Extremely educational, entertaining...and a bit sleazy!
Will Hays--Joseph Breen the topless scene shown at 8:00 mark was a religious epic--"Ben Hur"! subtitles didn't work economics pushed films towards sleaze and then later away from it gay Code of 1930 pretty much ignored--tightened up in 1934
I adore the so-called 'Pre-Code' films and was delighted when Turner Classic Movies brought this wonderful documentary to its audience. It was great because it was extremely well made and because it introduced this style of movie to viewers. Up until 1930, there were lots and lots of censorship boards across the nation but none for the studios themselves. Because of this, standards varied wildly. Some relatively innocent films were condemned by some groups and some amazingly adult and salacious films passed! Because of this inconsistency, the studios finally hired Will Hays to start the new board. However, it soon became obvious that this board had no teeth to enforce the new code--nor did it seem to want to clean up the films. Nudity, violence and a glorification of adultery were pretty common and things continued this way until mid-1934. And, this 1930-1934 is the Pre-Code era. But when the Depression and public outrage resulted in much lower revenues, the studios grudgingly decided the clean up its act and created the NEW Production Code--and the fun, as they say, was over!
This film not only details this process but it also celebrates the various famous examples of sleaze--such as "Red Headed Woman", "Tarzan and His Mate" and "Baby Face". Now I have seen other documentaries on this time, but "Thou Shalt Not" works best for two HUGE reasons. First, the guests who were interviewed really were excellent. Second, and most importantly, because Turner Entertainment owned the rights to these Pre-Code films, it was easy to show the clips--and in pristine condition. By contrast, the earlier documentary "Hollywood Uncensored" showed clips mostly from public domain films or the clips were VERY, VERY scratchy. "Thou Shalt Not" and "Complicated Women" (also by TCM) are both excellent chronicles of this age--and are exciting, educational and amazingly sleazy!
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