The UK has always had an uneasy relationship with pornography. It’s always been around in one form or another, but never so readily available as today.
A prime example of this is the availability of pornographic movies, first on film, then video tape and now DVD. Or to put it more accurately illegally available on Film and VHS tapes, then about ten years ago becoming legal and regulated as R18 VHS and DVD.
I’m always amused to remember what I heard about the chief censor from the 1950s and 60s who would insist on viewing the most explicit of movies on his own so as not to corrupt other members of the BBFC. I assume he got through a lot of Kleenex.
Use of the obscene publications act and ever changing BBFC rules meant that sometimes sexually provocative and slightly explicit films were OK, and at other times were very illegal. As a consequence film producers could only guess at whether or not their film would be passed as an 18 certificate (previously X rated), much of the outcome dependent on the release data and what guidelines were in force at that time. The ultimate hypocrisy and possibly final nail in the coffin of the old arbitrary classification regime was when video nasties started appearing.
Snuff movies and those like “Cannibal Holocaust” showed just what happens when you ban a genre or cut it to ribbons without consistent guidelines – people seek out the movies underground. Like the horrendous video nasties you could get porn under the counter and while most was tame in comparison to the R18 we have today a 1980s porn movie was not subject to regulation and therefore potentially exploitative of the performers.
I was watching a documentary about Ben Dover, iconic British porn star, a few weeks ago. His first movies were filmed in a camper van, illegally and in the gonzo porn style. He observed that when he was appearing in that genre of porn it was a) more exciting and b) far more difficult to get hold of. Because of that porn was more titillating and much more of a novelty. I can see his point.
While acknowledging the fact that some porn of the illegal era might be questionable in its treatment of the performers I would have to say that porn was more exciting back then. The production values weren’t as high, the acting was just as poor, but it was all somehow more natural. Now as Kenny Styles mentioned in the interview by Suze some producers fall into the trap of becoming repetitive and boring (“the sausage factory” ), simply because of the number of titles they have to churn out.
We can never go back to the days of surreptitious under the counter porn, the ravenous nature of Internet Tube sites has seen to that. But we must reward those producers and directors that create imaginative, innovative and therefore ultimately more arousing porn rather than those who simply repeat the same, stale formats over and over.