Once upon a time, naturism was an excuse for entrepreneurs to pass off nudie movies as serious documentaries. Alan Morrison dons a raincoat and investigates.

t‘s not yet at the level of Live 'l‘V‘s 7})p/ess

Darts. btit what are we supposed to make of

beach volleyball becotning an official

Olympic sport'.’ Once a staple ingredient of

the early naturist documentaries. beach

volleyball is reaching beyond its public perception of wobbly bums cavorting in slightly out-of-focus long shots. Just think what the, late night ratings would be if those finely tuned athletic bodies were leaping around Atlanta in the send with only a strategically placed towel to stop David Coleman exclaiming 'Oh. my word! It‘s quite remarkable?

The naturist film first ruffled the prudish leathers of the British Board of Film Classification (BBFC) in January l955. when The Garden Of [Eden was submitted to the Board‘s examiners. Sponsored by the American Sunbathing Association. this documentary on the wholesome virtues of stripping off sent our moral guardians into a tiny. The problem wasn't so much that women’s breasts were exposed on- screen documentaries on African tribes frequently showed semi-naked women - it was that these breasts were (shock! horror!) white. Joe and Josephine Bloggs would have a hernia if this turned up in their afternoon matinee.

Nevertheless. regulations allowed London

City Council to overrule the BBFC decision to reject The Garden (if/Eden and grant a licence for the film to screen in London cinemas only. In retrospect. the consequences were far reaching: the BBFC had to abandon its strict ‘no nudity' policy. other local authorities gave the film a ‘U' cettiftcate and the I959 Obscene Publications

a The List 12-25 Jul 1996

Act allowed fora defence of the naked body on film if used in an educational light.

A few entrepreneurs rubbed their hands in glee. if they could convince the Board their documentary was indeed a serious exploration of the nudist phenomenon. they could watch the pennies roll in as a sex-starved British public queued tip to catch a glimpse of those body parts denied them in mainstream cinema.

One such filmmaker. former pin-up photographer llarrison Marks. was behind the l’K‘s most famous naturist ‘documentary‘. Naked As Null/re Intended. Made in l9()(). the film follows shy oflice girl Catriona as she goes off on holiday with her friends Jacqui and Pam. ()n a secluded Cornish beach. they bump into Bridget and Angela. slip otit of their swimsuits and visit the local 'sun club‘. With genetalia obscured by whatever happens to be nearby. Marks's shots of the girls playing around. or the camps inhabitants gardening. seem very coy nowadays.

The film is. for its time. a masterful exercise in courting the censor. Marks teases out the story to an hour‘s length. with history lessons at Stonehenge and other heritage points en route. but the underlying structure - three young girls and two others who we first sec working as car tnechanics in a garage sets up the orgy/lesbian duo fantasies of the standard stag movie.

As the (ills progressed. a more exploitative sex industry took a grip of the market. Pretty soon. nudity became openly erotic and graphic. while naturism was reduced to the object of film fun. When Peter Sellers's Inspector Clouseau descends on a naturist camp in A Shot In The “(tr/v” or when the Carry On crowd watch a naturist documentary before heading off on holiday in Carry On Camping. the innocence of the sun worshippers is played for laughs.

The naturist documentaries of the late 50s and early ()(ls shouldn't be mocked for the important challenge they set to the censors. Today. a similar ground-breaking role is played by sex education videos. such as The Lovers" Guide. which get round the current rules by taking the same ‘educational‘ line as their naturist predecessors. But more often than not. they‘re rented by the modern-day equivalent of the man-in-the-mac who once slid into a Soho cinema just to get an eyeful of matnmary action. As far as cinema is concerned. the sight of a naked human body will always be enough to get temperatures rising. Naked As Nature Intended is released on the Jezebel rider) label. priced £72.99.


the Garden 01 Eden: the genesis of the naturist documentary lndstry

The naked word

To whet the would-be naturist’s appetite. we give a selection of bare bons mots.

‘I just love having no clothes on outside and the only titne to do that is when the sun is shining. it‘s a wonderful sensation not to have any clothes on.‘

P. J. Harvey, rock goddess.

‘What spirit is so empty and blind that it cannot recognise the fact that the foot is tnore noble than the shoe. and skin more beautiful than the garment in which it is clothed‘?’ Michaelangelo (1475-1564),

Italian sculptor, painter and poet.

‘Nudists beware! Your end is in sight.‘ Sign at a church entrance.

‘I come from a country where you don't wear clothes for much of the year. Nudity is the most natural state. I was bom nude and

I hope to be buried nude.‘ Elle ‘l’he Body’ MacPherson, Australian supermodel.

‘The undressed is vulgar - the nude is pure.‘

Robert G. lngersoll (1833-99), American lawyer, orator and agnostic.

‘Man is the sole animal whose nudities offend his own companions. and the only one who. in his natural actions. withdraws and hides himself

from his own kind.’ Michel Eyquern do Montaigne (1533-92), French essayist.


‘One man you don't catch with his pants down is a nudist.’ David letteman, American chat shout host.