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Early Exploitation

edited November 1999 in Movie Discussion
The earliest form of exploitation films were films that were pitched as sensationalist exposés of some drug or sex-related scandal in the 1930s and 1940s. These were sensationalist fare at the time, and were made independently of the major Hollywood studios to avoid the restrictions of the Production Code and providing a revenue source for independent theaters. Today, however, they are valued by aficionados for their nostalgic and ironic value. Perhaps the most famous example of these is the cautionary tale Reefer Madness, a sensationalized and notoriously inaccurate attempt to demonize marijuana in conservative 1930s America.

A particularly important type of exploitation film of this era was the "sex hygiene" exploitation film, a remnant from the social or mental hygiene movement of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. These films featured white-coated "doctors" describing the how-tos of sex education to the fascinated and naive audience. Often the film would be attended by another "doctor" in a white coat selling sex-hygiene booklets in the lobby after the film screening. Usually the producers would make significantly more money from the sales of the booklets than from the tickets to see the film. This type of film was also known as a "road show," because it was shown from town to town and was promoted in advance like a circus or carnival. One of the most famous of these was Mom and Dad, which featured actual birth footage, making it the closest thing to pornography legally available in late 1940s America.
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