A sexploitation film is an independently produced, low-budget grindhouse or drive-in feature film, generally associated with the 1960s and '70s, that centers around the exhibition of gratuitous nudity and/or non-pornographic sexual content, including acts of violence or perversity. These features comprise a specific subgenre of exploitation films.
Sexploitation films come in two main categories:
- Films set in nudist camps and fantasy-based voyeuristic sex comedies were popular in the 1959-1969 period. They evolved from the plotless nudist camp documentaries of the '30s-'50s. The Supreme Court had previously ruled that films set in nudist camps were exempt from the general ban on film nudity as they were deemed to be educational. By 1967 simplistic tales of passive voyeurism gave way to more plot-driven stories structured around non-explicit sex scenes. This film cycle became the prototype for the nudity-filled, R-rated sex comedy that has remained popular since the early 1970s.
- Films featuring violence against women, including kidnapping, rape, murder, drugs, degradation, torture, bondage, whipping, sex slavery and prostitution. These gritty, black-and-white crime dramas emerged in the mid-1960s as a dark and sleazy alternative to the colorful, light-hearted nudie comedies that were beginning to grow stale. Starting in the early '70s, the roughie concept led to the creation of other subgenres such as women in prison films, nazisploitation, erotic horror, and violent pornography.
- 1 History: tease, sleaze and venereal disease
- 2 Films of the fifties
- 3 Nudie-Cuties in the sixties
- 4 The origin of the roughie
- 5 The New York underground
- 6 France and Japan
- 7 Hollywood roughies
- 8 End of an era
- 9 The seventies: porn and roughie-horror
- 10 Mainstream sadomasochism
- 11 The 1980s to the present
- 12 See also
- 13 Links
History: tease, sleaze and venereal disease
The roots of sexploitation go back to the innocent nudist films and melodramatic exploitation potboilers that emerged in the 1930s. The earliest European and Californian nudist colony features date back to titles such as This Nude World (1932), Elysia (1933), The Unashamed (1938) and They Wear No Clothes (1941). These were presented in an almost clinical fashion as documentaries of sociological value. Edited footage from these films became fodder for countless re-releases up to the early '60s.
There were also many "educational" ethnographic documentaries and docu-dramas such as Virgins of Bali (1932), Isle of Paradise (1932), and Legong a.k.a. Dance of the Virgins (1935) that showcased scenes of topless native girls in exotic locations around the world.
Exploitation films are a somewhat different breed. These are low-budget, independent melodramas that embraced sordid and shocking topics that were unacceptible for mainstream films. To get around censorship laws, these lurid exposes usually adopted a quasi-documentary format with a moralizing on-screen host or narrator burdened with the unhappy duty of alerting the public to the sleaze and immorality threatening decent society. Today, the majority of these films — especially the camp classic Reefer Madness (1936) — with their strident, preachy tone and overwrought hysterics, are enjoyed for their ironic, unintentional humor.
Scores of these cynical, crudely-made films were churned out to make a quick profit. They were rarely seen in mainstream theaters. Instead, the makers had to shop them around from town to town in "roadshow" fashion where they were screened in makeshift venues for an adults-only audience. Behind the convenient facade of the moralistic public service film, thrill-seeking audiences could gape at the forbidden fruit of on-screen nudity, wild drug parties, the degradation of prostitution, promiscuous sex, teen pregnancy, abortion, the horrors of venereal disease, and other controversial topics.
Thus, brief nude scenes of women appeared in Maniac (1934) and Sex Madness (1937), with skinny-dipping sequences in Damaged Lives (1933), Marihuana (1936) and Child Bride (1938), a tawdry film about old geezer hillbillies marrying underage girls.
Whipping and spanking scenes were also exploited and eroticized for the first time for the purpose of selling theater tickets. The best example is Slaves in Bondage (1937), a mild expose on big city prostitution. Two lingerie-clad hookers in a specialized "Oriental Room" are seen playfully wrestling and spanking each other with sadomasochistic glee.
Lash of the Penitentes (1937) pretends to blow the lid off the secretive religious rites of fanatical flagellation cults in Mexico. But what it really offers is a hackneyed drama and some dark, murky footage of a topless Mexican girl being whipped to atone for her sins.
Films of the fifties
These Girls Are Fools, aka Hell is a Place Called Hollywood (1950), from an uncredited director, is a remarkable 20-minute short subject film about an innocent girl lured to Hollywood with dreams of movie stardom. Her first picture is an "art film" that requires nudity and skinnydipping. Unable to get any more film offers, she is forced to pose as a nude model for trashy girlie magazines. Near the end a photoshoot has her wrists bound, lash marks on her back, and a man menacing her with a whip. The basic story of corrupted innocence would be used in countless roughies in the following decade. (Note: an edited-down shorter version of the film can be viewed on YouTube and the Internet Archive and is also available on the double feature DVD release of College Girl Confidential / Motel Confidential from Legend House.)
