When Russ Meyer made his ‘nudie-cutie’ picture The Immoral Mr Teas in 1959, he probably didn’t expect that it would be recognised as the start of a whole new film genre – sexploitation – or that its 50th anniversary would be celebrated at a prestigious national film theatre. But the BFI Southbank’s new season merely reflects a current burgeoning interest in movie-maker outsiders, which informed Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez’s Grind House project and the recent celebration of Spain’s juvenile-delinquent cinema, Quinqui, in Barcelona. Sexploitation is also responsible for some treasurable poster artwork of the period, such as the sleazy twist on the photo love-story format adopted by notorious showman David F Friedman’s The Defilers. Julian Marsh, curator of the BFI’s Sexploitation season, says of The Defilers, ‘The film is certainly no love story. It’s a disturbing example of the “roughie” sub-genre. There are no big names in the film, so instead they are selling the premise in a cheap-to-produce two-colour poster that’s very lurid and powerful. It’s also text-heavy. You don’t have one tagline – you hit them with three or four.’ According to Marsh, sexploitation marketing ‘always promises more than it can deliver’, although the genre’s undoing was the arrival of hardcore at the end of the 1960s. ‘Give them enough, but never quite enough to satisfy them, was the motto,’ says Marsh, ‘and they’ll keep coming back for more. Full hardcore gave it all away.
‘Sexploitation runs at London’s BFI Southbank cinema from 2 September to 14 October