Secret Key Motion Pictures // 2010 // 138 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Gordon Sullivan // October 29th, 2010
"Features the leading topless and pin-up stars of the day"
We like to think of history in terms of great people and huge revolutions. So, it's no surprise that when the history of pornography is talked about, home video is talked about as a revolutionary force in the consumption of dirty movies. Suddenly regular citizens could enjoy erotic entertainment without having to sully themselves in a grindhouse with a crowd. Of course, it's not really that simple. As 42nd Street Pete points out on Busty Bombshells of the Atomic Age, as far back as the 1950s it was possible for a discerning gentleman or lady to join a "movie of the month" club. Once joined, the prospective perv could expect at least fifty feet of 8mm film in the mail each month, filled with busty ladies in various states of undress.
Busty Bombshells of the Atomic Age is a collection of such "loops" or "stag reels" from the 1950s and 1960s. They're almost exclusively in black-and-white, they each last around three minutes. They all feature "natural" women, usually in panties, stockings, and garters engaging in some kind of mundane activity like sitting down, hair brushing, or simply turning for the camera. There are some completely nude women, but for the most part shots of nudity below the waist are few and far between.
This collection of loops, called Busty Bombshells of the Atomic Age because of their date and the kind of women featured, is pretty tame even by stag standards. There's no hint of the bondage kink of Betty Page, nor is there the naturalist, documentary "nudie cutie" feel, either. These really are just reels that contain footage of topless women, with no muss and no fuss.
On the plus side, this collection is an archival dream. I'm not a scholar of 1950s stag films, but I'm happy to know that someone out there is preserving them and making them available to consumers. Considering the drastic changes that pornography has undergone in just the decades since Deep Throat, it's nice to have a reminder that the erotic wasn't always about hardcore shots of sex and degrading men and women. It's also nice that the loops run in sequence, so viewers can put the DVD in and get over two straight hours of stag. The presentation of this DVD is meticulous, with lovely liner notes that set up the era's porn, including descriptions of each reel and some screen shots.
On the negative side, this release is probably not for general viewership. I'm guessing most people won't find half-naked women in black-and-white terribly arousing, and with the ubiquity of Internet pornography, this is probably not the first thing people looking for arousal will go for. The set itself is also a little awkwardly put together. Each reel is separated by a title card announcing Busty Bombshells of the Atomic Age over some A-bomb test footage. After the third or fourth time it got really annoying, and it would make it hard to sit through this entire DVD. Also, 42nd Street Pete's persona is also pretty darn odd. He's not quite used-car-salesman-sleazy, but he also doesn't come off as cleanly as someone like Joe Bob Briggs.
The DVD itself is about as good as anyone could expect for a bunch of obscure stag loops. The source reels are in pretty decent shape. There are some scratches, flickers, and dust, but the transfer looks surprisingly good considering the vintage of these shorts. The sound, such as it is, is a simple stereo mix of primarily sound effects. There aren't any bonuses aside from a "trailer vault" for a number of Secret Key releases and the aforementioned booklet.
Busty Bombshells of the Atomic Age is a niche release that does an excellent job preserving a generally forgotten bit of American pop culture. This probably isn't a must-own release outside of the hardcore stag-lovers groups. There are no loops featuring the really big names like Bettie Page, so this isn't the first loop collection the curious should start with. However, those who've made their way through some of the more famous collections and want a wider taste of what was available should give this disc a look.
These ladies may be busty, but they're not guilty.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Secret Key Motion Pictures
* Full Frame
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
Running Time: 138 Minutes
Release Year: 2010
MPAA Rating: Not Rated