’70s Sleaze / Exploitation Films (Round Two–This Time, They’re Filthier!)

Turns out there’s a hell of a lot of dirty movies out there, much more than one post could summarize. Personally, as a huge fan of the medium of motion pictures, I love to track down and view as many pieces of the craft as I can find. The more bizarre and audacious the film, the more interesting it usually is to me. (One can only watch so many by-the-book “hero’s journeys” and lowest common denominator reboots of safe IPs before anything… anything different feels like a godsend.) In this regard, I have the propensity to enjoy the sludge as well as the art–in fact, to delve into the former every now and then makes me appreciate the latter all the more. Creative expression–even the most shameless examples of it–are a means by which we can analyze the human condition. This is my justification for watching these kinds of movies and you can take it or leave it. Forgive the self-congratulatory intro, but some of this stuff is so taboo that I feel the need to justify even acknowledging them on this blog. I hope the many tomes I’ve written about respectable cinema, political science and spirituality will offset the occasional smut post. 😛

I know this entry won’t be for everyone, and frankly it ought not to be. So please, if you’re underage, inexperienced, easily offended, or want to maintain a modicum of purity in this putrid world we live in, then turn back now. Anyone who reads on must be prepared to witness some of the most shocking acts ever captured on celluloid. You have officially been warned, and by scrolling down you agree to proceed at your own risk.

Don’t say I didn’t warn you!

Deep Throat (1972)

I can already hear the more well-versed smut aficionados groaning “really, that’s your idea of unspeakable depravity?” Well…trust me, this list gets worse and I thought we ought to start off with something light as a way to ease into them. There was a time when I was a sheltered young teenager, maybe 13 or 14, and I found Deep Throat by accident. I was searching for the most profitable film of all time, because going down rabbit holes was a hobby of mine even then, and it led me here. Back in those days, I was incredibly sheltered and mirrored the conservative attitudes I picked up from my parents, so even this little film was quite shocking to me. I remember reading over the wikipedia article with a mix of curiosity and disgust. I browsed the IMDb page and was shocked that so many people would admit to watching such a film (even anonymously) much less give it good ratings. Oh, how my perspective has changed!

This is obviously the most famous porno ever made, the one that brought adult entertainment into the mainstream. But is it still worth watching today? Ultimately no, I don’t think Deep Throat holds up particularly well on its own merits. I do not hate Deep Throat; in fact, I respect its place in our cultural history and even have a poster of it in my house. (That was an impulse buy in college 😛 ) But if you’re looking for something absolutely obscene to push your limits, there are far more hardcore films out there. (Water Power and the rest of this list for starters.) And if you’re looking for something approachable and fun, there are also much better options available to you. (Alice in Wonderland: X Rated Musical Fantasy and The Opening of Misty Beethoven, for example.) In terms of cinematography, shots are utilitarian and uninspired. In terms of acting, Linda Lovelace is unbearable even for porn. There is no passion or plausible dynamic between the love interests, unlike better eroticas such as Therese and Isabelle. The story is ridiculous even by porn standards, and not in an interesting art-house way like The Lickerish Quartet either. It’s just a very average, very forgettable entry in the genre and considering Linda Lovelace has since revealed that she was forced to participate against her will, it seems disrespectful to watch it anymore. (At least for me.)

It’s not so much that Deep Throat did anything unique as it is the lucky one which just so happened to get caught up in the culture war. Had it not been this, any other film in the early ’70s was bound to be the recipient of the puritanical blowback that had been fomenting for years after the sexual revolution kicked off. I know reviewers credit Deep Throat with beginning the trend of stories in porn, but the more I delve into the Golden Age material, the less I buy that narrative. There were eroticas on both sides of the Atlantic which, although lacking in full penetration, still pushed the envelope of decency and managed to have better stories than this. (The Big Four Italian BDSM classics: Femina Ridens, Scacco alla Regina, Devil in the Flesh and La Matriarca being the best examples.) Other story driven pornos were coming out around the same time as well. The genre was going in that direction with or without this one movie, but crediting overarching trends to a single film makes for an easier narrative in documentaries I guess. Ultimately, Deep Throat is basically baby’s first porn: it’s the kind of movie the straight community thinks is the pinnacle of offensiveness, when in reality they have no idea the depths to which humanity can sink…

