In 1937, a seemingly unimportant legal precedent was set that would virtually create an entire cinematic genre.
A rather dull little exploitation film by the title of Elysia was before the courts, brought up on charges of obscenity. Set in a nudist camp, Elysia‘s plotline was nothing more than a pretext for a lecture on the benefits of basking in the sun’s healthful rays and how liberating it was for the human body to wear nothing but the wind.
This being the 30s, this sort of radical thinking was sure to land you in courts. Wether it was sex or evolution, exposing the origins of life was verboten. And so it was with Elysia.
However, a clever defense attorney succesfully argued that the human body, in of itself, is not obscene being the creation of God. And that given the fact that the film features neither sexual intercourse nor discourse but rather preached the value of communing freely wit the rest of creation, charges were dropped.
This paved the way for more and more nudist camp features – as if this was a good thing.
For those who have never seen one, an explanation for this lack of enthusiasm is in order: there is no duller genre in the whole firmament of cinema than nudist camp flicks. In addition to the usual sermon about the sun’s heathful glow, the only action to be seen on screen would be a game of volleyball which gave the genre it’s nickname of “Volleyball films”.
The root of the problem seems to come from the camps themselves. David F. Friedman, “Mighty Monarch of the Exploitation Film World”, would often describe it as such: “For those who have never been, a nudist cam is about as erotic as walking in the cold storage of Swift and Co. in the Chicago stockyards.”
The simple reality is that the compulsion to remove one’s clothing seems inversely proportioned with the interest others would have at seeing said person nekkid.
“We had to “salt the mines” so to speak” Friedman often chuckled, referring to the fact he’d have to hire more photogenic models to frolic before the cameras.
Another surprising thing about Nudist Camp features is that the genre’s most prolific director was a woman- Doris Wishman- with eight films between 1960 and 1964.
And of all of her films, the one she likes the least is her most famous title – 1961’s Nude on the Moon.
“The models were so goddamned ugly.” she often offered as the reason for her contempt. She wasn’t kidding either. Some of these girls have asses that look like cottage cheese or, worse, a burlap bag full of doorknobs.
Shot in Coral Gables, Florida, Nude on the Moon cashed in on both the space race and lonely men’s need to ogle.
In the film, two intrepid space travellers make their way to the moon in department store space helmets where they come across a race of “beauties” who go around topless wearing pipe-cleaner antennae.
One has to hand it to the film, despite the ugly models and the lack of any science-fiction (not to mention science-friction), the film keeps bringing the suckers in and remains Wishman’s best known title from the nudist part of her oeuvre. It could very well be just the title.
However, as nudist camp movies became “quaint” and “tame” compared to the sexier fare that emerged in the latter part of the decade, Wishman would make a name for herself in the sexploitation genres with crackpot films that earned her the nickname of “The Female Ed Wood”. These will be the topic of a future post.
In the meantime, why don’t you break out the sunscreen and enjoy a day in the lunar sun?
Here is the film in its entirity:
Pain Level: 9/10
Quality of pain: Get some clothes on, lady. Please!