Nudist-Friendly Movies You
Can Watch with Your Children (Feb. 2014)
Normally, this column will be
short. But this first time, I need to explain what I am doing.
There are people who know a lot more
about movies than I do. But nobody is writing about things
nudist adults and their children or grandchildren can do
together. The main value of these movies is the family
discussion afterward—about topics raised, such as school
bullying or equal respect for girls and boys. Therefore,
these are not the latest flicks playing at your local cinema, but
classic movies and forgotten gems you can watch together at home.
I came to film rather late in
life. I had not realized that the last third of the twentieth
century was a sort of golden
age of child-friendly, nudist-friendly movies. That was
before the confusion and hysteria about so-called child pornography
scared a lot of movie-makers away. By now, some of those
films are popular favorites at your public library, or available for a
dollar or so at your neighborhood thrift store.
At my age, I don't have little children
underfoot. I have pretty much retired from college teaching,
but still work with teenagers, and have a fair grasp of what they can
handle. They can handle some uncomfortable topics.
My aim is to point out films meaningful to young people, that happen to
include a bit of natural nudity.
I will probably discuss two or three movies each
time: one for the whole family (including small children), and one or
teens and their parents. We all know that families change;
what is inappropriate for your child now may be fine next
year. This column is no substitute for parental guidance.
Movie ratings are not much help, because
the people who decide those things seem to think one skinnydip is the
equivalent of about five murders. Likewise, the fine list of
naturist-friendly movies at http://www.clothesfree.com/movies.html
contains some with far more violence and ugliness than I welcome into
my living room. You will not agree with all of my
choices—or all of my rejections. That's OK.
I am aware of only a limited number of
nudist-friendly movies—especially for the younger
children. I welcome any suggestions of favorites at your
house. Just write firstname.lastname@example.org.
Now for this season's picks:
the whole family
and the Sorceress (1998) is a
cartoon for all ages. This west African folktale has survived
through the generations because it contains wisdom that parents,
children, and grandparents can equally appreciate. It's about
a baby boy who accomplishes heroic deeds, and saves his people.
In true African fashion, the women live
topfree, and children go nude. American theatre owners kept
the French movie out of this country for four years, insisting that the
artist, Michel Ocelot, paint clothes over all of his figures.
As a home video, the movie is available
only in French, with English subtitles. So the kids have to
be old enough to read—unless you want to read the captions to
them. It is all worth the effort.
With the cartoon's popularity, the
artist has released two spin-off films in 2005 and 2012. Both
are again in French. So far, only Kirikou and the Wild Beasts
is available with English subtitles.
teens and older
I remember in the late 1960s and early
'70s, teenagers were rebelling against the expectations of their
parents, but found a lot in common with their grandparents.
Time has rolled around. Today's teenagers can sit down with
their hippy grandparents who lived those experiences, and
watch—not one, but two—classic movies together.
was the ultimate sixties musical, though the movie version had to wait
a decade until 1979. The original stage play was a joyous
in-your-face songfest, a be-in, a rock-rhythm hootenanny. The
movie makers decided it needed a plot, so they added a lame one about a
ranch boy enjoying one last weekend of freedom in New York's Central
Park, before reporting for military duty in Vietnam. It's not
the same, but much of the great fun still comes through.
Young people are singing right out loud
about such forbidden topics as race, sex, drugs, and peace.
No one should be surprised that one scene of this movie about the
sixties is a hallucinatory drug trip.
The musical originally ended with all of
the young actors nude and facing the audience on the dimly lit stage,
while singing "Let the Sun Shine In." That nudity was later
moved to just before the intermission, so actors could return for
curtain calls at the end. The tamer movie instead gives us a
nighttime skinny-dip, with bare butts and breasts, while avoiding any
frontal nudity below the belt.
Still, the music of a generation
continues to throb with joy and significance.
For another perspective on the sixties and the Vietnam draft, also
This is a true story about Arlo Guthrie's singing commercial that grew
into a movie. Some families have made it a Thanksgiving
tradition to re-watch this film every year.
Before seeing it, today's teenagers need
to be reminded that Arlo's father, Woody Guthrie, was the
mid-twentieth-century's greatest folk song writer. But
illness debilitated him by the sixties. Pete Seeger, another
folk song legend, puts in a cameo appearance singing Woody's songs.
The plot begins when a couple in a
strained marriage buy an old church and turn it into a hangout for all
their young hippy friends. Despite the cover art, there is
not much nudity in this movie—just one pair of bare
breasts. Even for the army physical exam, cameramen aimed
above the waist.
My disc offers the option of viewing the
film again, with commentary from Arlo Guthrie today. That is
an excellent reason for seeing it twice.
So watch all three of these movies
together, and start some family discussions. If you don't
have family, they're still great to watch.
Nude Swimming in School (May 2014)
Today's topic is schools—boys'
schools—and the nude swimming that was a part of them for
For the whole family:
Tom Brown's Schooldays (1951) is a
movie about school bullying at Rugby in England. Thomas Hughes
wrote the book a century earlier in 1857, back when long-windedness was
in fashion. It makes heavy slogging today. (The bullying
takes up only a chapter-and-a-half during Tom's first year or so at the
The book has been made into a movie five
times. Only the 1951 British version, starring John Howard
Davies, includes the skinny-dipping which was a part of every
schoolboy's experience in the nineteenth century. After all, the
events happen in the early 1830s, and swimsuits wouldn't even be
invented until about 1870. Hughes wrote that during warm weather
"they spent a large portion of the day in nature's garb by the river
side, and so when tired of swimming, would get out on the other side
In the 1830s, Dr. Thomas Arnold (father of poet
Matthew Arnold) was reforming Rugby school. He cleaned up the
bullying, brought in modern subjects, yet firmly believed in the
ancient Greek ideal of a well developed mind in a well developed
body. Athletics (including swimming) formed an important part of
school life. You don't need to understand the rules of cricket or
Rugby football to appreciate the film.
By the way, we learn from the book (but not the
movies) that beer was regularly on the school menu. How times
Be aware that the 1951 movie was made in black and
white. It is still readily available.
Here is a fine opportunity for parents to openly
discuss bullying with their children. You will need to explain
beforehand that in English schools, "fag" meant a younger student
running errands for an older student—nothing more.
For teens and older:
Heaven Help Us (1985) is a
forgotten gem of a movie. It takes us inside a Catholic boys'
high school in Brooklyn in 1965. (The film is known in Europe
under the title, Catholic Boys.)
Except that the girls go to a separate school, and the teachers wear
robes, it is much like any other inner-city school during the early
sixties. The rough talk rings true.
The big-talking bully in this case quickly joins the
hero and some other misfits, to form an oddly assorted group of loyal
friends. The real bully is one of the teachers.
Among the daily activities, we see the boys lined up
nude beside the school swimming pool. The first view is frontal,
blurry, and brief. Then we see them from the back and sides,
while their instructor gives them a grouchy pep talk. This is not
central to the plot—just a routine moment in an ordinary school
A bit of history: In the early years of the
twentieth century, schools in larger cities built indoor swimming
pools. Lint clogged the early filters, so nudity was mandatory
for everyone—including the teachers. All classes were
single-sex. After World War II the nudity requirement relaxed for
girls—but not for boys. They still were expected to do the
manly thing and swim nude. On rare occasions, that even extended
to competition between schools before a mixed-sex audience.
But by 1965, most American public schools had
switched to requiring swim suits. Some private schools and the
YMCA held onto traditional nude swimming for another five or ten
years. And so the movie shows us the waning days of a standard
dress code that had been a part of boys' schools for centuries.
But what about a nude
classroom? We must turn to imagination. On YouTube, you can
find Olivier Smolders' ten-minute film of 1988, Point de Fuite—which
translates as The Vanishing Point.
A Belgian teacher walks into a high school geometry class to find her
male and female students all nude. She eventually joins them, but
they are tricking her. Do NOT buy the disc. It contains
many other dreadful things you don't want near your children. Be
content to watch the only good part of this one on YouTube. Make
sure you have a version with English subtitles.
Though no movie will show it to you, boys of all
ages in ancient Greece spent their entire school day nude. In
Egypt, neither boys nor girls wore any clothing until well into
puberty. During our lifetime, an ancient and venerated tradition
has ended. Why?
Two Classic Movies by Zeffirelli (July 2014)
At the risk of telling people what they already
know, let me recommend two film classics directed by Franco Zeffirelli.
For the whole family:
Brother Sun, Sister Moon (1972)
tells the story of St. Francis of Assisi. There are no children
in this movie, no slapstick humor, none of the usual gimmicks to lure
kids into watching. Yet it is a fine uplifting film for the whole
family to experience together. In fact, parents need to be there
during the first several minutes, when younger children witness St.
Francis having nightmares about his war experience.
The rest is simple joy—helped along by
Donovan's heartfelt songs.
The turning-point comes when St. Francis famously
strips off all worldly goods—handing his clothes back to his
cloth-merchant father—and appearing in all his naked splendor
before God. Naked ascetics exist in several religions. But
St. Francis is the best-known and most beloved Christian example.
We only see him from the back, yet we also see the sense of wonderment
and comprehension on the faces of bystanders. Yes, nudity can be
a religious experience.
The movie ends after Pope Innocent III, the most
powerful pope in history, gives his blessing to the founding of the
Franciscan order of monks. We do not see Francis' trusting female
friend also start the Poor Clares. (Actually, she was twelve
years younger than him—a fact that Zeffirelli chose to
ignore.) But we see enough to tell the story. The movie
captures the best of the Christian spirit, in all of its loving
simplicity. Watch it as a family.
For teens and older:
ever-popular Romeo and Juliet
has been filmed more than 75 times around the world, including opera
and ballet versions like West Side
Story. Yet Franco Zeffirelli broke new ground in
1968. He used young actors, instead of experienced
veterans. He put them in authentic Renaissance clothing, with
young men proudly strutting around town in their brightly colored
codpieces. And we see Romeo and Juliet waking up nude—as
most people do on the morning of their honeymoon.
How did Shakespeare play this scene? At the
back of his open stage, there was a small curtained room, with another
one like it upstairs off the famous balcony. Shakespeare gives us
double action: downstairs, Juliet's parents plan her marriage to count
Paris, while upstairs, Juliet is already celebrating her honeymoon with
Nightshirts had just been invented in Shakespeare's
time. Only a few very rich people owned one. Most of
Shakespeare's audience had never seen such an outfit, and would have
laughed at the idea of putting on clothes to go to bed. (In the
next century, Puritans would try to get everybody into nightshirts, as
a way to dull the senses.) Shakespeare's audience expected people
to arise nude from bed.
Yet another problem complicated that. There
would be no actresses for another fifty years. Young boys played
all of the female roles. That was how they served their
So how did Shakespeare do it? When the curtain
opened, awakening Romeo could bunch the sheets in front of him as he
reached over and pulled on his trousers. (No one wore underwear
then.) And Juliet could wrap the sheet around herself as she
rose. In a more private setting, Zeffirelli gives us a lingering
view of Romeo's bare butt, and a blurred flash of Juliet's
breasts. (Did I see that, or didn't I?)
This scene gives high school English teachers
fits. Some skip it; others show it without comment; I know one
otherwise excellent teacher who is wide enough to stand in front of the
television screen, blocking her students' view until that scene is
over. All can be under pressure from parents and administrators.
I have taught this movie many times—mostly to
high school Freshmen and Sophomores. To avoid snickers about the
codpieces, I like to begin with a study of Renaissance art: examples
such as Michelangelo's David,
Botticelli's Birth of Venus,
and Leonardo's Vitruvian Man.
The excitement of the Renaissance was the discovery of man and human
potential. People took pride in who they were, and in their
bodies. Teenagers can understand and respect this healthy
By the way, small breasts were in fashion for
Renaissance girls. A similar thing happened in the 1920s.
The actress playing Juliet was not built that way, so they tried
cramming her into the tight Renaissance bodices anyway; it didn't work.
Young people who don't attend churches where they
still use a lot of "thees" and "thous" may find the Elizabethan English
going by too fast. Turning on the English subtitles can
help. But viewers won't miss a lot, because most of the dirty
jokes were taken out of the movie version. I always have to
explain that Shakespeare wrote for two audiences: aristocrats in the
high-priced seats, and lowly groundlings who stood around waiting for
the crude humor. That is what makes Shakespeare's language so
rich. Double-entendre abounds.
When I teach this movie, I like to follow with
Tchaikovsky's musical version of the story. Actually, he just
captured certain moods: peace, street fighting, love, funeral.
Some teens find the two intertwining melodies of its love theme even
more gripping than the play or the film. Definitely, listen for
In the years since this
movie appeared, several of
Shakespeare's other plays have been filmed with a bit of nudity: a
bathing child and a madwoman in Macbeth
(1973), lots of people bathing during the opening credits of Much Ado About Nothing (1991), nude
sleepers in A Midsummer Night's Dream
(1999), and more male nudity than is strictly necessary in Prospero's Books [The Tempest] (1991). King Lear has rarely been staged
with two nude men during the storm scene, but never on film, that I
The 1996 gangster version called Romeo + Juliet is far too ugly for
watching. And to the relief of squeamish schoolteachers, Romeo in
the 2013 movie jumps out of his wedding bed wearing long john
bottoms—centuries before they were invented.
And so Zeffirelli is to be commended for two
magnificent films that not only capture the spirit of their times, but
also bring body-positive messages to young people growing up today.
Treating Boys and Girls with Equal Respect (Sept. 2014)
This time, we look at a couple of gritty movies from
the hardscrabble south. Both have rough edges, but offer much for
For the whole family:
Shadrach (1998) provides some fine
lessons in racial harmony and social understanding. It's 1935 in
the depths of the Great Depression, when an old former slave returns
home to die in Virginia. He discovers that his master's
descendants have deteriorated into a bunch of foul-mouthed
bootleggers. But they remain decent people of compassion, who
will see that the right thing is done.
When the family goes swimming together, the boys do
it nude. Their older sister strips down only to her underwear,
while the youngest girl jumps in the water wearing nearly all of her
clothes. It's an odd double standard of southern expectations for
boys and girls in the same family. The old slave, too, fondly
remembers youthful skinny-dipping as the moment he felt most free.
Be aware that this film contains salty language that
you may not want to expose your children to. Or maybe they've
already heard it all. Use your judgement. The tape version
is becoming scarce, but still shows up occasionally at thrift stores
for a dollar or so. The disc works only on European machines or
For teens and older:
With a mostly
off-camera rape and murder, Buster
and Billie (1974) is definitely not a movie for the little
kiddies. But it wrestles mightily with teen concerns.
It's 1948 in Georgia, and the double standard reigns
supreme: boys are expected to learn about sex wherever they can find
it, but for a girl to do so means total disgrace. The same goes
for teen drinking and smoking (even in front of the sheriff).
Trouble begins when the handsomest redneck in the
senior class treats a too-willing girl with respect. When he
invites her to church with him, that upsets the whole town's moral
balance. This is a tender love story that ends in tragedy.
But so is Romeo and Juliet.
The skinny-dip scene is a classic. For a whole
generation of young people, this was their first glimpse of male
frontal nudity on the big screen. Though movie-makers
commonly exploit female nudity, while shying away from naked men, this
time, cameras show the girl only from the back or side.
Men over a certain age will recognize the boys'
bathroom with its open stalls and trough urinal. Modesty was not
really an option back then. Such piling on of historic details
gives the story believability and power.
The tape version of this important film has become
rare; Sunshine Vintage Movies are sole distributors of the DVD.
Of course, no
discussion of southern movies is complete without mentioning Steel Magnolias (1989). This
third film is wholesome enough for small children to be in the room,
but the best parts probably stretch beyond their emotional
experience. It has rightly been called "the funniest movie you
ever cried through."
Among its many riches, we see two older women doing
a radio broadcast from a boys' locker room. These are not actors,
but the actual high school football team of Natchitoches,
Louisiana. (That was in the days before boys became afraid to
take showers.) We don't see much—just a few bare
butts—so one of the old ladies whips out her mirror to get a
The movie came from a play about resilient women who
rose above the double standard of expectations, and took control of
their lives. The play happened entirely in a beauty
parlor—no men on stage, and no mention of the locker room.
Likewise, a 2013 remake of the movie with an all-black cast watered it
down for television, and left out the locker room scene. Stay
with the 1989 version.
and Billie, Steel Magnolias:
these three classic southern films are worth finding and discussing,
I Met a Man Who Wasn't There: Invisibility in the Movies (Nov.
was walking up the stair,
I met a man who
there again today.
I wish, I
wish, he'd go away.
If it is not a contradiction of terms and ideas,
today we look at a couple of movies from the 1980s about invisible
For the whole family:
H.G. Wells wrote his
1897 science-fiction novella, The
Invisible Man, about a man who can disappear, but his clothes
can't—so he takes them off. Since 1933, lots of
movie-makers have had fun with the special effects needed for this
concept. And none had more fun than the makers of The Invisible Kid in 1988.
