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Category:    Home > Reviews > Documentary > Filmmaking > Erotic > Taboo - The Beginning of Erotic Cinema

Taboo – The Beginning Of Erotic Cinema


Picture: C+     Sound: C+     Extras: C+     Documentary: B



In the case of almost any kind of filmmaking, going back to either a genre’s roots or an older approach often is a smart thing to do.  In films that are “erotic” or more specifically, show sex of a softcore or especially hardcore kind, that would be useless and pointless.  That the hardcore XXX sex industry has gone virtually all to taped productions since the early 1980s, despite its still-massive Billion-dollar annual profits, is concession enough that titillation and profits with every kind of thing they can show and sell is all they are about.  Even Paul Thomas Anderson’s Boogie Nights (1997) shows how there was an actual pride among those who were shooting on film.  Taboo – The Beginning Of Erotic Cinema is a surprisingly good, thorough and informative look at all that proceeded the XXX hardcore cycle of the 1970s, starting with silent film materials in the 1920s.


The best thing about this program is all the archival clips it manages to put together in its explanation of the rise of said works includes the many shorts that slowly got things started.  This is well researched and very entertaining on many levels.  Though nothing very hardcore is shown, this is still a very hard R-rated type program in nature to the point that an advisory menu pops up when you first play the DVD.  I have never run into this before, but it is here after the credits.


This program is coy, but never idiotic, maturely handling this history.  Usually, many texts on the subject gloss over these early decades, instead focusing on the softcore and nude films of the 1960s, including cheesy Radley Metzger films we have reviewed many of on this site.  This is followed by the battles over censorship and how eventually the counterculture in part made the breakout of the sex film industry possible.  Know that also like many of those texts, it does note the underground side of things and the program is strictly on the heterosexual films with Gayness as incidental, thought-police lesbianism for straight men and no subcategories.  This is a mythbreaker beyond the obvious that the 1970s is not a time where hardcore films suddenly arrived as if no one thought of them before.


Bettie Page and the first bondage cycle is covered as the films go to full color, which is what virtually all of them have been shot in ever since.  The main program is bookended by key 1970s trailer footage and the latter half has the infamous Sylvester Stallone XXX film in its re-released form as The Italian Stallion.  That trailer is shown in its entirety.  He is named “Stud” and his ability to dance has to be seen to be believed.  With so much sexuality all over the place, yet no one seeming to be able to still talk about intimacy, writer/director Brandon Christopher has created a very useful work with film study value beyond the XXX world.


The full frame 1.33 X 1 image is typical of documentary production and the various quality throughout is to be expected.  The Dolby Digital 2.0 sound is simple stereo at best, though all the XXX footage that actually has sound is monophonic.  Though some widescreen and even 3-D XXX films were made in back in the day, we do not have any record as to if any of them have any stereo or multi-channel stereo sound.  On DVD, none of them pre-Penthouse Magazine’s Caligula has been issued this way to date.  Maybe HDTV will change that.  Extras include previews for related Passport titles, including one called Striptease, though it seems to overlap with this show a bit, and bonus footage includes the following early silent footage expanded from the main feature:


A Roman Holiday (uncut, 1930s)

Caught In The Barbed Wire

Nude Diversion

Uncle Si & The Sirens (man builds “TV” of radio parts which happens to capture constant images of nude women in the outdoors)

Anonymous French Shorts

Dressage Au Fouet



Nothing hardcore, but very amusing just the same, which is good for some laughs and history that cuts through the pretension of how the post-XXX taped cinema is now.  We’ll never see an Internet equivalent of this.



-   Nicholas Sheffo


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