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Book Review: ‘Black and White and Blue: Adult Cinema from the Victorian Age to the VCR’

By Dave Thompson (ECW Press, $22.95)

Dave Thompson has written dozens of books on both music and film. His latest focus details the centurylong evolution of the erotic film, from its beginning in Victorian times to the late 1970s, when the advent of the home VCR irrevocable changed the face of the adult film industry.

In this highly readable account, Thompson reveals that some of the first films ever made in America were so-called stag films. During the summer of 1894, just three years after the kinetoscope made its public debut, the New Jersey resort of Atlantic City became the scene of the first ever raid of a movie parlor. Local authorities forcibly removed the kinetograph “Dolorita’s Passion Dance” from circulation on the grounds that the dancer’s very movements served to inflame passion. At the time the raid occurred, the flickering loop had become one of the most viewed kinetograph ever exhibited in the parlor.

According to Thompson, “A Free Ride,” which was probably filmed in about 1915, is considered to be the oldest American stag film in existence. There is ample evidence, however, that it was hardly the first. Filmed entirely outdoors, the plot of “A Free Ride” revolves around a motorist who picks up two female hitchhikers. Although it is rather tame by contemporary standards, the film’s makers disguised the true identities of its participants including a large false mustache for the man.

Only a handful of scholarly tracts and even fewer references in most Hollywood histories address the history and evolution of this intriguing industry peopled by anonymously masked women and men, actors whose movie immortality were attained in the time that it took to shoot a roll of film. Thompson uses exclusive interviews, descriptions of more than 300 films and a witty, informative narrative to make this one of the first – if not the first – comprehensive surveys of the adult film, from its shaky, flickering black-and-white silents to the first flowering of the lavish modern-day productions.

Grade: A

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This archive contains all the stories that appeared on the Tucson Citizen's website from mid-2006 to June 1, 2009.

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