When a primitive Neanderthal scratched petroglyphs to chronicle the day's hunting with Fred & the boys, you knew Sneaky Pete was standing nearby, with a giant ember glowing brightly above his creative, crafty little head. The adult mind (courtesy of Sneaky Pete) will always be among the first to exploit the potential of a new technological milestone – from still images to moving film, home video, DVD, and most explosively the Internet – and make it naughty, but fun.
As Cult Epic's debut collection of vintage erotica demonstrates, Europe's more open attitudes towards sex went beyond simplistic, monotonous, erotic loops. Recording quaint vignettes of undress, and in rare cases concocting short stories with occasional costumes and sets, the French erotica in this collection (some apparently from the 1920s) has a certain charm; it's not unusual to have subjects laughing at each other and to the camera person, and though everything ultimately ends in a horizontal position (some featuring familiar hardcore visuals), the use of indoor and outdoor locations adds to the overall quaintness.
The quality of the films is variable, as some were clearly in delicate shape after years of cloistered usage, and others were photographed by novices. Whether the footage was commercially or privately developed, the filmmakers already had a language template, refined and standardized by studio filmmakers.
22 films are collected in this set: “Deux petites bonnes” (2:29), “La vie Parisienne” (2:14), “La sauvageonne” (2:04), “Les aventures de Ben Ali” (2:22), “Scenes d'interieur de Mr. X” (12:19), “Scenes d'exterieur de Mr. X” (10:07), “Etape en foret” (4:04), “Flagellation en bord de Marne” (1:11), “Jeunes filles sans uniforme” (1:16), “Dressge au foret” (3:23), “Sous les caresses du martinet” (2:21), “Nudist bar” (6:43), “En vacances” (6:00), “La nouvelle scretaire” (8:35), “Trois gouttes de rosee” (2:44), “La grande bagarre” (8:11), “La tournee des grands duc” (5:40), “Le verrous” (1:43), “Mousquetaire au restaurant” (9:12), “Amour et ballerie” (5:42), “Mektoud, fantaisie Arabe” (6:10), “Le sage de butterfly” (5:58), “Surpris par le garde-champetre” (4:58).
A good measure of the collection also preserves heterosexual and gay copulation. In “La sage de butterfly” – riffing the famous Madame Butterfly tale – the returning American plays with a servant lad before finally reprising his relationship with Butterfly (herself having kept busy with the maid). “Mektoud, fantaisie Arabe,” another elaborate short, showcases both persuasions, and the Deco-styled “Nudist bar” deals with a familiar threesome during the after hours.
The best short on this wildly entertaining disc is “Mousquetaire au restaurant,” where costumed performers offer their home (and selves) to a traveling musketeer. Though many other films in the collection contain French intertitles (sadly, without English subtitles, so bilingual viewers will reap the intended gags), the makers of this spoof not only inscribed each card with wit and bawdiness, but drew amusing caricatures of the unfolding events.
This title is available separately or as part of The Vintage Erotica Collection boxed set, which houses volumes Anno 1920, Anno 1930, Anno 1940, and Anno 1950, and Anno 1960 in slim cases.
© 2004 Mark R. Hasan