History of Sex in Cinema:
|Movie Title/Year and Film/Scene Description|
Ridley Scott's space science-fiction horror film Alien (1979) was extremely suspenseful as it told about a menacing, unstoppable, carnivorous, stowaway, hermaphroditic Demon beast - an adult creature with both a phallic head and an open, dripping vaginal mouth.
It was rich with Freudian sexual metaphors and sexually-charged images and symbols of sexual violation and biological reproduction:
The Alien Egg
The "Birth" of the Alien
Being There (1979)
The provocative black comedy Being There (1979) from director Hal Ashby, based upon Jerzy Kosinski's 1971 novella, was a wonderful, insightful tale that satirized politics, celebrity, media-obsession and television.
In a later scene, the main character - reclusive, illiterate, passive and simple-minded gardener Chance (Peter Sellers), declared: "I like to watch." He was in the company of unsatisfied wife Eve Rand (Shirley MacLaine). His most famous line about his joy of watching TV was misinterpreted or misunderstood by the amorous Eve as an invitation to voyeurism:
She viewed his statement as an invitation to sexually arouse and stimulate herself. She complied with his request by reclining on the floor. She laid on a full-sized bear-skin rug while grabbing the bedpost. Meanwhile, he was watching an exercise program on TV from the nearby bed and mimicking the exercises (he even performed a hand-stand), oblivious to her sexual pleasure nearby.
Beneath the Valley of the Ultra-Vixens! (1979)
Independent film-maker and producer Russ Meyer's ("King Leer") last theatrical feature film was this vulgar and crude adult comedy (co-written with critic Roger Ebert - with pseudonym R. Hyde). It was a cartoonish parody of Beneath the Valley of the Dolls (1970). Its tagline was: "Six Chicks in search of a Cluck!...and so hilariously funny!"
The lewd and unbelievable film was mostly a series of exaggerated soft-core vignettes. None of Meyer's films included penetrative sex - which was where the industry was heading at the time, although this film came close. The introduction of pornography on videocassettes had spelled the end of theatrical films of this type that could only be screened at porno theaters with much harder-core fare.
It starred a number of big-breasted females as was typical of all of Meyer's films, including main star Francesca "Kitten" Natividad (the director's wife) as Americana Small Town wife Lavonia. She had typical sexual problems with her anal-sex obsessed, redneck husband Lamar Shedd (Ken Kerr), a "rear window man." After unsuccessful in trying to seduce him for straight sex when he completely ignored her, she pursued others for sex, including teenaged Rhett (Steve Casey) while skinny-dipping in a lake. She also disguised herself as Lola Langusta with a wig and Mexican accent, and took up stripping at the local club - where Lamar happened to be drinking beer, but didn't recognize her. She drugged his drink, then raped him via normal vaginal sex in a squalid upstairs bedroom to try and cure him.
Another town member was busty blonde radio evangelist Miss Eufala Roop (Ann Marie) who enjoyed love-making in a coffin with the local funeral home owner Martin Bormann (Henry Rowland). Lavonia also had lesbian sex via a long double-ended dildo with doctor's nurse Flovilla Thatch (Sharon Hill), and Lamar was eventually saved from his affliction and preserved his marriage after a visit to healing Miss Roop for a drowning baptismal rape. There was also a short reprising cameo by Meyer favorite Uschi Digard as SuperSoul.
Sister Eufaula Roop
Nurse Flovilla Thatch
Caligula (1979, It./US)
This was Hollywood's first big-budget ($17 million), bizarre blockbuster sexploitation epic of 'classy' hardcore sex and gory violence - and it became both a critical and commercial disaster. Originally self-rated as X and shown as unrated in a 156-minute version, it was then severely edited for an R-rating down to about 105 minutes. It was the last major attempt of its era to include graphic sexual content in a mainstream film.
