The late Mike Vraney cornered the market on nudism films at his Something Weird Video label, resurrecting a genre once popular in England and supporting the likes of struggling Floridian filmmakers including Doris Wishman and Herschel Gordon Lewis. They existed merely as a quirk in the censorship laws; a big-screen equivalent to the not-so-mysterious popularity of National Geographic magazine in the '50s as a legitimate source of photos of topless women, as long as said women were of the non-white native persuasion.
My curiosity in these films stemmed from a case of proximity: I grew up a few blocks from the once-famous Heights Art Theater, located across the street from Coventry Elementary School which I attended as a kid in the '50s -settting: Cleveland Heights, Ohio. I went to kiddie matinées there and occasionally would encounter a trailer (probably but not necessarily shown by mistake -you have to plant the seed of porn addiction somehow - and tame come-ons for these types of films were strange enough to stick in one's mind.
After seeing them listed in reference books, especially the British ones, I was pleased with Something Weird's dedication to the form. Unfortunately the films themselves are almost universally poor.
This Swiss-made one, shot in 1958, is typical, covering the usual teasing bases of the format as well as providing a modicum of historical info. It runs considerably shorter on video than the original theatrical release, a blessing.
Some exotic locations including Sylt and Levant host nudists and nudist colonies, something of a craze back then, more ho-hum today. Scenic shots of Woburn Abbey in England open the picture, detailing how the down-on-his-luck Duke of Bedford opened the place to the public to raise money and gave permission (and a note of legitimacy thereby) for a Nudists' Congress to be held there. We get to see some bouncing breasts in volleyball action and the like.
Scene shifts to the isle of Sylt, popular vacation spot especially for sun worshipers.Two attractive Swedish women become the protagonists, hitchhiking. The filmmakers pull a bait & switch: we get to see clothed bathers at a Sylt beach, some local nightlife and even a visit to spa baths, but never make it to the vaunted Sylt nude beaches.
Next segment is more interesting in showing nude women frolicking in the snow, but they mainly and sensibly wear bottoms so what we get is topless footage.
Janet takes over the narrative and we see her best friends vacationing in Levant and Cavallo. Some diverting images are provided by bosomy Beatrice, whose hairy armpits support yet another cliché about Europeans of the day. A busty blonde is swimming underwater in this carefree but boring segment.
Ultimately we are left with a memory of idyllic settings, but as with other films of this type it is nearly impossible to spot the filler, as these projects are the cinematic equivalent of Hamburger Helper, served minus the hamburger.
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