I have an odd question…

I have an odd question -- how explicit were films in the late 1970's? The kind of films that a middle-aged respectable couple would go to?

6 thoughts on “I have an odd question…”

  1. Rough guess: fairly explicit talking, not so explicit visuals but reasonably suggestive, with some partial nudity. In case it helps, here are some films released in 1977:

    Star Wars
    Close Encounters
    Annie Hall (probably the best measure of what you’re looking for — won all sorts of Oscars)
    Saturday Night Fever
    Equus (no idea how explicit the film version was, but it was rated R, and it was taken seriously: directed by Sidney Lumet, starring Richard Burton, was nominated for three Oscars but didn’t win any)
    The Spy Who Loved Me
    Eraserhead
    Slap Shot
    Smokey and the Bandit
    A Bridge Too Far
    The Kentucky Fried Movie
    Exorcist II: The Heretic
    The Hobbit
    Oh, God!
    The Goodbye Girl
    A Little Night Music
    The Rescuers
    Pete’s Dragon
    Airport ’77
    Looking for Mr. Goodbar
    Orca
    Wizards
    ABBA: The Movie
    Herbie Goes to Monte Carlo
    Hardware Wars
    Damnation Alley
    Who Are the DeBolts? And Where Did They Get Nineteen Kids?

  2. Well… There isn’t a simple answer to that question. At the start of the 70’s, things were relatively chaste. The Europeans had just started showing nudity in ‘serious’ movies in the mid ’60s, and the trend had begun moving to the US, though many movies still avoided it. Then along came 1972. In 1972, Last Tango In Paris came out, then Deep Throat then Behind the Green Door, then The Devil in Miss Jones. Respectable adults started going to porn theaters to see movies for a little while. By 1976 there were occasional art house movies like In the Realm of the Senses which showed explicit, non-simulated sex or Salo: 120 Days of Soddom which showed… Er… everything. By 1980, the trend towards more explicit sex was pretty radically curtailed. Mainstream movies had become more explicit, but art house fare was moving back into safer territory and porn had become disrespectable again (though it wasn’t ever precisely respectable, it just briefly gained a freakshow-type following).

    Hopefully, that helps. 🙂

  3. I’d guess these characters wouldn’t go to art house films, and probably would even avoid some R-rated movies. We’re talking about a nice, conservative suburban couple who very rarely might go to a romantic comedy with friends. I think I’m going to write the reference fairly tame, just to be safe.

  4. Well, I may be belieing my purity score here.. but there were also films in the 70’s such as the Emanuelle series, which are, erm, rather more revealing than even most current NC17 films, not explicitely “porn”, but rather darn close…

    I’m not sure, however, how popular or pervasive such films were.

    http://www.imdb.com might be one resource, they seemingly have information on anything ever put to film.

  5. My TiVo has been picking up some 70’s movies from HBO and TCM recently, so I can comment. 🙂 As of 1972, they might have seen “Avanti!” (a Billy Wilder comedy with Jack Lemmon and Juliet Mills). That one had upper body frontal nudity (and full-length dorsal) for both leads, lots of references to sex, but nothing explicit on screen. I’m now watching “The Last Picture Show” (1971) in chunks as time permits; in the first half hour it has a scene of a high-school couple parking with their tops off (rapidly seguing into an argument and subsequent breakup).

    The film of “Equus” had full frontal nudity for both leads and what I recall as fairly explicit onscreen sex. That strikes me as a bit arty, so I don’t know if it’s the sort of thing that your characters would have gone to see. (Though as Zak noted, there was a brief fad of respectable adults going to see big-name porn movies in theaters.)

    My general impression of 70’s mainstream movies is that there was an increasing amount of gratuitous female nudity (shower scenes, skinny dipping, etc.) in comedies, but sexually explicit scenes tended to be limited to either either “serious” scenes (i.e., scenes that were so boring or arty or uncomfortable as to allow the makers to deny any claim that they were titillating 🙂 ) or outright porn of the soft or hardcore variety. But I’m sure there are exceptions.

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