Unintentional feminist plotlines, the first animated animal in porn history, drug-fuelled free love, and a nymphomaniac taxi driver – read the stories behind the era’s sexiest flicks
“X-rated films” have racked up a bad reputation; even those amongst us who love a little smut can often find ourselves disappointed by tacky costumes, terrible acting and, of course, a shit pizza boy cliché or two. X-Rated Adult Movie Posters of the 60s and 70s is the newly-released book seeking to remind us it’s not all bad.
Across more than 300 pages, the beautiful tome delves deep into cinematic archives to unearth original film posters for hits like Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill! and Deep Throat, as well as other, more unconventional titles you might not be familiar with. Have you ever seen James Bond’s sexy NSFW counterpart Jane Bond? Or Fritz, the super-horny cartoon cat? No? I thought not.
Therefore, in honour of the book’s release, it seemed fitting to delve in and select a few of the wildest from the 1960s and 1970s, as well as to detail the stories behind them. It’s worth noting that the few depictions of PoC (people of colour) are rife with fetishisation, that trans women are referred to in offensive terms and that rape fantasies are surprisingly commonplace, but there are still several gems hidden within: expect gang bangs, LSD and the occasional nymphomaniac taxi driver.
DEBBIE DOES DALLAS (1978)
It’s almost impossible to write about porn and not mention the wildly successful Debbie Does Dallas, which is still one of the five highest-grossing adult films of all-time. It’s not hard to see why. Firstly, there’s the porn-by-numbers storyline, which features cheerleaders, football jocks and a weirdly aspirational bid to sleep with as many men as possible for as much money as possible (sucking costs $20 extra, FYI).
Then, there’s the innocent charm of blonde, doe-eyed beauty Bambi Woods, whose on-screen moniker was chosen by the film’s director. Apparently, it was a reference to the fact she looks like a deer caught in the headlights when she has sex on camera. This creepy, weirdly infantilising claim aside, the film has an enduring appeal which only intensified when stories of conspiracy theories, alleged drug overdoses and Mafia funding trickled out over the decades following its release. You want the Golden Age of Porn? Look no further.
FRITZ THE CAT (1972)
“We’re not rated X for nothin’, baby!” This is the tagline of Fritz the Cat, an animated pussy (excuse the pun) who boasts the slightly bizarre honour of being the first animal porn star in film history. He’s also a radical socialist (of course) who fights racism, sings protests and blazes up on the regular, all the while still finding the time to engage in lengthy group sex sessions with other #woke lady cats.
The political overtones here are overt – policemen are pigs, drug raids turn violent and a black crow is shot during a riot which he didn’t initiate. Sound familiar? Released in 1972, a year in which the Vietnam War was ongoing, the film’s countercultural ethos resonated with some critics and gained a cult following, eventually spawning a sequel, The Nine Lives of Fritz the Cat. Fritz even spawned his own genre of copycat films; it’s a slightly unusual success story, but definitely one worth exploring.
DEEP THROAT (1972)
Ever been to your local GP only to find out you have a clitoris in your throat? Me neither, but this is exactly what happens to sexually frustrated Linda when she eventually begins to investigate why she can’t achieve orgasm. Deep Throat, otherwise known as one of the most iconic porn films of all-time, uses this awkward encounter as its jumping-off point, following Linda on her ravenous mission to give as many blow jobs as possible in seek of her own elusive climax.
Credited with launching the ‘porno chic’ trend, the film also launched the profile of Bronx-born Linda Lovelace, who later became an anti-porn campaigner and a born again Christian. Her personal life was mired in controversy; not only did she endure a lengthy abusive relationship with a husband who apparently forced her into porn, she wrote extensively about industry exploitation. For these reasons and countless others, Lovelace is still one of the most fascinating stars in porn history.
BACK SEAT CABBIE (1969)
Sex in a car can be accurately summed in six words: great in theory, shit in practice. Is there is anything less erotic than rolling over onto your partner only to find yourself cramped in a corner with a gearstick up your arse? If there is, I’d like to hear it. Still, these logistical complexities do nothing to deter Gloria, the beautiful protagonist of 1969 film Back Seat Cabbie, a film whose tagline boldly proclaims: “She’ll ride anyone – with or without the fare!”