The kid is actually a nerdy high school senior,
trying to complete the scientific work of his dead father. When
his less mature friend learns about the invisibility powder, the
friend's first urge is to sneak into the girls' locker room. We
briefly see two girls' breasts, and the boys' bare butts when the
invisibility suddenly wears off.
At one point, the heroine does an invisible strip
tease. We see nothing there but discarded clothes moving through
The film has all the dumb elements of a kids' flick:
slapstick humor, a bunch of over-reacting dimwits, and a fast car
chase. And of course, the boy gets the girl. Yet the first
bad guy we meet turns out to have a little depth of character.
The high school principal is the real villain. The movie copies
bits from several other juvenile films of the time; as in Ferris Bueller's Day Off, one more
little scene comes after all the credits.
This is a movie to watch after a bad day, when you
or your family want some mindless enjoyment.
For teens and older:
In The Emerald Forest (1985), we meet
an Amazon jungle tribe known as the Invisible People because they grind
emeralds into a paste, and paint their nearly nude bodies for
camouflage. No one is quite nude; males and females all wear
something over the pubic area—even when swimming. Breasts
and buttocks are naturally visible.
It is based on a true story of a blond boy kidnaped
from an engineer in charge of constructing a huge dam. The father
finds the boy ten years later: a teenager raised in jungle ways, and
about to marry.
The dam project has displaced a nasty group of
cannibals, who are now invading the lands of these gentle Invisible
People. When the menfolk are away, Fierce People overrun the
village, and sell the young women to the white owners of a bordello on
the frontier. Father and son work together to rescue them.
As the girls return to the purity of nature, the first thing they do is
throw off their humiliating clothes.
The father comes to realize that his dam will
destroy the traditional way of life that his son has chosen. He
is prepared to blow up his work of ten years. But that proves
unnecessary; nature takes care of itself.
Yes, there is violence in this movie; yet the beauty
of natural living leaves a far more enduring impression. When
young men attempt to enter the bulldozer-ravaged landscape, the old
chief warns, "We are not invisible in the dead world,"—only in
the land of green and living things. As the writing on the screen
says at the end, these people still know what we have forgotten about
blending naturally into nature.
Funny or movingly serious, both of these films about
invisibility and nudity show us people who are far more than their
Stranded on a Deserted Island (March 2015)
Many movies have been made
about people marooned on an unpopulated island, where they don't have
to worry about what the neighbors think. They can dress or
undress freely. Some films, such as Castaway (1986), contain
considerable nudity. These will interest young children and
For the whole family:
Robby (1968) is a retelling of the
Robinson Crusoe story with kids in the leading roles. When
shipwrecked nine-year-old Robby meets a native boy, he follows the old
plot and calls him Friday. Next, he makes clothes for the happily
naked kid. From then on, they both swim nude, but wear clothes on
The director was an ASA official, with his
neighbor's son in
the title role. So you know it's good clean fun. In its
original version, the movie lasted half-an-hour longer, and was
criticized because it dragged. Later, they shortened the film for
the home version, and added new music. The scenery is
beautiful. It's a great hour of family entertainment with lots of
things to talk about afterward.
For teens and older:
The Blue Lagoon (1980) is THE teen
nude movie. A boy and a girl grow up on a deserted island in the
Pacific. With no adults around, they, in their teen years, have
to figure out matters of sex (and later parenting) all by
themselves. It is a wonderful tale of innocence and naturalness
in the midst of beautiful nature.
For some reason, the teenagers also wear skimpy
clothes on land, but of course swim nude. Young Christopher
Atkins did his own nude scenes. Brooke Shields did not. Her
mother was on the set at all times, making sure the girl's hair stayed
taped over her breasts.
Henry De Vere Stacpoole wrote the original story way
back in 1908. In that age of lingering Victorian prudery, he
devoted only a few pages to the years of teenage discovery.
Reportedly, the same thing happened in the British film versions of
1923 and 1949—though neither is available for comparison.
The 1980 movie inspired
several attempts to cash in on its success. Move the scene to a
middle-eastern oasis, don't waste time on innocent years, provide
several nude scenes (mostly female), add a conventional villain, some
chase scenes, and a couple of chimpanzees for dumb laughs—plus a
happy ending—and you have the formula for Paradise, made just two years later
in 1982. Even the hairstyles are copied. The film still has
charm. If you watch this one, make sure you get an old tape
version; South Koreans blurred all the nudity on the disc. Cover
art has been discretely nude for European sales, but clothed for
A year later, in 1983, came an Indonesian adaptation
of The Blue Lagoon filled
with prejudice against native people. It was remade as a horror
movie in 2010.
Stacpoole wrote two more novels about the next
generation. Part of The Garden
of God went into the 1991 film, Return to the Blue Lagoon.
But by 1991, producers feared to show any teen nudity—even when
swimming. Still, the sequel raises some interesting questions
about the values of civilization, and is worth watching.
Blue Lagoon: The
Awakening (2012) is just a television rip-off of the
title—about modern high school students wearing swimsuits in the
Caribbean. Yet the 1980 film remains a wonderful classic.
Robby's adult rescuer asks, "Are you sure you want
to go back?" He does. But the teenagers in some of the
other movies have grown enough to realize that living naturally in
nature has charms missing in modern civilization. They have found
their roots where they are.
What is Human Nature? (May 2015)
What does it mean to be human? To be
natural? Two views have long persisted.
One claims that man must struggle to rise above his
animal nature. Religion, clothing, civilization elevate him above
the beasts. The idea of progress is closely linked: things are
getting better and better; we modern people have become far more
civilized than, say, the ancient Greeks with their naked athletics.
The other view insists that babies are born
innocent, good, and free. Children are likely to tell the truth,
until society corrupts them. Education should largely be a matter
of discovering our own creative potential and our role in the natural
world around us. At certain glorious times, individuals have
shucked off their false material trappings, and found their way back to
the garden. We can do it too.
Without really thinking about it, most of us believe
some combination of these ideas. Let us look at movies
contrasting these two views of human nature.
For the whole family:
The Wild Child (1970) documents a
historical case study from the late 1700s: the discovery in France of
an 11-or-12-year-old boy who had been raised by wolves.
Completely naked, he had not learned language or how to walk
upright. Using the latest educational philosophies of
Jean-Jacques Rousseau, a kindly doctor set about bringing the boy into
There have been other known cases of children raised
by animals. Those children were never able to explain what it was
like, because, unless children learn language by a certain age, they
The director chose to film in black and white,
claiming that would give it a more authentically documentary
look. (Like rare original film footage preserved from the
1790s? I don't pretend to understand his logic.) The movie
is in French, with English subtitles.
This interesting documentary should not be confused
with a much later film about a misbehaving girl called simply Wild Child.
For teens and older:
For the same optimistic
viewpoint, teen and adult readers may also be interested in Nell (1994) about a young woman
raised in the woods and speaking her own language. It includes a
few moonlit skinny-dips.
But after seeing the
bestiality of two world wars, William Golding reached a more
view of human nature: Without ongoing civilization, without normal
rules, people throw off their clothes and become savages. That
was the premise of his book, Lord of
the Flies, made into a British movie in 1963. The director
chose the harsh contrast of black-and-white photography, rather than
the subtleties of color.
A group of proper schoolboys stranded on a tropical
island quickly revert to savagery. That includes some nudity, and
killing off anyone who disagrees with them. And they mesmerize
themselves into that condition while marching and singing hymns.
So church and state have often led peaceable citizens into warfare.
In Golding's book, all of the boys skinny-dip
frequently, and sometimes stay undressed afterward. In the movie,
we see only the young and the innocent choosing to go totally
nude—not the older half-naked savages. Except for the
rational fat boy, they excite themselves into fearing a beast.
The book points out more clearly that the beast lies deep within their
own natures. The philosophic boy who figures out some of these
things does not play a significant part in the movie.
The American remake of Lord of the Flies in 1990 used full
color, but fell short in every other way. They "improved" the
story to make it more American—that is, more military, more gore,
much more foul language, and without any religious irony or
nudity. Stick to the original version.
did not print the next paragraph.]
The idea of kids run
amok without the structure of rules shows up in other movies. As
an extreme example, unsupervised teenagers in The Cement Garden (1993) go so far
as incest. With a liberating nude dance in the rain, the film is
actually a sensitive treatment of a potentially dangerous topic.
This one is best left for adult viewing.
It is not unusual for movie-makers to examine basic
human nature by looking at children free of rules and free of
clothing. Some reach an optimistic conclusion, some less
hopeful. Next time we will discuss a more joyous nudist-friendly
film influenced by Lord of the Flies.
Beach Boys (July 2015)
What brings more joy to the heart than the sight and
sounds of children gamboling free and naturally on a beach? In
our video selections this time, they all happen to be boys.
For the whole family:
Have you ever been tempted to
sell your kids? If so, Popi
(1979) is the movie for you. We meet a Puerto Rican father
hustling to hold down three jobs in an effort to raise his two young
sons in a rugged neighborhood of New York City. (The boys have
picked up some rough language, that occasionally slips out.) When
the father hears that Cubans are sending their children to the United
States as refugees, in hope that rich people will adopt them and give
them a better life, he decides to try the same for his sons. This
sacrifice is difficult because he loves them and they love him.
The last straw comes when a neighborhood gang strip
his sons naked and tie them up. So he takes them to Miami, where
we briefly see them playing nude on the beach. (These cottontail
actors were not experienced skinny-dippers—which fits with the
story.) There is no frontal nudity. There are, however, a
couple of spoken references to sex, yet the movie's G rating is
From the beginning, all sorts of things go
wrong. Children will love the slapstick humor. Parents will
appreciate the bonds of family love. Before the movie starts, you
should probably explain US-Cuba relations and waves of refugees.
For teens and older:
The Genesis Children (1972) is not your
run-of-the-mill movie. In the late '60s and early '70s, Lyric
Films International produced several short amateur home videos that
they sold through nudist magazines. The 8-milimeter films
much the same group of boys—one time at a pool party, another
time playing with motorcycles, another time on vacation in
Europe. None are available today. (If anybody still has
one, I would be curious to see a copy.) The Genesis Children was their only
full-length feature film. By then, all but two of the boys were
We see eight boys from an English-speaking school in
Rome recruited for a sort of live theatre on the beach. They are
given no script or plot. So they act naturally, and go
skinny-dipping whenever they feel like it. They explore and just
have fun. This film contains more teen male nudity than any other
movie I am aware of. The focus is almost entirely on the boys;
one person plays most of the adult roles.
In the early '70s, the only model for a movie about
nude boys away from home was Lord of
the Flies. So the screen writers decided to have the boys
abuse their freedom and go too far (while the same hymn plays in the
background that the trouble-makers marched to in the earlier
movie). They torch an old van abandoned at the seashore.
The realization that they have done something wrong ends the innocence
of their Eden-like stay at the beach. We see some biblical
When the raw footage got edited down, most of the
nude scenes ended up on the cutting room floor, and the movie ran way
too short. So the producers fired their big-name editor, and
hired a new one to repair the damage. He decided to go
artsy. He restored the omitted scenes in odd places, forcing the
viewer to move back and forth in time. Hint: All of the clothed
in-town scenes are flashbacks that actually happened before the nude
beach scenes. The movie provides no blurry beginnings to let you
know when you are entering a flashback; clothes and scenery are the
I showed this movie a few years ago at a Mid-Winter
Naturist Festival. Most of the older people in the room disliked
it because it didn't follow a traditional plot from beginning to
end. But I like it for the sheer joy of living.
Children asks some profound questions, yet falls short in
answers. The movie also has great music—some of it
reinforcing the aura of sacred nudity, other moments throbbing with
But trouble lurked behind the cameras. In the
1970s, the line between nudity and sex was blurring—even in
nudist magazines. Unfortunately, the man with the money behind
these innocent films also invested in a company that produced
pornography, and he got in trouble for that. So all production
ended abruptly. Still, we have their one glorious movie.
Popi and The Genesis Children both overflow
with joy—symbolized by boys running free and naked at the
Boys Will Be Boys (Nov. 2015)
I had not intended to discuss movies about boys two
times in a row. But current events are dictating otherwise.
For the Whole Family:
American movies about Tom
Sawyer have shown very little of the traditional nudity described in
Mark Twain's book. In 1938, David O. Selznick filmed a distant
skinny-dip for the beginning of his movie. Company censors
removed it, and it has never been restored.
A brief flash of bare butts while the boys swam in
the delightful 1973 musical version of Tom Sawyer caused a
sensation. Aunt Polly openly sang about the boys "swimming in the
nude." With a compassionate Aunt Polly and Warren Oates'
endearing performance as the town drunk, this was, and remains, a great
family movie. But after that, American movie makers grew more
Huckleberry Finn and His Friends (1979) was a Canadian-German
production filmed in Canada—and that explains a lot. With
three skinny-dip scenes, the two-year TV series has been repeated many
times on children's television in Canada, Germany, Scandinavian
countries, England, Australia, Venezuela and much of Latin
America—but never the United States. The DVD is in a
European format; even Canadians can't watch it now, except on their
computers or a region-free DVD player (which is not expensive.)
To get a more professional performance from
children, movie directors frequently use actors older than the roles
they are playing. Several of the boys in this series were
actually actors in their mid-teens. They could shave their pubic
hair for the skinny-dip scenes, but there was no easy way to disguise
their deepening voices.
The boys' handlers made sure the two main stars were
photographed nude mostly from the back and sides. Fortunately,
Twain included a third boy in their island adventure; all lingering
frontal views are of him. Yet the skinny-dipping scenes were shot
from such a distance that not much detail can be seen. They come
in season 1, episodes 1, 6, and 7. The series is available as a
4-disc set, though the first disc (which happens to contain all of the
skinny-dip scenes) was originally sold separately. Dailymotion
has posted all episodes on the Internet, so you can watch them that way
if you don't mind a little jerky motion.
Season 2 focused on Huck's raft trip down the river,
and there all nudity stopped—despite his insistence in the book
that "we was always naked, day and night." For 130 years, no book
illustrator or movie producer has ever dared to show Huckleberry Finn
nude during his long raft adventure.
Then this summer, The Whitney Museum of American Art
in New York City refused to exhibit the larger-than-life nude sculpture
of Huck and Jim by Charles
Ray. The artist explained that Huck bends down to catch food in
the water, while Jim blesses his effort. The Art Institute of
Chicago did show the group in an inconspicuous place. Nervous
officials at both museums said they were not worried about reactions of
museum-goers, but of the ignorant people who never go to museums, yet
could start a lot of trouble on Facebook or Twitter. They also
worried about differences in race and age—something our society
obsesses on right now. Nobody mentioned that the black man is
circumcised—something totally inappropriate for the nineteenth
Museums (and advertising) are full of female
nudes—but not many males. In contrast, movies have lots of
skinny-dipping boys, but few girls. Go figure.
For Teens and Older:
What would Tom, Huck,
and Joe be like at age 18? Their kind of mischief remains
timeless. Calendar Girl
(1993) gives us three similar boys in the early 1960s. Just
graduated from high school, they travel across country to catch a
glimpse of their heroine, Marilyn Monroe.
The title comes from
her famous nude Playboy calendar picture, and the opening credits
include some famous nude paintings. This movie should not be
confused with the plural Calendar
Girls, about aging English housewives
(which is also excellent, but not particularly appealing to teenagers).
At one point, the boys pursue Marilyn onto an early
California nude beach. Though the cameramen filmed only a few
backsides, the beach looks pretty authentic.
It's a funny movie, until one of the boys actually
meets Marilyn, and they have a serious conversation. She was far
more than a pretty body.
This and the two Twain movies are all great fun to
watch. Actually, Tom, Huck, and the boys in Calendar Girl were not the only
young people who knew how to get into mischief. Next time: Girls
Will Be Girls.
Girls Will Be Girls (Jan. 2016)
This time, we look at movies about girls—girls
who can get into just as much mischief as the boys can.
For the whole family:
From 1934 to 1968, the Hays Code of censorship
stifled Hollywood movies. As a precaution, film studios hired
their own censors to eliminate anything that might not pass the
code. In 1938, nervous company officials removed the boys'
skinny-dip scene from the beginning of David O. Selznick's Tom Sawyer. Then all through
the 1950s and 60s, movie producers pushed the limits of the code, until
it was finally abandoned.
Walt Disney, with his solid
reputation for wholesome family films, struck his blow for common sense
about innocent child nudity in Pollyanna
in 1960. He recreated the banned boys' skinny-dip scene and put
it at the beginning of this girls' movie. Only this time, it had
nothing to do with the plot—just setting the mood of small-town
America at the turn of the twentieth century. And he got away
The movie begins with a close-up of a nude boy's
back, as he swings out over the water, and drops in to join several
other skinny-dipping boys. The part was played by a local extra,
who got a new bicycle for his pay. Pollyanna never goes swimming,
though we do see lots of nude sculptures in the houses of the wealthy.
