samedi 30 janvier 2010

Satan in High Heels

In the United States it was also from the peripheries of the classical system that this major shift towards “sexploitation” occurred, coinciding with the end of roadhouse exploitation in 1959 (1). In grindhouses -often burlesque strip joints-, films started assimilating different aspects of bondage subculture in a complex web of subversion and enactment of the “productive repression” underlined by M. Foucault.

From the Bettie Page trilogy, icon of the bondage subculture revolving around Irving Klaw’s publications, to jungle-quest or “goona goonas”, native 'documentaries' featuring grotesque rituals and scenes of human perversity –like xenophobic Naked Africa (1957) or Pagan Island (1960), populated only by beautiful man-hating semi-naked women-, the “nudie cuties” shown at 'men’s-only' stag parties were introducing violent elements that would eventually bring Russ Meyer towards sexploitative violence with his “roughie” rape-revenge rural sex film Lorna (1964) and H. Gordon Lewis to the creation of the “gore” subgenre (with the overtly “gynecidal” Blood Feast of 1963, followed by 2000 Maniacs in 1964). Grand-Guignol horror mixed with sex while S&M imagery added to the eeriness of the whole (Ramses whips a brunette with a cat-o’nine-tails bellowing “give yourself up to the goddess!”). A new trend, appropriately called “pornoviolence” by Tom Wolfe, was born: “in the new pornography the theme is not sex. The new pornography depicts practitioners acting out another murkier drive: people staving teeth in, ripping guts open, blowing brains out” (Esquire, July 1967).

It is highly symptomatic that many of the key directors who made innovations in the blood horror genre had gotten their start in sexploitation filmmaking, illustrating the millennial Western connection between sex, guilt and body horror that Christianity took on from late Greco-Roman pessimism (2). Symptomatically this boom of the “sex-and-gore” subgenre emerged from the same American erotic underground that was harvesting S&M subculture. In 1960 fetish producers Burtman and Himmel released Satan in High Heels, infused with references to female domination, being the first mass-produced film to employ explicit American Fetish imagery that would haunt such cult classics as the murderous desert rampage of Tura Satana’s go-go dancers in Meyer’s Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill! (1965).

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