The premise of the film is pretty self-explanatory. Gloria craves a well-paid job which allows her some fresh air, so she decides to combine her two passions – taxi driving and endless sex. It might seem weird, but the film is strangely progressive in its explorations of pansexuality: “She gets plenty of trade for her cab and her body,” declares the film poster. “Men, women and mixed groups all visit with the very friendly lady cabby in her back seat.” Better still, the film humanises a sex worker and dispels the harmful myth that all sex workers are either trafficked or forced into the profession. Gloria breaks this stereotype – not only is she getting fucked frequently on her own terms, the friendly lady cabby is even being tipped for her pleasure.
SMOKE AND FLESH (1968)
If any exploitation flick perfectly nails the spirit of the then-flourishing hippie movement of the late 1960s and early 1970s, it’s Smoke and Flesh. The action takes place in the kind of drug-fuelled parties you now only ever see in underground swingers’ clubs; celebrating the principles of free love, the stars of this film take LSD, get high, eat ice cream, play strip poker and rub whipped cream on each other’s naked bodies. Sounds like the perfect Friday, right?
Unlike the intrusive camerawork of other similar films, Smoke and Flesh takes particular delight in highlighting small details and exploring unusual set-ups. The beautifully psychedelic film poster is the proverbial cherry on top, effortlessly communicating the visual brilliance of a porn flick very much of its time.
FASTER PUSSYCAT! KILL! KILL (1965)
Although not quite as X-rated as many of its counterparts, Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill! is the tale of three go-go dancers on a murder spree. For that reason, I cannot possibly omit it from this list. Initially, the film was written off as soft-core porn; a mere throwaway ‘skin flick’ with a poor script and little artistic value. Still, it stuck around and racked up a cult following over the decades that followed, revealing the kind of brilliance which takes time and contextual analysis to appreciate.
Queer film critics famously reversed their negative reviews, whereas the advent of sex-positive feminism in the early 1980s led many to question why they had assumed the women in this film were being objectified as opposed to taking control of their own sexuality. The feminist undertones may not have been intentional, but the bad-ass costumes, hard drinking and man-bashing fight scenes are progressive in retrospect, making this one of the most entertaining X-rated films you’ll ever see.
I WAS A MAN (1967)
Trans visibility may still be so depressingly low on Hollywood’s agenda that Matt Bomer can be cast in the role of a trans woman but, in the porn industry at least, trans women in particular have long been visible. Sure, this visibility has pretty much always been shitty – offensive terms like ‘she-male’ are used even today – but it’s still a small victory.
Although little information is available on I Was A Man, the Barry Mahon-directed film follows the true story of Ansa Kansas, an intersex trans woman, who stars in what has been described as an exploitation flick. Sensationalist language and use of the terminology ‘hermaphrodite’ is highlighted on a poster which promises to explore the ‘dark world of the trans-sexual’ – it’s an of-its-era film which shows just how poor the treatment of both trans and intersex people has been across cinematic history.
Still, I Was A Man at least shows how far and how quickly our understanding of the trans community has come, as well as how quickly terminology has changed. It’s an ongoing battle, but the fact remains that trans porn is one of the most popular categories online. It’s time for directors to start treating their stars with the respect they deserve.
THE WORLD OF SUSIE WRONG (1960)
The film industry has long been unkind to Asian women, portraying them as either hyper-submissive or hyper-sexual and often pairing them with a white man. The World of Suzie Wong is just one of many examples; in the film adaptation, Nancy Kwan plays a Chinese prostitute who falls in love with an American architect determined to protect her. She is at once ‘good’ and ‘bad’ – as a prostitute and a mother in love with a man who eventually leaves his wife to be with her, Wong is a fascinating character worthy of exploration.
The World of Susie Wrong, however, takes this film as its inspiration. Little information is available online, but the gaudy Chinoiserie film poster and god-awful tagline ‘she gave sex a new slant’ shows just how heavily fetishised Asian women are in the porn industry. On a wider societal level, the phenomenon is so widespread that it’s even spawned its own name – “Yellow fever” – which has been written about by countless brilliant WoC writers including Vera Chok, Nian Hu and the anonymous author of an illuminating blog post entitled “Exotification: I’m Not Your Pretty Little Lotus Flower”. Susie Wrong proves unequivocally that, not only does porn urgently need to diversify, it needs to do so in a way that’s both progressive and breaks down the stereotypes it has been complicit in creating.
X-Rated Adult Movie Posters of the 60s and 70s by Tony Nourmand and Graham Marsh is available from September 2017