Linda Lovelace was forced by her abusive pimp/husband Chuck Traynor to star in both this and a bestiality porn called Dogarama (1971) aka Dog Fucker aka Dog 1, which leads us to our next films…

Bodil Joensen: A Summer Day in 1970 (1970)
& Animal Lover (1971)

Before I discuss these two closely interrelated films, I’d like to offer some background information about their star, Bodil Joensen. I want to preface by saying that this is among the most tragic and disturbing stories I’ve ever encountered in any subject. I was haunted for days after discovering her filmography. In fact, I can honestly tell you that there are only two movies I’ve seen as an adult which genuinely horrified me: the original Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974) and Animal Lover (1971). I have alluded to watching this film in a previous blog post (scroll down to the final entry in the list) and described my immediate reaction upon seeing it. So feel free to read that if you’re curious how badly it affected me. The crazy thing is, all it took was one guy on reddit mentioning “the infamous Animal Farm bootleg video,” a wikipedia article, a BBC documentary (The Dark Side of Porn) and my own morbid curiosity to lead me here. This has been the most shocking internet rabbit hole I’ve ever gone down by far, and I do not exaggerate when I tell you I could do fifty more installments of this series and I don’t think I’d ever unearth another porno as repugnant. I feel so confidently of this, that I will go ahead and preemptively declare Animal Lover the single most despicable, soul-polluting, morally objectionable film that has ever been made. (Not including child porn, of course, but still…like, goddamn.)

So who is Bodil Joensen? She was a Danish woman who remains the most infamous bestiality porn star of all time–maybe the most infamous porn star period. Known as the boar girl, she led one of the most pitiable lives of anyone in any modern, post-industrialized country. There’s just enough details about her story online to piece together a basic narrative, but almost none of it comes from reputable sources. Worse, nearly all sources we do have just parrot the same basic information, sometimes word for word. This means we have a dearth of independently corroborated data, a single point of failure, and the biases or “poetic license” of the originator has had undue influence on how the rest of us perceive this woman. Indeed, there are quite a few details in the circulating account which just barely pass my “smell test,” and read like oversimplifications or a flair for the dramatic. I will point out a few of these examples as we go.

What’s known is that Bodil grew up in an incredibly abusive house, where she was not allowed to speak to boys and was punished for any behavior deemed inappropriate by her domineering puritanical mother. This culminated in what must have been the most consequential experience of Bodil’s life, when she was sexually assaulted by an older man on the way home from school. Rather than sympathize, Bodil’s mother blamed her for bringing it on herself, and punished the poor girl severely. In a prophetic moment, (perhaps too prophetic) Bodil retaliated in an outburst of vain defiance, as only a child could. She yelled to her mom: “I’m going to fuck pigs when I grow up!” This is certainly an unusual statement, but a very understandable one considering the circumstances; if Bodil’s mother was going to treat her as trash no matter what, she may as well act like it. It’s unknown if that incident really happened in exactly the way we are told, and if so, who knows whether Bodil always intended to live up to this threat or if her later occupation was coincidental. I’ve read additional reports that her first sexual experience, in the absence of the normal teenage guy-girl affections which were cruelly denied her, was with the family dog. Sometimes, one’s first sexual experience turns out to be formative for the way they view sex for the rest of their life…

Just listen to that clumsy narration at the end. Nobody making this movie gave a single fuck, except Bodil herself.