Exploitation producer George Weiss kept the sleaze ball rolling with racy striptease films (Hollywood After Midnight, 1954), "cat-fight" female wrestling features (Racket Girls aka Pin Down Girls, 1951), and seedy melodramas on drug addiction (Dance Hall Racket and Girl Gang, both 1954).
Weiss also produced Ed Wood's first movie, the notoriously nutty transvestite treatise Glen or Glenda (1953). During an extended dream sequence, Weiss added bizarre scenes (taken from another project) of scantily-clad women being bound, gagged, and whipped. This appears to be inspired by the underground film-loops of Irving Klaw. At this time Klaw was quietly working in New York with Bettie Page and other models producing the first American fetish film-loops devoted to erotic bondage, spanking, and pony play. (French stag films with BDSM elements date back to the 1930s.)
Weiss also cobbled together old nudist colony footage for features like Nudist Life (1961). A few years later he would play a major role in the creation of the innovative roughie genre.
European films were a few years ahead in creating full-fledged movies that exploited nudity. A young Sophia Loren was a topless harem girl in Era Lui, Si, Si! (1951); the German Liane, Jungle Goddess (1956) offers a half-naked female Tarzan; and in England, George Harrison Marks released Naked as Nature Intended (1961). Marks later worked for the spanking/caning magazine Janus and created Kane. He made a number of spanking videos and softcore pornographic films in the '80s and '90s.
In the U.S., nudist camp documentaries faded away after the more cinematic nudie-cutie comedies emerged, starting with Russ Meyer's groundbreaking The Immoral Mr. Teas in 1959.
Nudie-Cuties in the sixties
The influence of Russ Meyer's nudie fantasy-comedy, along with changes in censorship laws, allowed filmmakers to make full-length features, mostly in color, that gleefully indulged in every type of male voyeuristic fantasy.
It was as if the pages of Playboy magazine had come to life on screen. These were sex comedies without sex, but with a great deal of nudity. Many were lighthearted spoofs of other film genres. Cowboys are attacked by a tribe of topless Indian maidens in Revenge of the Virgins (1960); astronauts encounter a race of semi-clad alien women in Nude on the Moon (1961); and Ed Wood's campy horror-nudie, Orgy of the Dead (1965) features topless dancers from beyond the grave (plus two whipping scenes to boot).
By this time the only Hollywood star who dared to appear in a sex comedy with nudity was busty Jayne Mansfield in the low-budget Promises, Promises (1963) filmed in black and white. Her nude scenes created a sensation, but the film was dreadful and did nothing for her faltering career.
Doris Wishman's Nude on the Moon is characteristic of the detached, look-but-don't-touch attitude of the early nudies. A group of virile astronauts discover a planet of gorgeous, topless alien women and do nothing but observe them. There is no drama or interaction; the men just stand around taking scientific notes. Then they get back into their spaceship and leave.
By the late sixties nudies had more developed stories and started to include simulated sex and kinky spanking scenes as in Motel Confidential (1967), Thar She Blows! (1968) and Love Me or Leave (1969) – and erotic floggings in the science fiction parody Space Thing (1968), and the campy Wanda, the Sadistic Hypnotist (1969).
Among these films, Motel Confidential is especially unusual. This black and white film is a typically light, fluffy sex comedy with a harsh, sadistic spanking scene that seems totally out of place. It is as if the director was trying to also satisfy the "roughie" audience. (Spanking scene available at the Internet Archive.)
David F. Friedman and others also produced lavish historical comedy-dramas with erotic spanking and whipping scenes such as The Head Mistress, The Lustful Turk, The Ribald Tales of Robin Hood (all from 1968) and The Secret Sex Lives of Romeo and Juliet (1969). Friedman's Starlet! (1968) offers a unique inside look at the exploitation industry by those who created it.
The origin of the roughie
The roughie genre was a deliberate move in the opposite direction from the silly, technicolor nudies. These were dark, gritty, urban melodramas shot in black-and-white that emulated the film-noir crime dramas of the Forties and Fifties.