Like Tom Sawyer, Pollyanna can get into her share of
mischief—from sneaking out of her room, to climbing trees, to
trespassing. But mostly, her cheerful optimism makes a lot of
grumpy people happy.
Though few men and boys went to see it in the
theatres, they missed a good family movie. It's hard to keep a
dry eye during the ending.
For teens and older:
We look at two movies about teenage girls.
Both contain some of the same stock characters. Both include
locker room scenes.
Sixteen Candles (1984) is about an
awkward but good-hearted girl whose family all forget her sixteenth
birthday. (They're preparing for her sister's wedding the next
day.) She tries to not feel too hurt.
The sight of a beautiful girl showering makes her
feel even more inadequate, yet two very sincere guys take an interest
in her. (The younger boy grows as much as she does, adding some
depth to an otherwise shallow film.)
The movie is both sad and funny—if you like
physical humor reminiscent of the Keystone Kops. The loopy
wedding has to be one of the most laughable on film. Even some of
the background music is ironic. But be aware that the girls do
not always use the most ladylike language.
On the other
hand, Just One of the Guys
(1985) is a modern adaptation of Shakespeare's Twelfth Night, where,
for her safety, a girl disguised herself as her twin brother. In
the old play, romantic complications arose, and then the brother showed
up. The movie has only a younger brother (charming, though too
desperately in search of sex). Yet this girl must cope with
something Shakespeare never thought of: high school gym class.
Rather than admit she chose a boring topic, a
student decides that her journalism article did not win an award
because of her teacher's gender bias. So she disguises herself as
a boy, and resubmits it in another school, where it also gets
rejected. (The movie certainly makes fun of male sexist
attitudes, but they can't be blamed for everything.)
Meanwhile, the girl has to figure out what to do
about gym class, and changing in the boys' locker room. These
were the days when students still took showers after gym class.
We only see boys above the waist or wearing jock straps—no actual
male nudity on screen. The girl does, however, bare her breasts
at the end.
(Eight years later, the producers tried reversing
the situation in Just One of the
Girls. Though it included real locker room
nudity—female this time—the male hero just wasn't
convincing as a girl. It flopped.)
Today's examples show us why it is difficult to find
movies about girls and innocent nudity. In movie convention,
pre-teen boys can skinny-dip, but to show a girl doing it would be too
shocking. Then at about age 14, the convention reverses: Female
nudity becomes sexy and desirable, but frontal male nudity is just too
shocking to show. None of this makes much sense. But that's
the way most movies are.
Defective Detectives (Mar. 2016)
Inept investigators have provided the humor for many
a mystery movie. And some people think that nakedness should be
funny. This time, we look at whodunits that involve nudity.
Unfortunately, none of them qualify as non-violent. Few detective
For the whole family:
The Nude Bomb (1980) was based on
the Get Smart television series. There are no children in this
film, but the plot and the jokes are too dumb for words.
Ten-year-olds will love it.
A mad scientist has developed a bomb that destroys
only clothes, leaving people naked. This possibility has the
American president quaking. World leaders wonder how they will be
able to wage war if armies can't tell each other apart by their
uniforms. Actually, we only see some bare behinds and
strategically placed briefcases and rifles.
So they call in a blundering detective, surrounded
by beautiful women and amazing gadgets. He eventually saves the
world from nudity.
There are a few bad words, and a few jokes with
double meanings that will pass right over the heads of the
innocent. The violence at the end is a spoof on all movie
shoot-outs. If it's any consolation, only clones die. You
may need to explain what cloning is, but the kids probably know more
about that than you do.
For Teens and Older:
If you want more
sophisticated humor in a detective story that is beyond the experience
of young people, take a look at A
Shot in the Dark (1964). It's part of the Pink Panther
series, and has the bumbling Inspector Clouseau going undercover in a
nudist resort. Much of the plot revolves around marital fidelity
(or lack thereof). Other than the zany humor, there's not a lot
to interest teens.
Most teenagers would
probably prefer to hone their skills of detection watching Wildthings (1998). It's an
edgy movie, not appropriate for younger children. A rich Florida
high school girl accuses her guidance counselor of rape. He
protests vigorously that he did nothing of the sort. So who is
telling the truth? Or is the truth far more complicated than
that? I thought I had sort-of figured it out. Then came
lots of additional scenes during the end credits, and I realized I had
gotten it all wrong.
The detective also gets it partially wrong, and this
time there is nothing funny about it. They made two versions of
this movie; you want the unrated (not R) version because it provides
far more clues. Just be aware that it has more sexy scenes too.
In either version, we see some ordinary household
nudity, as a man casually steps out of a shower. A couple of
girls also swim topfree, though one always keeps her back to the
camera. (The screenplay called for this girl of trashy background
to reveal tattoos and body jewelry, but the producers accepted a
no-nudity clause to get a well-known actress. In contrast, the
other actress refused to use a body double, playing her own semi-nude
self wherever the script called for it.) Both were in their
mid-twenties, playing teenagers.
Three so-called sequels have used different actors
slogging through pretty much the same deceptive plot. Don't waste
your time or money on them.
There are many mysteries in life greater than what
lies beneath people's clothes. I suppose one of them is how
totally incompetent people manage to survive. Another is how,
despite facts, people can leap to such erroneous conclusions. All
is revealed in these enjoyable movies.
Turning Nude Stereotypes Upside-Down (May 2016)
We've all encountered the misperceptions about
nudists. And we have grown rather tired of the coy ways nudity is
almost-but-not-quite shown in the movies. Let's look at two films
that cleverly stand some of those conventions on their heads.
For the whole family:
At last—a movie now
playing in neighborhood theatres that deals with nudity and is fit for
kids to watch. That used to happen often in the 1970s, '80s, and
'90s, but in the twenty-first century has become a rare event.
Disney's Zootopia (2016)
works at different levels for people of all ages. Kids will see
an action-packed detective story. Sophisticated adults will see
parallels to glass ceilings, racism, and stereotyping. But nobody
will miss the sly references to nudity.
The animals have formed a Utopia where they
all get along. But, as so often happens, the cartoon animals all
wear clothes. For no very good reason, the crime trail leads
through what they call a "naturalist" park where a few animals wear
nothing. Imagine that—animals without clothes. How
shocking! But that's where any understanding ends. The
film-makers fall back on old stereotypes by showing us a bunch of hairy
animal butts in awkward positions. This scene lasts only a couple
of minutes; still, the point has been made that clothing is not always
The movie comes in 3-D and regular versions.
The few 3-D effects are not worth the price difference. There is
no home version yet.
For a movie with absolutely no nude people in it,
the mere mention of nudity gave this cartoon a PG rating. Ignore
that, and enjoy.
For teens and older:
Flirting (1991) is a story of
interracial dating in Australia. A misfit intellectual boy and a
sophisticated daughter of the Ugandan ambassador find each other in
nearby private and oppressive schools. The time is
1965—just before the Existential "shape your life by making your
own choices" philosophy of Jean-Paul Sartre hit the streets in the
hippie movement. He is reading Sartre; she has met the famous
man. When they have to disguise their names, they choose Camus,
another Existential philosopher.
We get a brief view of the boys' showers. But
instead of the usual cutsie waist-up view in most teen movies, we see
the boys only from the waist down—and not all of them with their
backs turned. Later, there's a glimpse of her breast.
Teenagers need to know something about the Idi Amin
dictatorship in Uganda to understand the ending.
Don't be confused by the cover art that emphasizes
one of the supporting actresses. This is a thoughtful and tender
movie about a boy and a girl with depth of character, who gradually win
the respect of their more traditional classmates.
Actually, this movie is a sequel to The Year My Voice Broke (1987),
about the boy's first crush. That earlier film is good, but
without nudity, and in a quite different mood. Flirting can stand very well on its
So yes, thoughtful references to nudity can and do
show up in movies that young people can watch and understand. The
encouraging news is that it occasionally still happens today.
Three Great Native American Films (July 2016)
This time, we examine three fine films about native
Americans—and not a cowboy in sight.
For the whole family:
Surprisingly few movies have been made about
American Indian childhood. Indian
Paint (1965) is a good one, but it includes no nudity. Let
us instead look at one that does.
For the warmth of native
American family love, it's hard to beat Windwalker (1981). A
windwalker is the spirit of a person who has died. In this case,
the Great Spirit calls an old Cheyenne back from death to finish his
task of finding his twin son, who had been stolen as a baby. The
movie should not be confused with the horror film, Wind Walkers, or with Windtalkers, about Navaho code
messengers during World War II.
No, this story happens during the 1700s, after the
arrival on the plains of the white men's horses, but before the arrival
of white men, themselves. Instead, Cheyennes and Crows keep
fighting each other.
The costuming is completely inappropriate for the
times. We do see the little boys playing naked. But their
parents wear leather clothes to go swimming. Women never covered
their breasts during warm weather, until they had trouble with white
settlers. Here they wear the full-length dresses of the late
1800s. The movie-going public get what they have become used to.
Children may have a little difficulty following the
plot because, at one point, the action keeps shifting between three
different groups of people until they all come together. Some
phrases are spoken in Cheyenne and Crow with English subtitles, but
most of the movie is in English. Using native languages was such
a new idea that the movie could not qualify for an Academy Award, for
lack of a category; only foreign films had subtitles back then.
The American Anthropological Society has voted this the greatest
anthropological movie of all time.
For teens and older:
Dances with Wolves (1990) is a far
grander film about a Civil War soldier who makes friends with a wolf
and his Lakota Sioux neighbors. He eventually marries into the
The soldier of course bathes nude (though we see him
only from the back). But while the Indians camp along a river, we
never see any of them swimming or bathing. Three boys keep
showing up where they shouldn't be, but they never strip down. As
in the earlier movie, the women all cover their breasts before they
have had any contact with white women's dress styles.
The tribesmen speak Siouan (with English
subtitles). We see everyone gradually learning each other's
language. And the theme music will stick in your head for weeks.
This movie was immensely popular, and deservedly
so. Now that the disc is available, it seems like every thrift
shop in America has about three copies of the tape version.
take film seriously, you could also try Atanarjuat: The Fast Runner
(2001). This Canadian movie re-enacts an important shift in Inuit
history around 1200. Sons of tribal leaders had a bad habit of
murdering their fathers to gain power. The hero came from a
different family, and ended that tradition.
It's not a movie to everybody's taste. The
plot jumps along slowly, and pale yellow subtitles against a background
of ice and snow don't help a lot. You will get lost if you don't
first read about the legend and family relationships in Wikipedia. Basically, the
hero takes a second wife, the sister of his ruling enemies—and
she betrays him to her murderous brothers. He escapes naked from
his bed (yes, Eskimos sleep unclothed), and is chased for miles across
the ice. Advertising on the case calls it erotic; we all know
that nude running is nothing of the sort. And the photography is
honest—without shy camera angles trying to hide the nudity.
Not as heart-warming as the other two, this long
movie does not flinch from the tough realities of daily survival.
All three show us people centuries ago, living naturally in nature.
With more languages and tribes than Europe ever had,
the natives of North America cannot be understood by watching these
three movies. But it's not a bad place to begin. Some other
time, we will look at films about the lives of modern American Indians.
Growing Up Too Fast (Sept. 2016)
This time, we look at movies about young people
growing up too fast. Adolescents go through many natural changes,
and perhaps a few experiments. But a youthful experiment must
never be confused with a lifetime commitment. That is why people
should not marry too young, or declare their sexual orientation before
they have finished growing.
These three classic films have always been
controversial, but they can teach us much.
For the whole family:
Child Bride (1938) deals with some
heavy stuff, including a couple of off-screen murders, and hooded thugs
with torches. Yet most movie critics say children should not
watch it because the twelve-year-girl with beginning breasts goes
skinny-dipping. (It would be OK for a boy that age to swim nude,
but not a girl.) I am more concerned that parents be there during
the scary scenes.
The girl's well-meaning teacher has filled her head
with a bunch of conventional nonsense about being too old to skinny-dip
with boys, so she does it with a clothed boy watching. That's
supposed to be better.
The movie is set in hillbilly country, where
children sometimes married way too young—and not always to people
their own age. This will require some explanation
beforehand. You may or may not need to explain moonshining.
And you need to be there at the end to clarify who stopped the villain.
It is a black-and-white film, only an hour
long. Because it was independently produced, it escaped the
censorship of the Hays Code that was paralyzing Hollywood at the time.
For Teens and Older:
More than thirty years later,
the charming heroes of Friends
(1971) are not the sort of role models that parents want for their
children. He is a 15-year-old, irresponsible, rich English boy
living with his too-busy father in Paris. She is a poor,
newly-orphaned, 14-year-old French girl, sent to live with an uncaring
relative. These unappreciated young people find each other, and
run away to the countryside, where they play house for a year.
Though both are bilingual, they speak English with each other.
Their initial embarrassment on bathing in a washtub
is amusing. (We only see them from the back or above the
waist.) But they soon get over that timidness, and find
themselves pregnant. He has to take up menial jobs to support
them, and learns responsibility for the first time in his life.
Yet their love never fades. He is there to deliver the baby.
The movie ends with the
police about to nab him as a runaway. In the hard-to-find sequel,
Paul & Michelle (1974), we
learn that his father packed him off to an exclusive high school in
England, where he graduated with honors three years later. Back
in France and admitted as a student at the Sorbonne, he is determined
to spend the summer looking for Michelle. He eventually finds her
and their daughter, but not the dream world where they once
lived. The grim reality of supporting a family sets in.
While they sleep nude and she no longer wears a bra, this sequel
continues to avoid anything frontal below the waist.
has nothing to do with a later television series of the same name.
movie, You Are Not Alone
(1978) takes place in a small private high school for slightly troubled
boys. There are a couple of natural shower scenes, but the boys
swim and sleep in their underwear. They also sport the long
hairstyles of the '70s. The movie is in Danish, with English
subtitles—including a few blunt expressions.
Until now, I have hesitated to recommend this movie
because it hints at possible homosexual attraction. But with
transgendered students and their bathroom use now in the headlines, the
public discussion has moved way beyond this. It is true that two
boys kiss at the end of the movie, but nothing more happens; the young
13-year-old hero is simply looking for the affection he is not finding
at home. That doesn't make him gay for the rest of his life.
I would not want to take the responsibility of
showing this movie to a young person going through confusion about who
he or she is. Self-confident teenagers of any leaning can handle
it with ease. Or if your family is already in the midst of coping
with gender-identification issues, this movie could be a way to reopen
some family discussion and understanding.
But don't rush into these things. All three
movies warn us of the dangers of kids taking on adult burdens too soon.
The Tarzan Movies (Oct. 2016)
More than 200 Tarzan movies have been made.
Mostly, the actors wear skimpy clothing; only four of those movies have
famous nude scenes.
For the whole family:
As early as 1918, Tarzan of the Apes showed the
eleven-year-old boy growing up naturally in the jungle. Most of
the camera angles view him from the side, but there is a brief flash of
frontal nudity. Was there a public outcry? Of course
not. People a century ago had much more sense about childhood
nudity than they do today.
We also see bare-breasted black women (local
Louisiana extras), and the backsides of two men who go skinny-dipping
so young Tarzan can steal their clothes. Only when he discovers
clothes, does the boy feel complete—an awful message.
The movie skips the teen years, and we next see the
hero as a very hefty man.
Over the years, local censors cut out scenes of
nudity, romance, violence, or racism. Of the original two-hour
movie, only 73 minutes are left. This silent film set the
standard for all those that would follow, and is still worth watching
today. Children must be old enough to read the captions.
For teens and older:
In American movies, nude males are OK, but only
before they reach age 14. Nude females are more than OK, but only
after they reach age 18. This double standard makes no sense at
all. Yet we encounter both in the Tarzan films.
Tarzan and His Mate (1934) included
a nude Jane and loincloth-clad Tarzan in a long swim. It was
completed just before the Hays Code went into effect, but censors
insisted that the nude scene be taken out before the film could be
shown in theatres. The censors won (though the cut footage has
since been restored for the home versions).
Yet it remains a violent movie. The body count
at the end runs to something like 1 elephant, 1 rhinoceros, 1
crocodile, 2 gorillas, 3 chimpanzees, 8 lions, and at least 52
people. But no immoral nudity. The censors smiled.
Despite this black-and-white movie's importance in film history and
nudist history, I hesitate to recommend it for young people in their
Half a century
later, in 1981, the same formula of nude Jane and loincloth-clad Tarzan
worked in Tarzan, the Ape Man.
