X-Rated Trailers – Sexploitation Marketing in 1970's Hard Core Previews

(note: this is an age gated trailers. You must be 18 to view)

Director Stephen Gibson’s The Lollipop Girls in Hard Candy preview opens with a zoom in of an “IN 3-D” text block, which is immediately followed by a close-up of bare breasts. Another graphic card reading “SUPER 3-D STEREO” flashes onscreen with intermittent scenes of actors in the throes of sexual passion, followed by an actor in character comically explaining the 3-D process.

Porn icon, John Holmes gets into the act by directly teasing female audience about certain parts of his anatomy “shadowing portions of the theater,” while Gibson addresses the men in the audience with the promise that “the girls will be right in your face.” The tone of the trailer is self-conscious and light, selling the film’s “hardcore” qualities with a playful touch.

The trailer cuts to an elderly couple watching the preview, in a facetious representation of potential audience members. The husband expresses interest in seeing the film; the wife objects, claiming she would not be “caught dead” at such a movie. In an over the top, grind-house gesture, the husband nonchalantly pulls out a pistol and shoots her. Lollipop Girls concludes with additional softcore sex scenes under graphic cards reading “eye poppin’!” “outasight,” “outrageous,” followed by more 3-D hyperbole.

Films and their previews have long used technology as a way to differentiate their products and appeal to customers. Why should we imagine that adult filmmakers–those masters of marketing–wouldn’t exploit the same approaches in their sexploitation trailers?


    “Never before has the motion picture industry produced an adult film with such vastness, scope and stature.” So reads the opening title card for the X-rated trailer for Panorama Blue (1974). The first scene shows an amorous couple riding a rollercoaster, as light kissing leads to a full scale sexual encounter. Richard Strauss’ “Also sprach Zarathustra,” is the music cue, a playful and ironic nod to the austere, magisterial vision of Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey.

    Panorama Blue’s amusement park ride is intercut with scenes from a sexually-charged drag race, quick cuts to a night club scene and a point-of-view sexual encounter from the male perspective (emphasizing the immersion of the viewing audience). The Strauss music reaches a crescendo as the preview shows a surreal shot of a naked couple in bed surrounded by a symphony orchestra, alluding to yet another Kubrick film, A Clockwork Orange. The reasoning behind this trailer’s visual and auditory ambitions/pretensions? To highlight the film’s “70mm Super Widescreen Panoramascope” format with “4 Track Stereophonic Sound.”

    Although they market x-rate features, The Lollipop Girls in Hard Candy and Panorama Blue previews still observe fundamental rules of the genre and exploit familiar methods of appealing to audiences. In both instances the previews draw attention to the technical innovations (3-D film and Widescreen Panoramascope) of their features using rhetoric that echoes the hyperbole found in trailers of the 1950s.

    In both, however, it is apparent that the filmmakers are using cinematic bombast as an inside joke; they are well aware that audiences care less about innovations in film exhibition and more about the onscreen “action.” This facetious, self-conscious approach to the audience is a trademark of 1970s non-mainstream motion picture marketing to “hip” and “savvy” audiences who appreciate the alternative, a style that continues to influence “underground” trailers to this day.

    Tony Best is a researcher, digital media producer/archivist and aspiring TV promo creative director based in Los Angeles. An alumnus of UCLA’s Moving Image Archive Studies master’s degree program, Tony has worked on several preservation projects, including digital restoration of “lost” television programs and coordinating the UCLA Film & Television Archive’s “L.A. Rebellion” initiative (under the aegis of the Getty’s Pacific Standard Time). He is also a regular contributor to the music and film quarterly Wax Poetics. Tony can be reached at tonyvision@me.com.

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    movietrailers101 by Fred Greene is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

About Frederick Greene

Entertainment Copywriter & Visiting Assistant Professor, UCLA Dept. of Theater, Film & Television. I teach a graduate seminar in new movie marketing, which focuses on the history, contemporary practice and likely future of a/v advertising for motion picture entertainment.
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