Drawing inspiration from the lurid, illustrated tales from men's magazines, the stories mostly took place in the sordid underworld of pornography, prostitution, and white slavery rings. Scenes of degradation, forced nudity, bondage, and brutal whippings and spankings became standard fare in this harsh and decidedly misogynistic world. There were also many films about demented sexual perverts who abduct and abuse women and gory tales of sadistic psycho-killers that anticipated the slasher films of the Seventies.
The precursors to this genre include The Prime Time (1960) by Hershell Gordon Lewis, one of the last juvenile delinquent/Beat Generation exploitation films—and one of the first B-movies with nudity. Some prints include an extended skinny-dipping segment. It also boasts an energetic cat fight between two women and nude models posing for a beatnik artist.
The Sadist (1963) was a shocking and disturbing B-picture for its time. The story, about a psychotic punk who ensnares and terrorizes three innocent people, has influenced many filmmakers.
Around the same time H.G. Lewis and David Friedman pioneered roughie horror with Blood Feast (1963), the first "gore" or "splatter" film. Also highly influential with scenes of bloody violence and cannibalism (including a woman whipped to death) that had not been seen before.
But it is the relatively tame Scum of the Earth (1963), also by Lewis and Friedman, that is generally considered the prototype roughie. An innocent college girl working for a "glamour" photographer is blackmailed into posing for racy nude pictures. These are sold on the street the way dope peddlers sell drugs. Barely a glimpse of nudity and a belt-lashing done off camera, but it established the tone and basic formula.
The New York underground
The first full-fledged roughies came out of New York in 1964. A trilogy of crudely made micro-budget films about a white slavery ring became a surprise hit on the grindhouse circuit.
These were White Slaves of Chinatown, followed by Olga's Girls, and Olga's House of Shame (all from 1964). The latter features a brutal spanking with a nail-studded board and scenes of whipping and pony play training that had never been seen before in a feature film.
This shocking and violent trilogy broke new ground. For the first time audiences saw captive women being bound, abused, humiliated, tortured, whipped, drugged, and forced into prostitution by Olga (Audrey Campbell), a cruel dominatrix who works for a major crime syndicate. (Campbell also appeared in several nudie cuties.) Significantly, this series was produced by George Weiss and show the influence of Irving Klaw's bondage films, albeit taken to an extreme. Other exploitation filmmakers, both in New York and Hollywood, rushed to duplicate this formula.
Weiss encouraged New York filmmaker Michael Findlay to make even more violent roughies. Findlay made a number of highly regarded genre films, including the "Flesh" psycho-killer trilogy. The Curse of Her Flesh (1968) has a remarkable F/F frontal whipping scene.
Titillating, and deliberately fetishistic, scenes of corporal punishment became common. RENT-A-GIRL (1965), about prostitutes who specialize in fetishes, has paddling and whipping scenes (see the video clip at the Internet Archive). The director of this film also made Pamela, Pamela you are... (1968) which starts out like a nudie but soon delves into spanking and S&M scenes.
Venus in Furs (1967) is a contemporay adaptation of the classic 1870 novel on masochism by Leopold von Sacher-Masoch. It's set in a decadent house where all kinds of fetishes, including spanking and human animal roleplay, are indulged in. Cool it Baby (1967) and Cargo of Love (1968) are just two of many films that copied the Olga formula (both show erotic scenes of corporal punishment). And In Hot Blood (1968) portrays a New York modeling agency where decadent male and female models engage in a wild orgy of drugs, sex, whipping, spanking, and caning.
The Bizarre Ones (1968) by Ron Sullivan (aka Henri Pachard) follows a group of hippie-style freaks who enjoy an S&M lifestyle at a remote country house. Pachard would go on to direct porn and many BDSM and spanking videos, including several volumes of the Dresden Diary series from Bizarre Video.
Many of these films explore sexual frustration, particularly the revenge fantasies of deranged men. Hopelessly twisted sexual perverts stalk "evil" women, usually prostitutes and strippers, to punish them for their sinfull ways. Typical examples include Aroused (1966), Michael Findlay's The Ultimate Degenerate (1969) and Flesh trilogy, as well as All Women Are Bad (1969), which includes a fetishistic whipping scene.
France and Japan
Concurrently, the French New Wave cinema was also reinventing itself with stark, fatalistic crime-dramas inspired by vintage American gangster films. Two neo-noir films with spanking scenes are Roman Polanski's Cul-de-sac (1966) and Heat of Midnight (1966).
The film noir influence extended to sexploitation movies as well. One roughie from France is Massacre for Pleasure aka Massacre for an Orgy (1966). This bleak white slavery tale shows a captive girl receiving a harsh breast whipping (followed by a cat-fight sequence). The look and feel of the film is nearly identical to the gritty productions then being churned out in New York.
