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The Most Controversial Films of All-Time

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Films always have the ability to anger us, divide us, shock us, disgust us,
and more. Usually, films that inspire controversy, outright boycotting, picketing, banning, censorship,
or protest have graphic sex, violence, homosexuality, religious, political or race-related themes and
content. They usually push the envelope regarding what can be filmed and displayed on the screen, and
are considered taboo, "immoral" or "obscene" due to language, drug use, violence and sensuality/nudity
or other incendiary elements. Inevitably, controversy helps to publicize these films and fuel the box-
office receipts.

Controversy-invoking films may be from almost any genre -


documentaries, westerns, erotic-thrillers, dramas, horror, comedy, or animated, and more. Standards
for what may be considered shocking, offensive or controversial have changed drastically over many
decades. The voluntary ratings system of the Motion Picture Association of America can influence a
film's public showing in a theatre -- an NC-17 rating or an unrated film may often close down a film's
screening and lead to commercial failure.

The following illustrated list in the next few web pages, in unranked
alphabetical order, presents a solid collection of the most controversial films in cinematic history.
Entertainment Weekly's June 16, 2006 issue contained a listing of their top 25 "Most Controversial
Movies of All-Time" - included here and indicated with the # numbers after the film title, in this more
comprehensive list.

Note: The films that are marked with a yellow star are the films that "The
Greatest Films" site has selected as the "100 Greatest Films". For the many other milestone films with
sexual scenes that were especially notorious, infamous, controversial, or scandalous, see this site's
special writeups on Sex in Cinema and the genre of Sexual/Erotic Films.
The Most Controversial Films of All-Time

FiLM TiTLe, DiRecToR & eXPLaNaTioN PiX & PosTeRs

Aladdin (1992) # 25
Ron Clements and John Musker

This Walt Disney feature film animation engendered considerable controversy for
its pro-Western portrayal of Aladdin and Jasmine (always unveiled), the fact that
turbaned characters were bald, and all the villainous characters were Arab
caricatures.

Another conflict arose, following protests from the American-Arab Anti-


Discrimination Committee (ADC), regarding the lyrics in one of the verses of the
opening song "Arabian Nights." The original lyric about the film's Arabian setting
("Where they cut off your ears if they don't like your face/It's barbaric, but, hey,
it's home") was censored/dubbed out and changed to "Where it's flat and immense
and the heat is intense/It's barbaric, but, hey, it's home" for subsequent video
releases in 1993 and for the re-released soundtrack.

Baby Doll (1956) # 10


Elia Kazan

Elia Kazan's film (based on Tennessee Williams' play) told about a thumb-sucking,
white-trash, 19 year-old virginal 'baby doll' child bride (Carroll Baker) who was
married (but unconsummated) to Mississippi cotton gin operator Archie Lee
Meighan (Karl Malden), and seduced by a competing vengeful Sicilian cotton-gin
owner Silva Vacarro (Eli Wallach in his film debut). In the opening scenes, Baby
Doll was crib-bound in nursery furniture, spied upon through a wall by her
'peeping tom' husband, and given no privacy while taking a bath.

The defiant film was a pot-boiling, condemned, and censored drama (by the
Catholic Legion of Decency) - it was viciously condemned for, among other things,
a notorious, highly-sexual seduction scene on a swing, of the young 'baby doll'
nymphet by Vacarro to get her to sign a letter about Archie's guilt, their game of
hide-and-seek in the upstairs (and attic), and later their kissing scene under a
turned-off bare bulb in an adjoining room while Baby Doll's sexually-frustrated
husband Archie was speaking on the phone nearby.

The Oscar-nominated film (with four nominations, but no wins, including Best
Actress and Best Adapted Screenplay) was called notorious, salacious, revolting,
dirty, steamy, lewd, suggestive, morally repellent and provocative. Time Magazine
was noted as stating: "Just possibly the dirtiest American-made motion picture that
has ever been legally exhibited..." New York's Cardinal Spellman declared the film
"evil in concept... certain to exert an immoral and corrupting influence on those
who see it." The stark, controversial, black and white film was so viciously
denounced by the Legion of Decency upon its release with a "C" (or condemned)
rating that many theaters were forced to cancel their showings, but it still did
moderately well at the box office despite the uproar.

Baise Moi (2000, Fr.) (translated "Screw or F--k Me")


Virginie Despentes

This daring and scandalous, unrated art-house import about heartless and irrational
female sexual rage by two hardened and randy females was the first collaboration
between French film-maker Virginie Despentes and former porn actress Coralie
Trinh Thi. The two main characters were lower class French 'bad girls' named
Manu (Raffaela Anderson) and prostitute Nadine (Karine Bach/Karen Lancaume),
who were portrayed by French adult film stars. After being pushed around by
losers and low-lifes in their seedy, marginal neighborhood, they decided to engage
in a shooting spree and sexual romp across France.

The French film was a very violent, sensationalist, bold, graphic and hard-core sex-
filled version of Natural Born Killers and Thelma & Louise - a nihilistic and self-
destructive road picture that ran into extreme protest and controversy. It was
banned in France, its native country of release, for its porno-style, animalistic
sexuality (fellatio included), explicit and brutal rape scene (of Manu) in a parking
lot, and randomly vengeful violence spree on both men and women.
Bandit Queen (1994, India)
Shekhar Kapur

This biodrama (in Hindi with subtitles) told the true-life legendary story of
indomitable female folk outlaw-heroine Phoolan Devi (portrayed by Seema
Biswas). It was based upon Devi's "dictated prison diaries," made after she was
arrested, in real life, in 1983, and imprisoned for eleven years. [She ran for
Parliament in 1996 and was assassinated in 2001 when she was just 37, reportedly
to avenge the Behmai Massacre.]

It portrayed many scenes of her continued rape and sexual humiliation in her
society. As a lower-caste Indian girl, she was married off at age 11 (Sunita Bhatt),
and repeatedly 'raped' and ill-treated by her husband. After she left her husband
(and was now regarded as a loose woman and fair game), she became defiant against
forced female subservience, which led to her banishment as a social outcast from
her patriarchal-based village.

After being arrested (framed for a robbery), raped, and beaten in prison, she was
kidnapped by a local gang of bandits and again, raped, but won the respect and love
of the gang's temporary leader Vikram Mallah (Nirmal Pandey), who became her
lover and eventually made her co-leader (with resemblances to Bonnie and Clyde and
Robin Hood tales). When jealous upper-caste Thakurs returned to rule the bandits in
the village, they killed Mallah, gang-raped Devi (for three-days), and forced her to
walk naked through the village's main streets to fetch water from the well. Her
retaliatory vengeance took the form of a brutal massacre that killed 20 upper caste
men in Behmai (in Uttar Pradesh) where she was assaulted. Her last defiant words
in the film were: "I am Phoolan Devi, you sisterf--kers."

Due to its controversial nature, consciousness-raising and powerful indictment of


Indian society (for its sexism, ritual misogyny, and the inequalities of the caste
system), it was banned in India by censors due to its nudity, sex and violence. Devi
herself issued her own lawsuit in an effort to prevent its release. Bandit Queen was
financed by Britain's Channel Four, and received critical acclaim at the 1994 Cannes
Film Festival, and at the 1995 New Directors New Films Festival in New York.

Basic Instinct (1992) # 19


Paul Verhoeven

Screenwriter Joe Eszterhas created this exploitative, soft-porn, excessive,


controversial film known for its negative portrayal of lesbianism, offensive
violence, initial X-rating, and voyeuristic, sensational, gratuitous sex. Sharon Stone
starred as bisexual authoress Catherine Trammel who became a murder suspect
(known for using an ice pick). The opening scene of a naked couple engaged in
rough sex in a mirrored boudoir ended with an ice-pick stabbing. Frank and raw
dialogue, such as this much-quoted line ("How about we f--k like minks, raise rug
rats, and live happily ever after"), was woven throughout.

The film was also criticized for its rough near-rape sex scene between detective
Nick Curran (Michael Douglas) and his police psychologist 'girlfriend' Jeanne
Tripplehorn when he ripped off her clothes and took her from behind. The R-rated
film (initially rated NC-17) also gained notoriety for the film's interrogation scene
in which Sharon Stone brazenly talked about sex, smoked (in a no-smoking area),
and uncrossed and re-crossed her legs while wearing a short white mini-dress
(without panties). Douglas also flashed his bare backside after being watched having
rough-house, bondage-style sex with Stone, to her leather-clad lesbian consort
Roxy (Leilani Sarelle).

Womens' groups called the film misogynistic, and gay-rights groups in San
Francisco (including The Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD))
called it stereotypically-homophobic and gay-bashing. They charged that the main
murderess suspect in the film was a denegrating portrayal since she was a mentally-
unstable, psychotic lesbian and bi-sexual that was potentially homicidal. Activists
groups such as Queer Nation and ACT-UP protested at multiple San Francisco
shooting locations, chanting "Hollywood, you stink" and they attempted to disrupt
filming.

The Birth Of A Nation (1915) # 7


D. W. Griffith

This groundbreaking, landmark American film masterpiece about two families


during the Civil War and Reconstruction periods was also extremely controversial
and explicitly racist. It was based on former North Carolina Baptist minister Rev.
Thomas Dixon Jr.'s anti-black, 1905 bigoted play, The Clansman, the second volume
in a trilogy.

Its release set up a major censorship battle over its extremist depiction of African
Americans, although Griffith naively claimed that he wasn't racist at the time.
Unbelievably, the film is still used today as a recruitment piece for Klan
membership - and in fact, the organization experienced a revival and membership
peak in the decade immediately following its initial release. And the film stirred
new controversy when it was voted into the National Film Registry in 1993, and
when it was voted one of the "Top 100 American Films" (at # 44) by the American
Film Institute in 1998.

The subject matter of the film caused immediate criticism by the newly-created
National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) for its
racist and "vicious" portrayal of blacks, its proclamation of miscegenation, its pro-
Klan stance, and its endorsement of enslavement. As a result, two scenes were cut
(a love scene between Reconstructionist Senator and his mulatto mistress, and a
fight scene).

In the scenes that remained, one recreated the first historic session of the legislature
during Reconstruction, in which freed negro legislators were luridly and angrily
portrayed as mocking the ideals of the Old South and shown as power-crazy,
shiftless, lazy, idiotic, sitting shoeless (sprawled with bare feet upon their desks)
and drinking in their legislature seats. In another, mulatto leader Silas Lynch
(George Siegmann), lusting for power and miscegenation, attempted to force
marriage upon Elsie Stoneman (Lillian Gish) - by force if necessary. During the
most famous sequence in the film, excitement was heightened by shots of the Klan
alternating with shots of the endangered Elsie - the film exhibited masterful parallel
editing. Along a country road, the Klansman rode to their appointed mission - to
first rescue Elsie, and then to rescue the entire Cameron family along with one of
the Stoneman boys. In a diagonally-angled shot, a long line of KKK riders came into
view from the distance.

The film was thoroughly renounced as "the meanest vilification of the Negro race"
and for its depiction of blacks as childlike, conniving, and sexually animalistic. Riots
broke out in major cities (Boston, Philadelphia, among others), and it was denied
release in many other places (Chicago, Ohio, Denver, Pittsburgh, St. Louis, and
Minneapolis, eight states in total). Subsequent lawsuits and picketing tailed the film
for years when it was re-released (in 1924, 1931, and 1938). Ironically, although
the film was advertised as authentic and accurate, the film's major black roles in the
film -- including the Senator's mulatto mistress, the mulatto politican brought to
power in the South, and faithful freed slaves -- were stereotypically played and
filled by white actors - in blackface. [The real blacks in the film only played in
minor roles.]

Bloodsucking Freaks (1976) (aka The Incredible Torture Show and Sardu:
Master of the Screaming Virgins)
Joel Reed

This unredeeming, misogynistic and depraved grindhouse horror exploitation film


from Troma Entertainment was originally unrated, due to its controversial and
violent nature, but later reduced to an R-rating when cuts were administered.
Voted one of the worst films ever, it was also targeted by the feminist group
Women Against Pornography for its depictions of violence against women. It was
reminiscent of Herschell Gordon Lewis's earlier film The Wizard of Gore (1970).

This low-budget nauseating film told about a macabre Grand Guignol-type theatre
in New York run by sadomasochistic Master Sardu (Seamus O'Brien) and his
obnoxious, deranged midget assistant Ralphus (Luis De Jesus), that held
performances mostly of humiliation, gruesome torture and murder - using real
victims.

The performers in the staged productions were discovered to be white slavery


female kidnap victims, who were held in cages below stage in the basement. Scenes
of horror included human dart boards (a woman's backend was painted with a
bullseye), flagellation, dismemberment, cannibalism, and the drilling of a hole in a
woman's shaved skull to suck out her brains with a straw by a depraved doctor
(Ernie Pysher).

Blue Velvet (1986) David Lynch

Lynch's polarizing film was an original look at sex, violence, crime and power
under the peaceful exterior of small-town Americana in the mid-80s. Beneath the
familiar, peaceful, 'American-dream' cleanliness of the daytime scenes lurked
sleaziness, prostitution, unrestrained violence, and perversity - powerful and
potentially-dangerous sexual forces that might be unleashed if not contained.

It was considered controversial, shocking, and lurid when released. The compelling
film was often criticized for its depiction of aberrant sexual behavior, as well as
highly ridiculed and disdained as an extreme, dark, vulgar and disgusting film,
especially for its cinematic treatment of Isabella Rossellini - director Lynch's wife at
the time.

Its most repulsive scene was the one in which clean-cut, all-American boy/trekker
Jeffrey Beaumont (Kyle MacLachlan) first voyeuristically watched the fragile
nightclub singer named Dorothy (Isabella Rossellini) from her closet -- when she
discovered him, she forced him to strip at knifepoint and fondled him -- but they
were interrupted by the entry of a monstrous, loathsome, nitrous-oxide sniffing
kidnapper - the evil, vile and depraved drug-pusher psycho Frank (Dennis Hopper).
Beaumont witnessed the sexually-depraved, blackmailing relationship between the
abused/brutalized, sado-machochistic mother and Frank - who used an oxygen
inhaler while terrorizing and raping Dorothy as he play-acted being both her Daddy
and Baby ("Baby wants to f--k"). After Frank left the scene of victimization,
Dorothy pleaded with a consoling Beaumont to further abuse her: "Feel me. Hit
me." Later in the film in a scene considered gratuitous and personally degrading, a
vulnerable Dorothy appeared naked and battered on the Beaumont's front lawn.

Bonnie And Clyde (1967) # 21


Arthur Penn

This innovative, revisionist Hollywood film redefined and romanticized the


crime/gangster genre and the depiction of screen violence forever. The landmark
film was ultimately a popular and commercial success, but it was first widely
denounced and condemned by film reviewers for glamorizing the two Depression-
era killers (Faye Dunaway as Bonnie Parker and Warren Beatty as Clyde Barrow),
and only had mediocre box-office results.

In the autumn of 1967, it opened and closed quite quickly - enough time for it to
be indignantly criticized for its shocking violence, graphic bullet-ridden finale
(with its slow-motion ballet of death) and for its blending of humorous farce with
brutal killings. Then, after a period of reassessment, there were glowing reviews,
critical acclaim, a Newsweek cover story, and the film's re-release - and it was
nominated for ten Academy Awards. The film was also remarkable and
controversial for its honest depiction of the unique relationship between an
impotent Clyde and the sexually-aggressive Bonnie.

Boxing Helena (1993)


Jennifer Chambers Lynch

25 year-old writer/director Jennifer Chambers Lynch's (David Lynch's daughter)


directorial debut film was an erotic, R-rated (originally NC-17), provocative and
disturbing psychosexual work that was decried by feminists; this controversial,
misogynistic film was originally contracted with Madonna and then Kim Basinger
as the star, and settled by a multi-million dollar lawsuit in favor of the producer
Carl Mazzocone when Basinger backed out. A Superior Court jury in Los Angeles
ordered Basinger to pay $8.92 million for failing to appear in the movie, and the
actress also faced additional punitive damages for walking out of the movie on the
eve of its production. Basinger finally settled with the producers out of court for
$3.8 million, which bankrupted her. Some accounts reported that this ruling was
overturned on appeal in 1994.

Its tale was decried by critics, comparing it to Hitchcock's Psycho (1960) remade by
Zalman (''Wild Orchid'') King. It followed the obsession of brilliant Atlanta
surgeon Dr. Nick Cavanaugh (Julian Sands) who had a promiscuous and uncaring
blonde-haired mother named Marion (Meg Register) who simultaneous teased,
ignored and tormented him as a young boy. He developed problems with
premature ejaculation before he became entranced by his vivacious, unattainable,
bitchy and libertine neighbor Helena (Sherilyn Fenn). Cavanaugh was able to
experience a brief one-night affair with her in the past, but couldn't fathom being
without his lustful desires for her after peeping at her through her window during
a sensual evening tryst with her sleazy macho boyfriend Ray O'Malley (Bill
Paxton). He took advantage of her when there was a terrible hit-run vehicular
accident outside his palatial house following a party (in which she sensuously
twirled around in slow-motion in his outdoor fountain while stripped down to her
lingerie) - he performed surgery and made her a 'Venus de Milo' amputee
(metaphorically and physically) by first removing her damaged legs (and then her
arms to imprison her). To cover up his atrocious entrapment, he quit his hospital
job, cut off all contact with the outside world, and attended to his imprisoned
possession; although still captive and dependent, she would continue to scorn and
emasculate him with denouncements of his manhood, but eventually taught him
(with limbs in a dream sequence) how a woman should be loved.

