Did you ever wonder where I get the information on those exploitation movies that I've been featuring on a weekly basis since February of this year? And why I've been running them?
Well, there is the fact that I've been a big fan of the genre since I was a callow youth of 18 or so and my buddy and I drove down to an "art film" (aka "grindhouse") theater on the sleazy side of downtown Portland OR circa 1963 to watch something called Hitchhike to Hell, a cautionary tale about young girls lured into prostitution in a remote area of what appears to be the desert of Eastern Oregon, a film which later turned out to be considered a demi-classic of the genre -- I can't seem to find a copy available for download or streaming, though. Added to that frustration is the fact that the struggle of searching for any particular exploitation film is exacerbated by the fact that most of them were released under a variety of titles. For instance, Hitchhike to Hell also appeared as Highway Girls, Highway Hell, Hitch-Hike to Hell, Going My Way Mister? and Honky Tonk Girl. They could appear under any of these titles.
But that aside, I did stumble onto this book, "Bold! Daring! Shocking! True!": A History of Exploitation Films, 1919-1959 by Eric Schaefer, and found that it was right up the alley of any fan of the genre, so it is my Book of the Month for May.
"Bold! Daring! Shocking! True!" a detailed historical examination, combined with an incisive academic analysis, of the many manifestations and permutations of the genre throughout the Golden Age of exploitation films. It breaks out into separate chapters the many subgenres of exploitation films (e.g., Sex Hygiene, Drugs, Vice, Exotic and Atrocity, Nudist and Burlesque) and provides many detailed descriptions of the films in each category. It also deals with such issues as production, distribution, advertising, exhibition and censorship of these films.
The history of the exploitation film is longer than I thought, going back, in the very early days, to some of the very first films by the Edison lab kinetiscope and Edweard Muybridge, who started making motion pictures of "naked ladies" right after he was done filming running horses for Leland Stanford so he could win a bet.
Some wag said that the first movie was a train going though a tunnel, and the second movie was some guy "reenacting" that with his girlfriend...
It also has a lengthy appendix of some 42+ pages listing all of the exploitation films that Schaefer could dig up information on. He did a ton of research on this but even he admits that he hasn't seen all of the movies listed here himself, since many of them seem to be lost. However, enough people did manage to both see them and write enough about that experience, so Schaefer can speak with some authority on them.
This book is highly recommended for anyone who is a fan of the genre, or a fan of movies in general, or of the history of movies, or of the history of morals and manners in the first half of the 20th Century.
Plus it is profusely illustrated with actual stills from the movies, many of them of a salacious nature, and copies of advertising posters.
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