Little Girls (1966) is another recently rediscovered French roughie. This has a similar story about four girls who are abducted, whipped, and forced into prostitution by a perverted night club owner. The theme of sexual sadists who abduct and punish innocent women continued well into the '70s with films such as Room of Chains (1972) and Schoolgirl Hitchhikers (1973).
Japan followed a similar path in the mid-60s with a new wave of contemporary gangster films known as yakuza-eiga. The low-budget yakuza films, which were violent and bloody, paved the way for a cycle of racy "pink films" (aka pinku eiga or pinky violence), gritty crime dramas that freely exploited sex and sadism. These films routinely included shocking scenes of women being abducted, bound, humiliated, whipped, spanked, tortured, and sexually assaulted.
By the 1970s pink films included horror and serial killer stories, the women in prison and nunsploitation subgenres, female biker gang stories, countless schoolgirl sagas as well as softcore pornographic features (called roman poruno or romance pornography), often with a sadomasochistic theme. Two of the better-known porn/S&M films are Wife to be Sacrificed and Flower and Snake (both 1974). This trend flourished until VCR sales in the mid-80s led to a general decline in theater attendance.
The California roughies were also made quickly on a very low budget, but generally have a more polished style with superior filming techniques, editing, and acting.
The Defilers (1965), from producer David F. Friedman and director Lee Frost, is considered a classic roughie. A pair of sadists kidnap a beautiful girl and make her their love slave. This has spanking and belt-lashing scenes. (Video clip at the Internet Archive.)
Tortured Females (1965), perhaps the first California film to copy the Olga formula, depicts white slavers whipping and humiliating captive women. This also has scenes that reflect an Irving Klaw influence. (video clip at the Internet Archive)
Love is a Four Letter Word (aka The Love Girls, 1966), also from Friedman and Frost, was billed as the first art film in the exploition genre and contains a harsh sorority initiation paddling scene. (This scene is at the Internet Archive.)
Maidens of Fetish Street (1966), a surreal study of depravity, is set in a brothel called The House of Fetish. A tough old madam wrestles one prostitute to the ground and roughly spanks her. Later, she severely whips another girl with a flogger. (video clip at the Internet Archive)
Mondo Keyhole (1966) is perhaps the first roughie set in the world of fetish-porn. The president of a company that produces S&M films and magazines is also a deranged serial rapist who spanks one of his victims with a belt. The movie also shows the filming of a bondage-discipline stag reel.
Motel Confidential (1967), as mentioned earlier, shows the transition from the nudie to roughie genre.
Frost and Friedman also released fake "shockumentaries" showing human depravity around the world, including S&M clubs, whipping, etc. These are: It’s a Sick, Sick, Sick World!, Mondo Bizarro, and Mondo Freudo (all 1966).
The Pick-Up (1968), by Frost and Friedman, is perhaps the roughest of the roughies – and their most faithful recreation of the hardboiled gangster film. A pair of mob couriers are robbed of $1 million by two girls and must torture them to find where the money is hidden. The girls are tied up and beaten with a belt. In an especially disturbing scene, one girl is shocked with electrical wires taped to her breasts. (The trailer can be seen on YouTube and the Internet Archive.)
Friedman, with and without Frost, produced a number of color "historical roughies" as well. Love Camp 7 (1968), about sex slaves abused by the Nazis, features many scenes of extreme degradation and a severe belt spanking. This was the forerunner of the Nazi exploitation and Women in Prison films that became popular in the 1970s.
Eroticized whippings of naked women occur in the colorful The Lustful Turk (based on the 1828 erotic novel), and the Westerns Brand of Shame and Hot Spur (all from 1968).
The Ramrodder (1969), a rough-edged nudie Western from Friedman, has better production values than the previous films in the genre. It also boasts a remarkably long and erotic whipping scene of an Indian maiden that has not been surpassed. (See trailer)
The Bang Bang Gang (1970), a crime drama set in the '30s, was an exploitation remake of the 1967 hit Bonnie and Clyde with an added belt-spanking scene.
In 1966, Knight Publishing Corp. created The Adam Film Quarterly (changed to Adam Film World in 1969) to cover the sexploitation film industry. The magazine featured film stills of nudity, spanking, bondage, and whipping taken from various adult films and racy photos from mainstream releases. It was edited by photographer/director William Rotsler who also helmed the roughies Agony of Love (1966) and The Girl with the Hungry Eyes (1967).
