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Ecstasy/Extase (1932) - Gustav Machatý

Related: European cinema - 1932 - Hedy Lamarr - mainstream erotic movies - mainstream films featuring cunnilingus - orgasm

Ecstasy (Extase) (1932) - Gustav Machatý [Amazon.com]

Ecstasy is perhaps the first non-pornographic movie to portray sexual intercourse, although never showing more than the actors' faces and imagery of rearing stallions, howling winds, and surging flames. [Aug 2006]


Ecstasy (or Extáze in Czech) is a film made in 1933 by the Czech director Gustav Machaty. It stars Hedy Lamarr, credited under her original surname Kiesler, and Zvonimir Rogoz.

The film was highly controversial in its time largely because of a nude swimming scene. It is also perhaps the first non-pornographic movie to portray sexual intercourse, although never showing more than the actors' faces. --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ecstasy_%28movie%29 [Dec 2005]


    Ecstasy (Extase) (1932) - Gustav Machatý [Amazon.com]
    It is one of the notorious titles in all cinema history, but--sigh--it looks rather quaint today. In the mid-1930s, Ecstasy was a great conversation piece, for its scandalous acknowledgment of sexual passion in women and its revelation of the naked form of actress Hedy Kiesler, who would become the Hollywood star Hedy Lamarr. Henry Miller even wrote an excited essay about it, sure proof that something libidinous was loose. Czech director Gustav Machatý constructs the movie as an almost wordless shadow play of symbols and signs, mostly sexual (there are many close-ups of heavy-breathing horses and nude statues, cut together for maximum erotic impact). As precious as some of these things seem now, it's still amazing to consider Machatý's nerve in depicting one of the first orgasms to hit the movies. And then there's Hedy, whose expressive eyes matter more than her brief skinny-dip. She's an unmistakable future star. --Robert Horton, Amazon.com

    Hedy Lamarr (Samson and Delilah) stars as Eva, a young woman who marries an older man and is rejected on their wedding night. Frustrated, she runs away and meets a younger man who responds to her unfulfilled yearnings. Called "the most whispered about picture in the world" at its release, "Ecstasy" shocked moviegoers with its erotic depiction of sex, particularly scenes of a young Lamarr swimming naked and its images of this unknown beauty at the height of passion. The European film propelled Lamarr into Hollywood stardom and became an internationally-known classic hailed for its sophisticated approach to sexuality, maintaining a special place in movie history. --Description

Amos Vogel

(Gustav Machaty, Czechoslavakia, 1933)
This much maligned film remains one of the great works of the poetic cinema, a sensuous story ofpassion and desire, seen entirely through a woman's eyes. Though known primarily for its then daring and unprecedented nude scenes, the film effectively attacked still another taboo in its lingering portrayal of Hedy Lamarr's orgasm (seen in her face only) during cunnilingus. Probably no other film in film history has been involved in more legal and censorial wrangling. --THE ATTACK ON PURITANISM: NUDITY Film As a Subversive Art (1974) - Amos Vogel

History of its censorship

Lamarr was the teen star of the 1933 Czechoslovakian film Ecstasy which "sent Europeans sweating and panting from the theatres" (Young, 1978, p. 96). Its notoriety was especially enhanced when the public discovered that Hedy's munitions magnate husband, Friedrich "Fritz" Alexander Mandl tried to buy and destroy all copies of it. This foreign film was banned from entry into the United States in 1935, modified and banned again in New York in 1937, and eventually shown in modified form in 1940. The U.S. Attorney, Martin Conboy banned it for two reasons:

...first, because "this film's portraying in the most minute detail a woman's facial expressions and reactions during orgasm accompanying sexual intercourse is obscene and immoral"; second, because "the episode and theme of adulterous intercourse pervades and dominates the entire film and supplies the title and climax of the film... The federal jury that decided the case agreed with Conboy: the litigated print of Ecstasy was forbidden entry into the United States and, before an appeal could be made, burned by a federal marshal (de Grazia & Newman, 1982, p. 48).