However, the entire sequence of his imprisonment of his captive, dismembered


quadruple amputee female companion was revealed to be a dream that was
imagined during the six hours of Helena's surgery -- Nick suddenly awoke in the
hospital's waiting room; in flashback, Nick was shown rushing Helena to the
hospital with a medical response team and waiting for her recovery by her
bedside; his final voice-over was: "I am still haunted by my love, by my dreams."

To illustrate the conflicting views on the film, it won the Razzie Award for Worst
Director, and also was nominated for the Grand Jury Prize (for Dramatic Film) by
the Sundance Film Festival.

Brokeback Mountain (2005)


Ang Lee

Almost a quarter of a century after the similarly-themed Making Love (1982), this
Best Picture-nominated melodrama appeared with its story about two young
cowboys who had an unexpected tryst while shepherding in 1963. It told how
their ill-fated love affected their married lives in the following three decades. This
was the first mainstream gay/bi-sexual romance film, heavily-promoted by the
media, to receive multiple awards and critical/public acclaim, with eight
Academy Award nominations, including Best Picture (and ultimately three
Oscars) from major A-list film-maker and Best Director-winning Ang Lee. The
much talked-about film quickly became the most honored movie in cinematic
history - it had more Best Picture and Director wins from various film
organizations than previous Oscar winners Schindler's List (1993) and Titanic (1997)
combined. It was also the critical darling of the media and the expected favorite to
win, although Crash surprisingly took the top honor.

However, some conservative Catholic organizations cited the film as "morally


offensive" for its open portrayal of a homosexual relationship, and others
criticized the film as sexually propagandistic. Conservative Christian
fundamentalist groups heavily cited the film as glorifying homosexuality and for
pushing a sexual agenda. However, those who were critical of the film were
labeled "homophobic". Although widely hailed as a "breakthrough" film for gay
cinema, neither of the film's two lead actors, nor its director, nor its
screenwriters were gay, and the film was originally advertised in trailers without
specifically referring to the film's 'gay' themes or scenes.

The Brown Bunny (2003)


Vincent Gallo

This independent arthouse film from narcissistic and vain


producer/director/actor/writer Vincent Gallo was essentially a cross-country
road-trip movie, about unshaven, long-haired motorcyclist racer Bud Clay
(Vincent Gallo) - a tortured, empty-hearted loner who often idealized and
thought about his former and estranged girlfriend Daisy (Chloe Sevigny, Gallo's
real-life ex-girlfriend). In a naturalistic style of story-telling, the flawed film
followed Clay's westward trip in his black van to Los Angeles, California after he
had lost an East Coast (New Hampshire) race. During his trip, he met fleetingly
with three women and connected only briefly with each of them before leaving -
all were named after flowers: teenage New Hampshire gas-station cashier Violet
(Anna Vareschi), middle-aged Lilly (Cheryl Tiegs) at a truck stop, and young Las
Vegas street hooker Rose (Elizabeth Blake). Reportedly at one time, Winona
Ryder and Kirsten Dunst were to be in the film, but presumably dropped due to
the film's final scene.

When the self-absorbed film was first screened for the press at the Cannes Film
Festival in 2003, critic Roger Ebert called it "the worst film ever shown at
Cannes," prompting a prolonged feud of words between Gallo and Ebert. Other
critics and audiences derided and scorned the film and its filmmaker. The feud
with Ebert ended when the film was re-cut (approximately 26 minutes of the two
hour film were excised) and re-released, and Ebert gave the film his 'thumbs-up'
endorsement. Further controversy arose over large billboards conspicuously
placed in Los Angeles, heralding the infamous fellatio scene.

This film further broke down the division between pornography and erotica. In
the film's most notorious, explicit and controversial scene of unsimulated fellatio
at the finale, Bud and Daisy were in a starkly-white hotel room (soon-to-be-
revealed as a fantasy masturbatory sequence) - both lonely and needy individuals
who were attempting to connect and speak to each other. Twice, she went to the
bathroom to smoke crack cocaine. Soon, the couple began kissing as he took her
head/face forcefully with his two hands on her cheeks and hungrily kissed her. She
sat on the bed as he stood before her, unzipped his pants fly, and then took his
male member into her mouth to begin the infamous 'blow-job' scene - as he held
himself. As she pleasured him in her mouth, they still engaged in a conversation
about their love for each other. When he was finished (although it was unclear
whether he ejaculated or not?), he stuffed himself back into his pants.

They then talked about the last encounter of their tragic relationship, when Bud
reacted jealously to Daisy's past indiscretion at a party, where she smoked dope
and acted provocatively. The thought-provoking film ended with a shocking,
melodramatic plot twist to explain Bud's complex personality and downer mood
throughout the film regarding Daisy as his lost love - the only woman he ever
loved. The film's ending gave greater meaning to everything that came before,
including the sex scene. It was revealed that Daisy was raped at the party when
she passed out after getting high (which Bud witnessed passively) - and she in fact
died as a result of the incident (choking to death on her own vomit). Bud's intense
guilt about abandoning her and his continuing crisis of masculine insecurity were
informed by the appearance of the deceased Daisy - as Bud masturbated alone to
his memory of her.

Caligula (1980) # 24
Tinto Brass

This lavish Roman-Empire epic was written by Gore Vidal and co-financed by
adult-oriented Penthouse magazine's producer Bob Guccione, though the script
underwent several re-writes after the director and cast found Gore Vidal's
interpretation unsatisfactory (Vidal later disowned it). It advertised itself as "the
most controversial film of the 20th century" - and was the most expensive
pornographic film ever made.

This was Hollywood's first big-budget ($15 million that later ballooned to $22
million), bizarre blockbuster sexploitation epic of 'classy' hardcore sex and gory
violence - and it became both a critical and commercial disaster after a very
limited theatrical release (due to fear of prosecution for obscenity). The
objectionable film was originally intended to be high-art, with major stars
(Malcolm McDowell as the infamous Roman emperor, John Gielgud, Helen
Mirren, Peter O'Toole), but was described as a "moral holocaust" by Variety and
reviewers considered it worthless fantasy trash.

The fim was notorious for its graphic and steamy sex scenes (including a large-
scale orgy, masturbation, explicit sex acts, sexual depravity and decadence
including a lesbian one between two Penthouse Pets Lori Wagner and Marjorie
Thoreson as Anneka Di Lorenzo that was filmed later and inserted for prurient
interest). Originally self-rated as X and shown as unrated in a 156-minute version,
it was then severely edited for an R-rating down to about 105 minutes.

Cannibal Holocaust (1985) # 20


Ruggero Deodato

This extremely graphic, hotly-debated cult classic Italian film - the uncredited
inspirational precursor of the faux-documentary The Blair Witch Project - was filled
with violent, grisly, and disturbing images. The exploitation film was purportedly
the story of a film crew, led by Alan Yates (Gabriel York), that disappeared while
making a documentary (a feature entitled "The Green Inferno" about the last
surviving tribes that still practiced cannibalism) in the wilds of South America's
Amazon area. Masterful cinematic tricks and special effects created an unnerving
view of the fate of the team - found in undeveloped film cans by a search and
rescue team.

Grisly, realistic-looking scenes included a castration/dismemberment, some


beatings with large hammers, guts-eating, a forced abortion, numerous animal
slaughterings (including a horrible turtle murder), gang-rape and impalement of a
woman on a pole.

For his work on the film, the director was arrested by Italian authorities on
suspicion of murder charges and faced life in prison, following its 1980 Milan
premiere. He endured a trial when Italian authorities were unconvinced that the
footage was indeed staged. Deodato lost the original trial, and all prints were to
be destroyed, but he managed to have the ruling overturned in the early '80s when
the actors finally appeared on TV to prove otherwise. Some five years passed
before the film saw release in Deodato’s home country. This movie was banned
for twenty years in certain countries, including the UK.

Carnal Knowledge (1971)


Mike Nichols

The prurient title of this raw, taboo-breaking Mike Nichols film (with a script by
satirist and cartoonist Jules Feiffer), meaning 'sexual intercourse', brought
millions of patrons into the theatres for its character-based tale of the exploits of
two Amherst college roommates: shy and naive Sandy (singer Art Garfunkel) and
narcissistic womanizer Jonathan (Jack Nicholson), and their dysfunctional,
misogynistic sexual attitudes and 'machismo' relationships (and breakups) with
women over a 20-year period (from the late-1940s to the late 60s). Their female
counterparts included Candice Bergen (as Sandy's respectable college sweetheart
and wife Susan), Ann-Margret (as Jonathan's voluptuous mistress and suicidal wife
Bobbie), Carol Kane (as Sandy's 17 year-old hippie chick girlfriend Jennifer in the
late 60s), and Rita Moreno (as Louise - appearing in the final scene as a prostitute
kneeling between impotent Jonathan's legs while pleasuring him and encouraging
him to rise up and be manly).

A film print was seized by Albany, Georgia officials in 1972, claiming that it
violated obscenity laws, and the manager of the film theatre was arrested (and
convicted, but it was later overturned). More than two years later, it was brought
before the US Supreme Court which found that the film was not obscene and "did
not depict sexual conduct in a patently offensive way." Nowadays, the film would
be considered tame, with its minor amount of nudity or explicit sexual activity,
although its dialogue was ripe, candidly frank and open for its time (e.g., Jonathan
contemptuously termed women 'female ballbusters').

Citizen Kane (1941)


Orson Welles

This widely-acclaimed film from debut film director/actor Orson Welles (24
years old) is usually regarded as the greatest film ever made. The film, budgeted
at $800,000, received unanimous critical praise even at the time of its release,
although it was not a commercial success (partly due to its limited distribution and
delayed release by RKO due to pressure exerted by famous publisher W.R.
Hearst).
The film engendered controversy (and efforts at suppression in early 1941
through intimidation, blackmail, newspaper smears, discrediting and FBI
investigations) before it premiered in New York City on May 1, 1941, because it
appeared to fictionalize and caricaturize certain events and individuals in the life of
William Randolph Hearst - a powerful newspaper magnate and publisher. The
film was accused of drawing remarkable, unflattering, and uncomplimentary
parallels (especially in regards to the Susan Alexander Kane character) to real-life.
The notorious battle was detailed in Thomas Lennon's and Michael Epstein's
Oscar-nominated documentary The Battle Over Citizen Kane (1996), and it was
retold in HBO's cable-TV film RKO 281 (1999) (the film's title referred to the
project numbering for the film by the studio, before the film was formally titled).

The gossip columnist Louella Parsons persuaded her newspaper boss Hearst that
he was being slandered by RKO and Orson Welles' film when it was first
previewed, so the Hearst-owned newspapers (and other media outlets) pressured
theatres to boycott the film and also threatened libel lawsuits. Hearst also ordered
his publications to completely ignore the film, and not accept advertising for other
RKO projects.

A Clockwork Orange (1971, UK) # 2


Stanley Kubrick

At the time, Stanley Kubrick's randomly ultra-violent, over-indulgent, graphically-stylized film


of the near future - and most controversial film - was one of only two movies rated X on its
original release (the other was Midnight Cowboy (1969)) that was nominated for a Best Picture
Academy Award. The film was hotly debated when it was released - both highly praised and
objectionable for its bleak outlook, and for its pairing of comedy with violence.

The dystopic film about fascist social conditioning and free will was heavily criticized and
opposed by religious groups for its sexual and violent content. Feminists were outraged with
some of the misogynistic images - such as the obscene female poses of the supine furniture in
the Korova bar, the prolonged rape of a big-breasted woman, a gigantic penis sculpture being
used as a murder weapon on the Cat Lady, and a view of the protagonist's snake gliding toward
a woman's vagina.

The most infamous was the rape scene of Mrs. Alexander (Adrienne Corri) in her opulent
house, Alex's (Malcolm McDowell) gang of droogs (Pete, Georgie, and Dim) who were
wearing masks with comical noses. After cutting away her skin-tight red jumpsuit Alex
delivered horribly vicious blows of his boots to Mr. Alexander's (Patrick Magee) mid-section --
timed rhythmically to his singing of Gene Kelly's tune "Singin' in the Rain". In a later scene,
Alex was subjected to corrective treatment -- experimental aversion therapy imposed by the
state in which he was behavioristically conditioned (with his eyes clamped wide-open in order
to view scenes of violence in films while drugged to induce nausea and forced to listen to his
beloved Beethoven) to suppress his violent and sexual drives - and in the process gave up his
own individual and personal rights.

Because of the copy-cat violence (some gangs dressed as droogs sang "Singin' in the Rain" as
they carried on violently) that the film was blamed for by the media and courts, Kubrick
withdrew it from circulation in Britain about a year after its release. Some believed it was
because it was rumored that Kubrick and his family had received death threats. It wasn't
officially available there again - in theaters or on video - until 2000, a year after his death.

The Cook, The Thief, His Wife & Her Lover (1989, UK)
Peter Greenaway

Peter Greenaway designed this cruel, over-the-top, truth-telling film as a metaphoric and
allegorical criticism of wasteful and barbaric upper-class consumer society in Western
civilization (specifically Thatcherism and Reaganism). The huge restaurant that was the
centerpiece of the film was composed of four rooms or sections, each of which was color-
coded: the kitchen and storage area (deep jungle-green), the main dining room (hellish blood-
red), the restrooms (white), and the adjacent parking lot (cold dark blue).

It told about gluttonous, uncouth, and maniacal boss Thief Albert Spica (Michael Gambon) and
his desperate and much-humiliated Wife Georgina (Helen Mirren), who dined at a sumptuous
banquet every night (over a nine evening period) at a trendy haute cuisine London restaurant
called Le Hollandais run by the kitchen's French chef Richard Borst (Richard Bohringer). He
held court around a table where he talked about food, excrement and sex, and surrounded
himself with various lackeys and henchmen, and a bookwormish patron diner/Lover Michael
(Alan Howard). After discovering his adulterous wife's unfaithfulness and hungry trysts with
the Lover (during visits to the ladies' room stall, kitchen and bakery pantry and refrigerated
meat freezer in the back of a truck, filmed with unflattering lighting), the brutal Albert decided
upon savage, cannibalistic revenge upon the man (ironically stating and foreshadowing: "I'll
cook him! And I'll eat him!"). Michael was killed by force-feeding him with pages from a book.
To retaliate, Georgina had the Cook bake up her lover's corpse for her husband and then
headed a procession bringing in the veiled body for the surprise dinner. She forced him at
gunpoint to eat the warmed-up cadaver -- "Try the cock -- it's a delicacy. And you know where
it's been." Stunned, Albert took a bite and vomited, as The Wife encouraged him to eat more
("Bon appetit, Albert. That's French") - and then shot him to death - condemning him as a
"Cannibal".

The sensational film's putrescence, debasement and excesses (sadism, cannibalism, torture,
fornication, puke, and rotting fish and meat) and scatological themes (force-feeding of
excrement (termed coprophagy), urination on victims) forced the Motion Picture Association
of America to give the film an "X" rating, so the film (after being denied an appeal) was
released unrated by the producers, and then given an NC-17 rating by the time of its video
release. An alternative R-rated version cut out about 30 minutes of footage.

Crash (1996)
David Cronenberg

David Cronenberg's coldly-erotic, dark and disturbing drama examined the lives of a
subculture of individuals who had passionate sexual fetishes about deadly car crashes. It told
about TV commercial producer/director James Ballard (James Spader) and his open-marriage
to icy-blonde wife Catherine (Deborah Kara Unger), who would be turned on by casual talk
about each others' extra-marital adulterous affairs during love-making. In an early scene,
Catherine enjoyed sex while in contact with cold-steel (she was taken from behind by her flight
instructor as her naked breast pressed into a steel airplane wing). When James collided with
another car on the freeway in a near-fatal accident, the deceased victim/husband passenger was
thrown through the windshield onto his hood, while the driver/wife Dr. Helen Remington
(Holly Hunter) inadvertently revealed partial nudity when she broke free from her seat belt in
the twisted wreckage. They were turned on by having sex in a car as a way to re-establish the
'eroticism' of the crash.

After the accident, the three characters were introduced to a weird cult of individuals who
derived sexual pleasure and arousal from car crashes, either as survivors or impact victims with
violated bodies. They would compulsively stage re-enactments of famous celebrity car
accidents (James Dean or Jayne Mansfield), talk about physical deformities from crashes
(including wounds, scars, dismemberment, leg braces, crutches and full-body support suits),
watch car safety and test crash videos (as pornography) and photograph crash victims, engage in
sex in cars (in a car wash), and crash their cars into each other as foreplay. One physically-
deformed impact victim Gabrielle (Rosanna Arquette) made love to Ballard while braced or
harnessed with a full-body support suit of black plastic and stainless steel, offering him her
vulva-like scar on the back of one of her thighs. In the film's startling conclusion, Ballard
deliberately rear-ended his wife's vehicle - thrown from the car onto the ground next to the
wreck, he made love to her, after learning that she was all right (and promised her a more
deadly crash the next time): "Maybe the next time, darling. Maybe the next time".

The alternating kinky, perverse and depraved sex scenes juxtaposed with gruesome car crashes
was deliberately controversial and repulsive, and thought to possibly inspire people to have
fetishistic sex in high-speed vehicles. This provocative film, initially released in two versions
rated NC-17 and R, was vilified in much the same way as Michael Powell's Peeping Tom (1960)
was, and the Cannes Film Festival screening had people walking out in disgust, nausea and
revulsion. Ultimately, it received a Special Jury Prize "For Originality, For Daring, and For
Audacity."

The Crime of Father Amaro (2002, Mex.)


Carlos Carrera

This brave, melodramatic romance film was nominated as Best Foreign Language Film for the
Academy Awards and Golden Globes, and became Mexico's biggest blockbuster due to the
controversy it aroused (it broke Y Tu Mamá También's opening-weekend record). It was adapted
to modern times (the year 2002) from the 1875 book "O Crime do Padre Amaro" by
Portuguese writer Jose Maria Eça de Queirós. One of the film's criticisms, advertised with the
tagline "Love...Lust..Sin", was that it wasn't faithful to the novel.

