10,000 Bullets   Exploring the world of Cinema from the Arthouse to the Grindhouse™

The Golden Age of Softcore Black and White Roughies 
Written by: on July 2nd, 2014

he sensational but ultimately boring ‘nudist camp’ films from the fifties evolved into the slightly more sophisticated ‘nudie cuties’ of the early sixties; some of which were humorous and gratifyingly entertaining though many were not. The next chapter was a merging of the nudie with film noir and hardboiled detective genres and a startling (and cost effective) retreat from color to stark black and white. Lee Frost perfectly illustrates this transition from the nudie cutie ‘House on Bare Mountain’ to the hardboiled detective parody but still in color ‘Surftide 77’, then to one of the seminal B&W roughies ‘The Defilers’.

Russ Meyer, King of ‘nudie cuties’ beginning with ‘The Immoral Mr. Teas’ made a drastic switch to B&W roughies but also redacted the nudity back to substantial cleavage and obstructed visage. This was necessitated most likely so the severe enhancement scars from the primitive procedures of the era would not spoil the illusion of the starlet’s desirability. As the genre grew there were several actresses that would epitomize this problematic situation for purists, those that love the natural female form. Therefore I have excluded from discussion titles featuring the performances of Pat Barrington and Audrey Campell, among others. Bambi Allen, for example, actually died of complications from her implants, and this was supposed to be just in fun, or at the worst a viable vocation.

Of this first generation it is easily Joseph Sarno’s Sin in the Suburbs which stands out as the quintessential early Roughie. Findlay’s Body of a Female is a lost film, and Mawra’s Olga films are ponderously dull affairs.

1963 / 64
Scum of the Earth (Herschell Gordon Lewis, 1963)
Lorna (Russ Meyer, 1964)
Sin in the Suburbs (Joseph W. Sarno, 1964)
Body of a Female (Michael Findlay, 1964)
White Slaves of Chinatown (Joseph P. Mawra, 1964)
Olga’s Girls (Joseph P. Mawra, 1964)
Olga’s House of Shame (Joseph P. Mawra, 1964)

Russ Meyer was the seasoned professional eventually setting the bar very high indeed with Faster, Pussycat, Kill, Kill; at which time he laid down the gauntlet and sallied forth from the grindhouse to the drive-in with Vixen as his eventual breakthrough hit. Struggling alongside Meyer were some younger talents such as Lee Frost, Michael Findlay, Joseph Sarno, and crashing the party, sexploitation veteran Doris Wishman who threw her collection of shoes into the ring.

Satan’s Bed (Michael Findlay etc., 1965)
The Defilers (Lee Frost, 1965)
Flesh & Lace (Joseph W. Sarno, 1965)
Mudhoney (Russ Meyer, 1965)
Motorpsycho (Russ Meyer, 1965)
Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill! (Russ Meyer, 1965)
Bad Girls Go To Hell (Doris Wishman, 1965)
Rent-a-Girl (William Rose, 1965)
The Sin Syndicate (Michael Findlay, 1965)
The Sexploiters (Al Ruban, 1965)
The Love Statue (D.E. Durstan 1965)

It’s rather amazing how the roughie genre mirrors the garage rock music scene. The crude beginnings of the art form in 63/64, followed by important and influential trendsetters in 65, leading into an incredibly imaginative and fertile creative period that peaked in ’66 and struggled against impossible odds through ’68 / ’69.

Another Day, Another Man (Doris Wishman, 1966)
A Smell of Honey, A Swallow of Brine (Byron Mabe, 1966)
Moonlighting Wives (Joseph W. Sarno, 1966)
Aroused! (Anton Holden, 1966)
Take Me Naked (Michael Findlay, 1966)
The Agony of Love (William Rotsler, 1966)
The Love Girls (Lee Frost, 1966)
My Brother’s Wife (Doris Wishman, 1966)
PPS – Prostitutes Protective Society (Barry Mahon, 1966)
Mondo Keyhole (Jack Hill, 1966)

What followed was the slow but inevitable decline as the ‘roughie’ genre lost market share to the burgeoning explicit sex features, originally knows as ‘X’ but soon self-described as ‘XXX’. Most of these directors would eventually capitulate and join the ‘adults only’ club, some sooner than others. Nevertheless, Michael Findlay, Joseph Sarno, and Lee Frost created some of their most polished and accomplished works during this twilight of the genre.

1967 / 68 / 69
The Sex Killer (Barry Mahon, 1967)
Venus in Furs (Joseph Marzano, 1967)
The Touch of Her Flesh (Michael Findlay, 1967)
The Curse of Her Flesh (Michael Findlay, 1968)
The Kiss of Her Flesh (Michael Findlay, 1968)
A Thousand Pleasures (Michael Findlay, 1968)
Confessions of a Psycho Cat (Herb Stanley, 1968)
All the Sins of Sodom (Joseph W. Sarno, 1968)
Vibrations (Joseph W. Sarno, 1968)
Desire Under the Palms (Joseph W. Sarno, 1968)
Indecent Desires (Doris Wishman, 1968)
Scare Their Pants Off! (John Maddox, 1968)
Invitation to Ruin (Kurt Richter, 1968)
The Pick-up (Lee Frost, 1968)
The Animal (Lee Frost, 1968)
The Ultimate Degenerate (Michael Findlay, 1969)
She Came on the Bus (Curt Ledger, 1969)

It was Michael Findlay who eventually proved to be the maestro of the roughie, with Joeseph Sarno getting honorable mention and Lee Frost still pissing into the wind of change. Lee released Zero In and Scream (in color) in 1970, and then The Impersonator was completed as a color softcore roughie circa ’74. In 1973 Bo Arne Vibenius ‘enhanced’ Thriller: A Cruel Picture by adding unrelated hardcore inserts, and it appears marketing constraints prompted Lee to do the same turning The Impersonator into A Climax Of Blue Power. Actually, most of the original footage of The Impersonator appears to be intact though the original soundtrack and dialog have been overdubbed. Unless the original director’s cut surfaces we may never know if The Impersonator was actually the epitome of the roughie genre, but the potential was certainly there.

Nevertheless, here are my top 10 roughies from the golden era, all in glorious Black and White:
Sin in the Suburbs (Joseph W. Sarno, 1964)
The Defilers (Lee Frost, 1965)
Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill! (Russ Meyer, 1965)
Bad Girls Go To Hell (Doris Wishman, 1965)
Mondo Keyhole (Jack Hill, 1966)
The Kiss of Her Flesh (Michael Findlay, 1968)
A Thousand Pleasures (Michael Findlay, 1968)
Vibrations (Joseph W. Sarno, 1968)
The Pick-up (Lee Frost, 1968)
The Ultimate Degenerate (Michael Findlay, 1969)

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