The Pleasure Principle at the BFI

Readers of this blog will be delighted to hear that the British Film Institute has digitised a couple of Kamera Cine films by Harrison Marks as part of the Pleasure Principle Collection. The collection offers a guide to illicit celluloid pleasures, from teasing Victorian views of corsets and petticoats to Soho’s finest cheesecake pin-ups captured on 8mm film in the 1950s and ’60s, as well as a selection of taboo-breaking dramas and documentaries. The collection is part of the BFI’s five-year Britain on Film project to digitise and make available online, 10,000 films, from the BFI National Archive and the UK’s national and regional film archives.

The two Harrison Marks films are Xcitement! (1960), in which Pamela Green reveals all, and Vampire (1964) starring Wendy Luton alongside George Harrison Marks as the Count. Both films are available to watch for free on the BFI website.

Erotic films have always played a part in the history and development of cinema. Early filmmakers experimented with just how much they could get away with and audiences were always keen to see just a little more. Many of these films were distributed outside of traditional cinemas, whether privately shown as gentlemen’s ‘smokers’ in private clubs, discreetly presented in cigarette-fogged cellars and back rooms, or dispatched under plain brown wrapper to private homes for personal projection in the decades before the home video revolution.

With filmmakers playing cat and mouse with the censors – and sometimes the police – the sorts of films revealed in The Pleasure Principle have often had a precarious existence. They owe their very survival to the enthusiasm of private collectors and archivists. Only now is this significant part of cinema history becoming the subject of serious study. The collection offers up insights into changing manners and morals across the decades, and a view of the fascinating battles of filmmakers and businessmen for freedom to reveal all (or nearly all) on screen.

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2 thoughts on “The Pleasure Principle at the BFI

  1. BFI clip not viewable in USA. I tried several clips and none were viewable here. Too bad!

    1. Someone has uploaded a version of Xcitement to Youtube. You might be able to view that.

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