End of an era
A Taste of Hot Lead (1969) is one of the movies that marks the end of the film noir inspired features (albeit in color). A pair of criminals take refuge in a Hollywood apartment and abuse the female residents. Not surprisingly, this includes some sado-masochistic whipping. (See trailer)
Detention Girls (1969), the first exploitation women-in-prison film, and The House That Screamed aka The Finishing School (1969), the first horror shocker about a stalker in a girls' boarding school, both feature fetishistic whipping scenes of young women. These low-budget efforts were ground breaking and highly influential movies. They ushered in a new wave of films based around institutional corporal punishments. Sadistic whip-cracking prison guards and cruel headmistresses who did not spare the rod became staple characters in countless sexploitation films to come.
The inherent sexual violence of the genre even became a subject of parody in the April 1969 issue of the classy men's magazine Playboy. In the comic strip "Little Annie Fanny", a nude Annie is seen covered with whip-lash marks from shoulder to thigh from filming a "love scene" in a sexploitation film.
This era of the "pure" roughie ended with the decade. As black-and-white films went out of style by 1970, so did the gritty crime-drama formula that had fueled the genre. Some filmmakers disappeared, some went on to make pornographic films, and others continued in the sexploitation field by adapting to the changes in style and attitude that took place in the Seventies.
The seventies: porn and roughie-horror
A few late-period films such as The Tale of the Dean's Wife (1970) represent the last days of the traditional grindhouse nudie. The story includes a masochistic belt thrashing and a psychedelic orgy of simulated sex (with the men remaining half-dressed).
The Big Snatch (1971) indicates the inevitable direction roughies had to go to remain relevant. This especially nasty story by director (and star of The Defilers) Byron Mabe shows the abduction and sexual abuse of several girls at the hands of a crazed misogynistic creep. The man beats one of the girls with a crop-like stick and forces the girls to punish each other. In the end, he is overpowered and beaten as well. This is little more than a color remake of The Defilers with far more violence (including torture) and explicit, but just short of pornographic, sex scenes.
By the early seventies, full-length X-rated feature films were being produced and shown in theaters for the first time. The rapidly growing demand for explicit pornography made the erotic grindhouse films of the '60s (which had been the only alternative to clandestine stag-films) suddenly obsolete. Sexploitation films underwent a quick transformation. The nudie-cutie became the template for a new brand of raunchy, but restricted (R-rated), sex comedies and soft- and hard-core pornographic films. At first, these were little more than standard nudie parody films with more explicit sex scenes added in. Many pornographic features such as Office Girls (1972), Sassy Sue (1972), The All-American Girl (1973), and Debbie Does Dallas (1978), included a playful spanking scene or two for good measure. A notable entry in this genre is the classy French sex farce, La Fessée (1976) about a man who discovers the erotic appeal of spanking his many lovers.
The misogynistic roughie concept carried on in the newly-created Women in prison film and Nazi exploitation genres (featuring brutal floggings, torture, sexual assaults, and other S&M elements) as well as Nunsploitation (lesbian nuns cruelly punish themselves and each other for their sins), hardcore porn, and a spate of bizarre roughie-horror shockers.
The early pornographic features borrowed heavily from the roughies and the then-popular occult horror films. For example, the sex film The Velvet Edge (1976) plundered footage, including a violent belt-spanking scene, from the 1970 roughie The Bang Bang Gang and presented it as a flashback sequence. Hardcore sex scenes were added to the 1968 roughie Invitation to Ruin and re-released in 1973 as Invitation.
The Party at Kitty and Studs aka The Italian Stallion (1970) is a porn film with a then-unknown Sylvester Stallone. In a decidedly roughie-inpired scene, Stallone gives his girlfriend a furious 2-minute beating with his belt. (video clip at PornHub)
The Gore Gore Girls (1972) has no pornographic content but is perhaps the first modern slasher-horror film to include spanking — and the only one to include corporal punishment in a grisly murder scene. A serial killer spanks a female victim to a bloody pulp with a wooden meat tenderizer. The entire film is available on YouTube, the scene in question occurs around the 40 minute mark.
X-rated titles with whipping, spanking, rough sex and elements of horror include: The Defiance of Good (1974), French sex-horror director Jean Rollin's The Seduction of Amy (1975), The Devil Inside Her (1976), Femmes de Sade (1976), House of de Sade (1977), and a number of Nazi-porn features (Hot Nazis, Hitler's Harlot, Stalag 69, et al.).
At the same time, mainstream horror films were becoming more erotic, adding nudity and controversial scenes of sexual violence that tested the limits of an R-rating. For a few years it seemed the horror and porn industries were merging together, creating films that blended both genres into a single entity.
