There is a school of thought which suggest that not showing something is more evocative than if it is clearly seen. This applies to horror movies, and also to sex -- certain critics bemoan the excesses of the modern era over the understated subtleties of former times. It’s not an argument I personally accept (if I want to "use my imagination", I don’t need to shell out hard cash to do so), but in some cases, will admit that it can prove culturally productive.
The tasteful, restrained front...
Take Japan which, despite stern censorship, has developed a pornography industry second only to America, probably far surpassing the stale "legitimate" movie business, both in terms of turnover and invention. Each month, the number of tapes released is well into three figures, with the video companies publicising their wares in lavishly illustrated, full-colour brochures of sample sleeves. These are true works of art, in the same way that London telephone boxes become art galleries of the minimasterpieces which are prostitute’s cards -- though in comparison, those look like a child’s finger-painting. If ever anything made me want to splash out on a colour cover for TC, these sleeves did, despite the same stringent rules for censorship still applying. Thus, all genitals are obscured, with a colourful range of red ink, black blobs and intriguing cross-hatching that makes every willie look like it’s been wrapped in straw.
The reason for the intense effort that clearly goes into the covers is simple: in a jam-packed market, you’ve got to leap off the shelf and grab a punter by the ‘nads in the time it takes his eye to sweep across your sleeve. Hence, gold, silver and flashy fonts are in order, though the format hardly varies across titles or companies. The front cover almost inevitably has the women who star in the video, the back is crammed with a cut-up assortment of stills from the film. The most notable point is that the immaculately coiffured woman on the front is all but unrecognisable when getting down and dirty "in action"...
Then there is the interesting usage of
English. Now, taking the piss out of foreigners is childish and puerile
xenophobia, but if you’re going to use a foreign language in
your advertising material...let’s just say that those who
live by the word, die by the word. Sometimes, though, the results have
a grace and beauty that are almost poetic, as in the following, taken
from the Garden of
In the forbidden garden
the defenseless girls
who were carried away by sexual impulse
...and chaotic, fully-detailed back!
The last of these sounds more like an advert for breakfast cereal than X-rated pornogaphy. However, my personal favourite leads off this article, deserving to appear in large text and a different font, since it manages to be simultaneously evocative and completely incoherent,
The most superfluous warning has to be the "Caution X rated!" with which ZET Video is careful to label its product. This does seem somewhat pointless when the rest of the cover ensures that the tape is most unlikely to be mistaken for a Disney movie, and probably falls into the category of reverse advertising, done to lure rather than warn.
ZET are just one of the many companies competing for business: others, such as Big Morkal, eightman, Sodom, and the engagingly named ‘Atlas Radical Adult Fantasy Mega-Pictures’, are also out there pitching to the market. Some produce generic erotica while others have found smaller niches: Cinemagic do bondage, while Miss Christine are a "costume play" outfit i.e. dressing up, as nurses, schoolgirls or whatever. The Tiffany label specialise in debutantes, and this is reflected in titles such as Legend of Virgin Shrine, New Sensual Princess, and Virgin Princess (but oddly, there is no sign of Sensual Shrine).
The actual titles of the films represent an extension of the mutant English mentioned elsewhere. They range from the relatively straightforward (Uniform Lesbian BattleRoyal), through the slightly obscure (New UniformSniper -- which perhaps raises more questions than it answers) to some that...well...would you rent Illegality Violate Tits [A program on a different channel version]? Here are some other interesting candidates:
Of course, the all-time classic title remains Jesus Clitoris Superstar, if only because it lets me tell the (quite possibly apocryphal) story about a Japanese department store whose Christmas display featured Santa Claus nailed to a cross...
Finally, and for those of you after something seriously dodgy, then you really want to sign up to the truly questionable Maniac company, who definitely live up to their name. Among the delights they offer is The Sexy Rape Magazine, which according to the sleeve delivers "Super Violence Fucking". The contents include ‘The Outdoor Raep’, ‘The Invasion Raep By Home Site’, and ‘The Invasion Raep by Mansion’, parts one and two. This does beg the question: why do people who are apparently so interested in sexual violence, have such difficulty in spelling it?
[I think I should perhaps stress that anyone asking me for information on where to obtain their tapes, will not find me especially forthcoming...]
The sheer scale and inventiveness of the Japanese erotica industry, in the face of the continuingly bizarre censorship rules applicable there, would seen to suggest that attempts to regulate and control such activity are doomed to failure. Of course, while the BBFC seem to be gradually realising this, you trying telling that to our beloved Home Secretary.