Saturday, April 02, 2016

SCMS 2016 Day Three

Thursdays are for porn and exploitation, no? At the Exploitation Cinema and History: Rethinking the Relationship panel, Austin Fisher presented "Blood in the Streets: Negotiating History Through the Italian Vigilante Film" and the only problem with it is that I will now be seeking out these titles so they can languish with 10,000 other films on my beloved/dreaded external hard drives. Fisher dicussed how the 1970s Italian vigilante films conveyed a nihilistic sense of futility when going against a faceless system. The films rarely refer to specific events but the spectre of WWII fascism hovers over them, especially Street Law (Castellari, 1975).

Johnny Walker's "A 'Golden Age' of Exploitation?: Video Culture in 1980s Britain, Beyond the 'Video Nasties'" demonstrated how commentary on the Video Nasties have distorted video history. The subculturealimportance of horror and exploitation are highlighted in these misty-eyed meditations on the Nasties. For instance, Severin has reissued some of the Nasties that were orginally released by Intervision. But their advertising reconfigures early video history as a golden age of maverick, illicit dealings in obscure titles. In actuality, Intervision had a robust mail order business and a glossy catalog revealing that they dealt in all kinds of films. By 1980, it was the leading video distributor, making deals with indies like Tigon and Alpha. Thus, the films Intervision distributed weren't all obscure. The Exterminator, Come Play With Me, Zombie, and The Rise and Fall of Idi Amin, for instance, were sizable hits. Even though these films were hardly obscure, though, they were still exploitation fare which weakens Walker's argument. Despite their popularity, the films listed would make any commentator/exploitation film lover on the era misty-eyed all over again.

Neil Jackson's "From Porno Chic to Porno Eeeek!: Forced Entry and the Hardcore Roughie" linked Shaun Costello's 1973 film to Vietnam vet films and other hardcore roughies such as Femmes de Sade, Sex Wish, and Waterpower for a more dystopic vision in the porno chic era. It was a perfect compliment to Eric Schaefer's "Sexploitation After Hardcore: Strategies of Soft-core Films in the 1970s." Schaefer shows how hardcore and the New Hollywood had sexploitation directors worried. But as early as 1972, there was a new cleavage between hard and softcore. For instance, Together was a softcore film that attracted women and couples who would have been turned off by Forced Entry. The film grossed $1 million in New York City alone in just 3 weeks. Costume films like The Lustful Turk and The Notorious Cleopatra and girl group films like The Stewardesses and The Pom Pom Girls maintained a couples market throughout the decade. But higher budgets and an ever more explicit Hollywood forced sexploitation to reap their highest rewards in the video market.

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