The originators of this new trend didn't have to go far for inspiration. Quite often the gritty black-and-white sexploitation films of the '60s were simply remade in lurid color with more explicit content. Retaining most of the old plot elements (creepy psychos, abducted women, sex slavery, kinky corporal punishment and torture), the "new roughies" were marketed as titillating drive-in horror shockers.
Thus, the once obscure adults-only grindhouse film was transformed into a lucrative mainstream B-move. Typical examples from the 70s include Slaves in Cages, The Sinister Dwarf, Barn of the Naked Dead, The Pet, House of Whipcord, Girl in Room 2A, Autumn Born and the extremely gory and mean-spirited Bloodsucking Freaks. All of these films are based on abduction and/or sex slavery and show the whipping or caning of beautiful captive girls.
The influence of the roughies may also be responsible for the increase of sadism and the sex-based torture of women in a number of films. These include: Bluebeard (1972) with its masochistic flogging scene, School Girls in Chains (1973), Jean Rollin's Schoolgirl Hitchhikers (1973), Rollin's aforementioned The Seduction of Amy (1975), and horrific rape-and-revenge films like Wes Craven's The Last House on the Left (1972) and I Spit on Your Grave (1978). Craven also wrote and directed the bizarre pornographic film Angela The Fireworks Woman (1975). Working as a maid, a nude Angela (Jennifer Jordan) is brutally whipped by her sadistic dominatrix-like mistress.
European erotic horror
Over in Europe, supernatural horror (especially the vampire film) was updated and reinvented by adding generous amounts of nudity, sex (with an emphasis on lesbianism), gore, and kinky sadism. Adding scene after scene of attractive female victims being flogged, tortured, and sexually abused proved to be surprisingly easy in this dark and sinister fantasy world.
Fetishized whippings of women appear in two more vampire films by Jean Rollin – Rape of the Vampire (1968) and Requiem for a Vampire, aka Caged Virgins (1971). A more graphic scourging occurs in the Spanish film Count Dracula's Great Love (1974) directed by Javier Aguirre and starring Paul Naschy (see the Links section below). Naschy directed The Human Beasts (1980), featuring an erotic belt spanking in a master-servant sexual relationship.
Spanish schlockmeister Jess Franco contributed Vampyros Lesbos (1971) among his many lurid and violent erotic films. His surreal The Erotic Rites of Frankenstein (1972) features a nude couple bound together and savagely whipped until they tumble into a pit of spikes.
Italian horror director Mario Bava made The Whip and the Body (1963), an atmospheric ghost story about a woman who is sexually aroused by a series of severe, erotically-charged whippings. Kill, Baby, Kill (1966), another ghost story by Bava, shows a ceremonial magic scene that includes a thorn whipping of a young girl.
The then-shocking British film Witchfinder General aka The Conqueror Worm (1968), depicted the torture and sexual abuse of suspected witches in 17th century England. It's success influenced a new subgenre of graphic films that showed the horrors and injustice of the witch-hunting Inquisition. This format was exploited to the fullest, indulging in all manner of BDSM fantasies that tested the boundaries of censorship. Innocent, semi-clad young women are tormented and brutally flogged in The Bloody Judge (1970) by Jess Franco, the controversial and disturbing Mark of the Devil (Germany 1970), the Anglo-American Cry of the Banshee (1970), and Evil Heritage aka Satan's Slave (U.K. 1976). (video clip available at xHamster.)
Horror movies about Satanic cults also proliferated. The British film Curse of the Crimson Altar (1968) opens with an occult ceremony where a nude woman bound to a table is given a frontal flogging by a topless devil worshipper. The American film Daughters of Satan (1972) has two scenes with topless female cult members also getting a harsh frontal lashing. The Giallo horror-thriller The Night Evelyn Came Out of the Grave (1971) shows a deranged man whipping abducted women. Also from Italy, The Night of the Sorcerers (1973), features two topless women getting lengthy and severe breast whippings.
Another gothic horror film from Italy, Nude for Satan aka Nuda per Satana (1974), features a savage whipping of a nude woman as part of a Satanic ritual. Director Luigi Batzella also made the Nazisploitation film Achtung! The Desert Tigers (1977). In this, a female prisoner of war is whipped while being forced to crawl around the room. Later, a masochistic female SS officer forces a prisoner to give her a frontal lashing.
With so much sex and sadism hitting the screen under the guise of horror shockers, it was no surprise that the once forbidden world of S&M exemplified in the novels of the Marquis de Sade became a sexploitation staple. Starting in the late '60s, several costume dramas set in 18th century France, as well as contemporary adaptations, and even a few quasi-biographic films on Sade himself, were produced.
