B&W is associated in the minds of many with noir, but I’ve come to associate it with sexploitation — and by that I mean the sexploitation films that played grindhouses and privately owned theaters in the 1960s. Russ Meyer referred to these films — or at least his own b&w sexploitation films — as “gothics.” For him, this period followed his successful series of vibrant boob-‘n’-butt films known as “nudie cuties,” and his first gothic was LORNA soon to be followed with what is perhaps his best film, MUDHONEY.
David F. Friedman and Hershell Gordon Lewis, meanwhile — following in Russ Meyer’s footsteps — had produced their own series of innocuous color nudie cutie films, until, as Friedman explained, they were driven to do something else simply out of sheer boredom.
SCUM OF THE EARTH would be their first b&w sexploitation noir (and most likely the first so-called “roughie”). In the film — as in all these psychosexual or sexploitation noir films — the darkest and most despicable aspects of human nature in the context of sexual exploitation are exposed. From SCUM OF THE EARTH, Friedman, would produce and write, THE DEFILERS, which would be directed by Lee Frost.
Meanwhile in New York City, the husband and wife team of Mike and Roberta Findlay were producing their own versions of these b&w films, culminating in the Flesh series:
Roberta Findlay (aka Anna Riva) was among the first female contributors to this dark b&w genre — as the photography director of THE TOUCH OF HER FLESH and a series of other films with her husband; and, after her divorce, she would go on to produce/direct many sexploitation films — eventually even XXX hardcore films — alone.
Doris Wishman would also leave behind her early career as nudie cutie sexploitation filmmaker to try her hand at sexploitation noir:
BAD GIRLS GO TO HELL would be her first entry to the sub-genre, followed by ANOTHER DAY, ANOTHER MAN and many more films.
Now while all this was happening in underground cinema (then called “adult” films), publishers — often mob related — were also contributing to this particular aesthetic.
Around the time of the very first psychosexual film (1963, SCUM OF THE EARTH), Satellite Publishing Co., begun by Stanley Malkin, fetish artist Eric Stanton, and Eddie Mishkin also came into being. Inspired by the success of sexploitation pioneer Irving Klaw and fetish impresario Leonard Burtman (creator of Exotique), they set out to create their own a sexploitation noir digest (through which readers subscriptions could be obtained). This magazine/digest was called BOUND. Originally it would be illustrated by Eric Stanton with contributions from various writers, but when Eric Stanton was forced out of the company (following creative differences), fellow fetish artist Gene Bilbrew was brought in.
BOUND — as a pilot effort to a publishing venture — would be a flop. And after nine issues, it would be discontinued.
Under Stanley Malkin’s management however, the digest/magazine idea would continue with a series of one-shot titles, each more lurid and wild than the next and inspired by fetish and psychosexual themes, and this series of photo digests would continue into the 1970s until Stanley Malkin would retire from the business, handing over his list of subscribers to Eric Stanton, who would then create his own (largely mail order) self-publishing business, best exemplified by a series of illustrated digest-sized magazines known as STANTOONS. Also, following the failure of BOUND, Stanley Malkin would create a series of imprints (“First Niter,” “After Hours,” “Wee Hours,” “Unique”) through which he would successfully publish so-called sleaze paperbacks. With cover art by Eric Stanton, Gene Bilbrew, Bill Ward and others, the paperbacks as well as the Satellite photo digest magazines would be sold in adult bookshops along Times Square and elsewhere into the 1970s (until XXX or hardcore porn would bring the sexploitation era to a close).
Surviving a series of obscenity trials, mob-funded publishing maverick Eddie Miskin would take over Irving Klaw’s operation — then moved to New Jersey as Irving Klaw fought his own censorship and legal battles against the U.S. government.
Mishkin would take over Irving Klaw’s business called “Nutrix” and replace the “N” with his own first initial and the imprint would become “Mutrix.” Mutrix would continue into the 1970s with an emphasis on fetish and sexploitation noir.
(Original Irving Klaw material re-issued as “Mutrix.”)
(Re-issued Irving Klaw era loops staring Bettie Page. They exist today largely because Paula Klaw [his sister, and primary photographer of Bettie Page and others] — hid them when the others insisted they be destroyed.)
(Typical of the Stanley Malkin published b&w sexploitation aesthetic.)
(The aesthetic was reflected in grindhouse sexploitation films playing nearby: 42nd Street and Times Square [where these digest size magazines were also sold; both Malkin and Mishkin owned Adult book shops in the area.])
(In some cases, the same performers appeared in the films as in the photo-illustrated books, as with Audrey Campbell, who appeared as “Olga” in the long-playing 42nd Street dominatrix series as well as in selected Satellite books, like the one below.)
(Audrey Campbell essentially playing the same femdom role.)
(Audrey Campbell plus subdued sub boy toy, lounging — near the end of the Satellite published narrative, DOMINATED TRAVELER.)
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PERMANENT OBSCURITY: Or a Cautionary Tale of Two Girls and Their Misadventures with Drugs, Pornography and Death by Dolores Santana (as told to Richard Perez)
IS THIS EXPLOITATION NOVEL RIGHT FOR YOU?
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PERMANENT OBSCURITY: the title and where it came from
BAD GIRL CINEMA (and its influence on the novel):
Thelma & Louise, Baise-Moi, Heavenly Creatures, Faster Pussycat! Kill! Kill!….
The subversive power of sexploitation
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Permanent Obscurity:Or A Cautionary Tale
Of Two Girls
And Their Misadventures
With Drugs, Pornography
(as told to Richard Perez)