Monday, January 12, 2009

Not Suitable For Children

"What the Swedes are doing sexually today is so far advanced it makes the rest of the world look positively inadequate," the ad mat declared.

Wow! What the heck were these Swedes doing? And what's a Swede? I asked myself back in 1970. I wanted to know. I wanted to find out as much as I could about these "Swedish sexual practices". Perhaps I could learn how to make the world feel inadequate, too.

There was just one problem (no, make that two): I was only 8 years old, and I didn't know what "inadequate" meant yet.

But that didn't stop me from being curious. These ad mats were my first exposure to the birds and the bees. They were my pornography, my secret stash, and they were delivered every Thursday in my father's newspaper. I had only to cut them out after my mother had read the Death Notices and checked the Weather.

The Times was Greater Union's venue of choice for softcore porn from Europe; probably derived its name from Times Square. Made sense. It was a tiny little theatre that wasn't associated with Melbourne's official porno theatres, The Star and The Barrel. It had a legitimacy that allowed punters to duck in and duck out and not worry about being seen by a neighbor or co-workers. It filled a need and did so discreetly.

It's interesting to note that the listings for Melbourne's city cinemas would often feature a "Hurry Last Weeks" line, a gentle reminder to punters that their opportunity to see said movie was running out.

The Times did not operate on Sunday, an indicator that its customers were office workers.

'Nudist Paradise' had me in a spin. It was filmed in "Nudiscope" for heaven's sakes, and "nature color".

"Nudiscope?" Was that better than "Cinemascope" and "Technoscope?" Had to be. When my eyes fell upon this enticing ad mat and started to bug out, I convinced myself that in order to film people nude, you needed a Nudiscope camera to do it. That was why 'Nudist Paradise' was filmed with such cameras, right? It made complete sense.

The baffling aspect of the ad mat, however, was that the film was rated "M" (for Mature audiences). It baffled me because I was allowed to watch M-rated films if my parents accompanied me; but if 'Nudist Paradise' was really as full of nudity as my 10 year old mind imagined, how could I be allowed to see it? Had they made a mistake with the rating? Whatever they'd done, I had to see the film before someone got wise to their mistake.

I approached my mother and asked her if I could see a new film that was playing in the city.

"What film?" she asked me.

"Just a film," I replied.

"What is it?"

"It's an M-rated film," I said.

"Well, I don't know about that," she continued. "Who's going to take you?"

"You can. Or dad can."

"We'll see."

Later that night, after I dried the dishes with my mother, she brought me the newspaper and asked me to point to the film I wanted to see.

Where the ad mat had once been there was now a neat, square hole.

I was somewhat busted.

"Oh, I think it ripped off and it's in my room," I explained.

"Go and get it."

I disappeared and returned with my massive ad mat scrapbook. I placed it in front of my mother and, using two hands to open the thick, cardboard cover, flipped forward to where I'd pasted in 'Nudist Paradise'. Sheepishly, I pointed to it.

"What's that?" she asked, as if she was seeing double.

"That's the film," I said.

"THAT'S the film?" She shook her head in disgust. "I don't think you'll be seeing that rot." She emphasized "rot" and gave me a look of deep disappointment that haunted me for months. "Why would anybody go to see that?"

I had no answers.

"And what kind of theatre is that?" she said, pointing to the 'Star Adult Cinema' logo.

"Kids go there, too," I insisted

She grunted and glared at me. "Not my kids."

I paused and closed the book. "It's only rated M."

"It's not suitable for little boys. Or anybody."

I paused the pause of a semi-defeated man. I nodded, as if to agree with my mum's assessment of the film's unsuitability. I hoped that that would soften her up for what I blurted out next: "Mum, maybe dad's going to see it. I could see it with him."

My blurt got me a look that killed and this: "Your dad's not interested in things like that. Now go to bed."

Maybe I was wrong about the magazines I'd found in the garage while I was nailing carpet to the seat of my Billy Cart. Maybe they belonged to somebody else.

Anyway, that was that.

My attempt to see 'Nudist Paradise' failed, as had my attempt to see 'Born Losers'.

I had two strikes against me, but I wasn't out yet.

As for 'Nudiscope'? It was a process that found no supporters in our house.

Today, almost four decades later, The Star, the first and greatest of Melbourne's porno cinemas, still remains in operation. Renamed The Crazy Horse, it continues to serve loyal punters at 34 Elizabeth St., Melbourne. Just don't roll up expecting horse porn from Brazil.

The cinema can be found at: h***:// (replace ***'s with "ttp")

The "Sex in the Office" ad mat , a '71 film, was pasted forever into my beloved scrapbook before my father even got a chance to open the newspaper that morning. It was Gold! I took out an entire section of the paper so there would be no perfect square holes for my father to query. I stuffed it into my schoolbag and threw it from the bus window on the way to school.

As you can see, it's quite a find. My first question was: Has she been using that drill on her breasts? This was followed by: Wouldn't that hurt? It annoyed me that "Don't miss it" was plastered across the bloody damage, but I was grateful also because my young mind was not yet ready for sex of this nature. And certainly not sex and violence.

My father owned a printing company that had offices. Did this kind of thing go on in his offices? My brother and I had worked for him on our school holidays, but we'd never witnessed anybody drilling their breasts. They didn't even have drills at my father's factory. They had girls, though, and most of them had breasts.

Back in the good old days, Village's East End cinema complex, which had three screens, projected a diverse catalog of European softcore pornography. All the big chains screened lots of Euro softcore in the 70's. It was terribly cut, of course, by the prudish Australian censor, but it was plentiful.

To a young lad like myself, the ad mats were the movie, and when I caught up with many of these titles years later, most disappointed.

When I finally learned that 'Nudist Paradise' was a drab documentary that had been produced in 1959, and was as tame as a one-legged dog on Prozac , I was crushed. I stopped believing in "Nudiscope" a couple of years after I stopped believing in Santa.

1 comment:

  1. Excellent stuff. The old ads bring back memories; I remember being at the same time horrified and fascinated by the ads for 'man from deep river', where, if memory serves, a guy is tied up, and arrows shot into his chest. It reminded me of the same horrifying and yet transfixing images of Richard Harris dancing with the piercings in his chest in a 'man called horse'. This stuff weaves it's way into your subconscious, and never leaves. Funny how when you finally see many of these films, they are never quite as good as the ads. Even films I WAS ALLOWED to see-'Westworld', and 'Soylent Green', for example- always seemed to be somewhat of a letdown compared to the incredibly evocative and stimulating advertisements. This still stands, for me, to this day; not one of the 'Friday 13th' films was a fraction as good as their advertising material. There are other, better examples, but they do not spring to mind at the moment. In any event, I think this illustrates the power of our own imagination, and how, so often, that which we visualise pales when we materialise. Perhaps, in the end, it is far better to keep it all to ourselves?? Just a thought...