Sleaze Artists

Cinema at the Margins of Taste, Style, and Politics

Sleaze Artists

Book Pages: 352 Illustrations: 59 illustrations Published: October 2007

American Studies, Cultural Studies, Media Studies > Film

Bad Girls Go to Hell. Cannibal Holocaust. Eve and the Handyman. Examining film culture’s ongoing fascination with the low, bad, and sleazy faces of cinema, Sleaze Artists brings together film scholars with a shared interest in the questions posed by disreputable movies and suspect cinema. They explore the ineffable quality of “sleaze” in relation to a range of issues, including the production realities of low-budget exploitation pictures and the ever-shifting terrain of reception and taste.

Writing about horror, exploitation, and sexploitation films, the contributors delve into topics ranging from the place of the “Aztec horror film” in debates about Mexican national identity to a cycle of 1960s films exploring homosexual desire in the military. One contributor charts the distribution saga of Mario Bava’s 1972 film Lisa and the Devil through the highs and lows of art cinema, fringe television, grindhouse circuits, and connoisseur DVD markets. Another offers a new perspective on the work of Doris Wishman, the New York housewife turned sexploitation director of the 1960s who has become a cult figure in bad-cinema circles over the past decade. Other contributors analyze the relation between image and sound in sexploitation films and Italian horror movies, the advertising strategies adopted by sexploitation producers during the early 1960s, the relationship between art and trash in Todd Haynes’s oeuvre, and the ways that the Friday the 13th series complicates the distinction between “trash” and “legitimate” cinema. The volume closes with an essay on why cinephiles love to hate the movies.

Contributors. Harry M. Benshoff, Kay Dickinson, Chris Fujiwara, Colin Gunckel, Joan Hawkins, Kevin Heffernan, Matt Hills, Chuck Kleinhans, Tania Modleski, Eric Schaefer, Jeffrey Sconce, Greg Taylor


Sleaze Artists is highly readable and recommended for anyone interested in cinema and willing to acknowledge that sleaze is more central to cinematic practice and film culture than is currently acknowledged.” — Adam Capitanio, Historical Journal of Film, Radio and Television

Sleaze Artists provides a useful overview of the historical and sociological meta-narratives and theoretical debates associated with the 1960s and 1970s exploitation films central to so much trash cinema culture. Importantly, it also points to some new avenues through which to research ongoing and future cinematic taste wars.” — Maura Edmond, Screening the Past

“[A]n exquisite collection of writing and a demonstration of excellent scholarship.” — Ernest Mathijs, Screen

“[T]he distinguished scholars who contribute to this volume valorize a new generation of cinephiles—one interested in film ‘unencumbered by the delusions of art and gravitas.’ Highly recommended.” — J.C. Tibbetts, Choice

“[T]here is a great deal of fast food for thought in these essays.” — Kim Newman, Sight & Sound

“[T]here is not a weak essay in Sleaze Artists and several that are excellent. One might presume that trash and the academy cannot afford to get too comfortable in each other’s presence, but with collections of this quality, their relationship is unlikely to end any time soon.” — Leon Hunt, Science Fiction Film and Television

“[T]his eclectic volume should interest anyone studying popular film, especially those whose inquiries delve into the more ‘unseemly’’ genres.” — Beth Kattelman, Journal of Popular Culture

“I appreciate the collection's desire to expand notions of ‘worth’ for avenues of academic inquiry. . . . book is a welcome corrective to those overwrought narratives of cinema's development that have displaced the popular, the populist, and the profane in cinema to the margins.” — Andrew Scahill, Velvet Light Trap

Sleaze Artists constitutes an honest attempt to trip the cultural rift. There's a becoming undercurrent of humility to most of the essays, which suggests that even the brightest minds in cultural studies are still refining their approach to what is generally a back-breaking endeavor—elevating the low into the rarefied (and suffocating) air of academic contemplation.” — Adam Nayman, Cineaste

Sleaze Artists is an excellent collection, which covers a wide range of topics important to the understanding of sleaze cinema, and is a great addition to both cinema and cultural studies.” — Lyndall Clipstone, Media International Australia

Sleaze Artists represents an articulate, accessible, and thoughtful adventure into the world of cinematic bad taste and low culture. . . . Sleaze Artists provides us with clear, thoughtful discussion about some great sleazy movies.” — Parley Ann Boswell, Journal of American Culture

“One of the most intriguing essayists in the book is Kay Dickinson, on how music figured in Britain’s banning of five Italian films from videotape distribution.” — Nina C. Ayoub, Chronicle of Higher Education

“Personally, I found the book’s first section, ‘Sleazy Historyies,’ to be the most compelling . . . . The book’s second section, ‘Sleazy Afterlives,’ contains some top-notch retrospective analyses of marginal films.” — Mikita Brottman, PopMatters

“There is a certain thrill inherent in a scholarly anthology that wholly embraces those films usually deemed disreputable, disgusting, cheap, and perhaps even anti-intellectual. . . . A satisfyingly subversive addition to film studies and cultural studies. . . .” — Adam Dodd, M/C Reviews

“Aztec blood sacrifices! Knife-wielding psychos!! Libido-crazed military men!!! Martin Heidegger!!!! With verve and vigor, Sleaze Artists offers this . . . and more! The book boldly rips the lid off the wacky world of sleaze movies with subversive delight and intellectual insight!! Don’t go into this volume alone!—unless you are ready for sharp scholarship, rigorous historiography, careful argument, and a deep commitment to an understanding of cinema in all its richness across a variety of taste cultures!!” — Dana Polan, New York University


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Price: $28.95

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Author/Editor Bios Back to Top

Jeffrey Sconce is Associate Professor in the Screen Cultures Program at Northwestern University. He is the author of Haunted Media: Electronic Presence from Telegraphy to Television, also published by Duke University Press.

Table of Contents Back to Top
Acknowledgments vii

Introduction 1

Part 1: Sleazy Histories

Pandering to the “Goon Trade”: Framing the Sexploitation Audience through Advertising / Eric Schaefer 19

Women’s Cinema as Counterphobic Cinema: Doris Wishman as the Last Auteur / Tania Modleski 47

Representing (Repressed) Homosexuality in the Pre-Stonewall Hollywood Homo-Military Film / Harry M. Benshoff 71

Pornography and Documentary: Narrating the Alibi / Chuck Kleinhans 96

El signo de la muerte and the Birth of a Genre: Origins and Anatomy of the Aztec Horror Film 121

Art House or House of Exorcism? The Changing Distribution and Reception Contexts of Mario Bava’s Lisa and the Devil / Kevin Heffernan 144

Part 2: Sleazy Afterlives

Troubling Synthesis: The Horrific Sights and Incompatible Sounds of Video Nasties / Kay Dickinson 167

The Sleazy Pedigree of Todd Haynes / Joan Hawkins 189

Para-Paracinema: The Friday the 13th Film Series as Other to Trash and Legitimate Film Cultures / Matt Hills 219

Boredom, Spasmo, and the Italian System / Chris Fujiwara 240

Pure Quidditas or Geek Chic? Cultism as Discernment / Greg Taylor 259

Movies: A Century of Failure / Jeffrey Sconce 273

Selected Bibliography 311

Contributors 321

Index 325
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Additional InformationBack to Top
Paper ISBN: 978-0-8223-3964-9 / Cloth ISBN: 978-0-8223-3953-3
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