A new documentary, Skin: A History of Nudity in the Movies, premieres today on VOD through Amazon, iTunes, Apple, Vudu, Fandango Now and others. Produced by Jim McBride (Mr. Skin) and Paul Fishbein (founder of AVN), the film begins with the silent movie era and runs through present day, examining the changes in morality that led to the use of nudity in films while emphasizing the political, sociological and artistic changes that shaped this rich history.
“I always wondered why no one had ever done a definitive history of movie nudity. Obviously it’s one of my passions,” Jim McBride said. “We live in the Golden Age of Documentaries, with great ones being made on every subject from The Last Dance to Tiger King, and I figured now was as good a time as any to do this.”
Skin delves into the gender bias concerning nudity in motion pictures and follows the revolution that has pushed for gender equality in feature films today.
“Also there’s a deep discussion of pre-code Hollywood and its amoral roots, the censorship that ‘cleaned up’ Hollywood and how the MPAA was formed,” said Paul Fishbein, who produced and co-executive produced with McBride. “That leads into a discussion of how nudity changed cinematic culture through the decades and it culminates in a discussion of ‘what are nude scenes like in the age of the #METOO movement?’”
The documentary was directed by veteran Danny Wolf, who also produced this year’s three-part documentary Time Warp: The Greatest Cult Films of All-Time. Amongst the names who show up during the two-hour running time are Pam Grier, Malcolm McDowell, Sean Young, Mamie van Doren, Sybil Danning, Shannon Elizabeth, Diane Franklin, EG Daily, Cerina Vincent, Kristanna Loken, John Cameron Mitchell and Oscar-nominees Bruce Davison, Linda Blair, Mariel Hemingway, Eric Roberts and Sylvia Miles, for her final interview.
In addition, directors Peter Bogdanovich, Amy Heckerling, Joe Dante and Kevin Smith make appearances, as does the notorious Traci Lords and many critics and experts on film history.
“How nudity is used in feature films in the United States has changed over the decades, but we also wondered how it changed careers,” said director Danny Wolf. “For some, like Shannon Elizabeth, it bolstered them, but for others, such as Diane Franklin, they had to fight so that it wouldn’t define their lives.”
One such career change involved Erica Gavin who went to the premiere of her movie Vixen, and just by seeing herself naked on the big screen, became so critical of how she looked, that it caused her to experience an almost near fatal case of anorexia.
“In doing this documentary we wanted to make sure that we covered both the male and female perspectives, as well as every type of actor, from the 300-plus pound Ken Davitian of Borat fame to reluctant sex symbols, such as Mamie Van Doren,” Wolf continued. “And most importantly, having experts such as Tatiana Siegel from The Hollywood Reporter and intimacy coordinator Alicia Rodis discussing what nudes scenes look like in 2020, especially in light of the #MeToo movement, helped round the entire time-line of nudity in movies.”
Also of interest is a deep discussion with the MPAA, explaining how the adult industry absconded with the ‘X’ rating, after classic films like A Clockwork Orange and Midnight Cowboy, which won the best Picture Oscar, were awarded the X. That lead to the formation of the NC-17 rating, while adult producers grabbed X, XX and of course XXX.
For Jim McBride, Skin was an opportunity to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the hugely successful Mr. Skin website. “I was writing my memoir, Being Mr. Skin, when Paul Fishbein reached out to see if I wanted to collaborate on a bigger project, “ he explained. “I hosted his documentary of the greatest adult stars for Showtime, and he wanted to do something bigger and outside the mainstream adult industry. We discovered what we wanted to do together, almost instantaneously.”
Skin: A History of Nudity in the Movies is available wherever you buy or rent your digital movies.