This objectionable and depraved movie, condemned as worthless fantasy trash, arrived just before the new conservatism that took place during the Reagan administration and its subsequent Meese Commission Study of Pornography (finally published in mid-1986). The film's director Tinto Brass had only one major film in his resume, Salon Kitty (1976) about a German brothel used by the Nazis. And in addition, the film was produced and financed by Penthouse's Bob Guccione from a script by Gore Vidal (who later disowned it and removed his name).
It was noted as the most expensive pornographic film ever made, and was originally intended to be high-art (although it turned out to be excessive cinematic sleaze), with major and notable stars (Malcolm McDowell as the crazed and corrupt Roman emperor Caligula, John Gielgud, Helen Mirren, and Peter O'Toole).
An encounter between two lesbians Messalina (Penthouse Pet Marjorie Thoreson (as Anneka Di Lorenzo)) and Agrippina (Penthouse Pet Lori Wagner) was filmed later and inserted for prurient interest, to depict explicit oral sex. The sordid film also included graphic and steamy sex scenes of sexual depravity and orgiastic decadence, including a large-scale orgy, a phallic swing, masturbation, rape, sleeping with a horse, and incest (Caligula's interest in his sister), among other thngs.
Part of Censored Hard-core Lesbian Scene
Hair was first presented as a controversial, cult musical play from 1968-1972 with memorable songs ("The Age of Aquarius" among others). It was then made into a major film studio event by Czech director Milos Forman - a bit outdated by the time it arrived in the late 1970s.
It featured rebellious anti-establishment and anti-war themes and the hippie lifestyle of the late 60s. The film's political viewpoint was clear from the following quote: "The draft is white people sending black people to make war on the yellow people to defend the land they stole from the red people!"
The film began with the departure of draftee Claude Hooper Bukowski (John Savage) on a bus from Oklahoma to NYC, where he encountered a tribal group of long-haired hippies in Central Park, led by free-spirited George Berger (Treat Williams in his first leading film role). During the few days before he was shipped off to Nevada, he and the hippies smoked hash, crashed a wealthy family's dinner party, and Claude met the unattainable love interest of his life - rich high society debutante Sheila Franklin (young Beverly D'Angelo). During an LSD trip, Claude imagined what it would be like to be married to Sheila. When he was deployed for training at boot camp in Nevada, Berger hijacked the car of Sheila's brother and drove the hippie group to the base, where he swapped identities with Claude to allow him time to see Sheila.
The film's minor plot twist was that during the afternoon's picnic, Berger was shipped off to Vietnam (in Claude's place) - and was killed in action. His gravestone revealed that Berger died in Vietnam on April 6, 1968 at the age of 22 1/2, as the group sang: "Let the Sunshine In." Massive protest riots erupted and groups of young people surrounded the White House.
Sexual frankness included skinny-dipping in Central Park at night, when Sheila (stripped down to her panties) jumped into the water after Claude. A prank was pulled on them while they swam - Berger stole their clothes. Unamused, Sheila was forced to run half-naked up a hillside and hail a passing cab to return home. Sheila also went topless in the front seat of a car when stealing an officer's uniform in order to help enter the Nevada army base.
Another indication of sexual freedom at the time was the song "Sodomy," full of sexual terms:
Hanover Street (1979, UK)
Director Peter Hyams' WWII war-time romantic drama with a sweeping John Barry score featured a love triangle between:
The plot revolved around the question posed to David: should Margaret's husband Paul have his life saved or sacrificed during combat?
Writer/director Paul Schrader's film, similar to John Ford's western The Searchers (1956), told about the one-man crusade of conservative businessman and religious Michigan Calvinist Jake Van Dorn (George C. Scott), a single parent.
His obsessed objective was to find his misguided daughter Kristen (Ilah Davis), who had run away from Grand Rapids, Michigan to California to join the world of the underground porn film industry. The pornographic film-making industry was shown, for instance, in the filming of a porn scene in a cheap motel room, between a male and two females (porn actress Niki (Season Hubley) wearing a wig, and Serena (real-life porn star Serena)).