Films that show erotic spanking or flogging include the biopic De Sade (1969) from American International Pictures, two from Jess Franco: Marquis de Sade: Justine (1969) and Eugenie de Sade (1970), two from France: Beyond Love and Evil (1971) and Justine De Sade (1972) by Claude Pierson, and Poor Cecily (1973), loosely based on de Sade's Justine directed by Lee Frost.
This was followed by the surprise hit Story of O (1975) adapted from the famous 1954 novel by Pauline Reage. The film's success resulted in the imitative The Punishment of Anne (aka The Image) also released in 1975. Both films differ from the Sade adaptations as they feature a masochistic female character who willingly endures a series of humiliations and punishments.
The film-within-a-film device was also employed to include kinky scenes from silent stag movies. Performance (filmed 1968, released 1970) shows clips from a vintage French reel with bondage and whipping. The Lickerish Quartet (1970) opens with three people watching a blue movie that includes a F/M whipping scene that reappears several times (the story involves meeting one of the actresses in the film).
The seventies also saw lurid tales of sadism and taboo sex associated with slavery in the American South exploited in two notoriously trashy films. There was Mandingo (1975), with its fetishistic belt-spanking of a pretty slave girl and a brutal paddling of a male slave. This was followed by a sequel, Drum (1976). The surprise success of these films led to an Italian knockoff, Mandinga (1976). This features the eroticized whipping and sexual abuse of a female slave and a masochistic Southern belle who is aroused by having her breasts flogged. The same producers also made Passion Plantation, aka Emanuelle Black and White (1976) which contains several slave whipping scenes.
The 1980s to the present
The most provocative and challenging film about this genre is Videodrome (1983), a mainstream science fiction thriller by David Cronenberg. A sleazy cable-porn programmer discovers mysterious transmissions of brutal S&M videos that have a strange, hypnotic power. Cronenberg manages to have it both ways by showing clips from the disturbing, forbidden videos while also commenting on a desensitized and media-brainwashed society. The irony is that the average BDSM video widely available today is more graphic and intense than the grainy whipping scenes glimpsed in Cronenberg's film-within-a-film.
Some of the more recent films that use sadomasochistic whipping and spanking purely for titillation include: Intimate Moments, Love Camp, and Mulher Objeto (all from 1981), Lady Libertine (based on the erotic CP novel "Frank" and I, 1983), Jean Rollin's The Sidewalks of Bangkok (1984), the historical Caligula's Slaves (1984) from Italy, The Secrets of Love (1986), Dragonard (1987), A Chinese Torture Chamber Story, Caged Heat 3000 (both 1995), Dark Secrets (1997), and Snuff Killer (2003). The Sex Merchants (2011), about a fetish photographer, is an homage to '60s and '70s sexploitation films in a contemporary setting.
Bound Heat Films (a Canadian company based in the Czech Republic) makes a unique brand of R-rated erotic roughies to appeal to the S&M crowd. They specialize in lurid tales of women in prison and white slavery (sometimes in a science fiction or historical fantasy setting). Most of their movies feature lesbianism and fetishistic scenes of bondage, whipping, and domination. Titles include: Dark Confessions (2000), Bound Cargo (2003), School of Surrender (2005), Slave Huntress (2007), Mistress of Souls (2007), Caligula's Spawn (2009), and Slave Tears of Rome (2011).
A montage of whipping scenes from The Slave Huntress can be seen at the PornHub adult website.
Besides providing the template for softcore pornographic films, the nudie-cuties of the '60s also evolved into a new category of mainstream sex comedy. By the '70s, a new ratings system took hold that allowed adults, age 17 or older, to see "restricted" (R-rated) films that contained nudity and simulated sex. (Softcore pornography was rated X, hardcore films were often rated XXX.) These new R-rated films attracted a huge audience that wanted titillation without the inconvenience and discomfort of having to visit a rundown X-rated theater in a seedy neighborhood.
The last of the old-style historical and genre-parody nudies with erotic spankings or floggings include Trader Hornee (1970), a spoof of the archetypal safari yarn Trader Horn (1931), The Long Swift Sword of Siegfried (1971), Der Lusterne Turke (1971), a German version of The Lustful Turk, and the softcore The Erotic Adventures of Zorro (1972).
