Some Nudity Required
Directed by Odette Springer and Johanna Demetrakas
82 minutes, 1998.

review by K. Burdette

Some Nudity Required is a riveting, disturbing, and exhilarating low-res video film constructed by Odette Springer and Johanna Demetrakas. The documentary, which has been playing the festival circuit, and Springer says, will received distribution, recounts how Springer, a classically trained musician and composer, landed in Hollywood and ended up scoring B films for Roger Corman's legendary Concorde production studio.

Structured by Springer's voice-over narration, the film is a pastiche of home movies, clips from sexploitation flicks, interviews with industry professionals, and acted out sequences featuring Springer. The point of view many viewers might expect from a straight woman filmmaker with feminist sympathies on the subject of B movies in which well endowed, half-naked young women are brutalized, killed, and blatantly offered up for the masturbatory fantasies of men is not present here. Springer and Demetrakas, instead, offer a more ambiguous, more complex view of this milieu. The film focuses on the experiences of three women: Springer, actor Maria Ford, and actor (and Penthouse pet) Julie Strain. Strain's cheery "nudity is never a problem--I'm exploiting the system to get what I want" attitude is contrasted by the deep ambivalence of Ford and Springer. Ford, whose intensity and earnestness make her a compelling witness, recounts the struggles she's endured to fulfill her dream of acting. She's been manipulated into doing nudity; she's allowed herself to be strangled in a film to make an assault scene more "real;" she's resisted pressure to undergo breast enlargement surgery--first from B movie producers and now from the Hollywood establishment. She tells us women performers who don't accede to their producers' wishes are labeled "difficult;" "difficult" female actors don't get work.

Springer describes her mix of fascination with and repulsion by the content of the films she scores. She tells of her insecurity and jealously--every day at work she's surrounded by young woman who look like Barbie. As a single mother, she needs the money, but is this work worth the moral crises she experiences on a daily basis? This seems to be the main question posed by the film. For those in the entertainment industry who need money and want work, what's the right thing to do? Participate in the production of material you find offensive and degrading--but exciting and fascinating at the same time? Or leave the industry (and your career dreams) for something which doesn't tear you apart--ethically and emotionally?

The film's most disturbing and revealing sequences are Springer's interviews with male industry professionals like directors Dan Golden and Jim Wynorski who make outrageous, blatantly misogynous remarks and then chuckle. They seem blithely unconcerned that they are incriminating themselves before an audience of hundreds, if not, thousands and thousands of filmgoers. Some of the industry professionals Springer interviews have altered perspectives on their work by the end of the film. Several choose to leave the industry; others remain. But ultimately, the film neither condemns nor endorses it's heroines' perspectives or career choices.

A film with this subject matter and perspective could not fail to have some appeal. But Some Nudity Required is, by any standards , a fascinating examination of rarely-addressed (within mainstream culture) issues of pleasure, complicity, and economic reality as they relate to those working in exploitation cinema. The open-minded viewer will leave the theater enlightened, enraged and--quite possibly--ready to produce her own video documentary.

copyright 1998 K. Burdette ( Do not reproduce or redistribute without permission of the author.

K. Burdette's film scholarship and cultural criticism has been published in The Velvet Light Trap , Link , and several Washington-area periodicals.