Following their acclaimed Grindhouse and Video Nasties compilations, Nucleus Films have put together a collection of erotic trailers from the 1960s to the 1990s in response to the success of the bland and comparatively unadventurous Fifty Shades of Grey. Focusing on arthouse erotica, the selection combines well-known films such as In the Realm of the Senses and Emmanuelle as well as more obscure titles including The Libertine and The Frightened Woman.
Virginie Sélavy talked to Marc Morris of Nucleus Films about Pop Art Italian erotica, the importance of soundtracks and the taboos that remain.
Virginie Sélavy: Why was it important to you to respond to Fifty Shades of Grey?
Marc Morris: We’d done several compilations of grindhouse trailers. You could say it’s a shameless cash-in, but when I saw this film coming out, I thought it was going to be really tame, and a lot of people going to see this probably don’t know that there’s this underbelly of erotic cinema that was made a long time ago. And I thought it’d be nice to make people aware that there was other stuff out there way before this. A lot of people said, why didn’t you make a ‘Grindhouse Trailer Classics – Erotica’ version? But I didn’t really want grindhouse sleaze, I wanted more arthouse erotica. So that’s what drew the line for me. I wanted it to be more upmarket, more world cinema erotica. I did go see Fifty Shades of Grey and I didn’t think it was that bad, although I thought the soundtrack was dreadful, that was the worst thing about it.
Yes, it’s awful and it reminds you how amazing the soundtracks to these classic erotic films are, and how important the music is.
The film was mediocre, but it’s refreshing to see a film that’s rated 18 for an adult audience.
But there’s nothing in it.
I know. I guess it’s the whole S&M theme that gives it an 18. There’s no nudity – all you see is a flash of pubic hair, her top off, buttocks, that’s it.
The presence of pubic hair was one positive thing for me about the film.
Yes, that was refreshing, a throwback to the 70s.
But in comparison to all the films on your compilations, it is incredibly tame.
There’s more nudity in most of our trailers than there is in the whole film.
Exactly. There are actually very few sex scenes in Fifty Shades of Grey and it’s not really about S&M.
Most of the people who are seeing it, the kids who have grown up on Marvel blockbusters and PG13 Harry Potter stuff, the women who have read the books, probably think it’s really racy. I remember when I was a teenager my mum went and saw Emmanuelle. That was the cause célèbre at the time, back in 1974-5, I remember all her friends talking about it. Emmanuelle, compared to Fifty Shades of Grey, is way racier.
Absolutely. The end still feels a little edgy, even now.
When I was watching Fifty Shades of Grey I was thinking about The Story of O. It’s the same kind of relationship, the woman proving her love by doing whatever her lover wants, giving herself to him and his desires. And even now that pushes boundaries. There’s full-on nudity, whipping, it’s really strong! And I can’t believe that’s an 18 and so is Fifty Shades of Grey! You look back at those films and they are ground-breaking and confrontational, but you don’t get that anymore. I’m hoping that because of Fifty Shades of Grey we’re going to have more filmmakers out there coming up with something a little edgier. I know you had The Duke of Burgundy but hopefully there’ll be more.
The Duke of Burgundy and Nymphomaniac are more the equivalent of the 60s-70s films, not Fifty Shades of Grey.
Oh I forgot about Nymphomaniac, I can’t believe it showed in mainstream cinemas as well. We tried to market the DVD with the Fifty Shades of Erotica title specifically so that it’d be sat in DVD racks next to Fifty Shades of Grey and people would thumb through and see it, and it might educate them into seeing that there were better and racier films that were made back in those days. And it might make them realise that a lot of these films refer back to Marquis de Sade and Krafft-Ebbing and lead them to the books. I got into it through the books – I collected them as a teenager.
What’s your favourite trailer on the compilation?
The first one, The Libertine, from 1968. I love the soundtrack. The film itself is so European and visual, it’s stunning, it’s like Pop Art on film, it’s the equivalent of Diabolik in a sex film. And The Frightened Woman is another really good one. It’s like a companion piece to that film. Everything about it is so beautiful, the set design, the soundtrack, the acting.
This is what’s direly missing in something like Fifty Shades of Grey: those films are wildly inventive not just in the way they depict sex, but also visually and sonically. You said earlier that you deliberately picked films that were on the arty side.
