Pale Shades of Erotica

December 30, 2015 | By

FiftyShadesGreyAs promised, a long examination of why 2015’s erotic non-hit, Fifty Shades of Grey, via Focus / Universal, ended up eliciting more giggles and yawns that actual surprise (unless the surprises came from its blatant lack of originality).

Is it really necessary to dissect mediocre filmmaking? No, but when an erotic franchise from an American studio makes its debut in cinemas, it deserves some scrutiny, given the genre has been still for some time.

The art house classics and eurotrash imports of the 70s and 80s were superseded by direct-to-video fodder in the 90s with rated and unrated versions, and then things quieted down, with even exploitation-styled smut now relegated to home video reissues and restored versions of classics and forgotten works rather than anything brand spanking new.

I’m saving an examination of Zalman King’s canon (he has one, really) for a future date, but certainly as a brand, there’s a whole lot of material he produced that’s idling in storage, as though whoever is handling his estate is perhaps bewildered by the quantity of his TV and feature film work, or perhaps of the mind that it’s now dated, passé, and irrelevant.

Filmed erotica is very much a window into what was deemed hot and commercial at a specific time period, and from the ashes of Grey, the image is one where risks were kept R-rated, and the fear to offend is greater than the urge to provoke. The reason genre classics – even those from reluctant studios – still prick interest is because they’re fascinating cultural artifacts that were once regarded as hot potatoes.

There’s also the added curiosity in seeing what prickled conservative censors, executives, and small / special interest groups during a film’s original release. The first film based on E.L. James’ writings is an instant artifact, but unlike its predecessors, its unique flaws and blunders also make it a cautionary tale of what never to do if the ultimate goal is to launch a viable film franchise.

Note: the review is of the film rather than any special features, music videos, etc. present on Universal’s Blu-ray. I’m sticking to the curdled impurity of the cinematic vision rather than the accoutrements designed to hype a 129 minute tease.

Coming next: a trio of Philip Yordan-penned classics – westerns The Man from Laramie (1955) and Broken Lance (1954) from Twilight Time on Blu, plus the latter’s antecedent, the classic noir drama of un-brotherly love, House of Strangers (1949) on DVD from Fox.




Mark R. Hasan, Editor

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