Recently-ordained and celibate handsome 24 year-old priest Father Amaro (Gael García
Bernal) on his first assignment was sent to a parish (steeped in illicit love, corruption and drug
trafficking/money laundering by drug lords, and cynicism) in the remote Mexican town of Los
Reyes. There, he became infatuated with beautiful, virginal 16 year-old devout catechism
teacher Amelia (Ana Claudia Talancón), in part due to her confessional that she erotically
touched herself in the bath while having thoughts about Jesus, with his offering of advice:
"Sensuality is no sin." He dressed her body in the Virgin's blue satin cloak ("You are more
beautiful than the blessed Virgin") originally made for the local church's statue of the virgin
Mary, and engaged in an illicit union with her under the guise of training her to be a nun. He
spoke memorized portions of the Old Testament's "Song of Solomon" to poetically admire her
breasts.

To make matters complicated, the young girl's mother Sanjuanera (Angelica Aragon) had been
engaged in a long-term affair with retiring priest Father Benito (Sancho Gracia). The film also
included some blasphemous images, such as one of consecrated communion wafers being fed to
a sickly cat. After getting her pregnant, the young idealistic priest covered up by paying for an
abortion in an illegal clinic in the jungle.

Catholic groups in Mexico called for the scandalous film to be banned for its "vicious,"
defaming and unfavorable portrait of priests, and the church threatened to excommunicate its
stars. The engendered controversy only aided the film's visibility and profitability.

Cruising (1980)
William Friedkin

William Friedkin's notorious, grisly thriller film about a police investigation told about the
seedy and dangerous underworld of gay S&M in NY's heavy leather bars (including The
Ramrod), and included actual leather-clad gay patrons as extras in the meat-packing district
rather than actors.

The controversial film about an alternative or extreme lifestyle starred Al Pacino as a sexually-
confused undercover cop (posing and transforming himself into a gay man in order to fit the
killer's victim profile) named Steve Burns investigating violent serial killer murders in the Big
Apple's homosexual underworld. In one startling scene, Pacino was tied up butt-naked on a
bed and threatened with a knife. By film's end, Burns continued to visit gay bars even after the
serial killer was caught -- and a last-minute murder opened up the suggestion that Burns was
the killer, thereby connecting violence with the homosexual lifestyle.

The film opened with a disclaimer: "The film is not intended as an indictment of the
homosexual world. It is set in one small segment of that world and is not meant to be a
representative of the whole." However, major protests by gay groups - the first of their kind -
accused the film of being anti-gay and homophobic prior to the AIDS crisis for its depiction of
the gritty, kinky, dangerous, sex-obsessed and depraved lifestyle of homosexuals. The protest
centered around the film's ultra-provocative plot -- murders in gay nightclubs, and the film's
negative and stereotypical view of gays portrayed as psychopaths, sexual deviants, and sexual
predators engaged in violent fetishistic activity and various hardcore sexual acts (i.e., a scene of
fisting with a nearly naked man shackled and hanging from the ceiling).

One questionably campy scene, a police interrogation, involved a large black man in thong
underwear and a cowboy hat inexplicably conducting the brutal questioning. The film also
included an extended sequence of the climactic and ferocious stabbing scene ("You made me
do that" was offered as justification). The current truncated film still lacks approximately 40
minutes of footage that were censored and edited out.

Two months after the film was released, a man killed two patrons and injured almost a dozen
others at The Ramrod with a sub-machine gun.
The Da Vinci Code (2006) # 13
Ron Howard

Director Ron Howard's much-anticipated, big-screen religious conspiracy thriller with the
tagline "Seek the Truth" was faithfully based upon Dan Brown's best-selling fictional book. It
told about an investigation by symbologist and Harvard professor Robert Langdon (Tom
Hanks) and French police cryptologist Sophie Neveu (Audrey Tautou) after the discovery of
the murder of the Louvre Museum's elderly curator Jacques Sauniere (Jean-Pierre Marielle).

The man's naked body was found with symbols and an enigmatic encrypted code written in
blood, a scrambled numerical sequence, and a revealing pose. [He was murdered by self-
flagellating albino monk Silas (Paul Bettany) in the employ of devious Bishop Aringarosa
(Alfred Molina).] This information led the wrongly-accused murder suspect Langdon and
Sophie through a byzantine trail of clues -- to a millenarian secret sect called The Priory of Sion
(with heretical theories about the marriage of a mortal Jesus Christ with Mary Magdalene and
fathering a child - the real Holy Grail!) and crippled Grail scholar Sir Leigh Teabing (Ian
McKellen). The search also led them to knowledge of the Priory's centuries-old battle with the
clandestine Catholic sect Opus Dei regarding a 2,000 year old conspiracy to hush information,
new findings about the Holy Grail, to Da Vinci's master work The Last Supper, London's
mythical Church Temple (where a group of Templars Knights were believed to be buried), and
Sir Isaac Newton's tomb at Westminster Abbey.

Several Catholic and Opus Dei groups, as well as conservative Christian groups, called for a
boycott, mostly during the making of the film, accusing it of blasphemy. Even albinos were
offended by the film, and lobbied for changes to the way the film portrayed them. Yet the
tedious film was received lukewarmly as a convoluted, flat and stultified bore.

Deep Throat (1972) # 4


Gerard Damiano

Unintended for mainstream audiences, this notorious X-rated porn flick from writer/director
Gerard Damiano became one of the decade's top-grossing films, and the most influential and
successful (and profitable) of all films of its kind. Deep Throat was filmed in 6 days for $25,000
and was subsequently banned in 23 US states.

It was an 'event' film - a hard-core stag film that was OK to see on a date or in mixed company,
yet it was banned in many localities as obscene. It inaugurated a period known as "Porno Chic"
- it was the first cross-over adults-only film that became a hit. After its initial period of release,
it became a cultural phenomenon and it was fashionable to talk about the film (and its
educationally feminist theme of female sexual gratification) or make references to it (such as
Watergate's 'Deep Throat').

This hour-long, revolutionary X-rated film (shot in about a week's time, with graphic
enactments of oral, vaginal and anal sex, group sex, and masturbation in a dozen and a half sex
scenes) told a simplistic plot (with some comic elements) about a sexually frustrated woman
(Linda Lovelace, born Linda Susan Boreman) who wanted to "hear bells" during sex. Her
doctor, Dr. Young (Harry Reems, born Herbert Streicher) discovered that her clitoris was
located in her throat, and that she would have to experiment with various clients before
experiencing orgasm -- this ultimately led to her sexual fulfillment accompanied by fireworks,
rockets blasting and ringing bells.

Years after the film was screened, Lovelace denounced the film, claiming that she was drugged,
coerced and raped during filming and that "there was a gun to my head the entire time". In the
mid-70s, actor Reems was prosecuted by the federal government (under the Nixon
administration) on obscenity charges - a first - although later overturned, and the film was
championed by Hollywood and other intellectuals for its liberated defense of First Amendment
rights.

An R-rated documentary film titled Inside Deep Throat (2005) examined the film's production
history and impact on American culture, including interviews with both the director and male
star Harry Reems.

The Deer Hunter (1978) # 12


Michael Cimino

Storywriter/producer/director Michael Cimino's epic about war and friendship was a


powerful, disturbing and compelling look at the Vietnam War through the lives of three blue-
collar, Russian-American friends in a small Pennsylvania steel-mill town before, during, and
after their service in the war.

Although a Best Picture Oscar-winner, the meandering, sometimes shrill, raw film was
extremely controversial on many accounts - political, historical and emotional. The flawed,
extravagantly-expensive film was often pretentious, ambiguous, overwrought and excessive,
and loosely edited, with under-developed character portrayals and unsophisticated, careless
film techniques. Critics argued that the film grossly distorted historical fact.

The most talked about sequences were the contrived, theatrical, and fictional Russian Roulette
tortures, imposed twice in the narrative - on the American POW's during wartime, and played
as a game in a Vietnamese gambling den. [However, there were no documented cases or
historical reports of the deadly game in actuality.] Historically inaccurate or not, the fabricated
scene of a Vietcong atrocity metaphorically depicted the brutal absurdity of the war. Director
Cimino was also criticized as distortedly and one-sidedly portraying all the Asian characters in
the film as despicable, sadistic racists and killers. He countered by arguing that his film was not
political, polemical, literally accurate, or posturing for any particular point of view.

The Devils (1971, UK)


Ken Russell

Ken Russell directed this blasphemous, shocking and excessive depiction of the repressive 17th
century when sexuality was equated with Satanism - a loose adaptation of Aldous Huxley’s
"The Devils Of Loudon". The film's setting was the fortified city of Loudon, 150 miles
southwest of Paris, in the year 1634.

The film was vilified and met with outrage in its story of a womanizing (non-celibate), vain,
libertine, rebellious activist renegade-priest Father Urbain Grandier (Oliver Reed) who faced
questioning and persecution for his "diabolic possession" of the local, repressed Ursuline nuns.
It included Vanessa Redgrave as tormented hunchbacked Sister Jeanne, who had unfulfilled,
warped sexual desires for Grandier and expressed them through self-mutilation and self-
flagellation. The only way the monarchy of Inquistion-obsessed France (including Cardinal
Richelieu (Christopher Logue) and King Louis XIII’s (Graham Armitage) establishment) could
destroy the Protestant-leaning French town of Loudon was to attack the liberal religious leader
as a sorcerer and practitioner of witchcraft.

When the priest impregnated nobleman's cousin Philippe (Georgina Hale), married wealthy
heiress Madeleine Dubroux (Gemma Jones) in secret, and then refused to remove the city walls
around his fortified town, fanatical witch-hunter and exorcist Father Barre (Michael Gothard)
was quickly dispatched to question, torture (headscrews, nails into hands, etc), tie up, and
execute the profligate priest. During the proceedings, possessed nuns, led by Sister Jeanne's
denunciations, performed orgiastic rituals publicly in Church to bolster claims against him. In
the controversial staged mock exorcism scene, dubbed the orgiastic "rape of Christ" sequence,
the sexually-hysterical nuns acted as if they were possessed, due to threats of execution from
one of the church's accusers; the crazed nuns displayed full-frontal nudity, and masturbated
with (or raped) a large-sized crucifix or effigy of Jesus, while Father Mignon (Murray Melvin)
watched from afar and committed self-abuse under his robe. As a result, Grandier was
convicted of obscenity, blasphemy, and sacrilege, and burned alive at the stake.

Prior to the film's release, the "rape of Christ" sequence was excised. And the scene of
Grandier's burning-at-the-stake torture as a heretic was shortened. The film contained graphic
depictions of open sores and medieval medicine treatments for the plague (with hornets). It
provoked protest and outrage from Christian groups and viewing audiences everywhere. It was
banned outright in Italy and its stars (Redgrave and Reed) were threatened with three years' jail
time if they entered the country.

Dirty Harry (1971)


Don Siegel

Dirty Harry took its name from the fact that its unorthodox title character, San Francisco
Inspector Harry Callahan (Clint Eastwood), became embroiled with the most challenging and
controversial ('dirty') cases of urban crime, often using tactics of police brutality and an attitude
of "take-no-prisoners" that ignored criminals' rights in order to restore victims' rights.
Callahan's open contempt for normal Miranda law restrictions illustrated his belief that
criminals must be stopped - by any means, since traditional law enforcement ("by the book")
tactics weren't effective.

Siegel's film was considered sensational because of its overt violence (reflecting the early 70s
era of rising crime and calls for 'law and order') and occasional glimpses of nudity. The duelling
combatants (the cop and the criminal) throughout the film - an individualistic, unconventional,
neo-fascist, super-hero police detective with a .44 Magnum weapon who threw away the rule
book, and his complementary opposite - a pathological, malevolent and sadistic criminal named
Scorpio (similar to SF's real-life Zodiac Killer, played by Andy Robinson) who demanded an
extortionist ransom of $100,000, both shared traits of brutal violence and insanity.

The police thriller spawned many debates about the political stance of the film and the complex
issue of the conflicting rights of victims, suspects, and society. Was it a reactionary message
piece against imperfect, "liberal" judicial trends that let 'sicko' criminals get away, literally,
with murder? Or was Siegel encouraging audiences to empathically identify with the
indiscriminate vengeance of the violent, fascist, anarchic, unrestrained vigilante 'killer' on the
side of the law who acted as an autonomous police power?

Do The Right Thing (1989) # 22


Spike Lee

African-American writer/director Spike Lee's third (and breakout) feature film was this
complex, angry and unapologetic social protest film about racism, racial pride, intolerance and
oppression, class struggle and violence. This controversial and incendiary independent film,
receiving a Best Original Screenplay Academy Award nomination for Lee, was about racial
tensions that eventually erupted into a riot on a sweltering summer day in the multi-ethnic
Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood of Brooklyn. It was told with vibrantly bright colors, realistic
and goofily-named characters and dialogue, a supplementary "Greek chorus" of black men on
the corner commenting on the day's events, and energetic editing and quasi-documentary,
cocked camera angles.

During the opening credits, Public Enemy performed the film's hard-edged anthem and title
song, "Fight the Power" - foreshadowing the coming emergence of rap and hip-hop music into
the mainstream culture. The multi-ethnic cast of the film provided three-dimensional
characters and day-in-the-life stories, and featured the early career work of Samuel L. Jackson
(as DJ Mister Senor Love Daddy) and Rosie Perez (as demanding single mother and girlfriend
Tina). The tension began to escalate in this slice-of-life film because of a complaint by a militant
activist neighborhood patron named Buggin' Out (Giancarlo Esposito) that there were no
pictures of 'brothers' on the "Wall of Fame" in a white-operated, Italian "Famous Pizzeria"
restaurant owned by Sal (Oscar-nominated Danny Aiello), followed by his attempt to "boycott
[Sal's] fat pasta ass". The film climaxed with the brutal choke-hold police murder of Radio
Raheem (Bill Nunn), the arrest of Buggin' Out, and pizza delivery boy Mookie's (Spike Lee)
incitement of a fiery riot by hurling a trashcan through Sal's storefront window, causing further
racial divide and police brutality.

Although it was feared by film critics that this would cause and incite similar responses from
black urban-dwellers, this proved to be a misrepresentation of the facts by the film's detractors,
that dubbed the film "irresponsible". Two contradictory quotations ended the film, one from
Martin Luther King, Jr. advocating non-violence, and the other from Malcolm X advocating
violent self-defense in response to oppression.

Dogma (1999)
Kevin Smith

Director Kevin Smith's fourth film was an imaginative, comic and fanciful theological work
(with foul language) about a monumental struggle or race between the good and evil regarding
the fate of Earth and mankind. On one side were two fallen, ousted or banished angels: Loki
(Matt Damon) and Bartleby (Ben Affleck), who have been exiled to eternity at an airport in
Wisconsin. After they discovered a loop-hole in Catholic doctrine (plenary indulgence) that
would allow them back into heaven, they decided to make their way to a cathedral to be
rededicated in New Jersey to have their sins forgiven (part of a revamped 'Catholicism Wow!'
program announced by hip Catholic Cardinal Glick played by George Carlin, including the
"Scary" crucifix being replaced by the "Buddy Christ”), and to have their wings cut off, become
human, and reenter the kingdom of heaven. If successful, they could prove the fallibility of God
and destroy the universe by nullifying all of human and earthly existence.

God (angry slack-rocker Alanis Morissette) dispatched a disdainful and bitchy seraphim - a
messenger from God named Metatron (Alan Rickman), to appear in a pillar of fire in the
bedroom of lapsed-and fallen Catholic Bethany Sloane (Linda Fiorentino) who worked at an
abortion clinic. The infertile woman, who was experiencing a crisis of faith but was Jesus
Christ's last surviving descendant, would be recruited to stop the two rogue angels from ending
humanity. He instructed her about meeting two muses or prophets (Kevin Smith and Jason
Mewes as slackers Silent Bob and Jay) who would assist her along the way. Other characters in
the tale included Chris Rock as a ranting Rufus, the erased or forgotten 13th apostle, and Salma
Hayek as disaffected heavenly muse Serendipity who 'inspired' men at a low-rent strip club.

The film's premiere drew hundreds of protesters and disdain from religious leaders, and Smith
himself received 300,000 pieces of hate mail. The Catholic League publically criticized
Miramax and Disney, for the film's anti-Catholic, sacrilegious and blasphemous stance, and its
satire of modern religion.

Ecstasy (1933, Czech.) (aka Exstase)


Gustav Machaty

This early, scandalous Czechoslovakian foreign erotic drama was once notorious, earth-
shattering, and scandalous. It was notable as being the first theatrically-released film in which
the sex act (sexual intercourse) was depicted. It was unusual at its time for depicting female
sexual pleasure during orgasm (simulated).

It told the story of a sexually-frustrated child-bride named Eva (Vienna-born 20 year-old


Hedwig Kiesler, or later known as Hedy Lamarr in her fifth film) who had married a middle-
aged, impotent Emil (Zvonimir Rogoz), and fled in dismay to her widowed father's estate
where she was close to nature.

It was censored for its two shocking scenes - in a naturalistic locale reminiscent of the Garden
of Eden: a nude swim and naked forest romp in sun-lit woods to pursue her horse Loni (which
had run off with her clothes), and an adulterous love-making scene (with an obvious expression
of sexual awakening, fulfillment and orgasmic pleasure on her face in a close-up) in a cottage
during a rainstorm with a handsome young engineer/surveyor named Adam (Aribert Mog),
who had earlier retrieved her horse and clothes.