It included the scene of the screening of an ultra-low budget 8mm X-rated scratchy peep-show porno, titled Slave of Love, of Jake's daughter found by sleazy private investigator Andy Mast (Peter Boyle) (with Jake's anguished screaming "TURN IT OFF!") as he watched the sex unfold ("Oh my God! That's my daughter!").
In other scenes, Van Dorn visited the "Les Girls" strip club in Los Angeles that featured a titillating, topless re-enactment of the Darth Vader vs. Luke Skywalker lightsaber battle on the main stage. The busty topless clerk (Linda Morell) told him that it was $5 for two minutes in one of the private booths, the price of one token. She had a coin-change maker strapped to her waist and conveniently provided change.
Van Dorn spoke by a red booth phone to sweet-natured stripper/prostitute and porn actress Niki (Season Hubley), as he posed as a porn-film producer. She boldly placed both legs up on the window glass to display herself to him. She became a surrogate daughter to him as they allied together.
The ending's reunion was predictable, but heart-breaking and revealing, when the desperate Jake finally located Kristen in San Francisco. Van Dorn let Kristen decide whether to come home or not (although he begged her to return), but she rejected him in anger for not loving her:
Saddened and crying, the emotionally-challenged Van Dorn asserted: "I do love you. I just never knew how to show you. It's very difficult for me - nobody able to talk. I'll try. It's just my damnable pride." When she pleaded for her father to "get away," he promised to leave her alone ("Do you really want me to go?") However she relented and changed her mind ("No"), and he responded: "Then you take me home" as he reached out his hand to her.
In the final scene on the street, Niki wordlessly walked away from Van Dorn - she was resigned to her life on the streets because it was all she knew.
Peep-Show Film with Jake's Daughter Kristen (Ilah Davis)
Strip Club Clerk (Linda Morell)
Filming a Scene in The Porn Industry
Sex-worker Felice (Leslie Ackerman)
This R-rated, raunchy and witless campus comedy was typical of the late 70s and 80s (that played on late-night cable TV) - it followed on the successful heels of Animal House (1978) and other soft-core "cheerleader" films of the time.
It boasted a screenplay scripted by two women (Cheri Caffaro and Joan Buchanan). The setting was Faireville University (aka F.U.), and conflict between two groups of sorority girls: the blue bloods at Pi ("Perfectly Ideal Girls") sorority, and the sorority rejects (H.O.T.S.):
Shenanigans included a swimming pool party with a kissing booth (and Danny Bonaduce singing), topless parachuting by Boom Boom Bangs (Angela Aames), interrupted topless sunbathing with banana cream pies, a housekeeping robot, a slinky seal, Sugar Bear (the rival school's mascot), a jock-strap raid, a lecherous dean (Ken Olfson), and a wet T-shirt contest (and cat fight) at a disco party.
The climactic sequence was an all-girl topless-strip football game in which the H.O.T.S. females wore red and white-striped bikinis and the opposing team green bikinis. Every time a team scored a touchdown, the opposing team had to remove clothing. There were two memorable topless football huddles of the attractive players, taken from the ground's point of view.
(Susan Lynn Kiger)
Boom Boom Bangs
l to r: Stephanie (Sandy Johnson) and Cynthia (K.C. Winkler)
The Lady in Red (1979)
Actress Pamela Sue Martin, better known for her role as cute, good-girl 'Nancy Drew' in TV's Nancy Drew Mysteries in the late 70s, and in ABC's TV long-running soap Dynasty in the early 1980s, starred in this low-budget gangster (fictionalized) biopic produced by Roger Corman, with a script written by future director John Sayles (his first major screenplay).
It was another Bonnie and Clyde knock-off, coming after Corman's own Bloody Mama (1970), Big Bad Mama (1974) with Angie Dickinson, Martin Scorsese's similar Boxcar Bertha (1972) with Barbara Hershey, and John Milius' Dillinger (1973) from AIP.