Lots of Tarzan fans don't like this one because it focuses on Jane, and
is not the typical shoot-em-up. The two heroes provide eye-candy
and not a lot more.
Jane has come to Africa to meet her eccentric but
foul-mouthed father. Like him, she has no fear of
adventure. With welcome historical accuracy, Jane and the few
native women frequently appear topfree. Someone with nothing
better to do has counted 38 breast exposures. Take that for
whatever it's worth.
When Tarzan is not carrying off Jane, we see some
shy boy-meets-girl scenes. I find it refreshing that onscreen
nudity does not lead to immediate passion. Nude or nearly nude
people are treated like people.
Greystoke: the Legend of Tarzan, Lord
of the Apes (1984) is far the most thoughtful of these
movies. It returns to the original story of Tarzan's
boyhood. In fact, they used four nude boys to show Tarzan at all
ages from infancy through the beginning of pubic hair. Then he
wears a loincloth.
The last half of the story takes him to England to
adjust and live with his grandfather. But civilization proves
more savage than the jungle, and the hero longs to return. Jane
(who always keeps her clothes on) accompanies him back to Africa, but
stops short at the edge of the jungle.
And so we have two movies with nude boys, and two
with nude women—but never, ever a nude girl or man. Next
time we look at the female versions of Tarzan.
The Female Versions of Tarzan (Dec. 2016)
A return to nature—that's what naturists dream
of. Yet with over 200 Tarzan films, I am aware of only two decent
movies that star a female swinging from vine to vine. That's
1%. Hollywood has still not caught up with the nudist movement.
For the whole family:
Movie theatres in
Germany and Australia played Liane,
Jungle Goddess (1956) as a children's matinee. In the
United States, it was labeled adults only. As a curious teenager,
I would have appreciated that movie when it came out, but of course I
never heard of it until decades later. It was dubbed into English
The 15-year-old German actress and lots of young
African women live authentically topfree. But no one ever removes
a skimpy loincloth—even for swimming. We see a few nude
children from the back. Disappointingly, much of the movie has
the heroine clothed in Germany, but she returns to the freedom of
Africa at the end.
It's the typical story of a white baby orphaned in
Africa, and raised by a tribe who think her white skin and blond hair
are something special. In the movies, such a person always grows
up as the acknowldged tribal leader. And in film, such a person
usually has a wealthy grandfather eager to meet the missing person.
With the movie's financial success, its German
producers the next year threw together a sequel known in English as Jungle Girl and the Slaver.
By then, the actress was looking more like a woman than a girl, so they
went for a burlesque look, with lots of desert scenes, writhing dances,
and seashells glued over her nipples. Ouch! Though native
women still go bare-breasted, the entire tribe—men and
women—have suddenly switched to wearing shorts instead of
loincloths. A handsome young German even showers in his
underwear. A portfolio film called Liane, die Tochter des Dschungels
(1961) combines some scenes from both movies. Don't waste your
time on either of these.
For teens and older:
Sheena (1984) was based on a comic
book series that started in 1937. In 1956, there was a
black-and-white television series (without nudity, of course).
Another late-night TV series followed in 2000-2002—with an
occasional flash of flesh.
In the movie, we again have a young blond woman
swinging through the trees, the leader of a whole tribe. Though
she wears slightly more clothes than Liane, they are clothes designed
to look sexy—as though half ripped off. Teenage girls will
admire her command of any situation. Teenage boys (and their
fathers) will admire her beauty.
Twice we see the heroine nude for bathing.
Twice we see bare-breasted dancers. And twice we see a nude
man—though only from a long distance. They used three
actresses to play the heroine as she grew—but they skipped the
Unlike the canned wildlife footage of Liane (which includes a South
American toucan), Sheena was
filmed entirely on location in Kenya. Still, this is definitely a
grade-B movie with a bunch of bad guys, and lots of things going up in
flames. The zebra the heroine rides is actually a painted
horse. Horses whinny; zebras bark—and this "zebra" clearly
whinnies on a couple of occasions. But oh, it's such good fun.
Movie critics hate this production.
Generations of young and old viewers love it.
Both discs come with sensational cover art and
slogans, but are clean in content. These two movies about young
jungle women are every bit as entertaining as all the Tarzan films.
Art Films, Artists and Models (Jan. 2017)
This time, we look at different approaches to
art. An art film is a series of images arranged to make people
think. We also consider movies about painters and their nude
For the whole family:
Baraka (1998) has nothing to do
with Barak Obama, and should not be confused with another movie called Boys of Baraka. The word
comes from Sufi mysticism, and means the flow of blessings from God to
humans. This is not a traditional movie with actors, plot, or
even a narrative. Rather, it is an experience the whole family
In this film, we see a wordless travelogue through
24 countries—a montage of images from the spectrum of the natural
world and human activity (including a bit of tribal nudity).
Adults can connect the juxtaposed images, but will probably need to
explain to small children the transition from Jewish worshipers to
Islamic whirling dervishes, or the comparison of subway commuters to
baby chickens being produced on an assembly line.
If you're looking for an action-packed movie, this
isn't it. If you're open to a moving experience, you've come to
the right place. Just sit back and take it all in.
For teens and older:
Lots of movies have been made about artists and
their sometimes nude models. Here are a couple that will
especially appeal to teenagers:
Art School Confidential (2006)
begins as an exposé of the shallow types of people one can find
in an art school (or any school, for that matter). We see male
and female models posing nude for the drawing class. There are
also several instances of crude language. Don't let the cover art
mislead you; this is no cartoon.
Our 18-year-old hero can't seem to do anything
right. Finally, in desperation, he tries to pass off the work of
another artist as his own. That bit of plagiarism lands him in
far deeper trouble than he ever imagined, and he finds himself in jail
as a murder suspect.
But in jail, he finally finds the peace to paint the
girl of his dreams—and the celebrity that causes others to take
his art seriously. The movie is full of irony.
Much earlier, Norman
Lindsay was an Australian artist who filled his canvases with lots of
female nudes. In 1935, he also wrote a partly autobiographical
novel called Age of Consent,
about a middle-aged artist and the half-wild 17-year-old girl who
models for him, bringing him fresh inspiration. (In real life, he
was still in his mid-twenties when they met; she took over as his
business manager, and years later became his second wife.)
In 1969, the book was made into a movie starring
Helen Mirren in her first nude role. (Be careful; other movies
before and since have used this same title.) They tried to update
the film; it's a bit jarring to see Norman Lindsay painting in an
abstract style that was the latest thing in 1969. Once the action
moves to a sparsely populated island, everything is much more
The artist treats his model very
professionally. But, having been raised by an abusive
grandmother, the girl is looking for a little bit of affection.
This delightful movie was a big hit in
Australia. Yet for distribution to British and American theatres,
the producers censored out most of the nude scenes. They have
been restored in the disc version.
I should also mention that in Sirens (1993), a young Anglican
priest and his wife visit the same Norman Lindsay's studio, where nude
models cavort freely. This is a few years into the second
marriage, when the girl we met before has matured into a businesslike
wife (with different color hair). Instead, action centers on the
minister's cold wife gradually losing her rigidity and growing more
compassionate. This is a sensuous story of love in marriage that
probably interests adults more than teenagers.
From their different perspectives, these fine films
each explore the importance of the nude in art—a subject that
never stops fascinating.
Home Sweet Home (Feb. 2017)
Home can be an island of personal freedom.
Home is a place where you don't have to let ugliness in. Home is
usually a place you can come back to. Let us look at three movies
from three countries, about the meaning of home and home towns.
For the whole family:
What is a nudist family to do
when they loose their privacy? Home
(2008) takes us inside such a family in Switzerland. With two
teenage daughters and a younger son, they live in an isolated house
next to a long-unfinished freeway. While they stay clothed most
of the time, it is refreshing to see ordinary household nudity at bath
time and laundry time. They have a lot of fun splashing water.
This delightful world comes crashing down when the
highway suddenly opens. The defiant older daughter continues to
sunbathe discretely in the yard. The rest of the family pull
together to protect the fragile mother, who does not want to leave the
place where she has found happiness. They try to wall themselves
off from the outside world—to the point that they almost
suffocate. They are not even aware that they have also walled out
the oldest daughter.
Aside from a brief lapse into frustrated domestic
violence and too much smoking, there is nothing in this film that small
children could not watch. But the decreasing happiness may not
appeal to them. The movie is in French with English subtitles
that may go by too fast for slow readers.
Finding a copy can be a bit challenging.
Because search engines have trouble isolating a single-word title, you
may need to add the name of the lead actress: Isabelle Huppert.
But how many other movies are there about nudist families? This
one is worth the hunt.
For teens and older:
For contrast, let us
look at a movie about homeless people. Greenhouse Effect (2005) is not
about the environment, but a 13-year-old Russian street boy who sleeps
in a warm greenhouse and showers at a car wash. With hard work
(and some sneakiness), he has managed rather well. Then he meets
an 18-year-old pregnant girl suddenly thrown on the streets. He
takes her in and tries to help.
We see each of them showering separately.
Mostly, this is a movie about kindly people who help out in small ways.
The movie is in Russian—including the buttons
to find the English subtitles (which don't appear until after the
militaristic previews). Fortunately, my disc came with a sheet of
easy English instructions.
Unlike the other two
movies, the American Doc Hollywood
(1991) has no teenagers in it. Yet the leading
characters—all in their twenties—are still grappling with a
concern of most young people: whether to shake off the dust of their
home town and venture out into the larger world. In this case,
it's a small friendly southern town where everybody knows everybody
else's business. Some of the minor characters are full of
When the heroine steps out of the water after her
skinny-dip, and finds the young doctor staring at her, she calmly
informs him that she doesn't have anything he hasn't seen before.
(Actually, the cameras stay above the waist.) After she has
pulled on some clothes, she tells him he can blink now.
The young doctor believes he has escaped his
small-town roots and is headed for a well-paid career as a plastic
surgeon in Hollywood. But when he finally gets there, he sees
what the place has done to another man from his same home town.
He needs to rethink. This is a warm movie about the value of
caring friends and of love.
Home is where you make it. Home is what you
make it. These three movies help us appreciate the many values of
Good Irish Movies (with some
Our movies this time are largely Irish, and all
include the occasional nudity of boys.
For the whole family:
French author Louis
Pergaud wrote The War of the
Buttons, a Novel of My Twelfth Year in 1912, to point out the
childish stupidity of war. He died in World War I. In his
book, boys from neighboring villages fight, and cut the buttons off the
losers' clothes. Then one group cleverly go into battle naked, so
they have nothing to lose. The book has been made into a movie
five times. The 1936 French film is not available today.
The popular 1962 movie (directed by Yves Robert)
contained a lot of social bite. Never translated into English,
this early version can be watched in French on the Internet. We
see the nude boys from the back or at a great distance. Only the
youngest boy runs toward the camera, but he cups his genitals with his
hand, as though ashamed. When the movie played in Japan, posters
featured him. German posters clearly showed cartoon
penises. When was the last time you saw movie posters like these?
Director John Roberts moved the 1994 version to
Ireland, where everyone speaks English. He left out the bad
behavior of adults and added a helicopter rescue, but otherwise
faithfully followed the same plot. His boys are a little older,
some with deep voices, and we see a little more nudity—but still
nothing distinctly frontal. The girls, however, do see, and check
out the older boys approvingly. (One French juvenile book
illustration also shows the boys about 14, instead of 11, as written.)
The best moments of this Irish movie occur when the
opposing gang leaders gradually learn to respect each other.
Then came two rival French versions in
2011—released within a week of each other. Both
disappoint. Don't waste your time on The New War of the Buttons
(directed by Christophe Barratier), where the boys charge in
undershirts and underpants. And though Yann Samuel's War of the Buttons claims the boys
are nude, they run through a wheat field, so we never see them below
the waist. Directors in the twenty-first century are losing their
nerve. For English-speaking viewers, the 1994 Irish version
remains the best.
For teens and older:
Angela's Ashes is a sad film about
growing up poor in an Irish city, where it constantly rains. Yet
the few moments of joy all seem to involve nudity. We see boys'
backsides on four occasions, and girls' breasts once.
A Protestant man is married to a Catholic woman, who
is bringing the children up Catholic. Young people need to be
aware of the long bitter religious history before watching this.
Though the title comes from the mother's hopes all turning to ashes, we
follow the difficulties in the life of the oldest son. Three
actors play him at various ages.
It's a long but gripping movie. And it follows
an actual autobiography. Real people went through real
suffering. If you find the story too gray and depressing, cheer
yourself up by watching War of the
Or you might try
another autobiographical movie (made the same year) about growing up
rich in Scotland. My Life So
Far is about a ten-year-old boy in an eccentric family. In
his grandfather's old books, he is stumbling onto fragments of sex
education that he does not yet understand—and, in his innocence,
the boy blurts out some things inappropriate for younger ears.
The two skinny-dip scenes seem too short, yet the humor throughout
At some other date, we will discuss The Secret of Roan Inish. But
for now, these movies offer a wide enough variety to mark Saint
Adam and Eve (April 2017)
Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden: It is an ideal
to which jungle tribes and nudists come closer than anyone else.
Let us look at two movie versions of the Bible story:
For the whole family:
The Creation (1988) is a 28-minute
cartoon about three kids traveling back to the beginning of time.
Be aware that the Bible gives us two creation stories. Scholars
believe that the Bible originally began with Genesis, chapter 2, verse
4, the famous Adam and Eve tale. But from the beginning, many
people did not like that version—especially women and people who
believe things should happen in a logical sequence. And so the
more scientific chapter 1 was added on at an early date. The
cartoon ignores that, and retells Genesis, chapters 2 and 3.
The movie does allow for some scientific
understanding when it shows the earth being formed by volcanic action
and the moving of tectonic plates—but not when God creates plants
before the sun. (Genesis 1 corrected that, and also the notion
that woman came as an afterthought.) Both Bible versions missed
the dinosaur age—and so some literalists claim that dinosaurs
never existed. To remedy that, the movie-makers threw in a
dinosaur with all the fuzzy mammals (which scientists tell us appeared
long after the giant reptiles went extinct.) There are lots of
other unbelievable movies about humans battling dinosaurs, so this one
has plenty of company.
We see Adam from the back, the side, or from the
waist up. Though we glimpse hints of Eve's breasts, her long hair
always covers both nipples and her vagina. We wouldn't want to
shock the children into thinking that their ancestors had the same
equipment they have. This cartoon would pass muster with most
fundamentalists, yet is informative for children of any religious
It comes from a series of a dozen mostly Old
Testament cartoons called The
Greatest Adventure: Stories from the Bible (which includes a
fully clothed David fighting Goliath).
For teens and older:
The Annunciation (1984) is a
strange yet thought-provoking movie based on the story of Adam and
Eve. Like in a Sunday-school pageant, the actors are all children
aged 8 to 12. They represent a time when the whole world was
young. They speak their lines in a deadpan way (in Hungarian,
with English subtitles).
The plot follows a nineteenth-century play, The Tragedy of Man, by Imre
Madach. After they have left the garden, young Adam demands that
young Lucifer keep his promise of the knowledge of good and evil.
It is a knowledge of the human foibles their descendants will commit
down through history. Lucifer leads Adam in a dream sequence
through democracy run amok in ancient Athens, religion getting in the
way of love in medieval Byzantium, persecution of scientists and
Protestants and witches in Renaissance Prague, the bloodshed and
betrayals of the French revolution, and life in the slums of Dickens'
London. Foibles indeed. Adam asks, when will an individual
break out of these repetitious circles, and ascend to something better?
This is not an easy movie to watch; it requires some
concentration. And you still may not catch all of the historic
references. The movie quotes, for instance, lines by Shakespeare,
William Blake and Emily Dickinson. Small children would get bored
with this intellectual activity. On the other hand, prudes might
feel alarm at naked children playing harmless adult
roles—including words of affection that hold any family together.
Young Adam and Eve are nude at the beginning of the
film, and still sleep nude at the end—though we see them mostly
above the waist. There is nothing remarkable about Adam, but the
few nude girls in movies are usually younger or older than this
Eve. To see a nude girl in the early stages of breast development
is most rare. Yet this is not an occasion for looking, but for
learning. This girl is all girls; this boy is all boys.
Though occasionally reissued, the disc of this
unusual movie is hard to find, and expensive. The entire thing
can be viewed on the Internet; just make sure you get one with English
subtitles. Since there are other movies with the same name, you
may need to add the Hungarian title: Angyali
We have not exhausted the subject of Adam and Eve in
the movies, so will take it up again some other time.
Freedom from Religion (May 2017)
Last month, we looked at Bible stories; now we give
equal time to the other side. We have all run into people who
think of religion and nudity as opposites. Of course, nudists of
faith know better. Yet the notion persists. Today we
examine movies about young non-believers who happen to enjoy a bit of
skinny-dipping. Most are teenage girls.