The foreign import was blocked in 1935 by US Customs from entering the US for its obscenity,
marking the first instance of customs laws prohibiting a film from entering the US. The U.S.
Treasury Department upheld a Commissioner of Customs decision to prohibit the import,
although it was later imported in a censored version. Hitler banned the film, and Pope Pius XII
denounced it.

The Evil Dead (1981)


Sam Raimi

This was the first installment of Raimi's Evil Dead trilogy, a low-budget, non-humorous B-grade
horror film with the tagline: "the ultimate experience in grueling terror". This was the ultimate
"cabin in the woods" film - with evil spirits being unleashed upon five college students in a
Tennessee cabin after the reading of a forbidden book. Due to the film's graphic violence, it was
banned in several European countries.

The film's most controversial scene, the infamous predatory tree rape scene with quick POV
tracking shots, was one in which Cheryl (Ellen Sandweiss) was attacked in the woods outside
the log cabin by tree branches and vines that wrapped around her neck and limbs, stripped her
of her clothes, caressed her and then spread her legs - one tree branch suddenly impaled her in
her crotch; soon after she was chased back to the house, she was transformed into a demon
zombie. In the UK, the film was subject to obscenity trials and various censorship cuts -
particularly the misogynistic tree-rape scene. On-screen blood and gore would have given the
film an NC-17 rating if Raimi had presented the film to the ratings board when it was first
released.

The Exorcist (1973)


William Friedkin

Friedkin adapted William Peter Blatty's best-selling, 1971 blockbuster book about satanic
demon possession (based on a true-story of a 13 year-old Maryland boy in 1949), and created
one of the most disturbing, frightening, shocking, and exploitative films ever made. The horror
film masterpiece, the first major horror blockbuster, was one of the most opposed and talked-
about films, especially during its pre-release time period. Viewers and the studio took note that
there were accompanying ominous events, including the deaths of nine persons associated with
the production (including Jack MacGowran and von Sydow's brother) - and a request was made
to exorcise the set.

Its controversial content, sensational, nauseating, and horrendous special effects (360 degree
head-rotations, self-mutilation/masturbation with a crucifix, the projectile spewing of green
puke, a mixture of split-pea soup and oatmeal, etc.), for its depictions of desecrations, vivid
representations of evil, and for its intense scenes of exorcism (accompanied by blasphemies,
obscenities and graphic physical shocks). One of the most controversial scenes was the long
sequence of invasive medical testing performed on the hapless patient - criticized as medical
pornography.

A sweet pre-teenaged girl Regan MacNeil (Linda Blair) became possessed by a malevolent evil
spirit - and after urinating on the carpet in public and experiencing a shaking bed, was soon
transformed and disfigured into a head-rotating, levitating, green vomit-spewing, obscenity-
shouting creature. Her divorced, film-star mother Chris MacNeil (Ellen Burstyn) was at wit's
end, until she called on a dedicated, faith-questioning Jesuit priest Father Karras (Jason Miller)
to exorcise the malevolent devil from her daughter's body. An elderly priest Father Merrin
(Max von Sydow), whose archaeology project released the Satanic being, also risked his life
(and died of heart failure) to administer rites of exorcism with incantations and holy water.

The film was enormously popular with moviegoers at Christmas-time of 1973, but some
portions of the viewing audience fled from theaters due to nausea, convulsions, fainting or
sheer fright/anger (Headlines proclaimed: "The Exorcist nearly killed me!"), and it was
reported that one patron in San Francisco literally attacked the screen in an attempt to kill the
demon. Mass hysteria led to paramedics being called to some theatres, and others were
picketed in protest.

The film's showings also led to a reported increase in temporary spiritual possessions or
psychoses by individuals, and an increase in requests for priests to exorcise everything from
loved ones and pets to houses, neighborhoods and appliances. Evangelist Reverend Billy
Graham stated that he "felt the power of evil buried within the celluloid of the film itself". The
film was also banned on video in the UK for fifteen years.

Fahrenheit 9/11 (2004) # 3


Michael Moore

Michael Moore's controversial 'documentary' film was a critical expose and scathing
indictment of the George W. Bush presidency and administration for its handling of the
terrorist crisis and his alleged connections to Al-Qaeda leader Bin Laden's family. It was
accused of being propagandistic - especially in an election year - and that it contained
half-truths and distortions of facts, and some conservative groups called for theaters to
not screen it.

The documentary film was included among the Cannes Film Festival's main
competition (only the second time in 48 years for a documentary) - and won the top
prize called the Palme D'or - the first for a documentary in nearly 50 years. It also
broke the record for highest opening-weekend earnings in the US for a documentary,
and established a significant precedent for a political documentary (eventually earning
$119 million) as the highest-grossing, non-concert, non-IMAX documentary film of all
time.

The controversial film had earlier gained further publicity and notoriety when Disney
opted not to distribute the film through its Miramax subsidiary unit, and Moore
accused the company of censorship. Disney's refusal to let Miramax release it, because
it would risk causing a partisan battle and alienate customers, actually contributed to
the film's great success. [Supposedly, Disney also feared the film might endanger tax
breaks Disney received in Florida where its theme parks were located, and where the
president's brother, Jeb Bush, was governor at the time.] Although the film was rated
R, under protest from filmmaker Moore, some theaters defied the rating and allowed
teenagers (without guardians) to attend.

Memorable images include Bush's continued reading of the children's book "My Pet
Goat" in a Florida elementary school after the first plane crashed into the World Trade
Center (filmmaker Michael Moore narrated: "When informed of the first plane hitting
the World Trade Center, where terrorists had struck just eight years prior, Mr. Bush
decided to go ahead with his photo opportunity..."), the many self-incriminating Bush
clips (such as when he demonstrated his golf swing - "Now watch this drive!" -
immediately after calling on nations to stop terrorist killers, his stumbling through
speeches and delivering such damning lines as: "What an impressive crowd: the haves,
and the have-mores. Some people call you the elite, I call you my base"); the
documentarian's questioning of Democratic and Republican politicians about enrolling
their sons for military duty; the mall scenes in which Marine recruiters targeted
minority teenagers for enrollment, and Bush's inept handling of the terrorist crisis and
his agenda (after 9/11) to illegitimately launch a pre-emptive war in Afghanistan and
Iraq.

Freaks (1932) # 17
Tod Browning

This MGM horror production starred real-life circus side-show performers (a


cornucopia of 'human oddities', including Siamese twins Daisy and Violet, Prince
Randian - the "Living Torso", Johnny the 'half-boy', the armless girl, the bearded lady,
and three 'pinheads' or microcephalics). It was an out-of-the-ordinary picture not easily
forgotten, causing both revulsion and fascination.

In the film's terrorizing and shocking climax, strong man Hercules (Henry Victor) and
aerialist Cleopatra (Olga Baclanova) were both pursued in parallel by the grotesque
'freaks' with knives during a stormy night, crawling through mud in vengeful pursuit of
their victims. The film was released officially (five months after disastrous preview
showings) and found to be exploitative, abhorrent and "loathsome" with
"unwholesome shockery", although it also portrayed the 'abnormal and the unwanted'
as resilient and adaptable human beings with complete compassion and understanding.
Overall, it made audiences uncomfortable and engendered fright, uneasiness and
animosity.

After initial preview screenings, MGM ordered Browning to remove the alarming
film's most "offensive" segments (approximately 26 minutes), including the original
closing scene of an emasculated Hercules singing falsetto (after castration) in
"Tetrallini's Freaks and Music Hall". And a final epilogue was tacked on with a 'happy
ending' to lessen the shock of the film's original ending -- the sight of Cleopatra ("the
peacock of the air") turned into a legless human chicken with one eye blinded.
However, the changes in the film did not improve the film's box-office business and it
was a major financial failure. Tod Browning's career, which was booming after
directing Dracula (1931), was destroyed.

MGM pulled the film from distribution a month after its release, and in 1947,
exhibition rights were sold to exploitation filmmaker/distributor Dwain Esper for the
next 25 years. It was toured for an adults-only roadshow with alternative titles (i.e.,
Forbidden Love, The Monster Show, and Nature's Mistakes), exploitative taglines, such as:
"Do Siamese Twins Make Love?" and "Can a Full Grown Woman Truly Love a
Midget?" The film was banned outright in England for 31 years (until the early 1960s).

Hail, Mary (1985, Fr.) (aka Je vous salue, Marie)


Jean-Luc Godard

Director Jean-Luc Godard's controversial and upsetting film (condemned and


denounced by Pope John Paul II at one time and picketed at theatres) retold the story of
the virgin birth and Mary, for modern times, with Myriem Roussel as a young teenaged
basketball player named Marie who worked as an attendant in her father's garage and
her petulant boyfriend Joseph (Thierry Rode), a taxi-cab driver - who have a chaste
relationship; one of Joseph's fares was the angel Gabriel (Philippe Lacoste) who told
Marie that she was mysteriously pregnant and would give birth to the resurrected Jesus
Christ; a visit to the gynecologist confirmed that she was indeed pregnant without
having had sex; outrage came over the reinterpretation of the Immaculate Conception
and the fact that Roussel was often in various states of objectively-viewed, non-prurient
undress throughout the film; for instance, in one scene, she resisted the human
temptation to masturbate.
Heaven's Gate (1980)
Michael Cimino

This notorious, big-budget epic film was a major financial disaster for its studio (United
Artists, the studio of Charlie Chaplin, D.W. Griffith, Mary Pickford and Douglas
Fairbanks) - it also was a disaster for the western film genre for the remainder of the
80s, and it ended the reign of the New Wave of 1970's 'auteurs' or independent film-
makers. Its self-indulgent, financially-irresponsible and excessive writer/director,
Michael Cimino, who had been praised for his Best Picture and Best Director-winning
The Deer Hunter (1978), took the brunt of much of the film's criticism, for its ballooning
budget that was almost six times above-budget to produce (from $7.5 million to about
$44 million), for its overlong incomprehensible plot (originally a 5-hour version that
was cut down to 219 minutes ), for its miscasting and slow pacing, for its expensive on-
location shooting and fastidious over-attention to detail and historical accuracy - all for
a film without major stars. Following its initial release in late 1980, the film was pulled
from theatres, edited down by over an hour in length, and re-released a few months
later, although it still failed miserably. UA's corporate parent, Transamerica, was
forced to sell the bankrupted studio to MGM for only $350 million as a result.

Heaven's Gate was one of the first films to be prejudged by a critic. The infamous review
of New York Times critic Vincent Canby ("It fails so completely that you might suspect
Mr. Cimino sold his soul to obtain the success of The Deer Hunter and the Devil has just
come around to collect") built negative press until Cimino's film was doomed to have
an un-profitable theatrical release. The film received numerous Razzie Award
nominations including a Worst Director prize for Cimino, although it received
generally positive reviews after release to video, and fairly good results from its
international box-office. It was critically re-evaluated by the LA-based Z Channel when
it premiered on cable TV in its uncut version in 1982, but it was already too late.

The documentary Final Cut: The Making and Unmaking of Heaven's Gate (2004), composed
of a series of interviews (and based on Steven Bach's 1985 book of the same name),
provided a behind-the-scenes look at the film - one of Hollywood's most notorious
disasters. The film became the biggest flop in film history at the time (US box-office
was only about $1.5 million), and since then has been synonymous for any film judged
to be a monumental 'turkey' that faced major financial disaster.

Henry: Portrait of A Serial Killer (1986) (released in 1990)


John McNaughton

John McNaughton's realistic, disturbing "fictional dramatizaton", his directorial debut


film shot in 4 weeks on a budget of about $100,000, was based on the confessions of
famed, pathological, 'real-life' convicted serial killer Henry Lee Lucas (played by
Michael Rooker in his feature film debut), who ended up on death row in Texas. The
grisly horror-slasher film's detached and amoral documentary style and tone of filming
enhanced each brutal, gory and violent killing (15 in the film) by the murderer, first
viewed as a series of grotesque tableaux.

There were numerous sickening, brutally-violent cinema-verite off-screen and on-screen


murders by psychotic murderer Henry, including the death of a young woman left
disemboweled and lying in a ditch, and shots-to-the-heads of a storeowner couple
(Elizabeth and Ted Kaden), a prostitute (Mary Demas) killed in a bathroom with a
broken soda bottle in her face, and especially the beating, torture, sexual assault, and
killing of a helpless family in their suburban home - and then afterwards, the viewing
(and re-viewing) of the grainy, unfocused, and poorly-photographed account of the
crime shot on videotape by murderers Henry and his prison buddy Otis (Tom Towles).

It was so controversial that it was given an X-rating, and had very limited release in the
US. Due to a ratings controversy with the MPAA, its release was held up for a few
years. Its release was delayed until 1993 in the UK and even then, two minutes of the
film's violent content was spliced out. An uncut version of the movie was eventually
allowed for video release in 2003.
I Am Curious (Yellow) (1967, Swe.) # 18
Vilgot Sjöman

This landmark, avante-garde, mock-documentary film (shot with mostly hand-held


cameras) allegedly included 'offensive' sexual scenes that were claimed to be
pornographic at the time - scenes of full frontal nudity of both sexes (at 38 minutes into
the film), simulated intercourse, and the kissing of the male's flaccid penis (over a full
hour into the film). By today's standards, it is considered tame, although it helped to
open the floodgates toward hard-core pornography and films such as the X-rated Best
Picture Midnight Cowboy (1969), the porno chic Deep Throat (1972), and Bernardo
Bertolucci's Last Tango in Paris (1972).

The radical, experimental film-within-a-film of sexual politics told the dull and
pretentious story of liberated 22 year-old Lena (Lena Nyman), an aspiring sociologist
who was curious about political issues in late 60s Sweden, with endless soul-searching,
lengthy street interviews with common people about the class system, newsreel
footage, scenes of protest regarding the Vietnam War, scribbled on-screen slogans, her
cataloguing of information, etc. Sexual interludes between Lena and car salesman Börje
Ahlstedt (mirrored in the film and real life by a tumultuous triangle with director
Vilgot Sjöman) are shot frankly and realistically.

US Customs seized the film in 1968, and the courts (and the Supreme Court) originally
determined that the movie was 'obscene', although this verdict was overturned after
appeal. It became a benchmark film for free-speech advocates.

It soon became the highest-grossing foreign film (at $20 million) released in the US for
decades (a record that stood until Il Postino broke the mark in the mid 1990's), although
the film was picketed. Unused footage and alternate takes from the film were culled for
a concurrent, parallel film I Am Curious (Blue) (1968, Swe.) - the choice of colors
represented the two colors of the Swedish flag.

Ilsa: She-Wolf of the SS (1974)


Don Edmonds

This cult classic was the original film in a series of infamous, violent and shocking
exploitation films, all with the title of Ilsa (based upon the real-life actual Nazi named
Ilse Koch known as the "Bitch of Buchenwald", and reportedly upon actual tortures and
atrocities during the Holocaust). The so-called Nazi-exploitation film's subtitle
advertised that Ilsa herself was: "The Most Dreaded Nazi of Them All." Although
dedicated to the victims of the Holocaust, the film was banned in Germany. There
were also three low-budget sequels including Ilsa: Harem Keeper of the Oil Sheiks (1976),
Ilsa: The Tigress of Siberia (1977), and Ilsa: The Wicked Warden (1977) (also pictured).

This sick and semi-pornographic film with abundant gratuitous nudity and gruesome
incidents (such as flesh-eating maggots) was shot on the set used for the Hogan's Heroes
TV show after it was cancelled in the early 70s. Nymphomaniacal Ilsa (Las Vegas
showgirl Dyanne Thorne) was featured as the big-busted, blonde Nazi POW camp's
(stalag) over-the-top sadistic, dominatrix commandant who personally inspected
stripped female prisoners (including cult starlets Sharon Kelly and Uschi Digard) and
performed 'scientific' experiments upon them, as well as forced herself upon male
prisoners and then castrated them.

In the Realm of the Senses (1976, Jp.) (aka Ai No Corrida)


Nagisa Oshima

This erotic Japanese masterpiece about painful passion told the story of a torrid,
increasingly intense and dangerous, true-to-life, almost non-stop sexual affair between
gangster businessman Kichizo (Tatsuya Fuji) and one of his servants, former prostitute
Sada Abe (Eiko Matsuda) in mid-1930s Japan. The film, produced in France, reflected
the tradition of erotic Japanese wood-block prints, the shunga, in which the faces were
stylized, but the sexual organs (especially the phallus) were shown aroused, enlarged
and delineated with almost topographical detail and care.

This sexually adventurous, lurid arthouse film about unadulterated desire deliberately
broke the taboo in Japanese cinema against showing female pubic hair and sex organs. It
had an orgy scene and contained explicit shots of fellatio (while he passively laid back
and smoked a cigarette) with semen dripping from her mouth, penetration, a wide
variety of sexual positions and sexual acts (some in close-up) such as a boiled egg
inserted into her vagina, sexual violence and masochism (forcible use of a wooden
dildo, bite-wounds, S&M, etc.), and masturbation during a bloody menstrual period.
Almost penis-fixated, she innocently stated: "Isn’t it natural for a woman to love the
sex of the man she loves?" Most notoriously, it depicted the infamous, violent scene of
their disturbing practice of auto-erotic asphyxiation with a red scarf to aid their sexual
excitement - and even worse, bloody castration-dismemberment by film's end so that
she could keep his member inside of her. Afterwards, the empowered female carried
around her master-lover's severed genitals in a handkerchief for four days - an
enactment of her proprietary feelings about his member - until she was arrested.

The shocking film of extreme, all-consuming sexual obsession and immersion,


bordering on pornography in its uncut version, was seized and banned by US Customs
and postponed in its censored release. It caused a sensation - and lively discussion - at
the Melbourne Film Festival in 1976 when first released.

