Today we tend to primarily (or solely) think of “Roadshow” films as “filler” exploitation films for the pre-television era. However,Wikipedia’s entry on ‘Roadshow Releases,” is a useful in-depth tool on their history, revealing the initial understanding of the term was as a format, rather than genre. Of course, we’re not interested in “classy” roadshow features like Ben Hur or Cleopatra, but in the sexploitation features that took to the road to show audiences glimpses of forbidden fruit—movies that couldn’t be booked in regular suburban theaters because of their salacious content. Thefirst part of the series dealt with the phenomenon in the repressed Forties; for this installment, we move into the swinging Sixties.
Possibly nothing sums up Western hypocrisy more than its attitudes toward sex. Over twenty years ago, I worked for an unnamed video store chain during the Pee Wee Herman scandal. Being a family values corporation, we received a memo to remove all Pee Wee videos from the stores immediately.
A few years later, when O.J.Simpson made the news, our office ordered every video they could get their hands on starring the former football hero. Recalling the company’s family values policy towards Pee Wee in our next managers’ meeting, I was uncouth enough to say: “Where, in our mindset, is it worse for someone to have allegedly pleasured himself in an adult theater than it is for someone to have allegedly slaughtered two human beings?” After said meeting, my superior issued me a written verbal warning for “inciting negativity” in my comment regarding comparison between Pee Wee and O.J. I think, for him the most provocative thing was the unsaid agreement, registered through laughter from fellow managers, that my comment generated.
It is, alas, easier for us to laugh at previous generations’ attitudes towards sex than our own. Roadside Show films from yesteryear are now considered archaic camp, while certain unnamed masses rally to show support for contemporary sexual constipation propagated by the likes of Duck Dynasty and Chick-fil-a.