Later in life, Bodil was forced into porn after traditional animal husbandry did not work out. Supposedly this was due to gossip and spite from the wives of the local farmers whom she tried to do business with. The sources tell us that these women were jealous of Bodil’s charms and the effect it was having on their menfolk. Personally, that always seemed a bit of a stretch to me. I wonder if perhaps Bodil already had a reputation for being too friendly with her animals even then, or if her mother spread malicious gossip about Bodil and the bad impressions just stuck for other people. We will never know for sure, as so much of the “official” story is dependent on these overly streamlined explanations to justify why things occurred in the bizarre manner they did. It always felt to me as though there must be more to what went down for Bodil to pursue such a lifestyle than what we’ve been told, but maybe that’s just because I can’t personally comprehend any appeal in bestiality. In any case, deprived of other avenues, Bodil Joensen made the fateful decision to go into pornography–a choice which would surely haunt her for the rest of her miserable life.

In order to get an edge in a competitive market with zero barriers to entry for other women, Bodil opted to have sex with animals to carve out a niche. From what I can ascertain based on the sources I’ve seen, the bestiality angle was her idea, but who’s to say if some awful pornographer did not put the suggestion in her mind or not. (“Hey, you’ve got all these animals already…”) Even if that were true though, Bodil certainly did not need much persuading considering her past. By all accounts, Bodil always had a deep love for animals, a familiarity with them. Perhaps in her mind it seemed natural to combine that interest with her new job. One way or the other, Bodil began filming dozens, perhaps hundreds of 8 and 16mm zoophile loops for the industry.

ASIDE: To my knowledge, no comprehensive filmography of her work has ever been catalogued, so the full scope of Bodil’s career will never be known much less preserved. (For better or worse.) IMDb only lists four standalone entries and searching for Bodil’s movies merely results in a series of shady websites with unidentified clips thrown together at random. Even if we did have everything, no one will ever shell out the cash to restore and remaster the footage. (And I don’t blame them, there’s far worthier causes to spend money on.) Every piece of footage attached to Bodil already exists in a severely degraded state, reflective of the content contained within. Perhaps the slow decay of this material on yellowing film stock and impermanent seedy websites is for the best, but as an amateur preservationist I do take note of these things.

It’s important to take a step back now and reiterate that Bodil was a citizen of Denmark, which just so happened to relax ALL porn restrictions during this time. Pornographers like Color Climax Corporation were given free reign to film whatever hedonistic fantasies they could find willing participants for. In some cases, even unwilling participants were used, namely children! Yes, child porn was legalized in this era, and justified under the argument that, because sex was a natural bodily function, denying the “freedom” of sex to children was wrong. This may be the ultimate example of how there is no moral arc of the universe towards justice or whatever Barack Obama would have you believe. Societal norms are contingent on whatever the public (or government) is willing to accept in the moment. They can swing wildly from one extreme to another, and just as genuine progress (like LGBT rights) can be rolled back in an instant so too can ridiculously misguided policies be implemented in the name of reform. In this environment, not only was Bodil allowed to do these things, but one of her movies (One Summer Day 1970) won the prize for “best film” at the semi-prestigious Wet Dreams erotic film festival in Copenhagen.

This is a non-explicit clip from One Summer Day 1970. I do appreciate how this film just shows a day in the life of its subject and lets viewers make up their own mind about it.

The problem is, Bodil was clearly in need of some kind of counseling…or just genuine friendship with another human being. Any of the pornographers working with her ought to have done an extensive series of interviews, psychological evaluations and/or background checks in order to ascertain her mental state before going through with it. Anyone who did some digging and found out she was having sex with animals as a result of having no other financial options and untreated childhood trauma should have refused to do the shoot. I’m as pro-individual autonomy and pro “free love” as it gets, I’m all for consenting adults doing as they please, I do not judge anybody for their kinks. That said, anyone with common sense should recognize that a woman with no family or support network to speak of, no higher education or vocational skills and a failing legitimate business needs help. It’s a fine line sometimes between protecting women and infantilizing them, but this is one instance where I really think someone ought to have taken an interest and asked Bodil in private: “Is this really what you want to do with your life? Do you need help, or a person to talk to every now and then? Are you interested in work outside the industry?”

