Tuesday, August 25, 2009 at 7:30 pm
The Sensation Seekers

The Sensation Seekers
The Doris Wishman Memorial Lecture
Presented by Eric Schaefer

During the 1960s, soft core sexploitation films became staples in urban grindhouses and in drive-ins across America, playing to an audience largely made up of eager regulars. Despite the fact that sexploitation films gradually became more graphic during the period the constant elision of the “last act,” the visual confirmation that sexual acts were actually taking place, would suggest a mounting frustration for the regulars – a kind of “filmus interuptus” that should have eventually led to a dissatisfaction with, and rejection of, the form. However, the fact that the audience did return week after week indicates that ticket-buyers found something appealing in sexploitation films even in the face of their low budgets, seedy storylines, and tawdry production values.

In this lecture, illustrated with a variety of clips and still images, film historian Eric Schaefer will discuss the “strategies of evasion” that allowed sexploitation movies to indicate that sexual acts were occurring without ever having to show visible proof – the element that became so necessary in hardcore films. Using primary documents, including exhibition records from the Fine Arts Theater in Passaic, New Jersey, he will also suggest that the appeal of sexploitation films for their audiences was not merely visual, but also derived from the stimulation of other senses. Among the films discussed will be Hip, Hot and 21 (1967), The Touch of Her Flesh (1967), Vibrations (1969) and We All Go Down (1969).

Eric Schaefer chairs the Department of Visual and Media Arts at Emerson College in Boston. He is the author of the award-winning book “Bold! Daring! Shocking! True!”: A History of Exploitation Films, 1919-1959 and numerous articles on marginal cinema. He is working on Massacre of Pleasure: A History of Sexploitation Film, 1960-1979 as well as an anthology on media and the sexual revolution.