directed by Mel Brooks, written and directed by Mel Brooks and Ron Clark.
High Anxiety is Mel Brooks’ parody of Alfred Hitchcock’s thrillers, which often had some psychosexual weirdness driving their plots. E.g. voyeurism in Rear Window, gender confusion in Psycho, fetishism in Vertigo. In this case, it’s female sadism and male masochism.
Dressing For Pleasure is a 1977 25-minute documentary directed by John Samson, who made a career out of films about outsider topics (e.g. tattoos, competitive darts, the sexual lives of disabled people).Continue reading »