For her part, it does seem like Bodil enjoyed her chosen profession on some level during the early years. At least, that’s the impression she is clearly trying to give off in interviews. Again, at the risk of patronizing her, I have to wonder how much of those press statements were genuine and how much of it was trying to put up a front. It seems to me that after even just a year or two with such proclivities associated with your name, potential social and professional doors start closing. Bodil was an infamous figure in her own lifetime, even attracting international tourism to her farm. Surely this put a pressure on her to “play the part” and live up to their expectations. After all, nobody wants to let their “fans” down. (I say “fans” in quotations because, by all accounts, none of these tourists ever cared about her as a person, only an amusing freak to gawk at.) After years of burning bridges with polite society, realizing she was trapped in a lifestyle that’s maybe not all she thought it would be, I find it very plausible these interviews were a vain attempt to convince herself that she made the right choice after all. To admit you hate your own public identity, that you regret the path you’ve chosen in life, would only make the entire ordeal that much more humiliating. If you can pretend it’s your choice and you’re happy with it, that preserves at least a thin façade of self respect.

As the years wore on and audiences stopped buying animal porn, Bodil’s career evaporated. With no real job experience or interpersonal skills to fall back on, she was forced to salvage what she could of her act on her own. According to our sources, Bodil began performing in person at seedy clubs like a side show attraction. I can only imagine the jeering laughter, the looks of disgust and disapproving comments which she must have endured night after night in order to eek out a meager living. As time wore on, Bodil lost the mental faculties to take care of herself properly, much less her animals. The poor creatures were euthanized after authorities discovered their stalls were littered with feces, while their unstable mistress descended into debilitating alcoholism. (In fact, Bodil had been a regular drinker for years already, further indicating a lack of true happiness despite her insistence to the contrary.) The industry which Bodil enriched by debasing herself turned its back on her when she desperately needed aid. The so-called “Queen of Bestiality” died, virtually penniless, from cirrhosis of the liver at the young age of 40. She was survived by a lone daughter who remains safely anonymous to our sources. (As she should be; I’m sure that poor girl witnessed some traumatizing stuff, and the last thing she needs is our invasive questions.)

As it happens, Bodil’s husband and the father of her child is a complete mystery as well, another frustrating gap in our historical record. His name was Knud P. Andersen, but I can’t find anything about him as an individual. How and why did he fall in love with such a wretched figure? How could he let his wife go on demeaning herself for years instead of supporting her? Did he work, was he in porn too? Did he approve of Bodil’s extremely close relationship with the family dog? In reference to that last question, I should expand on Bodil’s relationship with the self-professed love of her life, Lassie the dog. According to Bodil herself, another dog named Spot remained her lifelong best friend; they shared dog biscuits and slept together almost every night. She wears the dog’s picture in her locket, which is visible in One Summer Day and is referenced in our sources. I mean, how could Mr. Andersen not be jealous or weirded out by that? It’s not my business to know, of course, but there’s just so many unanswered questions and considering the inhumane circumstances in which this family lived, it’s hard not to be curious.

While perhaps a tad disrespectful, I cannot help but speculate about Bodil’s mental state and motivations during all of this. She always comes across as a very naïve, simple person in interviews. I do not believe she ever meant to hurt an animal, and I think in her mind she was honoring them with her actions. Perhaps after suffering so much abuse at the hands of people: from her terrible mother, to the man who molested her, to the catty farmers’ wives, she retreated to the one source of unconditional love she’d ever known. Maybe it was a subconscious act of rebellion against her mother, to live up to the worst of expectations so that all her mom’s conditioning would be for nothing. Or else it could have been a matter of settling in to a bad dynamic due to financial desperation, lack of imagination/ambition and inertia. While I can certainly understand Bodil’s misgivings towards other people, and I’ve settled into a few unhealthy routines in my time (sedentary lifestyle, aimlessly browsing reddit, etc) it’s just sad she chose to cope with the world in such a self-destructive manner. I can’t say Bodil has my support in how she lived her life, but she certainly has my sympathy.