For the whole family:
We are well into
the twenty-first century, yet it is hard to find an American movie made
since 2000 where teenagers are nude for any reason other than
sex. Some Things That Stay
(2004) is a refreshing exception.
Interestingly, the family are atheists, resisting
the pressures of their Baptist neighbors. (The religious girl
uses bad language.) The title comes from the fact that the family
moves around a lot, and the oldest girl wants to put down roots
The box of my disc specifically states: "Not
recommended for small children." I suppose that is because the
children of two families go skinny-dipping (though we see little more
than their upper backs). A menstrual period is vaguely mentioned,
but that will pass right over the head of anyone too young to
The family learns to cope with sadness: the mother's
long illness, and the recent death of their landlords' son. But
love holds them all together. This movie has depth.
For teens and older:
It should not be surprising that religious
skepticism appears more often in movies appropriate for teens. We
have choices from several countries.
The Other Side of Sunday (1996)
follows the daughter of a strict Lutheran minister in Norway. As
she approaches her confirmation into church membership, she has a lot
of religious doubts. And she wonders what teen pleasures she has
been missing. She befriends a young widow in the church, who
encourages her to loosen up a bit. This is a spiritual journey,
and skinny-dipping forms a natural part of that discovery.
The story is set in the 1950s. The characters
speak Norwegian—with blue English subtitles. As a portrayal
of a religion that forgot about joy, this is a daring movie.
Love Like Poison (2010) gives us a
French girl having doubts about her confirmation into the Catholic
church. The young priest is an understanding friend of the
family. She is at the awkward age of 14: an innocent heart in a
woman's body. Her mother wisely advises her that beauty comes
from carrying her body with pride. The girl does bare her breasts
a couple of times.
She cares for her ailing and earthy grandfather,
while missing her absent father. A boy has a crush on her, but
his voice has not yet deepened. We see each of the characters
going through changes.
The film is directed by a woman young enough to
still remember her teen feelings. Not a lot happens; this is
mostly a mood piece—but a good one. The movie is in French,
with English subtitles. The DVD works only on a region-free
player or an older computer.
The Fool Killer (1965) is a
black-and-white classic, set in the American south after the Civil
War. A 12-year-old runaway boy befriends several interesting
characters, including a shell-shocked ex-soldier. Unlike the
girls in the other movies, this boy is gullible. He falls for the
legend of the fool-killer. (O. Henry, Stephen Vincent Benet, and
especially George Ade all wrote stories about this personage with the
responsibility of thinning out the pompous and the hypocrites.)
The boy also falls under the spell of a revivalist
preacher. When the self-righteous minister is murdered, the boy
concludes that the fool-killer did it, and he suspects that his
skeptical friend may actually be the fool-killer. We never do
The skinny-dip scene is brief, but that is where the
young veteran explains his deepest philosophy. This rare film is
available only on tape or the Internet.
All four of these movies introduce us to good people
who hold out for rationality over belief. Yet skinny-dipping
keeps an important place in each of their lives.
Learning About Columbus (June 2017)
Today, we look at a couple of documentary films
about uncommon schools—plus a historical drama. All three
owe much to Christopher Columbus.
For the whole family:
Western Lights: In the Wake of Christopher
Columbus (1990) was a French television documentary about ten
boys and their teachers whose floating classroom retraced one of the
voyages of Columbus. The series ran fifteen hours over as many
weeks. The home movie version has been edited down to just two
hours. It is refreshing to see a television program that includes
a few short scenes of boys nude for bathing, diving, or sleeping
(though thy edited out anything frontal). The boys range in age
from 10 to 15.
The movie is certainly safe enough for the whole
family, but young children may get bored. They also have to be
old enough to read the English subtitles, which go by rather quickly
and include a couple of swear words.
The boat is a floating schoolhouse—education
at its best. We see the boys learning hands-on geography,
archaeology, biology, history—as well as practical skills like
sailing, woodworking, baking, and filming a television documentary.
For teens and older:
Two years later,
several movies celebrated the 500th anniversary of Columbus' first
voyage. Christopher Columbus:
the Discovery did it best. Teenagers will appreciate the
hero's mild flirtation with queen Isabella. Near the end, we see
native American women authentically bare-breasted. Less
authentically, they all seem to be about age 20.
We tend to forget that Ferdinand and Isabella
expelled the highly cultured Muslims and Jews from Spain the same year
Columbus sailed. That forms an important subplot in the movie.
Yet absolutely no one believed the world was
flat. Washington Irving invented that story in the early
nineteenth century. Ancient Greeks had figured out the curvature
and circumference of the earth, and scholars knew those
calculations. Columbus got hold of some faulty figures (where the
man had forgotten to multiply by pi), and thought the world was only
one-third its actual size—and therefore, he could sail to India
in a couple of weeks. No wonder no one believed him. When
Columbus finally reached America, he was lost, and never did figure it
Another inaccuracy: The movie shows Columbus
demonstrating how to stand an egg on end. Actually, that was the
architect, Brunelleschi, who built the dome of the Florence cathedral
70 years earlier.
But back to education.
One of the Spanish traditions transported to the new world was
bullfighting. Some people think bullfighting is immoral.
Some people think nudity is immoral. What happens when the two
are combined? Something beautiful, if the movie is Tu Solo (1984).
It's called a docu-drama. That means there's
not much plot. Mostly, the cameras follow a couple of teenage
boys at a bullfighting school. There are no actors—just the
young students going about their daily learning and practice in the
One of the boys reads about a famous matador who
once faced a bull nude. So six of them sneak out at night to try
the same by moonlight. Those five minutes make a graceful ballet
of man and nature—well worth sitting through the whole film.
This movie is in Spanish, with English
subtitles. The title means "on your own"—the reality of
matadors in the bullring. We see the boys growing into that
confidence and skill.
Aside from a few bulls dying, there is nothing here
that small children could not watch. But I suspect most would get
bored and wander away. Teenagers will find much more to interest
Award Films International has reissued this and Western Lights. There don't
seem to be used copies around of either one; you will have to pay full
price for both.
By the way, Summerhill
School in England led the way in alternative education. But the
documentary, Summerhill at 70
disappoints with its too-brief nudity, daily trivialities, crude
language and some weapons. That rare documentary is available on
the Internet for free. Don't spend money on it. Instead,
enjoy these other three movies.
Loose Lips Sink Ships (July 2017)
Loose lips sink ships: That was a U.S. slogan during
World War II. The Germans had their own less poetic version, that
translates as "Shame on you, blabbermouth." We won't look at any
ships this time, but loose lips aplenty. We see the
misunderstandings that loose or deceptive talk can cause at any time.
For Little Kids:
Normally, I would label this section "For the Whole
Family." But I doubt that many people over the age of 10 would
find much of interest in these cartoons.
If ever a
children's story called for nudity, it is "The Emperor's New
Clothes." The tale had been around since medieval times.
Hans Christian Andersen added the detail of an innocent child being the
first to see through everybody's pretensions.
The one movie with live actors avoids anything
nude. Several cartoon versions have been made, but so far as I
know, only two of them actually show rear nudity. None show
Michael Sporn's variation on the tale has almost
everyone in medieval costume and speaking in rhyme. It is paired
with another Andersen story on a disc called The Emperor's New Clothes and Nightingale
(1991). The special features include an interesting look at
cartoon-making from an adult perspective.
Nadine Westcott's shorter version of 1989 sticks
closer to the traditional story, and even has the emperor continuing to
parade proudly after he knows he is nude. Scholastic has put this
on more than one disc, including The
Emperor's New Clothes and More Hans Christian Anderson Fairy Tales
(2005), as well as The Hans
Christian Andersen Collection (2005).
A funnier third version by Gareth Williams, The Emperor's New Clothes (2006)
deserves honorable mention, though his cartoon only shows the fat
emperor in silly frilly underpants. But the spoken message is
body-positive. The prime minister explains, "The human body is a
beautiful creation, and nothing to be ashamed of—even
yours." Reader's Digest
has produced this one on a disc with simple learning exercises.
Book illustrators have been equally squeamish.
And so it is refreshing to see Lidia Postma's award-winning 1975 cover
design of the Dutch version of Andersen's tales. By the way, the
late INF president Bart Wijnberg wrote a whole article on book
illustrations for "The Emperor's New Clothes" in the Canadian journal, Going Natural, 28.3 (Fall
2013). pp. 16-19.
For teens and older:
The Crucible (1996) is about the
false accusations by teenage girls during the Salem witch trials.
Arthur Miller wrote the play while America was going through a similar
wave of hysteria during the McCarthy hearings of the early 1950s.
But this time, people were being accused, on equally flimsy evidence,
of being Communists.
A crucible is a place where metals or ideas get
tested by severe fires, and melted down to their essence. The
action in this historical drama focuses on one man trying to hold onto
the truth and his own self-respect while the whole world around him is
The movie begins with some girls dancing in the
woods around a love potion. One girl strips naked.
(Surprisingly, the earlier French version of 1957 skipped that
part.) The nudity in the American version is so brief that this
movie is commonly shown to high school classes after they have studied
And study it they should. There is no evidence
that we have seen the last of mass hysteria, or foolish decisions by
the majority. When talk becomes cheap and hurtful and deceptive,
who will speak truth? Who shall have the courage to say that the
emperor has no clothes?
Some American Indian Curiosities (Aug. 2017)
This time, we look at unusual but delightful films
about native Americans.
For the whole family:
There is a
curious little black-and-white grade-B Western called Revenge of the Virgins
(1959). It purports to portray the last of a California Indian
tribe whose men have all been killed off. The remaining women are
quite accurately shown bare-breasted, for California natives wore
little or nothing. They try to protect their territory from
greedy prospectors. So far, so good.
But the prancing maidens (all young and beautiful),
their blond leader, and their dancing are laughably phony. Still,
the semi-nudity is innocent enough that the whole family could watch
(if you don't mind bad guys getting an arrow in the back every few
minutes). Kids don't even need to know what a virgin is.
As part of the general sloppiness, the guide
identifies the women as Apaches—a large tribe that dressed in
heavy leather outfits and never lived in California. Pack donkeys
disappear and reappear without explanation, and the narrator continues
with the narration after he is killed off. Definitely grade-B.
Be aware that back in the fifties, any movie with
nude or semi-nude individuals (including nudists) was called an
exploitation film, because it exploited a niche market—not
because the actors were mistreated. Yet the movie does begin with
racial stereotypes about "primitive" people.
The movie lasts only an hour. The trouble with
short films is that they frequently get paired with less desirable
things. The most available pairing of this one is with another
nudie-cutie film about native Americans that is better, but too sexy
for young children. (And the sensational cover art is totally
misleading.) Yet since the producers failed to even copyright
this cheap production, Revenge of
the Virgins is available by itself as a free download on the
For teens and older:
If you want to see
another western shoot-'em-up with an American Indian woman
skinny-dipping, Mackenna's Gold
(1969) contains such a scene.
for much greater fun, let us look to Brazil and How Tasty Was My Little Frenchman
(1971). It tells the story of Hans Staden, an early German
adventurer captured by naked Brazilian cannibals. He tried to
convince them he was one of their allies, the French. Staden
eventually returned to Germany, where he published his adventures with
lots of illustrations. He wrote:
"They go naked, without any covering; neither do
they pay more attention to exposing or concealing their shame than they
do to showing their faces, and in this respect they were very
innocent." Though he went nude for nine months, Staden never grew
into an early German naturist.
Smallpox wiped out the Tupinamba tribe soon
afterward. No one else ever reported meeting cannibals in South
America. Were they the only ones, or did their diet make them
especially vulnerable to the spread of human disease? More likely
There's lots of irony from the beginning of this
film, as we watch the brutality of European settlers, while hearing
their self-righteous reports. The male and female natives are
authentically nude. But the lead actor is
circumcised—something that only Jews and Muslims did before the
The casting is unrealistic, with all of the naked
women in their twenties. We see no old people or children in this
tribe. (No wonder they went extinct.)
The out-of-print disc has become prohibitively
expensive, though a few copies of the older tape version can still be
found. The movie is now available for viewing on the Internet.
A generation later, in
1999, the director's son tried his own version of the same adventure,
called Hans Staden—There He
Comes, Our Food Jumping. I have never found this as a home
video, but was able to download it from YouTube. The son tried to
be more historically accurate, so he took out the love story, had the
hero speak German, and had him rescued. There's still lots of
tribal nudity, but the witty humor is gone. We do see tribal
elders and only three children, yet most of the women appear young and
shapely. Worst of all, the lead actor is again circumcised.
Both subtitled versions are worth watching, but the original remains
Note for adult readers: Birdwatchers (2008) is a
beautifully filmed movie about the Guarani tribe in modern
Brazil. But one of its themes is teen suicide, so I do not
recommend it for teen viewing. It begins with nearly naked
Indians collecting their money for amazing the tourists, then huddling
back into their shabby clothes. The tribe confront a farmer about
taking back their land, yet love breaks out across all sorts of racial
and age divisions, complicating the situation. The movie is in
Italian with English subtitles, viewable only on a multi-region player
or a computer with free VLC Media Player.
The other three movies contain plenty of genuine
tribal nudity, offer some food for thought, and are great fun to watch.
Princes and Princesses (Sept. 2017)
This time, we examine four movies about princes,
princesses, and mistaken royalty.
For the whole family:
Romance with a Double Bass (1974)
is a delightful 40-minute film based on a short story by Chekhov, and
is set during his time in the late nineteenth century. A fairy
tale princess and a bumbling musician meet while skinny-dipping.
As frequently happens in the movies, someone steals their
clothes. Fortunately, he plays the double bass rather than the
piccolo, so she can crawl inside the case and be smuggled back into the
That's where Chekhov ended the original story.
The movie greatly improves on it by adding a lot of palace intrigue and
a fine ending.
The cameramen seemed more than willing to film
female nudity, but avoided any frontal male shots. There are no
children in this movie, yet it's good clean fun that the whole family
can watch together.
For teens and older:
Lady Jane (1986) is a fairly
faithful biography of Lady Jane Grey, the teenager who became queen of
England for a brief nine days in 1553. Powerful relatives forced
the studious girl into marriage with a worthless young nobleman.
To everyone's surprise, the couple found love and purpose in each
other. (At least that's the movie version.)
We see them together in a couple of discreet nude
and semi-nude scenes. That helps to personalize their small parts
in the sweep of larger historical events. It also reassures us
that the heroine was normal, despite the flat-chested fashion of
English court dresses. The grandeur of Renaissance costuming,
music, and dance greatly enrich this film.
But by no means, should this movie be confused with
a recent short piece of religious propaganda called The Forgotten Martyr: Lady Jane Grey.
Most of the action occurs during the brief reign of
King Edward VI. The same is true of The Prince and the Pauper (1977,
also known as Crossed Swords)—an
even better movie for the whole family, but without nudity. Lady
Jane Grey also appears in that film.
The Student Prince (1998) is a
British movie that should not be confused with the earlier American
musical of the same name. When the movie played on Masterpiece
Theatre, they called it Prince of
Hearts. To appreciate its depth, you must first watch Cyrano de Bergerac (1990), which is
another fine movie, but without nudity. (It shows up as a
play-within-the-play, but that is not enough; you must understand the
earlier plot well before then.)
When a fictitious fourth son of Queen Elizabeth II
goes to Cambridge, a young bodyguard is assigned to share his
room. The uneducated guardian turns out to be much smarter than
the prince. We see him jump out of bed nude, and later the two of
them and an American girl go skinny-dipping in the pool. It's a
The royalty is only
imaginary in King of Hearts
(1966). During World War I, an abandoned French town is taken
over by the inmates of the lunatic asylum. (Such stories go back
as far as Pierre Cardenal in medieval times.) They manage rather
well, and have fun doing it. That is, until the soldiers show up
and start killing each other. People suddenly realize that war is
the ultimate insanity, and obedient soldiers act more stupid and
dangerous than the gentle lunatics. They rush back into the
safety of the asylum, discarding those items of clothing that briefly
marked their worldly positions.
The inept hero is mistaken for the long-awaited King
of Hearts. At the end, he discards his entire uniform, arriving
naked at the gate of the asylum—the nudity his sure ticket to
This film alternates between French, English, and
German languages, but has been released several times with the English
subtitles varying from minimal (as in my copy) to overdone. Make
no mistake about it; this is a delightful anti-war movie, in the
tradition of The Mouse that Roared.
So popular was it, that one theatre held it over for five
years—playing it through most of the Vietnam War.
Each of these four films about royalty have
something to teach us, and are fun to watch.
Movies for Halloween (Oct. 2017)
This time, we have three movies to watch for
Halloween. All include nudity, but none of them are scary.
They won't give you nightmares.
For the whole family:
Soup and Me (1978) was a 23-minute
children's television episode in the ABC Weekend Special series.