Irreversible (2002, Fr.)


Gaspar Noe

Frenchman writer/director Gaspar Noe's hard-hitting, graphic, profoundly disturbing


and violent film about rape revenge, was non-linear - it was told in flashback and
reverse order in continuously-filmed takes, similar in structure to Christopher Nolan's
Memento, with the theme: "Time destroys everything." The fatalistically-tinged film
implied that the characters in the film were predestined (irreversibly) to face what
would happen to them.

It was also noted for its excruciatingly-long, almost-unbearable, nine-minute real-time


beating and anal-rape sequence - shot with a static camera - of Alex (Monica Bellucci)
in a deserted Parisian underpass tunnel lit by a reddish glow, by stranger-rapist Le
Tenia/Tapeworm (Jo Prestia). It was followed by a love-making scene (earlier in the
chronology) of Alex with boyfriend Marcus (Vincent Cassel) (with Marcus'
prophetically-teasing line: "I want to f--k you in the ass"), and ended with a beautiful
scene of Alex relaxing in a sunny park with children playing.

Besides that, there was the horrific, violent and vengeful scene of Marcus and Alex's ex-
boyfriend Pierre (Albert Dupontel) searching in retribution in a gay S&M night-club
sex bar filled with leather-bondage patrons called The Rectum. It culminated with the
vicious revenge beating of the suspected rapist - with the man's head beaten to a pulp
with a fire extinguisher.
I Spit On Your Grave (1978) (aka Day of the Woman)
Meir Zarchi

This exploitative, X-rated (later released in an R-rated version) notorious gang


rape/vigilante revenge splatter-horror film was banned outright in many countries (for
its misogynistic theme), and vilified by critics. Its theme of violent revenge placed it in
the category of filthy and debased exploitation film (masquerading as an anti-rape
diatribe), and reviewers such as Ebert and Siskel (who described the unrated version as
vile garbage) attempted to have the film pulled from theaters.

It told how NY writer Jennifer Hill (Camille Keaton, grand-niece of comedian Buster
Keaton, and married to director Zarchi at the time of filming) rented a remote and
woodsy, lakeside dwelling for the summer. After skinny-dipping - she was confronted
and repeatedly raped by four men (Eron Tabor, Anthony Nichols, Gunther Kleeman,
and Richard Pace) in a graphic, long and violent sequence (40 minutes) that was
particularly uncomfortable to watch. Afterwards, she visited a church to ask for
forgiveness before the brutal and bloody counter-assault she had planned, followed by
the scenes of her angry (yet seductive) revenge against each of the four attackers: a
hanging, a lethal bloodletting castration seductively conducted nude in a warm bathtub
with a conveniently-placed carving knife, an axing, and a disembowelment with an
outboard boat motor.

JFK (1991) # 5
Oliver Stone

Director/co-writer Oliver Stone's' complex, provocative docu-film thriller was a


controversial, speculatively revisionistic, historical epic surrounding one-time New
Orleans DA Jim Garrison's (Kevin Costner) investigation of the John F. Kennedy
assassination on November 22, 1963. Its intriguing interpretation was based on the well-
publicized and alleged conspiracy theories of the obsessed attorney about the mystery of
the death, and on the testimony of a number of unreliable witnesses.

The film masterfully assembled and merged, like a jigsaw puzzle, various sources of
material (newsreels, photos, black and white, color, 8 mm, 16 mm, etc., minature
models, and re-enactments) into one film to create a semblance of truth, but not
necessarily real history. However, Stone was attacked and dismissed by the American
media, CBS, The New York Times, Time, Newsweek and The Washington Post, for deliberately
combining factual and historical footage with hypothetical footage to make it appear to
be one seamless, objective and truthful record of events. In response, Stone released the
screenplay, annotated with its factual sources.

The trial scene in the last half of the film featured three very memorable scenes to
disprove the idea that assassin Lee Harvey Oswald (Gary Oldman) acted alone: the
scornful rejection of the Magic Bullet theory (the 'official' Warren Commission version
of events which Garrison declared unlikely or impossible - and "one of the grossest lies
ever forced on the American people" - with a diagram of the bullet's zig-zag path
presented for evidence), a detailed analysis of the famous Zapruder film, and Garrison's
impassioned closing argument, finishing with him staring directly into the camera, and
addressing the audience: "It's up to you."

Kids (1995) # 23
Larry Clark

Director Larry Clark's much-criticized dark cinema verite independent film was a well-
needed realistic tale about drugs, amorality, sex, obscene talk, and generally decadent
behavior among teenaged youth. Clark's first feature film was one of the most truthful
films about promiscuous, sexually-pleasurable and fulfilling but emotionless teenage
(and pre-teen) sexuality - with lethal high-risk consequences. However, others criticized
it as salacious, sleazy and bordering on child pornography with lots of raunchy talk and
simulated sex - disguised as a cautionary documentary.

It followed a group of teenagers and preteens during 24 hours of a hot Manhattan


summer, with a 17-year-old skateboarder named Telly (Leo Fitzpatrick) - a self-
proclaimed "virgin surgeon" with HIV whose goal was to deflower as many girls as
possible ("Virgins. I love 'em. No diseases, no loose as a goose pussy, no skank. No
nothin'. Just pure pleasure"). Easily-seduced Girl # 1 (Sarah Henderson) was an easy
target, as was Jenny (a young Chloe Sevigny), who became an HIV-positive-infected
teen through sexual contact with Telly, as he went on a search for his next virginal
victim at a skinny-dipping pool party, 13 year-old Darcy (Yakira Peguero). One of its
more shocking scenes was the ending scene -- hung-over, post-partying Caspar (Justin
Pierce), Telly's friend, took advantage of unconscious, stoned-out and helpless Jenny on
a bed by raping her (and possibly infecting himself). When he woke up the next
morning, he delivered the film’s final line: "Jesus Christ, what happened?"

It was released unrated to avoid the stigma of an NC-17 rating. As a buffer against the
furor, Miramax (owned by Disney at the time) created a new entity, Shining Excalibur
Films, to release the picture. It was also banned by Warner Bros from its cinemas
throughout Britain upon release.

Clark's next controversial films, Bully (2001) and Ken Park (2002), followed similar white
teens and authentically explored their sexuality.

Kinsey (2004)
Bill Condon

This serious and engrossing biopic was about controversial, Midwestern human sexuality
researcher Dr. Alfred Kinsey (Liam Neeson) who laid the groundwork for the coming
sexual revolution, with its tagline: "Let's talk about sex". It stirred up continuing protest
about the impact of his pioneering work, interviews and liberal publications on morality
and behavior. Kinsey startled the world with the publication of his Kinsey Report (aka
Sexual Behavior in the Human Male) in 1948 and its follow-up Sexual Behavior in the Human
Female (1953).

The non-erotic, non-exploitative, and non-prurient film was attacked by morality


extremists for its candid and frank drama about the famous Indiana University doctor's
obsessive life-work. It illustrated how Kinsey's own wife Clara McMillen (Oscar-
nominated Laura Linney) had painful sexual problems with her inexperienced husband
during their honeymoon, and then later was engaged in an extra-marital affair with her
husband's bi-sexual assistant Clyde Martin (Peter Sarsgaard) - who also had a
homosexual encounter with Kinsey and appeared in a full-frontal scene; and that a
young Kinsey was punished with a confining genital strap to prevent him from
masturbating by his ultra-moralistic, bullying, and repressive minister father (John
Lithgow). In the film's final heartbreaking interview scene with an older, middle-aged
lesbian subject (Lynn Redgrave in a cameo), she expressed how she was freed from
homosexual guilt ("You saved my life"), after experiencing lesbian feelings.

Concerned Women for America (CWA) protested that the film was "an attempt to
cover up sex researcher Alfred Kinsey's horrifying reality." They accused the film of
misrepresenting how Kinsey actually had encouraged pedophiles to molest children (in
the name of science). Other neo-Puritanical proponents thought the film was another
example of how Hollywood was normalizing perversion, attacking Christian values
about sexual morality, and promoting a "pro-homosexual agenda." And an
advertisement for the film was initially rejected by PBS' WNET in New York because
the film was deemed too commercial and provocative.
The Kiss (1896) (aka The May Irwin Kiss, The Rice-Irwin Kiss and The Widow
Jones)
William Heise for Thomas Edison

This most popular short film (an Edison Vitascope film made in Edison's Black Maria
studio) was thought to be scandalizing. It was the first filming of a couple's kiss that was
recreated from the two well-known stage actors' (May Irwin and John Rice)
performance in the hit Broadway play The Widow Jones. The Edison catalogue advertised
it thus: "They get ready to kiss, begin to kiss, and kiss and kiss and kiss in a way that
brings down the house every time."

Many disapproved and considered it inappropriate to view two physically-unattractive


people magnified on the screen during an extended kiss. As one contemporary critic
wrote: "The spectacle of the prolonged pasturing on each other's lips was beastly
enough in life size on the stage but magnified to gargantuan proportions and repeated
three times over it is absolutely disgusting."

The Last House on the Left (1972)


Wes Craven

This low-budget, crude, taboo-breaking and often revolting 'snuff'-type horror film
(Wes Craven's debut feature film and a loose remake of Ingmar Bergman's The Virgin
Spring (1960)) told about the long and upsetting ordeal of two teenaged girls: Mari
Collingwood (Sandra Cassel) and Phyllis Stone (Lucy Grantham) who were searching
for pot on their way to a Bloodlust rock concert when kidnapped by a group of escaped
convicts led by Krug Stillo (David Hess), brutally and sadistically tortured (including
chest-carving Mari with a knife), forced to have sex with each other, raped, dis-
emboweled (with one of the gang members pulling out bloody intestines), and
eventually murdered in the woods.

The grainy, hand-held 16 mm footage accentuated the realism and horror - and led to
intense criticism for its graphic depiction of violence and disquieting, exploitative nature
(one of the girls was forced to urinate on herself), which the film tried to defuse by
claiming: "It's only a movie". Craven insisted that the film's painful and protracted
violence was "a reaction on my part to the violence around us, specifically to the
Vietnam War."

This ugly scene was intercut with views of 'surprise party' preparations for Mari by her
parents (Gaylord St. James and Cynthia Carr). Ironically, in a later scene, the escaped
convicts took refuge in the home of the upscale small-town parents, the hospitable
Collingwoods - where there was animalistic payback revenge/slaughter of the gang. In a
grotesque sequence, the father chipped teeth out with a chisel and pursued with a
chainsaw, while the mother dismembered the penis of one of the culprits with her
mouth (during fellatio) and slashed another one's throat with a razor.

The film faced censorship difficulties everywhere, but especially in the UK, where an
uncut version of the DVD is still unavailable.

The Last Picture Show (1971)


Peter Bogdanovich

Bogdanovich's R-rated frank and realistic drama told about the dreams and loves of small-town
Texans in the early 1950s, confronting various issues such as adultery, alcoholism, and
promiscuity. The adult-themed film was considered obscene by some viewers - and noted for
brief full frontal nudity in a sexy swimming scene at an indoor pool party in which the teenagers
enjoyed skinny-dipping. Goaded by nude partygoers, the town's young, rich, ravishingly
beautiful, self-centered town tease Jacy Farrow (Cybill Shepherd in her debut film) was
reluctant to strip, but performed a neophyte strip-tease on the diving board. Another scene
found the calculating, fortune-hunting Jacy in an aborted, deflowering scene with football-
playing boyfriend Duane Jackson (Jeff Bridges) in the Cactus Motel in the dying Texas town,
although she told her girlfriend-classmates: "I just can't describe it in words".

The film was reportedly banned in Phoenix, Arizona in 1973 after a showing at a drive-in
theatre, following complaints by the city attorney that it violated a state obscenity swtatute.
Arguments in federal court focused on the nudity in this party scene, and eventually the courts
disagreed over whether it was obscene, and threw the case out.
Last Tango In Paris (1972, It./Fr.) # 9
Bernardo Bertolucci

Bertolucci's film was a landmark, controversial erotic film with raw (yet simulated) sexual
scenes and primitive force - critics and audiences alike asked - was it erotic art or pornography?
In the film's story, a distraught, confused, grieving widower and middle-aged, overweight
American exile Paul (Marlon Brando) plunged into a sado-masochistic, physical (yet impersonal
and basically anonymous) relationship with young, big-breasted 20 year-old Parisienne ingenue
Jeanne (Maria Schneider). Paul's gutter-language and set of 'no questions asked' rules was
notable for the time: "We are going to forget everything we knew - everything" - and their
relationship became increasingly more vile, slavish, empty, humiliating, and unromantic (i.e.,
"You know in 15 years, you're going to be playing soccer with your tits. What do you think of
that?").

It was noted for Paul's scatological monologues, its bathtub washing scene and the disturbing and
explicit 'butter' scene during anal intercourse, in which she passively acquiesced to rape and
forced sodomy (with an application of butter: "Get the butter") in an empty, rented apartment,
as he forced her to repeat phrases such as: "the will is broken by repression". Later, Paul
reciprocated by letting Jeanne penetrate him anally with her fingers - part of his objective to
"look death right in the face...go right up into the ass of death... till you find the womb of fear."
By film's end, she had shot him with her father's gun, and confessed to police: "I don't know
who he is" and "I don't know his name".

It was noteworthy as the first "mainstream" film to carry the dreaded "X" rating. In 1974, it
became the first film to be prosecuted under Britain's Obscene Publications Act - and the
sodomy scene was ordered deleted. In the director's own country, the film was seized and
banned, and charged for its "obscene content offensive to public decency". In the mid-70s, it
was permanently banned in Italy (with all prints seized), its stars and director were condemned,
and Bertolucci was given a 4-month suspended prison sentence.

The Last Temptation Of Christ (1988) # 6


Martin Scorsese

This controversial, profound, and challenging adaptation of Nikos Kazantzakis's 1955 best-
selling novel (due to controversy) of the same name was Best Director-nominated by the
Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences. The author was almost ex-communicated from
the Greek Orthodox Church as a result of writing the book, and his work was frequently found
on lists of banned books. The film was denounced as pornographic (for a non-explicit scene of
Jesus procreating with his wife) even before its release, although the film stated in a pre-credits
disclaimer: "This film is not based on the Gospels, but is a fictional exploration of the eternal
spiritual conflict."

The major controversy concerned the 'last temptation' visionary/hallucinatory sequence in


which a very human and suffering Jesus (Willem Dafoe) was tempted by Satan as he hung during
crucifixion on the cross (while uttering: "My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?") -
with a dream of an earthly existence with tattooed prostitute Mary Magdalene (Barbara
Hershey). The vision included the blasphemous idea of a sexual relationship with her, including
marriage and children, thereby implying that Jesus' choice to marry revealed him to be a flawed,
frail, questioning, tormented and self-doubting man who was uncertain of the path he should
follow. In the non-exploitative sequence, Jesus was naked in Mary's arms and they made tender,
physical love. By film's end, however, the temptation was ultimately rejected by Jesus, and he
returned to the cross with his triumphant dying words: "It is accomplished."

During one early screening in a Parisian movie theatre, a protesting fundamentalist French
Catholic group threw a molotov cocktail at the screen and injured a number of people. Religious
fundamentalists vehemently criticized, protested, boycotted, and picketed the film, with signs
reading: "Don't Crucify Christ Again," "Stop This Attack on Christianity," and "Scripture Not
Scripts." City leaders in Savannah, Georgia banned the film, and sent a signed petition to
Universal requesting a widespread ban. The Blockbuster Video chain refused to carry the title,
and one group suggested offering to buy the $7 million film from Universal in order to destroy
it. Joseph Reilly of Morality in Media described the film as "an intentional attack on Christianity,"
and James Dobson of Focus on the Family warned ominously: "God is not mocked."

Lolita (1962, UK)


Stanley Kubrick
and
Lolita (1997)
Adrian Lyne

Stanley Kubrick's sixth film - a brilliant, sly adaptation of Vladimir Nabokov's celebrated yet
controversially-infamous 1955 novel of a middle-aged man's unusual, doomed sexual
passion/obsession for a precocious, seductive "nymphet" girl, was cause for some concern. [The
scandalous book was banned in Paris in 1956-1958, and not published in its full form in the US
or UK until 1958.] The question: "How did they ever make a movie of Lolita?" was actually
asked on the film's posters. The X-rated UK film's Hollywood premiere disallowed young star
Sue Lyon (14-15 years old at the time of filming) from attending.
Lolita (1962)
Although Nabokov was appointed to write the screenplay for his own lengthy novel, Kubrick
rewrote (with co-producer James B. Harris) Nabokov's unacceptable versions of the script in a
more sanitized fashion. The age of Lolita in the novel was raised from 12 years old to that of a
typical high-schooler - probably 14 or 15, to avoid some predicted controversy. The threat of
censorship and denial of a Seal of Approval from the film industry's production code and the
Roman Catholic Legion of Decency overshadowed the film's production.

The black humor and dramatic story of juvenile temptation and perverse, late-flowering lust was
centered on a pubescent nymphet and a mature literature professor in an aura of incest. Rather
than a film of overt sexuality and prurient subject matter, its content was deliberately mostly
suggestive, with numerous double entendres, whisperings, meaningful facial expressions, and
metaphoric sexual situations, with carefully-placed fades to black. Its most troublesome
character who assumed various disguises, was actually Clare Quilty (Peter Sellers) - an implied
pedophile and child pornographer.