Clip from Animal Lover. You can see from the haphazard, clearly unscripted presentation of the interviewer that the “documentary” concept is just a Trojan Horse to show a bestial porn in US cinemas. And believe it or not, this film actually did have a limited theatrical release, albeit in San Francisco only.

Now that I’ve told you about their fascinating star, let’s delve into the movies themselves.

These are basically brother and sister films, they came out back to back in Denmark (One Summer Day) and the US (Animal Lover), crafted with the laws of the respective country in mind. Where Denmark could openly show a bestiality porn at this time, in the US the footage had to be dressed up as a documentary to get past the censors. Even then, showings were apparently shut down and the theater owner was given five years for indecency. Animal Lover recycles footage of Summer Day and some of Bodil’s other loops. One Summer Day is relatively easy to find online: there are streams, torrents and websites selling DVDs. Animal Lover is almost impossible to find, in fact it’s the hardest movie to track down that I’ve ever sought out. I eventually found two separate versions online, (a Herculean effort, I cannot stress enough) with significantly different picture quality and runtime. (More on that latter.)

One Summer Day is sincerely crafted, it’s just a series of silent footage of Bodil with classical music overlaid, going about her day. For better or worse, this film accomplishes its task of presenting the world of a truly unique person using only a series of pictures. She rides horses, frolics in the grass, feeds the farm animals, walks around her house…and has sex with a pig. There’s no narration or spin to tell you how to process what you’re seeing. There’s enough idle footage of Bodil to somewhat soften the obscenity…somewhat. This is still really sick though, and there are no cutaways or “creative angles” to simulate the act. For better or worse…this is as explicit as it gets. There are some genuinely beautiful shots when we aren’t seeing the X-Rated scenes though, like Bodil’s adorable face illuminated by the July sun.

My overwhelming impression of One Summer Day, aside from disgust, was loneliness. Bodil is always by herself in this movie, there are no people around and the animal love comes off as being the natural result of that. It’s emblematic of what her entire life must have been, when you think about it. Bodil always has a look of yearning tempered by sadness in her eyes in this film. I could sympathize with that look, it’s what I saw in the mirror during my worst years. Upon noticing that, I wanted to be able to walk through the screen and try to give her someone to talk to. I wanted to show her that some people can be kind. Overall, I think Summer Day succeeds both at capturing Bodil’s essence and framing her as a sympathetic figure. It’s decent filmmaking about a disagreeable subject.

Animal Lover has been described by many reviewers as “a twisted mockery” and a “brain damaged cousin” of One Summer Day, as well as “the rudest and crudest exploitation film ever made.” It is universally referenced in connection with its cinematic twin, always in a negative light and deservedly so. If One Summer Day was an honest, warts and all expose, Animal Lover can only be described as a cheap cynical cash grab. It claims to be a hard hitting and balanced documentary about bestiality as a Trojan horse to lure theater owners and ticket buyers in, but these segments are so poorly done they’re a travesty. Between recycled footage of Bodil fucking a dog, pig and horse (in that order) are these haphazard shots of an unseen interviewer asking random people on the street what they think of bestiality. Their answers are about as insightful or interesting as you’d expect. Bookending the film are two “talking head” segments with an oratorically challenged man speaking in semi-broken, mumbled English with a limited vocabulary. He stumbles over his words, clearly has not prepared any remarks and is just winging it, and asks Bodil very simple questions. He translates for Bodil, but clearly simplifies and paraphrases her answers for us, ruining whatever value these scenes may have had. It’s just all around sloppy filmmaking, regardless of how one feels about the subject matter. It’s very insulting to both Bodil (who, despite her questionable choices, deserves basic human respect as do we all) and the viewer who paid for this garbage.