Among other funny Halloween events, two mischievous boys go
skinny-dipping. As frequently happens in the movies, a girl comes
by. But instead of stealing their clothes, she throws them in the
water where the boys can't find them. Because this is television,
we only see bare backsides through tall grass.
The plot follows one of a series of 14 humorous
children's books written by Robert Newton Peck about growing up in
1930s Vermont. (The movie version updates the cars and such to
the 1950s.) But the producers spent some money getting a talented
and funny character actress to play the dignified mail lady. She
gives the film class.
The program was never issued as a home movie, but is
frequently rerun, and can sometimes be viewed or downloaded from the
Internet. There, you may also find a shorter film of the same
name featuring two girls acting out a different episode before an
audience. That's not it. Soup
for President (1978) does continue these same boys'
misadventures, though the sequel includes no nudity.
For teens and older:
Weird Science (1985) is another
high-school-nerd-gets-the-girl film. This time, there's a
pathetic pair of them. An old Frankenstein movie gives them an
idea, so they hack their way into powerful computers to create a
23-year-old super woman. She quickly sizes up the situation, and
sets about putting them through their wildest fantasies, but also some
challenges that will give them enough backbone to interest girls their
This does not happen on Halloween, but we see plenty
of electrical charges and spooky happenings. Unfortunately, the
tough guys fit into worst-nightmare stereotypes, including
racial. There is a bit of crude teen language, and also a lot of
house-wrecking—which gets undone when the clock is turned back.
The two nude scenes are brief, non-sexual, and not
very revealing. Yet one of them is pretty funny when an obnoxious
naked man hands his towel to his skimpily clad brother and tells him to
cover up. There is some wishful talk about sex, but in these
boys' lives, nothing actually happens. They even shower in their
bluejeans. It's mostly good clean fun.
something more questionable: Two of the three Porky's movies
deserve their bad reputation for focusing on a sleazy strip club.
But the producers disappointed their fans by failing to deliver the
expected raunchiness in Porky's II:
The Next Day (1983). They tried though. Opening
credits show a few scenes from the first movie. Then you have to
sit through half-an-hour of juvenile sex jokes (typically all big talk)
before you get to the good part: the minister and high school principal
outquoting each other with eyebrow-raising lines from Shakespeare and
the Bible. It is an absolutely classic scene, reminiscent of
William Jennings Bryan and Clarence Darrow at the famous "monkey"
trial, and worth the wait.
This film is mostly a disconnected series of gags,
including a snake-in-the-toilet scene and a silly haunted cemetery
episode (with nudity). Then the movie begins to take on serious
challenges. The young rednecks surprise everyone by making a
stand for Shakespeare and racial justice. (The Ku Klux Klan
objects to a Seminole Indian student playing Romeo to a white
Juliette.) By the time they are done, our high school heroes have
the whole Klan stripped naked and exposed. Weasely politicians
get their comeuppance too. Yes, there are bad parts to this
movie, but I think the good parts outweigh them; everyone may not agree.
Incidentally, the final scene happens in a fancy
Miami restaurant with indoor pool. South Florida Free Beaches
once had that section screened off for skinny-dipping during a banquet
after a major symposium on non-sexual nudity. I was there.
And so we have a very wide range of choices for
Halloween viewing. Take your pick.
Star-Crossed Lovers (Nov. 2017)
Romeo and Juliet were not the only young people from
enemy families to fall in love. Today, we look at two magnificent
movies (plus a funny little film) from other European countries.
For the whole family:
Ronja Rövardotter (1984) has
to be one of the great family movies of all time. It relates a
Swedish tale about medieval robber-barons who live in a world of gnomes
and harpies. The two young heroes were born on the same night
that lightning split the castle in half. The kids happen to meet
at age 11, and form a brother-sister friendship that carries them
through many adventures over the next two years.
The plot faithfully follows Astrid Lindgren's
popular children's book, widely available as Ronia, the Robber's Daughter.
The movie has been translated into 39 languages—three times with
English subtitles. The first time, they changed all the
names. The newly released third version has disappointed
everybody but prudes, by censoring out all of the nude scenes.
You want the rare second English subtitled version, available only at
cvmc.net ($10 to rent, $30 to buy). Don't just rely on the
picture; other regions, other lengths, and other languages all use the
same cover art.
Be warned that the young heroine has a hot temper,
and frequently uses unladylike language. (The book translator
cleaned it up; the movie translator did not.) Hers is the
strongest personality in their world.
She comes by it naturally. Her mother, at one
point, throws all of the men out of the castle to bathe in the
snow. Lots of shrunken male frontal nudity there. In the
book, rival robber chiefs wrestle for supremacy, wearing nothing but
their shirts; they don't strip down in the movie. In both
formats, the two kids enjoy frequent skinny-dipping. (Don't waste
your time on the Japanese cartoon version, where the heroine swims in a
gown and the boy wears shorts.)
The mostly-male choral singing is magnificent.
The movie begins with childbirth, and contains the death of an old
man. The tale ends happily while the heroes are still children.
The movie was later made into a 6-part television
series, which they stretched out with 18 minutes of rejected footage
not included in the movie. Reportedly, there was no difference of
skinny-dipping time, while the snow-bathing scene actually lasted
longer in the short version.
There is no such thing as a used copy available,
because no one ever gets rid of this movie. It's that good.
For teens and older:
Shadows of Forgotten Ancestors
(1965) tells an old Ukranian story about children of rival families who
fall in love. Their childhood play includes long and glorious
skinny-dips. But before they can marry, she dies, and his life
Though he eventually does marry, his mind remains on
his first sweetheart. To win his affection, his wife resorts to a
nude witchcraft ritual—but then she falls under a sorcerer's
spell and grows unfaithful.
You may not understand everything the first time
through, but you know you have experienced something powerful.
The plot is rich in ritual—mostly of the Eastern Orthodox
religion. Innovative camera angles make the film visually
stunning—along with sonorous blasts of music from the trembitas,
smaller Ukranian versions of the alpenhorns.
Everyone speaks Ukranian, with easy-to-read English
subtitles. (The Soviet Union banned this movie—not just for
the religious emphasis—but especially because the patriotic
director refused to put it in Russian.)
This film has also been distributed under the less
appropriate name, Wild Horses of Fire.
On a much lesser
scale, the Belgian Jambon d'Ardenne
(1977) is also known as Ham and Chips.
Everyone speaks French, with English subtitles.
Two mothers are waging war. One owns a chaotic
but successful restaurant; the other runs a little French-fry trailer
across the street. (The subtitles use the British term,
chips.) If you like messy food fights, this is your movie.
Their 14-year-old children are far more interested
in each other than in their mothers' businesses. There is a
charming scene of the nude boy and girl chasing each other through the
fields after a skinny-dip. (In Europe, the DVD was sold with a
montage of the nude chase on the back of the case.)
Not a whole lot more happens. That's why
everyone was surprised when this delightful little film became a box
office success. Though sometimes scarce or overpriced, you can
find a reasonable copy at www.doktorfroyd.com.
We cannot be reminded too many times that young
people and love can break through old hatreds. These three movies
do it well.
Survival in the Wilderness (Dec. 2017)
One of these films has a Christmas connection; the
others do not. Three of the four are boys' coming-of-age stories.
For the whole family:
My Side of the Mountain (1969)
relates the adventures of a teenage boy who decides to live in the
wilderness. It was based on a book frequently studied in
schools. Film makers reduced his age from 15 to 13, and they
moved the story from Delhi, NY to Quebec. Most importantly, they
added a thoughtful dimension with the boy's knowledge of the writings
of Henry David Thoreau. This raises the story far above most
other kid adventure movies.
Among his accomplishments, the boy catches and
trains a peregrine falcon as a hunting hawk. The film people
seemed to think the plot needed several dramatic conflicts not in the
book. And they changed the ending: he admits defeat at
Christmastime and goes back home. In the book, he survives the
winter, and his understanding family come to join him so he can teach
the self-reliance he has learned to his younger brothers. I like
that original ending better.
The book briefly mentions that the boy took off all
of his clothes for daily bathing and swimming in the pond. The
movie keeps him below the surface, or at such a great distance that we
see very little. But it does establish that he swam nude.
For Teens and Older:
If you can't get
enough about survival in the Canadian wilderness, you could try the
less interesting A Cry in the Wild
(1990). It is based on a book called Hatchet. This boy is
supposedly also 13, but much less emotionally mature—all the more
noticeable because they used a 16-year-old actor for the part.
And he keeps flashing back to unresolved family problems back home.
He too skinny-dips at a great distance (then puts on
long-sleeved shirt and long pants for a close shot of more dangerous
swimming). Even with a plane crash and a bear attack for
excitement, this movie does not measure up to the others mentioned
here. And the sequel about white wolves contains no nudity.
Don't get confused by some horror movies with similar titles.
Captain Fantastic (2016) is a
surprisingly recent movie about a whole family of survivalists living
in the forests of the American northwest. Unlike most
survivalists in that part of the country, their politics are left-wing,
rather than right-wing. The parents are home-schooling their six
children, putting them through rugged mental and physical exercises.
About the only rule at their house is "clothes on
when we eat." It's a stupid rule, and the younger kids push its
boundaries. We see three brief instances of innocent
nudity—quite rare in 21st-century movies. That and a few
"f" words earned this film an R rating, but it is perfectly safe for
teenagers. The hunting scene and the mother's reported suicide
are too intense for small children.
The family's idealistic bubble gets burst when they
have to travel to the city for the mother's funeral. The children
are not prepared for fat people, junk food, or inane video games.
Disapproving relatives try to take the children away. The family
sticks together, but they do have to make some disappointing
compromises. This is a good movie about serious family concerns.
Surviving in the urban jungle can
indeed be more difficult than surviving in the wilderness. Kes (1969) is an English film about
a poor boy growing up in the city. Though 15, he is a late
maturer, so the other boys bully him. So do his older brother and
his teachers. Then he finds and trains a kestrel as a hunting
hawk—winning some respect. (By coincidence, this film was
released just two months before the similar episode in My Side of the
One scene happens in the boys' shower room, where we
get brief glimpses of mostly rear nudity. Though it includes a
classic funny soccer game, much of this movie is grim. Still, the
British Film Institute has named it one of the ten best British movies
of the 20th century.
Everyone talks too fast—especially in the
black-and-white tape version. This is not the queen's
English. I sure wish this British movie had English subtitles, so
I could understand more of the lower-class pronunciation. The
disc is in color, but can only be viewed on an international player or
your computer. My copy looks bootlegged, with the edges clipped
off (including some heads). Watching it is a bit of a struggle,
but worth the effort.
And so we have four films about survival, and man's
place in nature. All of them include some natural nudity.
Many libraries loan out the first three. If your library doesn't,
you can easily get them through Interlibrary Loan.
Moving Back and Forth in Time (Jan. 2018)
The beginning of a new year is a good time to think
about past and future. We look at three movies that do just that.
For the whole family:
In Now and Then (1995), three career
women and a housewife relive the summer when they were all 12 and best
friends. You may want to run the opening credits twice to sort
out who everybody is when young and older. Otherwise the movie
makes no sense. Little red-haired Chrissy is now a pregnant
housewife. Conveniently, Roberta, the black-haired rational
tomboy, is now a doctor. Blond Teeny returns home as a movie
star. And superstitious brown-haired Samantha is now a
writer. She narrates the movie.
As often happens in the movies, the boys skinny-dip,
and the girls steal their clothes. Yet when the girls jumped into
the water earlier, they kept ALL of their street clothes on—even
shoes. It's the old double standard.
In their unguarded moments, the girls occasionally
throw in a rough word or two. There is some talk about sex, but
it's mostly by twelve-year-old girls worried about breast size.
There's also a birth.
This is a movie about girls growing up and growing
wiser. And in their maturity, they come to appreciate more deeply
their long friendship.
For teens and older:
Glen and Randa (1970) is a strange
and thoughtful movie. It begins in a Garden of Eden with two nude
teenagers. It's a timeless scene—except for that car up in
the tree. We quickly realize this is not a movie about the past,
but about the future: 20 years after the United States was bombed back
into the stone age.
Our teen heroes have seen only hints of that lost
civilization. Glen is interested in learning more. The few
people who remain don't talk much, reduced to wandering as foraging
bands, surviving on the canned foods they find in empty houses.
But they do think it necessary to wear clothes.
Then a fast-talking showman arrives, his jabbering
about Times Square as pointless as the blender and other gizmos he
brings. We realize how meaningless the trappings of civilization
are. But this inspires Glen to travel in search of a city.
Pregnant Randa tags along.
They eventually reach the Idaho seashore.
(Washington and Oregon no longer exist.) They meet a friendly old
man, and encounter other now-useless things such as a television
set. It's a movie to make you think.
In Planet of the Apes (1968), the
spaceship has two clocks—one for earth time, and one for human
travel at the speed of light. It takes us 2,000 years into the
future, after people have pretty much destroyed the earth. Again,
humans are reduced back to cave-men, while apes have evolved into the
This was not a totally new idea. For 240
years, people had been reading the fourth book of Gulliver's Travels,
where humans had degenerated into yahoos, and horses showed far more
intelligence. (And in their intelligence, they saw no use for
clothes.) The apes of the future do wear clothes.
When the astronauts land, one of the first things
they do is go skinny-dipping. Later, the hero must stand nude in
court. Though the cameras avoid anything frontal, and whether you
think of Charlton Heston as Moses or the head of the National Rifle
Association, it's ironic to see him standing there nude.
The movie was made a year before astronauts traveled
to the moon, so I suppose the film-makers can be forgiven for thinking
people can smoke a cigar on a spaceship. The hardest part to
believe is that the English language has not changed at all in 2,000
years. But I suppose that is no more far-fetched than to hear
Moses speaking English thousands of years before it was invented.
We have grown used to these conventions.
The only teenager in the movie is a clothed ape, but
he has all the refreshing teen impatience and skepticism. The
apes' religious myths also have a familiar ring.
Avoid all nine sequels and the 2001 remake.
All contain lots of violence, but no nudity. Thus they are
"moral" and officially approved for young viewing.
Back and forth in time we move with these three
movies. And we may even learn something along the way.
Timeless Stories from Ancient Greece (Feb. 2018)
Nude men and boys strolled everywhere in ancient
Greece. But you would never know that from watching the
movies. I am not aware of any film that shows nude Greek
athletes—even documentaries about the Olympics.
Tallahassee Naturally has pieced together a home
movie of the modern authentically nude College Greek Athletic Meet, but
that is not for sale. The whole family can watch it only at the
American Nudist Research Library.
Spartan boys wore no clothing most of the time from
age 7 through 17, and Spartan girls regularly served as nude waitresses
at banquets. You won't see those things in the movies either.
For the whole family:
Clash of the Titans (1981) tells
the story of Perseus—how he had to tame the winged horse Pegasus,
and kill the snaky-haired Medusa, so ugly her face could turn anyone to
stone. With it, he saved princess Andromeda from a sea monster.
This movie contains three very brief nude
scenes—hardly worth mentioning, except that one is a nude woman
breast-feeding her child. Though it contains monsters and
violence, that is to be expected in Greek mythology. The whole
family could watch this.
The ugly 2010 remake is nothing but continuous
mayhem—yet everybody keeps all their clothes on. Save
yourself some nightmares, and don't let that one into your house.
For teens and older:
For lack of anything
more authentic, I hesitantly recommend Young Aphrodites (1963). It
is loosely based on the ancient teen love story, Daphnis and Chloe.
During a drought, shepherds come down from the hills
to a coastal village when the menfolk are gone on a fishing
expedition. We follow two couples: the tender heroes in their
early teens, and an experienced pair in their twenties. The young
boy is ready to make a serious commitment to the girl; she is not so
sure what she wants. And another shepherd boy, about a year
older, lurks in the background.
But the costuming is weird. Though we
occasionally catch a side glimpse of a breast, everyone wears modern
underpants under their Greek outfits. Some of the men wear Greek
leggings that would not become traditional for another 2,000 years.
In the book, the girl watches her childhood playmate
bathing, and decides he is beginning to look like husband
material. That scene has troubled modern book illustrators;
sometimes they reverse it, and have him watching the girl bathe.
In the movie, he bathes in his sheepskin robe, if you can believe
that. The film avoids any male nudity—quite unlike ancient
The movie is black-and-white. The plot unfolds
slowly and beautifully in the harshness of the rocky seashore.
The characters say little, and they say it in Greek; the English
subtitles don't stay up long enough, but that hardly matters.
There are two discreet sex scenes.
For greater authenticity,
let me point out two ancient Greek tragedies by Euripides. They
make us feel the horror of the first and last deaths in the Trojan
War. We start with Iphigenia
(1977). For a successful war, the gods demand that king Agamemnon
sacrifice his oldest daughter. This is heavy stuff, for, unlike
the story of Abraham and Isaac, this one does not have a happy
ending. But it certainly is powerful.