Yes, because I thought that if I put edgier stuff in there it might frighten people off. I just wanted it to be slick, arthouse cinema erotica – sophisticated erotica.
But you still have a good range in that you go from Night Porter to more light-hearted comedies like the Tinto Brass stuff.
Yes, it was difficult because I wanted to keep it S&M themed, but there weren’t enough movies for that. So I thought I’d keep it to erotic film classics, some things that people wouldn’t have heard of, German stuff, like Seduction: The Cruel Woman. Night Porter is actually a very rare trailer. It’s not on any DVD or Blu-ray. That’s the original UK theatrical trailer. There were loads of trailers that I would have loved to have included but that I couldn’t find.
What is not on there that you would have really liked to have?
Definitely The Slave. But there’s no trailer for it. Madame Claude, lots of Italian films. I have a whole wish list for trailers I’d have liked to have included but I just couldn’t find them. We collect trailers on 35mm and I’ve got a whole archive of them and a whole network of people around the globe who have trailers, and you ask around and they say, no we’ve never seen it. They’re hard to find. There’s some very rare stuff on there, like The Libertine, you try and find this trailer anywhere.
Obviously some directors feature heavily on this compilation, Radley Metzger, Tinto Brass, Jess Franco. Are they the most important erotic directors for you?
Yes, I think they are. I was aware there are a lot of films by them, but they were known for producing erotic movies. They’re like the Russ Meyer of Europe. I was going to put in a few Russ Meyer, but they’re not quite the same, they don’t have the same slickness to them. They push boundaries, Vixen does, and so does The Immoral Mr Teas, but they’re very early. They don’t seem as boundary-breaking as some of the other stuff. And I thought I’d lighten it up a bit with some of the Tinto Brass stuff, make it a bit wittier. It’s difficult balancing it out.
Did you feel that you should include some of the big sex films of the period like Last Tango in Paris or Deep Throat?
For Last Tango in Paris I had a trailer but I didn’t include it because it was so boring. It’s just a selection of stills, there’s nothing in it. Deep Throat is a hardcore porn film and the trailer is hardcore so I didn’t want to include that. The only film that we’ve included a trailer for that was hardcore is The Image, and that’s the soft version of the trailer. I didn’t include any hardcore stuff apart from that one because I think it’s an important film. I’d like to have included The Story of Joanna as well, the Damiano film, but I couldn’t find a trailer for that.
What about Robbe-Grillet?
I looked at those but I didn’t want any black and white stuff. I did consider also including the trailer to Quiet Days in Clichy, but it was just a load of old ugly blokes shagging young girls, it’s a bit unreasonable, isn’t it. It didn’t seem to fit. So with that in mind, Jake [West, the other Nucleus Films producer] and I decided not to include any black and white trailers.
The trailers go from the 60s to the early 90s, why did you go into the 90s?
Because I couldn’t find enough trailers. People have said to me, why don’t you do a Volume 2? But it was hard enough to do that volume. I could do something that wasn’t as arthouse, I could do a sexual roughie one, but the BBFC probably wouldn’t like that. I think the most roughie-ish stuff I put on there was the Joe Sarno stuff, like Female Animal.
Was the BBFC a consideration when you were putting the compilation together?
I thought that it wouldn’t really fit with the rest of the stuff. America at the time, and a lot of other countries, put out a lot of roughies, with rape and things like that, and I didn’t think that was very erotic. I wanted to keep it consensual.
There’s one film that stands out in there in the sense that you don’t have much Japanese stuff but you have Blind Beast.
I love that film. I could have put more in there but I worry about owners of rights. Some studios are a bit difficult. There were hundreds of pink movies made but it’s difficult where to draw the line.
So why did you include that one particularly?
Because it’s a favourite of mine. It’s beautiful, it’s a bit like the Italian Pop Art stuff, it’s a Japanese Pop Art film. Everything about it is so mesmerising. It’s like The Frightened Woman Japanese-style. It’s a film people must see!
When you put together the Video Nasties trailer compilations you made two excellent documentaries that put the film in context. Did you think of doing the same thing for this one?
We did, but we couldn’t think of anybody who could talk about it. We needed someone well-known, and it took
me so long to put this together I didn’t have time to go and film anybody, so we thought we’d let the trailers
speak for themselves. We couldn’t find anybody who would do it justice. There’s such a hang-up about sexual material.
Interview by Virginie Sélavy
Watch the trailer: