‘Pungent Sex’ and ‘Room at the Bottom’: Reframing British Exploitation Films of the 1960s
Eric Schaefer, in his exploration of the American exploitation industry, has argued that exploitation cinema developed in opposition to mainstream Hollywood products. Furthermore, the topics and subject matter presented in early American exploitation films dealt with subjects Hollywood were unwilling to produce. As a result, the production, distribution and exhibition strategies developed by exploitation filmmakers differed markedly from the American mainstream film industry. However, in Britain (amongst critics and scholars) the exploitation film has no similar defining characteristics and is a term that has been applied to a wide variety of British films without regard to their industrial mode of production, distribution or exhibition. As a result, the cultural currency of the British exploitation film, as it is now understood, has no connection to the films they now describe, and often fails to take into account how these films were originally produced, marketed, distributed and exhibited.
In the British film industry during the 1960s, the term ‘exploitation’ was used by the industry to refer to a wide variety of films which are now viewed differently by contemporary critics and academics. In other words, the currency of the term exploitation has changed from its original meaning. Therefore, this article is an attempt to reframe the debate around the meaning of the British exploitation film from the 1960s onwards, and to re-evaluate our understanding of the development of British cinema during this period.