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Strand Releasing presents
The Good Old Naughty Days (2002 (1905-1930)

"These films stand witness to our grandparents' traditions of getting one's crumpet, dancing on the mattress, getting one's oats, dipping one's wick, or exercising the ferret."
- Intertitle from the collection

Review By: Mark Zimmer   
Published: October 08, 2003

Director: Michel Reilhac

MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (nudity, hard core sexual activity and perversions, water sports, bestiality, nunsploitation)
Run Time: 01h:08m:55s
Release Date: July 29, 2003
UPC: 712267220823
Genre: late night


Style
Grade
Substance
Grade
Image Transfer
Grade
Audio Transfer
Grade
Extras
Grade
B B-B-A- D-

DVD Review

Moralizing and censorious bluenoses would have one believe that pornography and sexually-oriented materials are a manifestation of the recent decline in morality. This disregards the fact that pornography has always been avidly sought even back to ancient times (and was even then considered to be an indication of fallen morals as well). A picture has grown up of a rather asexual and prudish life in the early 20th century, but this collection of century-old pornography proves that this could hardly be farther from the truth. Indeed, the antics of our grandparents and great-grandparents on display here violate numerous taboos that cannot be broken in pornography even today.

Dating from about 1905 to 1930, this set of 12 films, running from about one to seven minutes in length, give a varied picture of the sexual appetites and fantasies of our forebears. There's the usual, including mild fetishism, spanking, lesbianism and the like. The first few films are decidedly softcore, with the first, Combing Her Hair (1905) more of an arty little nude study than porn. Faimette Workshop (1921) plays more like softcore, with what appears to be simulated sex but nonetheless enthusiastic as some factory girls are caught in flagrante by their boss, who takes advantage of them. School for Spanking (1925) plays with the teacher fetish and combines it with spanking. The dirty old man of legend and joke is the focus of Agenor is Picking Up, as he attempts to cure his priapism by bedding every woman he sees.

These aren't just sex loops, though that's their primary function. An effort at creating an historical mood is on display in The Musketeer's Dinner (1920), as a Louis XIII-era character has his way with a serving wench, Miss Butterfly encapsulates Puccini's opera in a smutty manner, allowing Cio-Cio-San to comfort herself with her female companion, Pinkerton to be serviced by a young Chinese boy, and then finally for everyone to pile onto each other. There's a good deal of group sex on display here, and no one seems very particular about gender, age, or other characteristics.

In addition to ready bisexuality, there are other taboos being flouted here. There are not one but two separate films centering on naughty nuns and priests, making Mr. Abbot Bitt at Convent (1925) and Homework (1920) two of the earliest nunsploitation pictures on record. But that's not the half of it. There are urination frolics, homosexual rape, voyuerism, and even onscreen bestiality in these pictures. Yikes. It's not likely that you'll find such verboten material on display at your local adult bookstore. The package concludes with an animated short from 1925, Buried Treasure, featuring the amusing character Eveready Harton, who has an interesting relationship with his detachable penis. The piece is quite surprising and hilarious in its own very smutty way, and features still more animal antics.

Michel Reilhac is listed as the director of this 2002 assemblage, though the shorts themselves are completely uncredited (other than a few joke credits). Little is provided in the way of explanatory material beyond the statement that many of these films were shown at brothels for the entertainment of customers. A few silly remarks are provided on intertitles in between the films, but no information regarding their provenance, history, or preservation is included. While the names of the participants are most likely lost to history, surely there must be more that can be said about these films. Despite that, this is an entertaining and undeniably little collection of vintage erotica; somehow the patina of 75 to 100 years gives them a respectability that is sorely lacking from any similar modern shot-on-video feature with similar subject matter. Recommended, but only to very open-minded fans of silent cinema or those interested in the historical origins of modern porn. Just don't look for it on the shelves at Wal-Mart.

Rating for Style: B
Rating for Substance: B-

 

Image Transfer

 One
Aspect Ratio1.33:1 - Full Frame
Original Aspect Ratioyes
Anamorphicno


Image Transfer Review: The quality of the prints themselves vary widely; School of Spanking is very scratched and worn, while Agenor is Picking Up is in beautiful shape. The expected scratches and wear are present on all of them; considering these prints must have suffered extremely heavy usage over the years, it's a marvel that they're in as good condition as they are. The films are from French archives (some of them only have French intertitles, which are untranslated) and thus PAL/NTSC conversion is at times an issue. On most of them, ghosting artifacts are present to a mild degree only and it's quite invisible when run at speed. However, Massages (1920) suffers from fairly severe ghosting throughout. All of the films are rather soft and dupey; no doubt the negatives eventually wore out on these films from overprinting. However, there is plenty of naughty detail for the interested viewer.

Image Transfer Grade: B-

 

Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0(music only)no


Audio Transfer Review: The audio is a piano score composed and performed by Eric Le Guen. The audio is very clean, and has a decent presence, giving the viewer the feeling of sitting in a French brothel with the piano player nearby accompanying the loops. The charming and screen-specific accompaniment helps these old bits of smut keep a veneer of respectability despite their depraved subject matter.

Audio Transfer Grade: A-

 

Disc Extras

Full Motion menu with music
Scene Access with 14 cues and remote access
Packaging: Amaray
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: single

Extras Review: Absolutely no extra materials are provided. Chaptering is one stop per short film, and that's quite satisfactory.

Extras Grade: D-

 

Final Comments

Make no mistake; this isn't just naughty, it's honest-to-god pornography. Nonetheless, it manages to be pretty entertaining in its own right and the distance of many decades gives it a charm and presence all its own. Just as porn was a driving force for the success of VHS and cable television, it had its place in the development of film too, and we're lucky that these pictures have been preserved and made available as a document of an aspect of social history all too often swept under the rug.

 


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