The film opened with an erotic pedicure scene under the credits of obsessed, middle-aged
boarder and literature professor Humbert Humbert (James Mason) cradling the title character's
foot and then lovingly and devotedly painting her toenails with bright enamel - hinting at
pedophilia. Sue Lyon starred as the title character Dolores Haze - a tempting, precocious,
iconic, underaged nymphet nicknamed Lolita - first viewed in the garden in a two-piece bathing
suit and sun-hat, and eyed by the passion of Humbert. The film was noted for the scene of their
overnight stay at a hotel and Lolita's early morning coquettish suggestion to play a game that she
learned at camp, while seductively twirling the hair on his head with her finger --- followed by a
discrete fade to black.

Similarly, director Adrian Lyne's 1997 erotically-charged, sensual remake (with Jeremy Irons
and 15 year-old actress Dominique Swain), produced on the heels of the Child Pornography
Prevention Act of 1996 and the murder of 6 year-old JonBenet Ramsey (publicized as being a
beauty pageant contestant), failed to get a distributor for an American theatrical release, for its Lolita (1997)
aberrant, still-taboo and touchy topic of underage sexuality and incestual pedophilia. However,
it contained virtually no female nudity (and a body double was used in one brief dimly-lit scene),
and strict precautions were taken during filming. The first view of Lolita was in the garden
where a lawn sprinkler soaked her pale sundress; in one controversial love-making scene in a
hotel, they slept in the same bed and she wet-kissed him on the mouth after having showed him
"everything" -- during the fade-out, Humbert explained in voice-over: "Gentlewomen of the
jury, I was not even her first lover"; in another scene, Lolita nuzzled next to his crotch and
inched her hand up his inner thigh when she asked him for a $2 allowance; in the film's most
provocative scene, Lolita rocked pleasurably on Humbert's lap while reading the newspaper
comic pages.

The film was finally picked up by Showtime Cable Channel, which showed it on August 2, 1998,
and then was subsequently released to theatres, video stores and DVD.
Men Behind the Sun (1988) (aka Hei tai yang 731)
Tun Fei Mou

This unrated (would have been NC-17 undoubtedly) provocative and sickening documentary-
style film (denounced by some as an exploitation film) displayed some of the grotesque Japanese
atrocities and perverse medical experiments committed toward guinea-pig human victims in
Unit 731 (a biological warfare R & D unit) during WWII.

One atrocious scene showed a Chinese woman forced to thrust her deliberately frost-bitten
hands into hot water, and then had her flesh ripped off her hands to expose the skeletal bones; it
was also criticized for its use of actual autopsy footage depicting a drugged young boy whose
organs were extracted from his body while he was alive, and for another scene in which a live
cat was ripped apart by a room full of starving rats; in a decompression chamber sequence, the
intense pressure caused a man's intestines to shoot out of his anus.

The Message (1976, 1977) (aka Mohammed, Messenger of God) # 11


Moustapha Akkad

Taglined as "The Story of Islam," this epic-length 178 minute dramatic biopic was the debut
feature film of Islamic, Syrian-born producer/director Moustapha Akkad (who later produced
John Carpenter's successful horror film Halloween (1978)). It starred Mexican-born actor
Anthony Quinn (Abdallah Geith in the 198 minute Arabic version) - following his success in the
desert epic Lawrence of Arabia (1962) -- as Mohammed's desert-dwelling warrior uncle Hamza. It
was set in 7th century Mecca and documented the beginnings of Islam and the life and teachings
of the prophet. The film's script - written by Irishman H.A.L. (Harry) Craig - took two years of
research and writing before its readiness for filming, due in part to the restriction that Muslim
authorities had to approve the finished screenplay before filming could commence.

Problems began almost immediately when it was unfoundly rumored that Peter O'Toole, and
then American star Charlton Heston, would star in the lead role, causing two days of bloody
riots in Karachi, Pakistan. This caused a stir because it was feared that the film would violate the
strict Muslim belief (forbidden by Shari'a, Islamic holy law formed after Mohammed's death)
that any representation of the Diety Allah or His Prophet Mohammed (and his immediate family
including wives, daughters, and sons-in-law) could not be depicted on screen nor could his voice
be heard. However, the politically-correct film represented him either off-screen, as the
camera's point-of-view, or with occasional symbolic appearances (i.e., his camel-riding stick, his
tent, and his holy camel). Nonetheless, endless protests, riots and death threats (by telephone)
accompanied the film's production and making (totaling seven years).
In its troubled production history, the film was forced to move from Saudi Arabia to Morocco
for filming, where Akkad promised that he would construct a $100 million film production
studio, as well as recreate the city of Mecca (and a model of the town's sacred holy shrine, the
Kaaba, at a cost of $400,000), and hire thousands of extras. [The film was originally backed for
up to $60 million by Saudi monarch King Faisal, until he pulled out of the project while
disallowing filming on location in Mecca and Medina. Later, Faisal denounced the infidel
filmmakers in Morocco and caused the dismantlement of the whole film operation, resulting in
relocation costs of more than $2 million.] Akkad was forced to move and find financial backing
and sponsorship from terrorist-friendly Libyan leader Colonel Muammar al-Qaddafi.
Ultimately, The Message was shot in two versions with different cast members, a Western version
in English and a special Arabic version (entitled Al-Ris-Alah), adding to the costs.

The film faced a dilemma regarding its marketing for US audiences, for its emphasis on a non-
Western religious leader who didn't even appear in the film. Eventually, it was decided to use
the tagline: "In four decades only four... "The Robe" "The Ten Commandments" "Ben-Hur"
and now... For the first time...the vast, spectacular drama that changed the world!" Difficulties
with the film's title forced it to be changed to The Message for its world premiere in London in
late July, 1976. Various religious groups called the film 'sacrilegious' and 'an insult to Islam' and
it was banned from showings in much of the Arab world. Without all the surrounding
controversies whirling about, the film was still viewed as a bland, compromising film that was
overlong.

There was further controversy when the film was scheduled to premiere in the U.S. in
Washington, DC, in March, 1977. The Hanafi Black Muslim extremist group led by Hamas
Abdul Khaalis staged a heavily-armed siege against the local Jewish chapter of the B'nai B'rith (its
national headquarters) under the mistaken belief (without having seen the film) that Anthony
Quinn played Mohammed in the film. During the two-day crisis, they took nearly 150 people
hostage, and threatened to blow up the building while demanding the film opening's
cancellation. Future DC mayor Marion Barry was shot when the terrorists overran the District
Building, and many others were injured. The hostage situation was eventually defused by the FBI
and Muslim ambassadors, and the theater chain that had booked the film cancelled the showing.
This disastrous opening unfortunately ruined US box-office for the controversial film, as various
moviehouses were forced to cancel their showings due to political pressures and further fears of
violence.

Ironically, in late 2005, Akkad died from injuries sustained during terrorist attacks in Jordan.

Midnight Cowboy (1969)


John Schlesinger

John Schlesinger's film was a major milestone although controversial at its time for its gay-
related content and subject of male prostitution. Its title "midnight cowboy" referred to
nocturnal cowboys in the big city - those who were hustlers. The ground-breaking film was the
first (and only) X-rated (for adult-oriented, not porno) mainstream film (later reduced to R) to
be voted Best Picture, with an A-list stars, at a time when the ratings system was first
introduced. This Oscar-winning film, an exceptional, provocative, and gritty character portrait,
was made on location in New York to portray seediness, corruption, and big-city anonymity,
and was based on James Leo Herlihy's 1965 novel. It was unusual for its rating to be so high,
since the unflinching film did not contain significant profanity, graphically-brutal violence, or
frontal nudity, although it did portray some partial nudity and simulations of sex.

It told an adult-themed story about a naive, swaggering, transplanted (and emasculated)


dishwasher/stud - a displaced small-town "cowboyish" Texan named Joe Buck (Jon Voight) who
struggled and aspired in the sordid 42nd Street area of NY to become a successful hustler or
gigolo - while posing as a "macho midnight cowboy," although he eventually resorted to
homosexual street hustling to survive. Upon his arrival in the big city, he vainly posed shirtless
in front of his hotel room's mirror, and pasted up a beefcake poster of Paul Newman from Hud
and a picture of a topless woman. His first 'trick' was fast-talking, brassy society girl Cass (Best
Supporting Actress nominee Sylvia Miles) who out-hustled Joe for a cab-ride fee. In a comedic
sex scene in which they humorously activated channels with the TV remote control beneath
their bodies - the metaphoric climax came with the closeup view of the winning results of a slot
machine jackpot - spewed-out coins.

Joe's first homosexual client was a religiously fanatical and homosexual Jesus-freak Christian
named Mr. O'Daniel (John McGiver). During the encounter, Joe flashbacked to his disturbed
and abused boyhood when he was baptized in a river (recalled as terrifying), and an incident
when town rednecks viciously assaulted him and his former girlfriend "Crazy" Annie (Jennifer
Salt) when they were having sex in a car. He was homosexually raped and she was traumatically
gang-raped. Another homosexual client in New York was a bespectacled, geeky young student
(Bob Balaban) in a dark movie theatre - while experiencing oral sex, Joe had memories of
making passionate love with Annie (who promised him she was being faithful by telling him:
"You're the only one, Joe," but who had a reputation for being a tramp), but the client ended up
penniless.

The Texas stud was befriended by a limping and coughing homeless con artist named Ratso
Rizzo (Dustin Hoffman) and they experienced an unspoken homosexual relationship together
which included frequent bickering. They both experienced the riches of the American dream
when invited to a freaky Greenwich Village party by a "couple of fruity wackos" (Gastone
Rossilli and Warhol's Viva), where they found free food, drugs, and opportunities for sex. Joe
took stoned socialite Shirley (Brenda Vaccaro) to bed for his first successful heterosexual score
with a paying female client ($20). At first, though, he suffered sexual inadequacy until angered
when she teasingly suggested that he was gay: ("Gay, fey. Is that your problem, baby?") - and
then he performed vigorously. Afterwards by phone, she recommended his studly services to an
unhappily-married female friend.

Joe's final trick was with another homosexual - a middle-aged Catholic man named Towny
(Barnard Hughes). Back at the man's hotel room, in the last sordid act of his street-life existence,
things turned violent. Joe ended up in a rage, brutally attacking the self-loathing, mother-
dominated, despicable man after receiving a St. Christopher's Medal and only ten dollars. He
committed a horrible crime - he robbed the man of all his money and then brutalized the
customer, probably killing him. He left after jamming the phone receiver into the man's
bloodied, toothless mouth.

Mondo Cane (1962, It.) (aka A Dog's World)


Gualtiero Jacopetti, Paolo Cavara, Franco Prosperi

This Italian-made globe-trotting, amateurish "shockumentary" was luridly advertised as a


travelogue - with glimpses of dark-skinned, bare 'savages' engaged in grotesque and bizarre
rituals and scenes of human perversity! The film was castigated as pornographic, trashy and
vulgar, although by today's standards would be considered very tame. Footage included the
beheading of a horde of bulls and the mass head-bashing of some pigs in New Guinea, force-
feeding of native girls to make them more marriageable and fertile contrasted with weight-loss
techniques, Singapore's "House of Death", hula dancing in Hawaii, the eating of dog in Thailand
contrasted with a wealthy pet cemetery in the US, pig-suckling, and the effects of radiation and
atomic testing on a small island.

The film inspired a series of sequel "Mondo" films and dozens of imitators, including Rolf
Olsen's Shocking Asia (1974) and Conan Le Cilaire's Faces of Death, Part 1 (1978) series of films.

Monty Python's Life of Brian (1979, UK)


Terry Jones

This Terry Jones-directed tasteless and daringly irreverent, pseudo-biblical satire of religious
films (from Cecil B. DeMille to Ben-Hur) and religious intolerance was often considered
blasphemous and sacrilegious for its depiction of hypocritical faith, modern organized religion,
and its religious zealotry and conformity. Self-appointed moral guardians criticized the idea of
the film's production, until Beatle George Harrison set up HandMade Films to finance it.

Biblical history was rewritten in its story of reluctant Messiah Brian (Graham Chapman), a
Jerusalem nobody and "naughty boy" (according to his shrewish mother (Terry Jones)), whose
life uncannily and coincidentally paralleled that of Jesus. A common misunderstanding was that
Brian lampooned Christ or Christianity, but that was definitely not the case. One of its ongoing
gags was about the various factional, anti-Roman revolutionary groups (i.e., 'The Judean
People's Front', 'The People's Front of Judea') that were protesting against Roman rule and
occupation - and more often against each other. The Sermon on the Mount was lampooned, but
only as a misunderstood and inaudible speech, misinterpreted and heard as "Blessed are the
cheesemakers." The film's most controversial scene was the ending sequence of a mass
crucifixion, in which the incongruously upbeat, life-affirming comical song "(Always Look on
the) Bright Side of Life" was performed by the chorus-line of dozens of crucified individuals,
including Brian.

When released in the UK, the film -- regularly regarded as one of the funniest films ever made -
was banned in some town and counties by several town councils and organizations, and efforts
were taken to reclassify it as X-rated so that audiences would be further limited. It was also
banned for eight years in the Republic of Ireland and for a year in Norway. The film was not
released in Italy until 1990, eleven years after it was made. Various pressure groups in the US
tried to prosecute the film or ban its showing, and Catholic groups condemned the film and
suggested it was a sin to view it.

Natural Born Killers (1994) # 8


Oliver Stone

Oliver Stone's film (from a Quentin Tarantino original script), a modern update and remake
similar in theme to Terrence Malick's Badlands (1973), was a visually-riveting (with an eclectic
style mix, including MTV-style), controversial, anarchic and brutal film about media
sensationalism and obsession, in its story of two serial killer-lovers and white-trash outlaws:
abused Mallory Knox (Juliette Lewis) and psychotic Mickey (Woody Harrelson) - inspired by
real-life spree killer Charles Starkweather, who went on a violent, cross-country (Route 666)
Southwestern random killing joyride. TV tabloid show host/reporter Wayne Gale (Robert
Downey, Jr.) made them famous celebrities for his sensationalist "American Maniacs" show. In
the shocking ending, the two outlaws shot Gale - broadcast live on camera in a rural setting.

The extremely violent film was lambasted as "evil" and "loathsome" for its hypocritical
violence-soaked satire on screen violence. It was subjected to numerous edits and cuts
(reportedly 150) by the MPAA at the time of release (now restored in Stone's longer 'Director's
Cut' version, that was licensed to a third party) to achieve an R-rating from its original NC-17
rating. Its public screening in the UK was delayed, because the film had instigated or 'inspired'
murderous copycat shooting sprees in the US (including the Columbine High School Massacre)
by those who viewed the protagonists as glamorous and romantic folk heroes -- similar to what
happened after the release of Kubrick's A Clockwork Orange (1971).

In a failed civil suit, lawyer/novelist John Grisham accused Stone's film of being a 'faulty' or
'defective' product and that there was a 'causal link' between the film and various murders - he
argued that Stone was legally accountable for inspiring real-life murders. The parents of
paralyzed Patsy Byers, a 1995 victim of teen lovers (Ben Darras and Sarah Edmondson) in
Louisiana, took expensive legal action against Stone and Warners, but the case was ultimately
dismissed in 2001.

Nekromantik (1987, Germ.)


Jorg Buttgereit

Director Jorg Buttgereit's low-budget, cultish and controversial German gross-out, depraved
horror film was reviled and banned in many countries for its depiction of necrophilia - sex with
corpses, rabbit cruelty, cat disembowelment, and decapitation by a shovel.

In one of the film's final sequences, suicidal and manic-depressive ambulance driver Robert
"Rob" Schmadtke (Daktari Lorenz) simultaneously masturbated and committed hari-kiri with a
knife - culminating in an orgasmic semen-blood mixed expiration. During a threesome, his
girlfriend Betty (Beatrice Manowski) also found pleasure in making love to a rotting corpse with
a sawed-off piece of a broom handle (outfitted with a condom) stuck in its groin as a makeshift
penis.

The Outlaw (1943)


Howard Hughes

This infamous sex-western was millionaire director/producer Howard


Hughes' B-grade pet project. It was marketed salaciously for full effect
- such as with this tasteless slogan: "What are the two great reasons for
Jane Russell's rise to stardom?"

Hughes' picture was notorious for leering camera views of statuesque


and formidable Jane Russell's ample, buxom cleavage - displayed to
the fullest and greatest effect to anger Hays Code censors. She was often pictured with an oft-
unbuttoned, low-cut peasant blouse. The film was denied a Production Code Administration
seal for the exploitative use of young star Jane Russell's prominent, bulging breasts and
cleavage. One local judge in Baltimore, Maryland was quoted as saying that Russell's breasts

"hang over the picture like a summer thunderstorm spread out over a landscape". However, it
appeared that the publicity pin-up shots (example to left) were much more revealing, sultry and
suggestive than the film itself.

The storyline -- the pursuit of Billy the Kid by Sheriff Pat Garrett (Thomas Mitchell), with Jane
Russell as Doc Holliday's (Walter Huston) sexy, half-breed mistress Rio -- was considered too
racy for contemporary audiences in 1941 when it was screened for the Hays Office. Its original
release had to be postponed until 1943 - and then only in very limited release to theatres. After
a ten-week run at that time, Hughes decided to shelve the film for three years after which it was
finally placed in general release in 1946 (in a cut version) without a seal of approval.

The Passion Of The Christ (2004) # 1


Mel Gibson

Co-producer, co-writer, and director Mel Gibson's R-rated, self-financed, independent smash-
hit film, a brutal depiction of Jesus' last 12 hours on Earth, stirred up considerable controversy.
It was filmed with dialogue in three languages (Aramaic, Hebrew, and Latin) with subtitles, and
although Gibson claimed that the account was authentic and 'truthful' - it would be nearly
impossible to derive a strict and true historical account of the events from the Gospels. The
scourging (a 10-minute sequence) and crucifixion scenes in particular were overpoweringly
graphic, bloody, torturous and vicious. Even Gibson admitted that the film was deliberately
"shocking" and "extreme" in order to depict Jesus' enormous sacrifice.