The next trend in sexploitation – as well as pornography and underground BDSM reels – explored a new line of fetish fantasy characters. Lusty cheerleaders, nubile, uniformed schoolgirls, sorority coeds, and "professional" women: naughty nurses, swinging stewardesses, seductive maids, teachers, waitresses, librarians, and secretaries. There was even a short-lived "hicksploitation" film cycle featuring sexy farm girls and rustic hillbillies (Mama's Dirty Girls, The Pigkeeper's Daughter, Hot Summer in Barefoot County, et al.). Spanking scenes in this subgenre can be found in Nashville Girl (1976) and the X-rated features Sassy Sue (1972) and Daisy May (1979).
By the early 1980s Hollywood films made a sudden shift to pander to the adolescent sexual fantasies of teenagers. This is largely due to the surprise success of Animal House (1978) – which includes a humorous fraternity paddling – and the raunchy, voyeuristic Porky's (1981). Countless low-budget Animal House imitations with more nudity such as H.O.T.S. (1979) and racy coming-of-age sex comedies continue to be churned out. Most of these center around horny teens peeping at naked girls (usually in the shower) and making clumsy attempts at losing their virginity.
Sorority Babes in the Slimeball Bowl-o-Rama (1988) is one of the best examples to include spanking fetishism. This has comedy, campy horror, voyeuristic shower scenes, and a memorable sorority initiation paddling. In typical fashion, two humiliated pledges endure a hard, erotic paddle spanking from a sadistic sorority sister while a group of nerdy boys peer in through the window. The combination of sex-crazed teens and humiliating sorority paddling scenes has persisted up to 2013 with 21 and Over.
Other nudie-horror spoofs with spanking scenes include Sorority House Vampires (1997), Vampires of Sorority Row (1999), Sorority Girls' Revenge (2001), Satan's School for Lust (2002), Cheerleader Autopsy (2004), and The Halfway House (2004).
In Europe, sex comedies about adults, rather than teenagers, have flourished since the early 1970s. The aforementioned Der Lusterne Turke (1971), a historical spoof from Germany, features Ingrid Steeger being bound and punished. 1001 Danish Delights (1972) includes a spanking scene. A number of British sex comedies beginning with Penelope Pulls it Off (1975) and working-class farces such as The Ups and Downs of a Handyman (1975), Keep It Up Downstairs (1976), and Personal Services (1987) feature kinky adult spanking scenes. Italian director Tinto Brass has made two erotic comedies with spanking scenes: Frivolous Lola aka Monella (1998) and Private (film), aka Do It! and Fallo! (2003).
The exploitive use of eroticized S&M, sexual violence, and torture has continued, in a sporadic fashion, primarily in horror films that carry a NC-17 rating. The most recent example is the controversial series of Hostel films about innocent tourists abducted and tortured to death for the amusement of a private club for sadists.
Hostile critics have coined the term "torture porn" to describe this new group of films which emphasize extreme cruelty and suffering. This includes such films as the Saw series, FeardotCom, WolfCreek, House of 1,000 Corpses (which has a simulated spanking scene and a brief homage to Irving Klaw's films), and its sequel The Devil's Rejects. The controversial The Bunny Game (2010) is about a prostitute who is spanked, abducted, branded, humiliated, and turned into a pet-like slave by a deranged sadist (trailer on YouTube]).
- The History of spanking in film
- Spanking in mainstream films
- Nazi exploitation
- Women in prison film
- Spanking video
- Sexploitation film on Wikipedia
- The Pick-Up (1968) and All Women Are Bad preview trailers at the Internet Archive
- Brand of Shame – film trailer with flogging scene.
- The Brick Dollhouse (1967) trailer at Internet Archive.
- Count Dracula's Great Love – complete film on YouTube (whipping scene at 1:08).
- The Head Mistress (trailer with flogging, Internet Archive)
- Love Camp 7 (complete film online at Veehd)
- Der Lusterne Turke - German historical parody
- The Lustful Turk – trailer with whipping scene (Internet Archive).
- The Night Evelyn Came Out of the Grave (1971) - complete film
- The Night of the Sorcerers (1973) - complete film
- Olga's House of Shame and Olga part two – compilation of highlights at the Internet Archive.
- Olga's House of Shame – trailer for this and other sexploitation films
- The Lusting Hours - selected S&M scenes, etc.
- The Ramrodder - movie trailer with whipping scene.
- The Secret Sex Lives of Romeo and Juliet (1969), erotic whipping scene.
- Stacey Walker, Dreamgirl - '60s S&M short film.
- Stalag 69 (Part 1), and Part 2 – entire film in xHampster.
- A Taste of Hot Lead – theater trailer.
- The Long Swift Sword of Siegfried – film trailer with brief flogging-torture scene.
- unknown Japanese film – girls spanked in a convent.
- Sexploitation documentary excerpt can be watched on YouTube.
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