Twice (for only a second or two each time), we catch
glances of nude men—from the side, never the front. This
movie also is in Greek, with English subtitles.
Following ten years
of bloodshed, The Trojan Women
(1971) is Euripides' play about the aftermath of the Trojan
War—complete with Greek chorus.
The surviving women wait to be divvied up as
slaves. One by one, we see the fates of old queen Hecuba; her
daughter, the prophetess Cassandra; her daughter-in-law Andromache
(widow of Hector); her hated daughter-in-law Helen; and her doomed
little grandson Astyanax. This is not something you watch for
fun, but its anti-war message is as somber and powerful as ever.
Katherine Hepburn and other strong actresses leave a lasting impression.
And we do catch partial glimpses of Helen of Troy
stripped for bathing.
Be aware that another Euripides
play, Medea (1969) shows
three young boys nude—mostly for bathing. But this famous
murdering mother's story is hardly one whose family values I can
recommend. Much of that movie is brutal, boring, confusing, or
all three. Watch the others, instead.
Tales from the Islands (Mar. 2018)
This time, we consider three movies about isolated
islands with some nudity.
For the whole family:
In time for
St. Patrick's Day, we have a great Irish film, The Secret of Roan Inish
(1994). The name means "seal island," where people and seals have
looked after each other for generations. (Actually, there are no
seals in this movie; they're all more easily trained sea lions.)
Legend says an island ancestress was a selkie, who could alternate
between human and seal forms.
When people abandon the island, a baby boy drifts
out to sea, and is raised by seals until the people return. He
never wears clothes. In a flashback to another ancestor, a young
man is stripped of his wet clothes, but we see nothing revealing.
There's a lot of fine Irish storytelling. If
you have trouble understanding the Irish brogue, English subtitles are
available, though not really necessary. This is a good family
For teens and older:
The Wicker Man (1973) takes us to
an island off the coast of Scotland, where people still practice the
pre-Christian pagan religion. Some religions feel comfortable
accepting sexuality as a healthy part of life; others struggle against
it. Christianity tends to fall in the second group.
An uptight police sergeant visits the island to
investigate the rumor of a missing child. No one seems to
coöperate. He is appalled to see naked teenage girls dancing
in a Stonehenge-like stone circle, and leaping over a small fire.
"But they are naked." he exclaims. "Naturally," he is told.
"It's much too dangerous to jump through the fire with their clothes
He also spies on a more voluptuous girl doing a nude
dance in the privacy of her bedroom. The cameramen are careful to
never show pubic hair.
The policeman fears that the traditional May Day
celebration (complete with maypole) may go so far as to include an
ancient human sacrifice. We see a huge wooden human figure to be
set alight during a burning man ceremony. (We are used to nudity
being acceptable at modern burning man re-enactments.) A real
twist comes at the end. You won't easily forget this movie.
The music sounds authentically ancient, and some of
the tavern songs have lusty lyrics. No real surprise there, but
the rigid sergeant feels uncomfortable about them.
There are three versions of this film—some
with most of the nudity censored out. The longer ones are
best. When searching, pay close attention to the lengths:
1:42 Original (1973—rare)
1:24 Theatrical version (1974)
1:34 Director's cut (1977)
If they won't tell you how long it is, don't buy it. Don't go by
the advertised date, because sometimes that is just the date of DVD
Beware, the ugly remake of 2006 contains no nudity
at all. (It also lasts an hour and 42 minutes.) To get the
right one, you want a version with Edward Woodward in the leading role.
Half a world away, Rapa Nui (1994) tells the story of
Easter Island, where Polynesians lived off the coast of South
America. There, the long-eared people held the short-eared people
in slavery—until they finally revolted. The chief's
grandson and a slave boy and a slave girl had been best of childhood
friends. When they grow up, the two men love the same woman, and
must fight it out in a rigorous annual egg-hunting contest.
The movie is mostly about strong men in thong
loincloths, as they carve the famous stone heads. The few visible
women live authentically bare-breasted, but no one ever gets totally
In this sweeping epic, we also see how foolish
religious policies destroyed the environment—stripping the island
of its trees. It can happen. It did happen. Except
for the personal lives, this is history.
Islands can be narrow enclosed societies.
Islands can also offer whole alternate ways of looking at life.
Watching these movies can open new worlds and make us more
Movies with Islamic-Inspired Nudes (Apr. 2018)
Female nudes have long held a small place of honor
in Islamic art and literature. Paradise is traditionally
described as a harem of willing naked females. Male nudes are a
This time we look at two movies from Tunisia, by a
director you never heard of: Ferid Boughedir. (Don't fall for the
salacious advertising on both boxes; they're safe enough.) We
also look at a Philippine film by Kidlat Tahimik.
For the whole family:
Halfaouine: Boy of the Terraces
(1990) stars the director's 13-year-old nephew in his only movie
role. The boy is getting too old to attend the women's
baths—partly because he is beginning to notice women's
bodies. At the same time, the family prepares to celebrate his
little brother's circumcision. That's about all of the
plot. But the film gives a detailed slice of Arab city
life. And it fulfills that centuries-old male wish: a lengthy
look inside the women's bath. We see some bare breasts, but the
women go to ridiculous lengths to hide their pubic areas. We do
not see the men's baths.
Small children will be bored to death. But as
they approach the boy's age—say 10 and up—they will take a
The movie is in Arabic with English subtitles.
You will probably need to explain that in conservative Arab cultures,
women dance with women, and men dance with men. For them to mix
would be scandalous.
For teens and older:
An easy air of
religious harmony flourished in Tunisia until 1967. A Summer in La Goulette (1996)
takes us back to that last golden summer, where we see three
17-year-old girls—one Islamic, one Jewish, one Christian.
They live next door to each other and are best of friends, just as
their fathers grew up together before them. It's like Moorish
Spain must have been.
This harmony gets tested when the girls choose
boyfriends of different faiths than their families. The girls
talk about losing their virginity, but nothing happens. The landlord is
an old holy man who feels tempted when he twice sees a girl naked, but
again nothing improper happens.
On first viewing, it's hard to sort out the
families. The fathers are easiest: the Muslim has a moustache and
conducts a train. The Catholic has grayed early. The Jew is
heavy, and his older daughter is getting married. (He should not
be confused with the even fatter cafe owner.) The girls'
younger brothers all run in a pack. The girls' boyfriends run in
an older pack. Families in this movie speak French, Arabic, and
some Italian—all with English subtitles.
What do movies from
Tunisia and the Philippines have in common? Like the first one, Perfumed Nightmare (1977) includes
a circumcision scene.
Muslims brought the practice to the Philippines long
before the Catholics arrived, and the church has never been able to
stamp it out. Jews and Muslims cut off a boy's foreskin (in the
Philippines at age 10-12) as a religious badge. Christians have
never subscribed to that idea. An exception occurred in the
20th-century United States, where doctors pushed infant circumcision as
a way to prevent the spread of venereal diseases. We can see how
effective that was. Europeans never believed the quackery, and
left their sons intact.
With quiet wit, the movie questions a lot of
American ideals, but not this one. The hero grows up in a
traditional Philippine village during the American occupation, and he
is totally ga-ga about Western progress. He wants to be an
astronaut. (Modern teens will have no idea who Werner von Braun
was, unless you explain it to them beforehand.)
Finally, our hero gets to Paris, and sees how a
modern supermarket displaces the friendly market vendors. He
begins to question the value of progress. It's a good thoughtful
Long out of print, this full-color film has recently
been made available on Amazon to rent or "purchase." A word of
caution: If you buy online viewing privileges from Amazon, all you own
is the right to watch it for as long as they choose to make it
available. They have been known to discontinue movies after
people have supposedly bought them.
Here are three top-quality movies from other parts
of the world—all with some Islamic customs. Be careful
though; you may find yourself growing in thoughtfulness and
By the Sea, By the Beautiful Sea (May 2018)
There exist a very few movies about visiting a
nudist resort. Good movies about free beaches are even
rarer. Occasionally, a movie will include a brief nude beach
scene, but this time, we look at movies that happen entirely at the
For the whole family:
The Girl and the Echo (1965) comes
from Lithuania, when it was part of the Soviet Union. The people
speak Russian, with English subtitles. Actually, there is not
much talking. This is truly a naturist film, with about half of
it an appreciation of the sea and the rocky crags.
Unfortunately, it is also a bit sexist. The
girl with beginning breasts feels at home in nature, and swims
nude. All of the boys and her father swim in their
underwear. She speaks with nature, and nature answers back with
magical echoes bouncing off the huge rocks.
A new boy is looking for friends. When forced
to choose between her and a gang of tough boys, he makes the wrong
choice—losing everyone's respect.
This slow-paced hour-long black-and-white movie is
fine for the whole family. Long a naturist classic, it has been
impossible to find the last few years. Now a region-free version
has become available on eBay.
For teens and older:
Exchange Lifeguards (1992) is a
harmless bit of fluff about young adults on an Australian beach with a
nude section. Yet everyone is artificially posed to expose only
butts and breasts. That seems particularly odd, since the hero,
Christopher Atkins, had already appeared fully nude in The Blue Lagoon.
Still, American distributors didn't think this movie
had enough advertizing pizzaz, so they changed the title to Wet
and Wild Summer! (with exclamation point) and put a sexy woman
in a skimpy swimsuit on the cover. (They put the man in a baggy
suit that no serious lifeguard would ever wear on duty.) Though
the movie remained the same, no manufacturer has found either title
worth putting on DVD, so you will have to watch this one on videotape
The plot revolves around American developers trying
to take over. The original cover blurb described it as a place
"where the dogs ride surfboards and the sharks wear business
suits." The developer's son goes undercover as a lifeguard, but
soon comes to realize that the beach community is precious and needs to
be saved. With bad guys getting ugly, and really rugged races on
a treacherous surf, there's enough action that teenagers can enjoy
it. In the end, love triumphs over greed.
Be aware of a more realistic movie filmed entirely
at another Australian clothing-optional swimming spot: Maslin Beach
of 1997. But it deals mostly with relationship problems of
adults. As people come and go, most of them place too much
emphasis on sex. Yes, we see casually nude male and female bodies
without artificial posing, but if you are looking for a true naturist
movie, this isn't it.
Then there is an 11-minute British film called Nudist Beach
(2011). A man and a woman in their twenties meet at a deserted
nude beach on a cold windy day. They waste ten minutes talking
each other into it, and then confuse nudity with romance. They
embrace instead of going into the cold water. The low-key British
humor is supposed to be funny. I was not amused. You can
watch this for free on Vimeo. Certainly don't spend money on it.
The first movie is wonderful, the second OK; the
other two miss the point. The Great Nude Beach Movie has yet to
But since we have drifted into the topic of
Australian films, adult and teen readers may also enjoy a non-beach
movie: The Coca-Cola Kid (1985).
It's a wacky satirical film about a macho American marketing expert in
Australia. Besides a crazy sexual scene, it includes a mother
naturally showering with her daughter. Facing a similar threat of
American enterprise, this movie pairs nicely with Exchange Lifeguards/Wet and Wild Summer!—and
has about as much substance. Yet it's fun to watch.
Down on the Farm (June 2018)
Today, we look at three movies about farm life.
For the whole family:
De Witte van Sichem (1980)
dramatizes a famous Belgian book about a mischievous 12-year-old boy
living on a farm around 1900. (Actually, the actor was 15, with a
deep voice and shaved pubic hair.) The first part of the title
translates as "Whitey," a popular nickname there for any blond
boy. Less likable than Tom Sawyer, the young hero can sometimes
be mean. He is always getting into trouble—much of it
At one point, he sneaks away from his job to go
skinny-dipping with a bunch of other boys. In a twist from the
usual plot, his angry mother confiscates his clothes, so he has to walk
home naked. Yet he consistently cups his genitals with his hands,
as though ashamed of his body. (Or maybe that's just a device to
hide the actor's age.)
You may have to explain that most people in Belgium
drank beer—including women and children. Also we see a
conservative Catholic community who think the union organizers of the
city are agents of the devil. And it was an age when people
believed that a few cuffs would help children to grow up right.
Watching this enjoyable movie as a family means
overcoming several obstacles. It comes on a disc unplayable on
American television sets, but you can gather around your computer and
watch it there. Characters speak a dialect of Flemish, so there
are English subtitles (which must be set before you start). And
the story doesn't have much of an ending.
But before you watch it, google the 19th-century
paintings of Millet; you will see some of his same scenes brought to
life in the movie—right down to the wooden shoes. This film
gives a memorable picture of old-fashioned farm life. And the boy
can be charming, if not always admirable.
For teens and older:
Why do advertisers on eBay constantly list female
nudes as "sexy" and male nudes as "of gay interest?" These labels
reveal more about mistaken popular attitudes than about the
artworks--which usually stand innocent and pure.
Likewise, the 1988 movie,
Clay Farmers contains not one
iota of anything sexual, yet that doesn't stop some ugly
homophobia. A child-beating father whose stepson has committed
suicide lashes out at innocent skinny-dippers. Gossip turns nasty
in a hurry. Nudist parents will be reminded of a certain
child-abusing congressman who could not comprehend the wholesomeness of
AANR youth camps.
[The Bulletin refused
to print that last sentence.]
The topic is controversial; the movie is beautiful
and powerful. We meet two young men working on a California
vegetable farm, and two younger neighbor boys. They learn to care
about how others are being mistreated. In their spare time, the
young men make clay sculptures, including one with a nude woman's body.
By the way, skinny-dipping farm hands were so common
that in July of 1936, they made the cover of Farm Journal, the leading rural
magazine in America. In the movie, we never do see anything
Be aware that this movie contains some crude
language, smoking, drunkenness, and a bar fight—also some fine
people. And it deals sensitively with deep emotional scars that
don't go away.
Because the movie lasts only an hour, it is usually
packaged with something less desirable. Be careful there.
The rare videotape includes a questionable short film of no nudist
interest. The only DVD version came from Award Films
International, who have suddenly disappeared from the Internet.
Fortunately, it can be viewed online—by itself or with other
For a worse movie about
working on a California farm, you might try Untamed Youth (1957). The
black-and-white movie begins with two young women arrested for
skinny-dipping. (We don't actually see anything below their
shoulders or above their legs.) The female judge sends them to a
work farm, saying it will restore their sense of self-respect.
The wiser girl answers, "We never lost it."
The story goes downhill from there, with tough bad
guys and lots of fifties dancing. Where do they get the energy
after picking cotton all day? The Catholic Legion of Decency
banned this drive-in movie, not for the wiggling of the top-heavy
actress, but because it included rock-and-roll music. Yesterday's
controversies seem quaint today.
These three movies offer a wide spectrum of life
down on the farm, and the need to take a nude break.
Three Movies from South Africa (July 2018)
The Union of South Africa is an English-speaking
country that has produced some good movies—even during the
Apartheid years. Here are three with natural nudity:
For the whole family:
The Gods Must Be Crazy II (1989) is
a sequel. The first movie was a profound statement for thinking
adults about how something so simple as a Coca-Cola bottle can mess up
a traditional way of life. The second movie is better for
children, because it contains much less violence and has a couple of
kids in main roles. You don't need to see the first one to
understand the second.
It's about the Bushmen of the Kalahari Desert.
The whole movie is several chase scenes that keep intersecting in crazy
ways. (You will need to explain the presence of ivory poachers
and a Cuban spy in Africa.) There's lots of slapstick to amuse
young viewers. Wildlife abounds. My mouth fell open when
the little girl ran under the giraffe.
Nobody is quite nude. Even the native children
wear skimpy thongs. Gone are the nursing mothers and
bare-breasted girls of the first film. They now wear lots of
rags, but are not on camera for long.
Though guns play a central role, this is a
delightful light-hearted movie the whole family can enjoy
together. The love that the Bushman family have for each other
adds special charm.
Be aware that a Chinese director then hired the main
Bushman actor for three other dreadful films that you don't want to see.
A little something for everyone:
Shaka Zulu (1986) was a South
African television mini-series of ten episodes. It tells the
story of Africa's greatest military leader and the first European
contacts. Like most war movies, it contains far more violence
than I can recommend for children. (To mollify white fears of
black uprising, television stations were provided with "option kits"
that showed other things while the worst violence was going on.)
But your whole family doesn't have to watch it all; there are stories
Teenagers will like episode 3 on the romance of
Shaka's parents. Episode 4 on Shaka's childhood is probably tame
enough for children of all ages—though you may have to explain
about paternity, multiple wives, exile, and sacrifice. (The
biblical story of Abraham, Ishmael, and Isaac will cover all of the
necessary points.) And a nude ceremony acknowledging the arrival
into manhood graces the beginning of episode 5. As often happens
in the movies, the series skips most of the hero's teen years.