Shedding her former image in this coming-of-age tale of a female in jeopardy - laced with social commentary, Martin's breakout lead role in a feature film was as Polly Franklin - the daughter of a strictly-religious farmer in the 1930s. Abused and tyrannized as a poor farm girl, she left and ended up in Chicago. There, she was ill-paid and exploited in a sewing sweat-shop working for sleazy manager Patek (Dick Miller).
She was arrested as a dancer after propositioning a cop in a dance-hall and was subjected to a brief stint in a woman's prison (and subjected to a strip-search and line-up by a tyrannical, white-coated warden). In the scene, the naked female inmates were threatened by Alice (Nancy Parsons), who spoke menacingly while adjusting latex gloves on her hands:
To escape incarceration, she became a professional hooker in a bordello run by immigrant madam Anna Sage (Louise Fletcher). Eventually, she became the inaccurately-dubbed 'lady in red' - girlfriend to notorious Depression-era bank robber John Dillinger (Robert Conrad).
(Pamela Sue Martin)
Writer/director Blake Edwards' sex comedy's title helped to popularize the objectification and rating of women on a perfection scale from 1-10.
It told about how mid-life crisis suffering song writer George Webber (Dudley Moore), with a long suffering stage actress girlfriend Samantha Taylor (Julie Andrews), followed a fantasy girl of his dreams to Acapulco, where he voyeuristically saw the nubile newlywed Jenny Miles/Hanley honeymooning (Bo Derek in her screen debut and in the role that made her a sex symbol).
This was the film's indelible and iconic image of her corn-rowed, beaded hair (which set off a national frenzy) and skimpy bathing suit while sunning herself and then running along the beach in slow-motion.
After saving her husband David from the water, he was rewarded by her. She greeted him at the door in only a towel, slick and wet from a recent shower. He was seduced in a darkly-lit scene - memorably played to the sounds of Maurice Ravel's "Bolero." She wanted to have him undress quickly, so that the record wouldn't have to be restarted.
History Overview | Reference Intro | Pre-1920s | 1920-26 | 1927-29 | 1930-1931 | 1932 | 1933 | 1934-37 | 1938-39
1940-44 | 1945-49 | 1950-54 | 1955-56 | 1957-59 | 1960-61 | 1962-63 | 1964 | 1965-66 | 1967 | 1968 | 1969
1970 | 1971 | 1972 | 1973 | 1974 | 1975 | 1976 | 1977 | 1978 | 1979 | 1980 | 1981 | 1982 | 1983 | 1984 | 1985 | 1986 | 1987 | 1988 | 1989
1990 | 1991 | 1992-1 | 1992-2 | 1993 | 1994-1 | 1994-2 | 1995-1 | 1995-2 | 1996-1 | 1996-2 | 1997-1 | 1997-2 | 1998-1 | 1998-2 | 1999-1 | 1999-2
2000-1 | 2000-2 | 2001-1 | 2001-2 | 2002-1 | 2002-2 | 2003-1 | 2003-2 | 2004-1 | 2004-2 | 2005-1 | 2005-2 | 2006-1 | 2006-2
2007-1 | 2007-2 | 2008 | 2009 | 2010 | 2011 | 2012 | 2013
Index to All Decades, Years and Features
- History of Sex in CinemaA year-by-year look at the films, scandals and changing laws.
- History of Erotic FilmsEverything you ever wanted to know from the first sex symbol to the birth of porn.
- Movies That Challenged RatingsA ranked movie list of 10 milestone sexy films that challenged the ratings.
- Sexy Hollywood BombshellsA brief history of Hollywood's sirens including Monroe, Mansfield, and Mamie.
- Top 100 Controversial MoviesMany of these included controversial sex and violence.
- Sexiest Films of All-TimeOver 75 of the hottest films in movie history.