This leads us to the most revolting part of Animal Lover outside the actual scenes of Bodil performing zoophilia. Remember how I said earlier that I tracked down two distinct copies of the movie? One of them opted to cut this part out–it’s that awful. Anyway, in the longer version of the film, we get a third joker who offers an aimless and borderline incoherent diatribe about the subject of bestiality. Like his interviewer buddy, this guy clearly did not rehearse what he was going to say, so he just rambles on about some greatly exaggerated zoophile-related factoids. His monologue has no thesis and is clearly meant to pad for time. He literally stares off camera for three minutes straight, obviously reading cue cards and even still he says “uhh” almost every other word. You can tell by the way his voice starts rising around this time that even the guy himself knows how ridiculous this all is and can barely believe he’s saying it. I’d almost feel bad for the poor sod if it were not for his next segment.

What follows is a grisly scene where this same guy, “the third man” as we might call him, interrogates a second woman about her acts of animal copulation. Unlike Bodil, she is not an animal lover, she’s a victim of abuse who claims to have been forced to perform these acts by kidnappers. She’s filmed entirely in shadow, which gives the scene an unnerving atmosphere. Combined with the believable emotion in her voice, I’m genuinely unsure if this woman’s testimony is the real deal or not. If it’s fake, it’s more convincing than any porno acting has a right to be. But if it were real, it only makes the third man’s emphasis on how beautiful she is all the more inappropriate, and if it’s fake it makes me wonder why they’d leave a beauty in the shadows. So many questions, and I probably care more than a single soul involved in the film’s production ever did. This woman recounts a very gruesome ordeal in which fellow hostages were raped to death and this monster has the indecency to ask her point blank “did the animals climax in your mouth?” She, rightly, does not dignify him with an answer. Real or not, it’s an absolutely insensitive handling of such a terrifying story, it’s completely off-putting in its lack of tact. To exploit this woman’s story (or invent such a depraved fantasy whole cloth) for the sake of a slapped-together porno about a particularly lecherous subject matter represents the very nadir of filmmaking. I do not get offended easily, but this movie made me want to smack the people responsible for its creation.

There’s nothing more to say about Animal Lover, it is just an indescribably filthy piece of celluloid and the worst it has ever been my displeasure to know. The whole spectacle is such a blatantly disingenuous attempt to appear like a legitimate documentary that you can’t help but feel uncomfortable. Nobody believed in the material, nobody was interested in telling a story, capturing Bodil’s portrait or framing a despicable act in as aesthetically pleasing a manner as they could. It’s just a self-aware farce which insults our intelligence with its very existence. Yet all the same, I’m kind of glad I faced my fear and tracked it down in the sense that I know it can only get better from here. I can now say I’ve seen the very worst that cinema has to offer and lived. Perhaps someday I might do a double feature of this and Vertigo (1958), combining the two extremes of motion picture quality in one sitting!

Notice the difference in picture quality between this version and the one posted earlier in the essay. The former has a darkened, over-exposed look and the sound cuts out every minute or so. The latter has a washed out look and the most disturbing non-penetrative sequences are missing. The IMDb entry for Animal Lover is missing a runtime, so I am here to tell you that the shorter cut runs at 46:33 and the longer cut at 1:02:45.

2 Comments

  1. Another well written essay on media. Very good essay on a very bad subject. As you told me in our talk earlier today, it seems you have found the absolute worst film ever made. I can only feel sad for Bodil and the others exploited in making these movies.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. The overriding feeling I get after reading your anything-but-smutty account is one of deep sadness, for poor Bodil and others in her position. Oh if only you could have walked through that screen and shown her a truly kind and caring person!

    Liked by 1 person

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