Even before it was released and viewed, religious leaders were indignant over its Catholic-
tinged interpretation of the Bible, its use of extra-Biblical sources, and its poetic license, and
Jews protested the film as anti-Semitic - believing that the "obscene" film would blame Jews for
the death of Jesus. Even Gibson had difficulty securing a distributor for his film.

The film went on to be one of the most successful R-rated films ever, with $370 million US
box-office receipts, mostly due to its embracing by evangelical church groups. It became the
highest-grossing independent film of all time. An unrated, re-edited re-release of the film (still
R-rated), named The Passion Recut (2005), with Gibson's own edits (removal of about 5 minutes
of graphic violence) was shown in theatres for a short time a year later.

Peeping Tom (1960, UK)


Michael Powell

Although now widely praised (like Hitchcock's psychological horror film counterpart Psycho
(1960) - and the film's thematic counterpart Rear Window (1954)), this chilling and disturbing
film about voyeurism, child abuse, and serial murder by honored film-maker Michael Powell
was originally widely hated, universally loathed and denounced, especially by British critics.

They pronounced it amoral, perverted, necrophilic and trashy. It was called nauseating,
depressing, and stench-filled -- and allegedly destroyed the career of its director. It suffered
from the devastating reviews and was removed from theaters and excised by its distributor.
This censored version was briefly available in trashy US theatres in 1962 and in selected
arthouse venues, but then removed. Not until 1979 was a full-length version viewable -- at the
New York Film Festival. Over time, it has been critically re-evaluated and vindicated, and is
now universally regarded as a masterpiece.

It was a twisted portrayal of shy studio cameraman (and morbid serial killer) Mark Lewis
(Karlheinz Boehm) who filmed call girls and then killed them with the metal-spiked leg of his
hand-held camera tripod (with a mirror attached so that victims could watch themselves dying).
In the film's shocking opening, filmed from the point-of-view of the voyeuristic camera's cross-
haired viewfinder, a prostitute negotiated, walked upstairs, disrobed, and then gave a look of
horror as she was murdered.

The infamous film with dark subject matter was criticized for its unsavory view of the perverted
crimes perpetrated (and witnessed almost as "snuff films") upon unsuspecting female victims (a
prostitute, an actress-dancer, and a nude model). In a subtle way, it appeared to implicate the
voyeuristic viewer and force the audience to identify with the awful and perverse crimes
committed by the madman. However, it masterfully told the back-story of how the monstrous
killer had a very troubled childhood with a sadistic father (played by director Powell in a
cameo) who filmed him for his studies on the physiology of fear in children, and contributed to
his son's violent and conflicted subconscious (by observing his reactions to a lizard dropped on
his bed, his mother's corpse, or his father's new young wife).

Pink Flamingos (1972)


John Waters

Director John Waters (known as the "Prince of Puke" or "Pope of Trash") produced a unique
crop of intentionally bizarre, crude, sexually-grotesque, trashy and bad taste-laden cult films
with eccentric oddball characters and harshly-vivid language. Almost his entire filmography is
laced with unusual plot lines, freaky casts, larger-than-life performances and extremely grossed-
out scenes that could be found nowhere else. Waters faced criticism for pushing conventional
boundary lines and exhibiting full-frontal nudity, and his outrageous films led to calls for
censorship and outright banning. The sheer repulsiveness and infamy of Waters' films (this film
was part of a "trash trilogy" composed of Pink Flamingos, Female Trouble (1974), and Desperate
Living (1977)), however, made them campy midnight movie hits, and led to more mainstream
future successes such as Polyester (1981) and Hairspray (1988).

Waters' unrated seminal film Pink Flamingos was one of the most outrageous and the ultimate
example of 'poor-taste' - it contained incestuous oral sex, an illegal adoption ring complete with
caged women in the basement during their pregnancies, making love with a live chicken during
a copulation scene between Babs' son Crackers (Danny Mills) and Cookie (Cookie Mueller),
public urination, the eating of real dog feces, and a close-up of a man's singing (opening and
closing) anal sphincter. Animal activist groups protested the revolting film for its treatment of
chickens. When this film was re-released in 1997, it was rated NC-17 by the MPAA.

It told about an unusual overweight transvestite trailer park matron named Babs Johnson
(played by Divine or Harris Glen Milstead) who literally ate fresh poodle-dog feces in a
scatological competition to become the 'World's Filthiest Person Alive' in the film's conclusion,
among other things. Other characters in her mobile-home trailer included her delinquent son
Crackers, her voyeuristic traveling companion Cotton (Mary Vivian Pearce), and her half-
dressed, mentally-ill, brain-damaged, corpulent, and gap-toothed mother Edie (Edith Massey)
who sat in a playpen crib and ate hard-boiled eggs all day long.

Shocking sequences included the over-the-top birthday party scene featuring bizarre sex acts,
and the murder and cannibalistic consumption of a quartet of policemen (reminiscient of Night
of the Living Dead (1968)). Babs delivered a stunning "filth politics" speech to TV reporters:
"Blood does more than turn me on, Mr. Vader. It makes me come. And more than the sight of
it, I love the taste of it. The taste of hot, freshly killed blood...Kill everyone now! Condone
first degree murder! Advocate cannibalism! Eat s--t! Filth is my politics! Filth is my life!" before
executing her non-PC competitors: blue-haired Raymond (David Lochary) and red-haired
Connie Marble (Mink Stole) in front of the press.

Pretty Baby (1978)


Louis Malle

Louis Malle's provocative American debut film - a semi-scandalous


picture upon its release due to unfounded charges of child porn, debuted at a time when there
was public uproar over child abuse, child pornography, and child prostitution. Some worried
that young Brooke Shields would be traumatized by her 'adult' role in the film - yet the entire
film was basically free of explicit scenes or language. Malle had hired a female scriptwriter
(Polly Platt) to insure that the film was dealt with in a sensitive manner. It was gorgeously
photographed by Bergman-cinematographer Sven Nykvist, and set in a 1917 New Orleans
bordello in the legalized red-light district of Storyville.

The fictional yet historically-inspired drama (based on Al Rose's 1974 non-fictional book
Storyville, New Orleans) told the story of a virginal, jaded 12 year-old Violet (former child model
Brooke Shields in her breakthrough role) - a child prostitute with her New Orleans brothel
mother Hattie (Susan Sarandon). Both were often photographed nude by Ernest J. Bellocq
(Keith Carradine) (one of his actual portraits displayed here of a turn-of-the-century prostitute)
- who also proposed to marry the young girl, who had innocently told him: "I love you once, I
love you twice, I love you more than red beans and rice!" In one scene, Violet's virginity was
matter-of-factly auctioned off for the highest bidder ($400) by house madam Nell (Frances
Faye).

Various versions were edited (with dark shading, readjusted formats or closeups), and a G-
string shield was worn to avoid portraying the underage nudity of the budding, prepubescent
Brooke Shields. Some critics recognized that the film possibly portrayed Brooke Shields as a
defenseless and naive daughter used by her manipulative mother - similar to her publicity-fueled
image in real-life.

A Real Young Girl (1975, Fr.) (aka Une Vraie Jeune Fille)
Catherine Breillat

Director Catherine Breillat's feature debut was this erotic drama with strong and shocking
sexual content - it was made in 1975, but not released until 25 years later due to financial
problems with her production company and controversy surrounding this sensational, raw and
strange film -- Breillat would later become famous for the similarly-explicit Romance (1999) and
Fat Girl (2001) which were also preoccupied with the representation of female sexuality. This
film was promptly banned upon its initial release in France in 1976.

This original, unapologetic and bold film showed various closeups of genitalia, a fascination with
bodily fluids and smells (including vomit, urination and writing on a mirror with vaginal
secretions), and sexual fantasies while it charted the budding sexuality, self-exploration and
awakening of sexually-curious and self-analytic teenaged Alice Bonnard (Charlotte Alexandra)
during a summer holiday. Crude and realistic, she lustfully fantasized about sex with a worker
in her father's sawmill, would often drop her panties to her ankles, compulsively masturbated,
and in one surreal scene had a live chopped-up worm rubbed into her crotch.

Requiem for a Dream (2000)


Darren Aronofsky

Aronofsky's effective and disturbing film told about the consequences of drug use for four
individuals: lonely, TV-addicted, diet-pill-popping Brighton Beach widow Sara Goldfarb
(Oscar-nominated Ellen Burstyn), her heroin-addicted son Harry (Jared Leto), his drug-dealing
best friend Tyrone C. Love (Marlon Wayans) and his girlfriend Marion Silver (Jennifer
Connelly). Pre-release discussions claimed the film bordered on pornography and glamorized
drug use.

In the film, Sara's addiction to weight-loss and obsession with being on a television show led to
hallucinations, near insanity, and shock-treatment, while the harrowing price of heroin
addiction caused Harry's arm to become severely infected and require amputation, while
despairing and pained Marion, earlier seen in full-frontal before a mirror, prostituted herself to
pay for her addiction. The controversial sequence, argued as a necessary component and
message that the cautionary film had to deliver about the consequences of drug use, was a nasty,
extremely-graphic lesbian orgy scene with a shared anal dildo that shocked the MPAA which
rated it NC-17 - Aronofsky appealed the ruling (which was denied), so the film was released
unrated. An R-rated edited version of the film was released on video with a shortened sex
scene.

Romance (1999, Fr.) (aka Romance X)


Catherine Breillat

This sexually-graphic drama import from daring French filmmaker Catherine Breillat faced
international censorship problems for its explicit depictions of fellatio and intercourse; the
film's poster displayed a red X over a self-pleasuring female's private parts; it told about the lack
of connection between love and sex.

The main character was a sexually-frustrated Parisian elementary school teacher named Marie
(Caroline Ducey) who was paired with an unresponsive male partner named Paul (Sagamore
Stevenin) - he rarely agreed to intercourse and responded disinterestedly to fellatio. Therefore,
she sought sexual gratification through various 'no-strings-attached', explicit sexual encounters
(including rear-entry sex) with studly Italian stranger Paolo (the controversial casting of Italian
porn star actor Rocco Sefredi); she also was sexually involved and developed a relationship with
her older boss named Robert (Francois Berleand) who enjoyed bondage and stimulated her
potential for masochism.

The film's scenes included a rape in a stairway, a controversial fantasy dream sequence (in
which she imagined herself sexually defenseless with other women - their waists were available
and positioned next to a hole in a wall as unseen strangers on the other side of the wall could
engage in explicit sex with them through the opening), bondage scenes, a gynecological exam,
and closeup footage of a childbirth (edited and replaced by Blockbuster Video).

It was also the first mainstream movie to feature an erect penis; it was released with no MPAA
rating, although it undoubtedly would have been an NC-17 rating with its full frontal nudity
and explicit unsimulated oral sex - a turning point in the candid depiction of non-pornographic
sex on screen for a mainstream film.
Rosemary's Baby (1968)
Roman Polanski

Polish director Roman Polanski's first American feature film and his second, scary horror
film (following his first disturbing film in English titled Repulsion (1965)) - was about a young
newlywed couple who moved into a large, rambling old apartment building in Central Park
West, where the title character Rosemary Woodhouse (Mia Farrow) experienced a
nightmarish dream of making love to a Beast. Becoming paranoid and hysterical, she believed
herself impregnated so that her baby could be used by an evil cult in their rituals. The creepy
film ended with the devil's flesh-and-blood baby being cared for by the mother!

The film was one of the first with the theme of Satanism and the occult, before the onslaught
of films such as The Exorcist (1973), The Omen (1976), and Demon Seed (1977). Its most
memorable sequences were the surrealistic dream sequence during which Rosemary was
impregnated by Satan (husband Guy's appearance changed into a grotesque beast-like figure
resembling the Devil, with yellowish eyes and clawed, scaly hands), and the final scene in
which she discovered her Anti-Christ child in a black-draped crib.

The National Catholic Office for Motion Pictures reviled the film, condemning it for "the
perverted use which the film made of fundamental Christian beliefs, especially surrounding
the birth of Christ, and its mockery of religious persons and practices" - these criticisms
were due in part to sequences depicting Rosemary's guilt over her lapsed Catholicism, anti-
religious references to the Pope made by Roman Castevet (Sidney Blackmer) ("You don't
need to have respect for him because he pretends that he's holy"), the portrayal of
Rosemary's pregnancy as a sexually-transmitted disease, and the film's view of Satanism as
the birth of the Anti-Christ.

The incredible irony of the film was that the plot would be similarly played out a year later -
Polanski's pregnant actress/wife Sharon Tate would be terrorized and murdered by the
strange cult of Charles Manson followers in her Benedict Canyon home. A real-life tragedy
also occurred when the Bramford apartment building (actually the Dakota apartments - the
actual locale in the film) was where Mark Chapman shot John Lennon in 1980.
Salo (1975, It.) (aka The 120 Days of Sodom)
Pier Paolo Pasolini

Salò was directed by the notorious Italian poet, novelist, painter and film-maker Pier Paolo
Pasolini, who was murdered before it was released. It was based on a work by the notorious
Marquis de Sade - to depict the short-lived, lakeside republic of Salo in Nazi-controlled N.
Italy at the close of WWII, where four fascist officials in a secluded chateau near Marzabotto
totally controlled, abused, enslaved and victimized an anonymous group of young and
attractive peasant teenagers (both male and female) and subjected them to sexual and
physical tortures, psychological humiliation and violence over a period of a few days. This
extreme exercise of power was supposed to symbolize the evil of fascism itself.

The nihilistic film was filled with debaucheries and cruel sexual perversions (ie., a mock
wedding ceremony in which the couple was denied consummation and then anally raped).
Other outrages included strangulation, scalping, tongue-extraction, eye-gouging and nipple-
burning, including the forced eating of human excrement. In one scene, the youths were
stripped, collared, leashed, and forced to act like dogs.

It aroused outrage and disgust when it was released. It was prosecuted by various film
certification boards and banned outright in numerous countries.

September Dawn (2007)


Christopher Cain

The backdrop of this independent film (with a fictionalized Romeo and Juliet romantic
subplot) immediately brought about controversy. The histrionic melodrama told about the
infamous September 11, 1857 Mountain Meadows Massacre in which about 120 California-
bound settlers (Gentiles) were brutally murdered by Utah Mormons. It was reportedly based
on the official 27-page confession of convicted Mormon John D. Lee. Conveniently, the
massacre - that occurred on September 11th - helped the story draw close parallels to Islamic
fundamentalist terrorism in modern times.

It has been disputed whether the slaughter was ordered by the LDS church leader Brigham
Young or not, but the church has admitted that a group of religiously-zealous Mormon
militia (with the help of local Native Americans) led the massacre in southern Utah
Territory. In the film, Jon Voight starred as local Mormon bishop Bishop Jacob Samuelson
and Terence Stamp starred as Young, who implicitly spoke out: "I am the voice of God, and
anyone who doesn't like it will be hewn down" and demanded an oath of silence regarding
his murderous orders.

As with many other controversial films, the angered LDS church didn't preview the film, but
instead issued a statement (with their version of the historical event) calling the film a
"serious distortion of history." It believed that the film, a simplified good vs. evil treatise,
was a piece of anti-Mormon propaganda and not historical truth-telling.

Song of the South (1946)


Harve Foster (live action), Wilfred Jackson (animation)

This remarkable Disney film was based on the "Uncle Remus" stories of Joel Chandler
Harris, and was presented as one of their earliest, innovative live-action and animation
mixtures. Set after the Civil War at a time when slavery was abolished, its animated
sequences featured Uncle Remus characters (i.e., Br'er Rabbit, Br'er Fox, and Br'er Bear)
accompanied by live-action portions with folk story-teller Uncle Remus (Special Oscar-
winning James Baskett). The film's song "Zip-a-Dee-Doo-Dah" won the Academy Award for
Best Song.

Remarkably, it has never been released for home video consumption in the US (although it
has been available in European and Asian markets). After this film's last theatrical release in
1986, it has simply vanished and been unavailable for purchase. Recently, a Disney
spokesman reiterated the fact that the film may continue to be unavailable due to "the
sensitivity that exists in our culture" and fears of political-correctness repercussions.

Although it has been rumored that the NAACP banned this Disney movie, that was untrue --
they simply expressed their disapproval of the portrayal of African-Americans in the film,
and their concern about its potential to present an image of an idyllic master-slave
relationship. The main objection was its stereotypical depiction of blacks in the live-action
sequences, although others have mistakenly thought that the movie actually depicted slavery
and tacit approval of the master-slave relationship.

South Park: Bigger, Longer & Uncut (1999)


Trey Parker

This R-rated, adults-oriented 81 minute animated film, a spin-off of the animated TV series
South Park, has been judged one of the most obscenity-filled, vulgar and profane animations
ever made - clocking in at almost 400 profane words, with even more examples of offensive
gestures, use of racial epithets and ethnic slurs, blasphemous references to God, scatological
humor, and acts of violence by its young cast of characters. Even its subtitle was a reference
to a large uncircumcised phallus, and the film's song "Uncle F--ka" contained almost three
dozen uses of the F-word. [Note: The song title was changed from "Mother F--ka" to escape
an NC-17 rating by the ratings board.]

The film's story opened with the viewing of a film within a film by third-grade boys - an R-
rated movie featuring Canadians Terrance & Phillip - as a result, they were 'corrupted' and
their parents led censorship efforts that ultimately pressured the United States to wage war
against Canada. It was an incongruous combination of an animation starring four pint-sized 8
year-olds (Stan, Kyle, Cartman, and Kenny), a musical (with twelve songs including the
Oscar-nominated "Blame Canada"), a political satire (Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein was
depicted as the homosexual lover of Satan), a parody of Disney films (i.e., Beauty and the
Beast) and Broadway, and a diatribe against misguided censorship (i.e., the motion picture
ratings system) and American parenting. Angels were portrayed as nude females, and one
child was incinerated when lighting his flatulence.

