Judge Gordon Sullivan never found anything but pinball and video games in his local arcades. Rats!
5 Hours of Rare Erotica!
Nude in Dracula's Castle: Amazing, Rare & Erotic 8mm Home Movies is a collection of thirty-four nudie "loops" from the postwar era. According to the included booklet, these loops were generally exhibited in arcades in machines that caused the film to run continuously, thus a "loop." These loops are also distinguished from the more popular (at least in the public imagination) "stag films." The booklet points out that stag films are explicitly sexual, whereas these "loops" tend to focus on nudity divorced from an explicit sexual act. Judging by the material included here, these loops include everything from women basically stripteasing to women playing at the beach who just happen to be nude. There's even a short that features a woman shaving her pubic hair. The big exception is "Nude in Dracula's Castle" which is more of a narrative short film. It follows a young woman who stops at a house and is menaced by an older gentleman. It's a cross between Carnival of Souls and Nosferatu, with some nudity thrown in.
There's a lot to like about this release from Silent Key. For an historical view, I'm glad these shorts, which document a seldom discussed aspect of American culture, are being preserved and disseminated. They tell us a lot about the tastes, attitudes, and production techniques of the postwar era. For that alone this is a release that belongs out in the wild. I'm also totally in love with the music the producers have chosen. I can seriously see turning off the video for this disc and piping the music into a cocktail party. I also appreciate the attempt at an introduction to "nudie loops" at the beginning of the booklet, which gives some context for the DVD. I can't complain about the audio and video quality, either. Neither is particularly spectacular, with obvious print damage and crackling sound, but for celluloid ephemera that weren't supposed to last, they're fine. Also, I'm betting that for most viewers, the beat-up quality will only enhance viewing pleasure. We also get a Secret Key trailer vault, and I have to say I love the trailers for some of the movies they put out. They almost make the films redundant.
However, this isn't a perfect release. It's poised somewhere between a public domain dump-a-thon (you know, those fifty-movie packs with crappy transfers and no extras) and a more authoritative release which would include more context and historical information. As it is, this set is a kind of tease. We don't get much production information or a description of any of the preservation of this material. I would have loved to see even tentative dating of the shorts (beyond the suggestion in the booklet that more vulva equals later in the '60s), and some information on the collectors from which this material is sourced would have been nice. I also wish there was a little more truth in advertising going on. The box promises "Amazing, Rare & Erotic 8mm Home Movies," and I won't quibble with the first part about them being "amazing, rare & erotic." However, the booklet states that loops are "presumably shot in 16mm," so it's hard to know which it is. It's also misleading to call these home movies, since they were produced for public consumption, unlike most home movies I'm aware of. Those picking up this release to get a glimpse into anyone's "private" life will be disappointed.
So far, I've reviewed this release from a film studies context on its presentation and historical significance. However, I assume that a segment of the audience for these discs includes those looking primarily its erotic appeal. Those viewers should understand that this release is not what we generally consider pornography today. Yes, there is nudity, but there aren't really any sex acts going on (a few women touch themselves suggestively, but it is generally brief). Instead, it's presented more as women being women: they undress, they move, they play with a beach ball. It's intended to be erotic, but much of it isn't explicitly sexual. Obviously that's to some people's taste, but the contemporary viewer should know that this isn't anything like today's pornography.
Generally, this is a strong release from Secret Key. The breadth of shorts available on these two discs is impressive, and it's almost worth buying for the music alone. Although I would have preferred a little more information on each short, for fans and collectors of postwar erotica, this is a solid set.
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