In the light of February’s release of Fifty Shades of Grey, Nucleus Films (Grindhouse Trailer Classics, Video Nasties) have recently released Fifty Shades of Erotica, mind-blowing collection of curated carnality from the golden age of classic erotica, featuring films from such masters of the erotic as Just Jaeckin, Ken Russell, Tinto Brass, Jess Franco, Walerian Borowczyk and Radley Metzger. At Front Row Reviews, we recently caught up with Nucleus’ Marc Morris, who explained where his interest in the erotic came from and what it was like to put this collection of trailers together.
Front Row Reviews: Having worked on similar, archival projects in the past, where did the idea to look at erotica come from?
Marc Morris: We’ve been editing trailers for some time now and thinking of ways to package them together, coming up with new ideas for a compilation. Some of these trailers we have here are from the 50s and 60s and don’t fit in with Grindhouse trailer classics at all but there are all sorts of things that people have never heard of. It just seems a shame that they are sitting around gathering dust and I’m always trying to think of ways to present trailers. I don’t want to be known as the company that only release trailers, but it does seem to be something that people like. And when Fifty Shades of Grey came out, I thought there is a lot of people who won’t realise this isn’t the first erotic film to get a cinema release and this was a way to educate people that there is a whole massive group of films out there, probably from the late 50s onwards. But during the 60s onwards when people were reading the Marquis du Sade, Venus in Furs, Story of O, people were becoming more interested in erotic literature. People started to make films of these works because sex sells and people have always known that and that’s why I wanted to introduce people to these earlier movies. Most of which are way sexier than Fifty Shades of Grey could ever be.
FRR: Well I certainly had a lesson in nudity having watched your film.
M: You know some people may be quite shocked when they watch these trailers because of the nudity that is in them. They are really quite explicit and they show a lot more than you’d imagine was in them.
FRR: How did you decide, which films were going to appear in the selection?
M: I wanted to focus on the films that I thought were going to be of interest to those watching Fifty Shades of Grey, so originally I thought a bit of light S&M and bondage but I wanted to find films that were a bit kinky. Classic erotica really. I didn’t want it to be Grindhouse trailer classics; I wanted it to be art house erotica. I wanted it to show classy films that would sit in the role of genre films rather than porny type stuff. People may be able to relate to it more, more couple’s stuff. Maybe I’m just a pervert, but I thought most the stuff in there was quite softcore. And it is, expect for The Image, which I thought I should include because it’s an S&M tinged film and the only hardcore film included. It’s an eye opener to say the least.
FRR: Interesting to see how things have changed so much in cinema. A lot of the films in your collection are older films but I wondered whether you were going to do something through history and come up to something like Nymphomaniac.
M: You see it was a problem with licensing but we really wanted to do older stuff, we wanted to do a history lesson in erotica. It’s more interesting we thought anyway.
M: Not really, you have to remember most of this stuff is older and appears on YouTube anyway. Trailers are made to promote the film and anyone that watches this collection will possibly see a trailer they like and go out and buy a DVD.
FRR: You are telling me, I have a list on Amazon now of things I want to watch.
M: I can’t see someone complaining to you about promoting their movie. People want to get their film seen by as many people as possible.
FRR: I think so and people do watch trailers, so to be able to watch two hours of them back to back. The time just flies.
M: And you have the option of watching them in year order as well on the DVD.
FRR: When you were cutting it all together, was there any trailers you wanted to include but that didn’t make the final cut?
M: There were some trailers that I wanted like The Last Tango in Paris but the trailer for that is just very dull; it’s just a succession of stills from the film. It is a classic movie, but not a great trailer. And there were others, but there were plenty that I just couldn’t find as well. People said perhaps you should do a volume two but honestly doing this first volume was difficult. Finding trailers for some of this stuff is really hard.
We were thinking about whether we released our trailers on HD instead of SD only but we wondered whether people really wanted these old trailers in high definition. It would take away the graininess and grottiness of trailers. Would it be worth it?
FRR: Do you have an interest in erotica to be able to spend time on this project?
M: I do, I have been collecting these movies since I was buying VHS and Betamax tapes in the 80s. I have always had an interest in the underbelly… the underground. I have collected horror and erotic fiction and that leads you on to watching and enjoying the movies.
It’s like the Olympia press books. They were getting banned around the world but this French publisher was putting erotic fiction out there and it was getting shipped everywhere. This was in the late 60s and it was about the time that these films were starting to get made as well. A lot of publishers started to put stuff out there around then. But now you can get pretty much everything you want.
FRR: Did you remaster the trailers?
M: Yeah we did that; we cleaned up some of the audio because sometimes you hear really loud pops. People would put them at the end of the trailers to point out to the projectionist that the film was about to start, like the cigarette burn at the end of reels. But sometimes they are a bit distracting. But other times they were part of the film. Some had really bad damage, so we did some clean up on them.
FRR: Would you consider doing a film like a documentary with a narrator?
M: We did think about it but we didn’t really have the time to track people down and I don’t really know whether that would make the film sell any more copies. A lot of work goes into making a documentary and I don’t think it would have pushed selling more copies. There are two sides to the market, the people who have seen everything and want to see something more obscure and then those who are the casual viewer and want to see something cool. When you release the obscure stuff for, the casual viewers moan that we are scraping the barrel, as they’ve never heard of things before. But people love to see stuff they’ve never heard of.
FRR: I certainly love to see the stuff I’ve never heard of.
M: Then there are the films that people have heard of but never seen the trailers for. They are difficult to get hold of. But you see there are so many trailer compilations coming out all over the world now, coming from USA and Australia. We are trying to include trailers that haven’t been included elsewhere before. There is nothing we can do to time the release to make sure we are the first with the trailers. It’s always good to uncover a trailer that other people didn’t even know existed.
FRR: There are so many trailers in there with people that are recognisable but perhaps the audience didn’t even know.
M: That’s true; we are trying to enlighten people.
FRR: It’s like featuring a trailer for something like The Night Porter, which I love.
FRR: What makes an interesting trailer to you?
M: I like the ones with voiceovers, the ones with big captioning. Quotes flashing up on screen, filled with hyperbole. I like all the weird, old-fashioned trailers of the 50s. The ones made for horror and science fiction – I like the showmanship. It’s an art really to make a good trailer.
FRR: Is there any other genres that you want to unearth?
M: There is another project, which I can’t announce yet. It’s a big one, which I have been working on for the last year. It will be interesting. It should be of interest to British genre fans.