Straw Dogs (1971)


Sam Peckinpah

This disturbing film further ignited controversy over screen violence and misogynistic sexual
abuse of women in the early 70s. The unflinching film from Sam Peckinpah (following his
equally divisive film The Wild Bunch (1969)) starred Dustin Hoffman as David Sumner, a
bookish, mild-mannered American mathematician on sabbatical living in a rural England
town - the childhood village of his teasingly-seductive young bride Amy (Susan George).
After she flaunted herself flirtatiously in view of the local townsfolk, one of the local thugs
(one of whom was an ex-boyfriend) assaulted the provocative wife in a graphic double rape
scene, which led to a cathartic eruption and escalation of violence.

The film was accused of implying that she brought on the assault (possibly as a means to
insult her impassive husband) and actually might have enjoyed the first rape (a glamorization
of rape). The climactic, stunning and barbaric ending also appeared to morally endorse
vigilante violence, especially because of the main character's redemptive yet unsatisfying
homicidal rampage. It was re-edited for an R-rating and faced censorship bans in England for
30 years.

Sweet Sweetback's Baadasssss Song (1971)


Melvin Van Peebles

This unconventional, revolutionary, and seminal blaxploitation film (released just before the
Hollywood-financed Shaft (1971)) from the early 70s with an all-black cast was directed, co-
produced, edited, scored, and written by African-American independent film-maker Melvin
Van Peebles (his film debut) - he also starred as the macho black hustler title character. The
Hollywood establishment refused to financially back this gritty, low-budget, sex-filled,
realistic film with never-before-seen images, soft-core sex and inflammatory racial politics,
so Peebles self-financed it and sought monetary backing from Bill Cosby. It was the first
highly profitable independent film made by a black filmmaker.

After he refused to submit the film to the ratings board (the MPAA), he rated his own film
with an X-rating - and Peebles used this to his marketing advantage in its tagline advertising
on posters: "Rated X By An All-White Jury!" However, only two theaters in the entire
United States would screen the film at first - until it became a big hit and highly profitable.
The radical Black Panthers praised the film, while the mainstream black-oriented Ebony
Magazine denounced it - Hollywood studios were ultimately forced to acknowledge the
monetary potential of the untapped, urban African-American market (similar to the effect
Easy Rider (1969) had on its countercultural audiences) as a result of this influential film.

The documentary-style, cheaply-made film shot on location in about three weeks was an
anti-White, anti-authority diatribe - explained in the film's opening: "This film is dedicated
to all the Brothers and Sisters who had enough of the Man...Starring: The Black
Community." It was supplemented with jump-cuts, experimental lighting, freeze-frames,
tinted and overlapping images and montages as it chronicled the successful
(uncharacteristically) flight of a black fugitive nicknamed "Sweet Sweetback" (due to his
large-sized manhood and insatiable sexual prowess) through Los Angeles - and toward and
across the Mexican border.

The film opened with underaged Sweet Sweetback as an orphan boy (Melvin's 13 year-old
son Mario) engaging in explicit sex (and losing his virginity) with an older prostitute in an
all-black brothel, and further explicit sex acts throughout the film featured poorly-lit full-
frontal nudity. The film ended with the superimposed text: "Watch out -- A Baad Assss
Nigger is Coming Back To Collect Some Dues..." Peebles reportedly received VD during
the making of this film. In Mario's own autobiographical film Baadasssss! (2003) years later
about the making of the landmark independent film, he revealed the upset caused by the
explicit scene he was forced to engage in.

The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974)


Tobe Hooper

Hooper's low-budget, seminal exploitation horror film (with a quasi-documentary feel) was
made on a budget of $300,000 - and became highly profitable (approximately $31 million)
through its advertising campaign ("Who will survive - and what will be left of them?").
Surprisingly, there was little blood and no close-ups of the fatal blows, although it became
the 70's most controversial cult horror film and the precursor of later slasher films. Its
unpleasant storyline was loosely based on the real-life Wisconsin serial killer and skin-
fetishist Ed Gein - as was Hitchcock's Psycho (1960) and Demme's The Silence of the Lambs
(1991). The skillfully-directed film told about a family trio of unsympathetic, cannibalistic,
homicidal, ex-slaughterhouse workers/fiends: a Gulf station attendant, a hitchhiker (Edwin
Neal), and Leatherface (Gunnar Hansen) - who slaughtered college-aged kids (and anyone
else) who happened to trespass in their area - and then intended to eat their human flesh and
sell the remains as 'sausage'.

The R-rated, painful-to-watch, nightmarish film opened with a sober narration about a crime
spree - vandals desecrating graveyards in a remote section of Texas. During a visit to Sally
Hardesty's (Marilyn Burns) grandfather's grave, she and her wheelchair-bound, sadistic and
fat brother Franklin (Paul A. Partain) and friends Pam (Teri McMinn), Pam's boyfriend Kirk
(William Vail), and Sally's boyfriend Jerry (Allen Danziger) investigated her grandfather's
run-down, deserted farm. The murders began with the first appearance of Leatherface from
behind a sliding door in another deserted house (where there were skeleton bones and
human remains strewn about) - he wore a bloody butcher's apron and a mask stitched out of
human skin - and wielded a roaring chain saw. The masked man suddenly appeared and
sledge-hammered Kirk's head, and then hung a screaming Pam on a meat hook through her
upper back. After carving up the dead Kirk with a chain saw, Jerry was also killed with a
sledgehammer after discovering a deep-frozen, half-dead Pam in a large chest freezer, and
Franklin was slaughtered through his stomach with the chain saw. Running in terror, Sally
unfortunately ran into Leatherface's house, where she was soon held captive in the infamous
dinner scene (and had her finger cut as a blood-appetizer for the weakened, withered,
vampiric and patriarchal Grandfather (John Dugan)). In the film's climax at dawn, a bloody
and deranged-looking Sally escaped in the back of a pickup truck and left the killer spinning
on the highway with his buzzing chainsaw.

The horror flick deeply divided critics - some praised it for its depiction of deprived, 'off-
the-main-highway' rural America and the social effects upon its people. Others deplored it
for its effective yet mindless slasher mentality. It was banned twice in France for potentially
inciting violence, and for 25 years in the UK.

Titicut Follies (1967)


Fredrick Wiseman

First-time filmmaker Frederick Wiseman's despairing cinema-verite (observational or


objective) masterpiece, one of the greatest documentaries of all time, was about the horrid
and abusive conditions ("painful aspects of mental disease") at the state-run Massachusetts
Correctional Institution in Bridgewater, a prison-hospital asylum for seriously ill, heavily-
tranquilized men (defined by authorities as "criminally insane" or "sexually dangerous"). The
film's title referred to a mock-softshoe song/dance routine ("Strike Up the Band"),
performed and acted out at the beginning and end of the film by the inmates and prison
officers during an annual vaudeville/variety show (the 'Titicut Follies') performance at the
institution.

The silent and passive camera witnessed the stripping, dehumanizing and humiliation of
mental patients (who were treated like wild animals) by bullying guards, wardens and
psychiatrists. One inmate, who was starving himself to death as protest, was force-fed
through a rubber tube roughly inserted into his nostril - followed shortly by the image of his
face as he laid in a coffin while being prepared for his funeral.

This highly controversial film (filmed in 1966 on black and white 16 mm. film over a period
of 29 days) was barred from distribution and withdrawn from circulation from 1967-1992,
by legal action launched by state authorities, because it was considered a violation of the
rights of privacy of the prison inmates it filmed, and because it was considered obscene (the
film showed male frontal nudity). It was only shown at the New York Film Festival in 1967,
and had two limited runs in New York -- aside from a few screenings before film societies.
[Note: Director Samuel Fuller's Shock Corridor (1963) similarly exposed the conditions in US
mental hospitals.]

Triumph Of The Will (1935, Ger.) # 15


Leni Riefenstahl

Nazi Fuhrer leader Adolf Hitler commissioned dancer/actress-turned filmmaker Leni


Rienfenstahl to make this notorious documentary to record and celebrate the sixth Nazi
Reich Party Congress held in September 1934 in Nuremberg. This spectacular propagandistic
film glorified and praised the might of the unjust and evil Nazi regime and state with
masterful images, rapid cuts, a Wagnerian score, and ingenious camera angles and
compositions.

This infamous, extravagant two-hour film is still considered the most powerful propaganda
film ever made, with grandiose opening shots of Messianic Hitler's arrival by plane, his heroic
entrance and adulation by saluting ("Sieg Heil") multitudes and uniformed party members
and soldiers (and Hitler Youth), and his charismatic exalted character during rousing
speeches. Director Riefenstahl was imprisoned by the Allies for four years after the war,
although she continued to protest by insisting that her work was purely historical and an
example of cinema verite, rather than the repellent work which it was criticized and accused of
being.
Protests greeted Riefenstahl at a 1974 Telluride Film Festival tribute, and the Anti-
Defamation League decried a 1975 screening in Atlanta as ''morally insensitive.'' Riefenstahl
herself never shook her Nazi-tainted past, and repeatedly claimed the film was more imagery
than ideological.

United 93 (2006) # 16
Paul Greengrass

This R-rated chillingly-realistic, unflinching, emotionally-moving ultra-verite docu-drama by


British writer/director Paul Greengrass told the courageous and tragic story of heroic crew
members and passengers on United's Flight 93 (flying from Newark NJ to San Francisco), the
fourth hijacked plane on September 11, 2001, who were able to thwart the terrorists and
prevent the plane from reaching its intended target - but instead crashing into a field in
western Pennsylvania. The film was made all the more real by including some of the actual
FAA ground crew and military officers involved in the actual event as cast members, and by
retelling the tale in real-time.

Necessarily containing intense and frightening sequences of terror and violence, the film
(although precisely told and respectfully treating its subject matter without editorializing,
theories, stereotypical human interest stories or personal dramas, or flag-waving politics) was
criticized for its trailer, that made the film appear different than it actually was -- as a
conventional thriller. Others wondered whether it was "too soon" after the event (on the 5th
year anniversary) for US audiences to view - and varying opinions contributed to the
emotional debate. Universal also received criticism that it was exploiting a national tragedy,
although others felt it was important to help remember and be inspired by the shattering
event.

Viridiana (1961, Sp./Mex.)


Luis Bunuel

Bunuel's film has been generally considered a masterpiece and it won the Palme d'Or at the
1961 Cannes Film Festival in the year of its release. The film was originally banned in the
director's home country and condemned by the Catholic church for its perceived indictment
of Catholic self-righteousness, blasphemy, and obscenity. It was also controversial for its
scenes hinting at incest, rape and necrophilia.

In the plot, devout Spanish convent novice Viridiana (Silvia Pinal) visited her widower uncle
Don Jaime's (Fernando Rey) who was still mourning the death of his wife due to a heart
attack on their wedding night - without consummation. To reluctantly satisfy his obsession
with her similar looks, Virdiana was clothed in his wife's wedding gown -- and drugged. He
then carried her into the bedroom, loosened her dress, fondled her and was tempted to rape
her. The next day, he falsely confessed to her that he had taken her virginity to keep her from
returning to the convent for her final vows -- but the ultimate result was his own guilty self-
humiliation and a suicidal hanging.

Another of the film's most controversial scenes was a drunken parody and re-enactment of
Da Vinci's 'The Last Supper' by a group of beggars, to the sounds of the "Hallelujah Chorus"
in Handel's Messiah - one of the celebrants even raped the virtuous and idealistic Viridiana.

The Warriors (1979) # 14


Walter Hill

This urban fantasy cult movie (a modern retelling inspired by the Greek tale Anabasis by
Xenophon) was director/writer Walter Hill's third feature film. It was a surprise hit although
it had a large cast of unknown actors from the New York theater area, and it presented a
cartoonish-like display of violence (without blood) and an unrealistic view of NY street gangs
(with their flamboyant costumes and face paint).

However, the film's original poster, which stated the film's tagline: "These are the armies of
the night" and this additional phrase: "They are 100,000 strong. They outnumber the cops
five to one. They could run New York City", outraged and scared many people - and some of
the film's early showings incited lethal violence (in Palm Springs and Oxnard, California) and
caused gang outbreaks.

Due to these reports of criminal violence in a few locations, the film was temporarily pulled
out of circulation in over half a dozen theaters by its nervous Paramount Studios despite
being a box office success. One theater in Washington hired full time security until the end of
the film's run. Paramount also attempted to modify the film's advertising campaign by pulling
its print and TV advertising, but then was compelled to remove the film from release
entirely. The film later gained a cult following when the cable TV and the VCR revolution
occurred, and through midnight showings.

This controversial film told the story of The Warriors gang (from Coney Island) who
attended a truce meeting of gang members in Van Cortland Park in the Bronx, where
charismatic gangleader Cyrus (Roger Hill) was shot dead by anarchistic Luther (David Patrick
Kelly) of the Rogues gang after a speech, with the Warriors falsely accused of the crime by
the Gramercy Riffs. The Warriors gang, led by reluctant hero Swan (Michael Beck) and
joined by tough-talking would-be girlfriend Mercy (Deborah Van Valkenburgh) from the
Orphans, had to flee back to their home turf without weapons and with every rival gang in
pursuit through the dark night of NYC. Lynne Thigpen's role was as a melodic-voiced,
omniscient radio DJ who communicated God-like through coded-message broadcasts,
providing a running commentary about the progress of all the rival gangs and the movements
and location of the Warriors - she was represented only by her full, sensual fire-red lipsticked
lips.

The gangs they encountered along each stop of their subway ride across town included the
Turnball ACs (multi-racial skinheads riding in old green schoolbuses, with chains and planks
of wood for weapons), the Orphans (low-class hoodlums with razor blades), the infamous
Baseball Furies (represented the Furies - with baseball bats as weapons), the seductive Lizzies
(a female gang representing the Sirens), the Punks (dungaree clad who fight the Warriors in
the men's room of the Bowery station, in one of the film's best scenes), the Rogues (led by
Luther who memorably taunted with empty clinking beer bottles: "Warriors, come out to
playyy"), the (Gramercy) Riffs (the largest and most powerful gang - now vengeful and led
by Masai after Cyrus' death) -- and many more -- and finally, the New York City police.

The Wild Bunch (1969)


Sam Peckinpah

Director/co-writer Sam Peckinpah's provocative, brilliant yet controversial breakthrough


Western was shocking for its graphic and elevated portrayal of violence and savagely-explicit,
orgiastic carnage, yet hailed for its truly realistic and reinterpreted vision of the dying West
in the early 20th century (at a time when mass-produced murder was possible with the
Gatling gun). The film opened with innocent village children intrigued by putting red fire
ants and scorpions together and setting fire to the swarming pile.

The much-imitated, influential film was book-ended by two extraordinary sequences, both
massacres. The gang of desperadoes were first assaulted in the film's opening ambush
following a failed bank robbery in a Texas border town, and then brutally destroyed in the
film's conclusion - as united comrades in a selfless, redemptive act - by a savage and
vindictive Mexican warlord named Mapache (Emilio Fernandez) after a double-crossing arms
deal. The two scenes included some of the bloodiest, most violent shoot-ups ever filmed.
Peckinpah choreographed each of the film's two bloodbaths as a visually prolonged, beautiful
ballet - a semi slow-motion, aesthetically breath-taking, non-gratuitous, lyrical, extreme
celebration of bodies spurting blood and being torn apart by bullets. The slaughter of
innocent bystanders (in a temperance parade), and the use of women as shields (in the all-
male film) were served up as counterpoints to the media's honest display of violence during
the late 60s, with the Vietnam War, assassinations, urban riots, and other events filling the
airwaves.

Due to its violence, the film was originally threatened with an X-rating by the newly-created
MPAA (Motion Picture Association of America), but an R-rating was its final decision. A so-
called 'director's cut' version of the film, threatened with an NC-17 rating when submitted to
the MPAA ratings board in 1993 prior to a re-release in 1994, held up the film's re-release
for many months.

Year of the Dragon (1985)


Michael Cimino
Oliver Stone [Co-screenwriter]

This much-forgotten cop-thriller gangster film was Michael Cimino's first film after the
disastrous Heaven's Gate (1980). It was criticized for alleged racism toward the Chinese-
American community in its story of angry Vietnam vet and Captain Stanley White (Mickey
Rourke), a racist police officer who pledged to "clean up" the violence in mid-80s New
York's Chinatown. With the aid of an exotic Asian-American reporter Tracy Tzu (Ariane in
mostly gratuitous nude scenes), White staged a relentless, lawless anti-crime crusade against
the community and its powerful Asian Mafia (Triad) leader Joey Tai (John Lone), who was
responsible for the murder, corruption, extortion and drug dealing.

Based loosely on Robert Daley's novel of the same name, Chinese-Americans protested the
racial stereotyping, xenophobism ("chinks" and "slant-eyed" and "yellow niggers" were
terms used in the film) and sexism before the film opened. Protesters from a coalition of
organizations picketed various premieres around the country. Some groups worried that
moviegoers would get the notion that Chinatown was unsafe - and feared an economic
downturn in the community.

Numerous objections of political uncorrectness led the studio to add the following disclaimer
to the beginning of the film: "This film does not intend to demean or to ignore the many
positive features of Asian Americans and specifically Chinese American communities. Any
similarity between the depiction in this film and any association, organization, individual or
Chinatown that exists in real life is accidental."

”””””””””””””

Deepu P.Thomas, Date: 23/09/2008.


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