The makers insisted on authentic costuming, so we
see bare breasts everywhere. Men wore a little flap in front of
the genitals. Everybody's butt shows. How could this happen
on television? First, most of the world is far less puritanical
than the United States. Secondly, there's the National Geographic
syndrome, where it's OK to see black people nude, but not white.
(Early on, we do see the backside of a British man casually stepping
out of his bath before male visitors, but that's all.)
Shaka was the second of three great southeast
African kings. We see Dingiswayo, the first one, but barely
notice Mzilikazi, the third. The other two were much kindlier
Don't waste your time on the lame American
television remake of 2005 called Shaka
Zulu: The Last Great Warrior, also called Shaka Zulu: The Citadel.
Though recycling some of the same actors, the American attempt strayed
far from history, and avoided any nudity by overdressing everybody in
Arab robes, furs, and lots of feathers. It's rubbish.
Another South African
film, Yankee Zulu (1993),
begins with a black boy and a white boy skinny-dipping. As
happens in life, one boy's voice has changed earlier than his
friend's. Voice change usually comes at the same time as pubic
hair, but there are no frontal views to confirm that. Yet as so
often happens on the screen, skinny-dipping boys are confined to the
opening credits, and we never see nudity again.
This is such a nutty movie that kids will enjoy it
more than parents do. The humor is juvenile, at best. We
get an awful lot of slapstick, but it is cartoon-like violence where
nobody actually dies from it. Throw in Prince Charles, Prince
William as a boy and the ultimate Nazi, and you have a crazy formula
that keeps even sophisticated teenagers laughing.
Yet this movie struck such a balance that it seemed
funny to segregated audiences in black theatres and in white
theatres. That was quite an accomplishment. It's probably
worth watching once.
The usual age barriers, nudity barriers, and race
barriers break down in these South African films—all easily
available. Check them out.
Lessons in English History (Aug. 2018)
We do ourselves a disservice when we trace nudist
history back only as far as the 1890s. A few movies show us a
much longer tradition.
For the whole family:
Lady Godiva of Coventry (1955) is a
movie tame enough that the whole family can watch. During her
famous nude ride, her body is hidden with more long hair than any one
person is likely to own. Alas, there is no genuine nude Godiva
movie. An earlier actress also covered herself in hair in the
1911 short film. Three attempts to move the story into modern
times have been raunchy failures. This 1955 version is your only
We don't know a lot about the real Lady Godiva, but
we do know she was about 47 when she made that ride in 1057, and her
husband was 89. The movie would have us believe they were young
newlyweds. This version also obscures the fact that her ride was
a nude tax protest.
The movie does, however, give us a pretty accurate
picture of the political struggles in England in the years just before
the Norman Conquest of 1066.
BBC News recently compared the original Bayeaux
Tapestry (woven by French women shortly after William the Conqueror's
invasion) with the nineteenth-century English copy at Hastings.
The original has several lusty nude men and women in the lower band;
the Victorian ladies omitted all of the genitals or put clothes on
those figures. Nudity definitely did not start in the late 1800s.
For teens and older:
want more English history, Robin
Hood, Prince of Thieves (1991), contains a lot of violent
warfare. This is not really a movie for young people, but we do
see the hero bathing in a distant waterfall. Maid Marion watches,
and approves of what she sees.
Let us move forward to
the nineteenth century. Because of the experimentation with
drugs, I would not normally recommend a movie like Haunted Summer (1988) for
teenagers. But this is, after all, a pretty accurate biography of
the poets Byron, Shelley and Shelley's 18-year-old girlfriend Mary
Godwin (who would soon become his second wife). They spent the
summer of 1816 together near Geneva. It's solid background for
the poems students are reading in school.
Near the beginning, we see Shelley's love of
skinny-dipping. (Six years later, his nude body would wash ashore
after a sailing accident.) His friend and biographer, Thomas
Jefferson Hogg, wasted several pages trying to deny reports that
Shelley was an early nudist—but did admit that he frequently
visited a nudist family. That family believed in a return to
nature. Their philosophy is worth quoting:
"In order to prepare mankind for the happy impending
restoration of perfect and universal nudity, children ought to be
accustomed at an early age to be, at least occasionally, naked.
It was alleged, moreover, that the practice of stripping young persons
sometimes is eminently conducive to their health, to strength of body,
symmetry, beauty, and to morality and virtue; and that even grown
persons may derive much benefit from remaining some hours, in mild
weather, without their clothes. It was most manifest that the
children liked to nakedize—such was the term of
We don't see that family in the
movie. The plot turns to events leading up to Mary's writing of
Frankenstein. In some
ways, this is a cleaned-up and much
improved version of Ken Russell's horror film, Gothic, released just two years
earlier. Though the predecessor includes three brief nude Shelley
scenes, I don't recommend it.
Byron-Shelley-Frankenstein movie also appeared in 1988. Rowing with the Wind cleans up the
story by omitting the drugs but keeping the nude swim. Some good
family values there. Yet the result is more dull biography than
compelling story of people we can care about.
None of the three movies make it sufficiently clear
that Mary was the daughter of early feminist writer Mary
Wollstonecraft, who is also sometimes studied in school. In that
older generation, the poet William Blake and his wife also liked to
sunbathe nude in their garden. Freeing the body is indeed
connected to freeing the mind.
popular through the nineteenth century, and the Victoria series on PBS television
even showed Prince Albert swimming nude with male attendants (season 2,
episode 5: "Entente Cordiale"). Though she presided over a very
prudish age, Victoria and her husband avidly collected nude art.
In the twentieth
century, Winston Churchill famously spent much of his time nude at
home, and even when visiting the White House. He told FDR "The
prime minister of England has nothing to hide from the president of the
United States." You can catch a glimpse of him getting out of bed
in The Gathering Storm
(2002)—another television movie. The brief nude part
happens in the first five minutes, and can be seen on YouTube.
So no, nudity did not begin in the 1890s. And
yes, these movies provide an entertaining way to learn English history.
Rambunctious Children and a Spunky Woman (Sept. 2018)
This time, we have two European films about
irrepressible children. That leads us to a third movie about an
indomitable young woman. Two of the three movies are about Jewish
For the whole family:
You're Out of Your Mind, Maggie
(1979) is a delightful Swedish film about a couple of mischievous
little girls and their friends. The Swedish version has never
been available in English. Fortunately, the German version
(called Madita) offers
subtitles in four languages—including English with lots of
grammatical errors. But kids can have fun laughing at the
mistakes too. (Be careful; there are also discs with only German
and Swedish. I got mine from CVMC.)
The movie takes place in the early twentieth
century. It begins with two sisters frolicking nude in their
bedroom. We next see them clothed and walking with their maid
(not their mother). Later, four little girls go
skinny-dipping. Meanwhile, they get into lots of mischief, that
includes walking the peak of the steep schoolhouse roof. Religion
seems to form the central part of the curriculum in that particular
On YouTube, I see pastiches from the
movie—including the heroine climbing a tree nude. That's
not in the German version. I assume it came from the slightly
longer Swedish version.
Two movies were made from Astrid Lindgren's
book. The other one, Madita
and Pim (1980) was compiled from a television series, and thus
contains no nudity. Though released later, it relates episodes
from earlier in the book.
You're Out of
Your Mind, Maggie is a fine family movie (assuming the kids are
old enough to read the captions). It presents good lessons about
treating the lowly and less fortunate with dignity. But you will
need to explain that the burgomistersha is the mayor's wife.
For teens and older:
The Revolt of Job (1983) tells the
story of an elderly Jewish couple in Hungary, who know the Nazis will
be coming for them soon. They want to adopt a little Christian
orphan boy, so they can leave their property and memories with him.
The opening scene is like the slave markets, in that
the couple inspect the boys nude before buying one. Half of the
boys wear swimsuits, the other half skinny-dip. (For the movie
trailer, producers carefully selected shots of mostly clothed boys that
aren't even in the finished film.)
The movie focuses on the little boy, and would be
fine for some whole families, but not others. Understanding the
Holocaust requires some emotional maturity. (My disc comes with
English subtitles and a short documentary on the Hungarian Jews.
That slide show goes by so fast that I had to watch it once to keep up
with the captions, and again to look at the pictures.) I
recommend that even teenagers watch that background slide show first to
get some understanding.
I grew up on a farm. I saw animals mating, and
drew some not-always-accurate conclusions about human sexuality.
So does this little boy. We do see a bit of discreet sexual
nudity, in addition to the skinny-dipping. Job teaches the boy
that all parts of life are sacred.
Catholic and Protestant villagers try to protect
their Jewish neighbors, but it does no good against government
policies. The ending is similar to Fiddler on the Roof (1971).
Though that heartfelt movie contains no nudity, it was based on the
short stories of Isaac Bashevis Singer.
So was Yentl (1983). Here we see a
feisty young woman with a passion for learning. To get into
school, she disguises herself as a boy. And as often happens in
such a plot, she has to figure out what to do when everybody goes
skinny-dipping. (There was also a brief earlier scene of younger
children bathing in the river.) We only get rear views both times.
Every teenager should watch this to experience the
excitement about learning that is embedded in Jewish tradition.
Our heroine is contrasted with a young dutiful
traditional wife—totally subservient. And that is what the
otherwise understanding hero prefers. Fittingly, Barbra Streisand
co-wrote, produced, directed, starred in, and sang the songs for this
movie. The musical moments are supposed to be soliloquies, where
she expresses her innermost feelings, while nobody but the audience
notices that she is belting out songs. It doesn't always
work. Still, it's a good movie.
Here we have three films about young people who do
not always do what they are told, but who charm us with their spunk.
Scary Movies (Oct. 2018)
Sometimes, kids like to be
scared—briefly. Halloween is one of those times. And
so we consider three movies with a little too much violence or sex,
that I would not normally recommend. All require parental
guidance—better yet, parental presence while watching.
For the whole family:
Witness (1985) is about an Amish
boy and his young widowed mother. The little boy happens to
witness a murder, and therefore stands in danger, himself. The
tough detective figures out that his boss is part of the crime ring,
and goes undercover among the Amish farmers to protect the
family. A romance develops, but can people from such different
worlds ever come together?
Amish farmers sometimes speak German, though you can
figure out the meaning without subtitles. And several scenes
don't need words. At one point, we see the shirtless mother
taking a sponge-bath, an everyday occurrence from times past that
usually gets left out of the movies.
The grandfather teaches non-violence, but it doesn't
always work with bullies or with big-time murderers. We see some
ugly things. Yet the peaceful Amish way of life makes this movie
worth watching—even for small children.
At the end, the bad guy surrenders—partly in
an appeal to his original ideals, and partly because too many
non-violent people have come to quietly stand as witness. The
title takes on added significance.
For Teens and older:
The Holy Mountain (1973) is one
very strange movie with some powerful messages. Just watch it
unfold. Some of the images will make you squirm. You will
spend the next day wondering what you saw. Then the following
night, watch it again—with the director's commentary turned
on. It will all take on a lot of meaning then. (Though the
movie is in English, the commentary is in Spanish, so you will need to
turn on English subtitles for that. Once I saw the English
commentary without the Spanish voiceover, but I don't remember how I
The director is Alejandro Jodorowsky of Mexico, who
drew inspiration from the mystical writings of St. John of the Cross,
and an unfinished novel by a disciple of modern mystic, George
Gurdjieff. For the first year-and-a-half, the film was shown only
at midnight. The director explains the symbolism from many
religions, and especially the Tarot cards. Several of the
characters represent celestial qualities that we have ascribed to the
We see a thief who looks so much like our idea of
Jesus that sculptors use him as a nude model for casting
crucifixes. He and several other crooks (mostly wealthy
industrialists) climb the mountain seeking some sort of
immortality. One of these reforming climbers has been a
manufacturer of war toys. At another point, we watch the conquest
of the Aztecs by a bunch of Spanish toads—actual toads.
To get at our basic humanity, we see lots of nudity
and near-nudity—including a group of boys with their genitals
painted green. We get no explanation, no apologies.
The director mentions his
earlier film, El Topo (1970),
which has a seven-year-old boy inexplicably nude through the first
half-hour (blurred in the disc version, though unretouched on
tape). But that gunfighter movie is too violent for children or
anyone else. It's coarsening. You don't need to see it to
appreciate The Holy Mountain.
Let's switch to something totally different.
Of course, for Halloween, we
must have a ghost story. Haunted
(1995) is a twilight-zone-type of movie where nothing is quite as it
seems. A rational professor visits a castle, to prove it is not
haunted. But he sees several spirits, and mistakes most of them
for real people. He is also haunted by a tragic event from his
Free and innocent skinny-dipping forms an important
part of the plot. So does posing for nude art. And so does
one passionate sex scene that is necessary to make the movie
believable. Beware that there are even hints of incest, though we
never see anything improper.
The ending caught me by surprise. Fans of the
original novel by James Herbert don't like this film, because they say
it's less scary than the book. Hauntingly delusional?
Definitely. Scary? Not really.
Yet quality prevails. While these three movies
take us a little outside our comfort zone, they are all of them
The Crime of Being Indian in the Twentieth Century (Nov. 2018)
There are lots of movies about Indians chasing wagon
trains, but few about the lives of Native Americans today. Let us
consider some of the more interesting glimpses into modern conditions.
For the whole family:
In The Education of Little Tree
(1997), we see an 8-year-old orphan boy going to live with his white
moonshining grandfather and his Cherokee grandmother. There, he
begins to learn about his native heritage.
For a while, he gets hauled off to an Indian school,
with all its horrors. In the only nude scene, we see him being
scrubbed down and fumigated.
This happens in Tennessee during the
Depression. We witness the viciousness of religion, the
controlling dominance of teachers, and the indifference of
bureaucrats. There's even a romance with a little hillbilly
girl. Despite a few bad words, this is a movie for the whole
For teens and older:
Powwow Highway (1989) takes us into
the leadership struggles of the modern-day Cheyenne in Montana.
This is a road trip movie, as our two warriors travel in an old jalopy
to New Mexico to rescue the hero's sister. But it is also a
spirit journey, as the fat dreaming sidekick begins to discover his
heritage and the quiet strength within himself. Even the tough
hero grows in understanding, and some of his hard edges begin to melt.
At one point, we see the endearing fat man crawl out
of bed nude. The tribal chief never loses faith in his people,
and at a key moment he turns a bunch of cattle loose to block the
pursuing police cars. And so everyone escapes.
Long out of print, this movie has become available
again. It incorporates native humor in a way that inspired two
other equally great films:
Dance Me Outside (1994) pulls
together some of the many volumes of funny-yet-serious short stories by
W. P. Kinsella. He wrote on two subjects: modern tribal life and
baseball. Everybody has seen his Field of Dreams; more people should
see this movie. Though film-makers moved the Cree reservation
from Alberta across the country to Quebec, we meet several characters
from the stories: Silas, the aspiring young writer; his smart-mouthed
sidekick, Frank Fencepost; and the overweight medicine lady, Mad Etta.
A white man murders a tribal girl. The young
men decide to take revenge, but their girlfriends intervene to protect
them. Also, the hero's brother-in-law is having a fertility
problem that gets solved in an untraditional way.
There is some dimly lit rear nudity during an
initiation ceremony. But the police strip search goes only so far
as underwear. That's also where the heroine stops when she burns
her clothes that could incriminate her.
A two-year Canadian television series called The Rez (1996-98) grew out of this
movie. Not as good as the books or the movie, it featured some of
the same actors, but no visible nudes.
also influenced Smoke Signals
(1998). Though it contains no nudity, this movie is so good that
we need to discuss it. Gary Farmer, the gentle idealistic
sidekick from the first movie (and the lazy chief on The Rez), returns here in a quite
different role as the hero's ne'er-do-well father. This is
another road trip and spiritual journey movie with a bitter hero and a
nerdy sidekick lost in his stories. They come from the Cour
d'Aline tribe in Idaho.
The film pulls together several amusing stories from
Sherman Alexie's collection, The
Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven. The movie
version does not adequately explain the crazy girls with the car that
is stuck in reverse. And the film ends before Thomas goes to jail
because the police mistake one of his tales for a confession.
(The title of this column comes from another of his stories.) Yet
the soft-spoken movie sheriff breaks with the stereotype in an
absolutely delightful way.
An earlier movie, Running Brave of 1983 is less
interesting than any of these. It is more a documentary on the
life of Sioux Olympic racer, Billy Mills. He finds himself
fitting into neither reservation life, nor the white college world.
The only shower scene disappoints. Cameramen
focused above the waists, showing just one partial butt. Big
deal. This film can be seen free on the Internet. Don't
spend money on it.
From Tennessee to Idaho, and lots of places between,
the stories of modern native Americans deserve to be better
known. These movies tell them well.