Assistant Professor at the University of North Texas’s Department of Radio, Television and Film Harry M. Benshoff gave a lecture titled, “Beyond the Valley of the Classical Hollywood Cinema – Rethinking the Loathsome Films of 1970” on March 25. It was sponsored by UR Film and Media Studies and the Program in Visual and Cultural Studies.The term “loathsome films” comes from a series of Hollywood movies in the late 1960s and early 1970s featuring unprecedented seditious content and style. “All loathsome films feature gay, sexual and transgender topics,” Benshoff said. “And it also generates controversies because of generalized queer content.” Benshoff, a noted scholar, argued that the films, some of which were supported by major Hollywood studios like 20th Century-Fox, allowed Hollywood to explore views toward gender, sexuality and violence.CAS 105 “Culture and Obscenity” teacher Joseph Cameron included more reasons why Hollywood began making these films in the 70s. “At the time, studio heads, the same ones who had been running the show for a long time were increasingly growing out of touch with contemporary audiences,” Cameron said.Prior to Benshoff’s lecture, Dryden Theatre screened “Myra Breckinridge,” an X-rated loathsome genre film. During the lecture, Benshoff showed a scene from it to audiences, in which Myra, played by Racquel Welch, uses a strap-on dildo to sodomize a cowboy actor. “I became interested in these [loathsome] films because of unbelievable content and violation of style that were coming out from major film productions,” Benshoff said. “I can’t imagine a film like ‘Myra Breckinridge’ will be coming out from 20th Century-Fox today.”Many film critics commented that loathsome films are destroying American morals and are emotionally retarded films. Benshoff shared a quotation from critic John Simon with the audience. “The [loathsome] film progresses not by what I imagine a series of electroshocks to be like, but a shock treatment administered not by a therapist but by a misprogrammed computer,” Simon said.Cameron said that although Simon hated these films, he had reasons for hating them. “The first is that they do not follow the established rules for constructing conventional Hollywood films,” Cameron said. “And the second criterion for Simon is that the films refuse to give us conventionally pleasing spectacles.””[Simon] also complains about all the homosexuality and perversion in the films rather than question the power dynamics that structure his thinking about film,” Cameron added.However, Benshoff mentioned that not all loathsome films contain pornographic scenes. Hence, he later showed a scene from the film “End of the Road” to the audiences. In the scene, a college professor who is standing still on the platform of the train station searches for meaning and identity in the modern world and goes through psychosis of post-war American culture while the train is passing by. “In this [End of the Road] scene of the film, the director attacks on mainstream American politics,” Benshoff said. “It is a cry of the American film and invokes social changes.”As a supporter of loathsome films, Benshoff shared another quotation from Michael Sarne, director of “Myra Breckinridge.” Sarne argues that the loathsome films introduced a new wave to the Hollywood. “Loathsome films are, from the point of view of their markets, a reflection of joy, not hate, a new artistic freedom that the movie business has been lacking and badly needs,” Sarne said.Aoyama can be reached atyaoyama@campustimes.org.



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