The ten minute sequence of a nude Eva (Hedy Lamarr [then Kiesler]) swimming in a lake and then running naked through the bushes also upset Conboy, but it was not deemed as offensive as the mesmeric orgasm scenes. Indeed:

"It was the close-ups of [Lamarr's] facial expressions which chiefly shocked the jury," the New York Times reported after the trial. Hollywood magazine concurred: "All you see, all the camera gives you, is Eva's face. Hundreds of feet of Hedy's face, covering the whole range of love. You get it from her expression or you don't get it at all" (de Grazia & Newman, 1982, p. 48).

Another copy of the film was procured and subsequently modified to appease the critics. It now included a diary scene "and across the screen were the words: "Adam and I were secretly married today." Also, just to stress the fact, a voice... is heard to say in measured English: "I'm so lonely. I must tell father we are married"" (Young, 1978, p. 96). Thus, the previously illicit sexual affair between Hedy and her younger lover Adam (Aribert Mog) was converted into acceptable husband-wife sex following the suicide of Eva's elderly first husband Emile (Jaromir Rogoz). Interestingly, during 1937, the Hays Office under Joseph Breen also refused to give Ecstasy a seal because:

It is a story of illicit love and frustrated sex, treated in detail without sufficient compensating moral values, the portrayal of a mare in heat, and of a rearing stallion, the actual scene in the cabin where the woman's face registers the varying emotions of the sexual act--all are designed to stimulate the lower and baser elements and are suggestive, lustful and obscene. [It] is designed to glorify sexual intercourse between human beings and between animals, and to arouse lustful feelings in those who see it (de Grazia & Newman, 1982, p. 49).

No wonder DeMille chose Lamarr for Samson and Delilah. This connection also explains why DeMille had Delilah romantically swim in an oasis pool, although scripturally unsupported, and why he had focused on intimate facial shots with her and Samson in their love-nest tent. They were resonant throwbacks to Ecstasy encompassing Eva's nude lake swim and her climactic moment with Adam in their love-nest cabin, albeit now transplanted and sanitised for American domestic consumption, but still exciting for the knowing aficionados.

Indeed, at film's end, Delilah's (scripturally unsupported) rejection of the older Saran of Gaza (George Sanders) for a younger Samson, based on emotional grounds, paralleled Eva's rejection of the older Emile for the younger Adam based on passionate grounds. Emile (like the Saran) was a rich, powerful man that Eva (like Delilah) did not want to be wedded to despite the incredible material advantages on offer. Emile, being heartbroken at his rejection by Eva suicided, and the shadow of this tragic event was repeated in Samson and Delilah. After Delilah's public rejection of the Saran, he did not try to escape the crashing Dagon idol. Instead, he stoically saluted Delilah before resigning himself to his immanent crushing death, the physical correlate of Emile's crushed emotions. Just as Eva had deliberately slipped out of Adam's life at the end of Ecstasy, Delilah deliberately slipped out of Samson's life at film's end. Both Eva and Delilah were remorseful about their past deeds. Both Eva and Delilah fondled the hands and kissed their loved ones just before departing. Both Eva and Delilah's nights of ecstasy resulted in death and lives of sorrow. Both films were bitter testimonies to the symphony of love, one secular, one sacred, both devastating.

Ecstasy was an underground sex classic. One suspects that DeMille cunningly utilised it as a form of free pre-publicity by virtue of choosing Lamarr to play the seductive Delilah, even if he had to tolerate her small breasts. The two films Hedy starred in prior to Samson and Delilah did not diminish her naughty persona. In 1947's Dishonored Lady (a film title which directly prefigured Delilah), she played the psychologically troubled Madeleine Damien, a lady with a pleasure-seeking past whose promiscuity caught up with her. While in 1948's Let's Live a Little (which also resonated with Delilah), she played a cool, bewitching psychiatrist, Dr. J. O. Loring, who was involved in a love triangle with her patient and his ex-lover. In fact, the themes of pleasure-seeking, bewitching promiscuity, love triangles and moral comeuppances were also strong plot features of both Samson and Delilah and Judges 13-16. Lamarr was cast to type. Her two previous films now appeared as consistent precursors to her OT biblical epic, to be thematically reconstituted to complete a filmic trinity of emotional despair. Not only was this an excellent example of deep focus characterisation, but it demonstrated DeMille's masterful capacity to tap into the pop culture substratum of his day. It also proved his business canniness because he tapped into a market segment that might not see religious films, but who would voyeuristically watch Lamarr, even if wrapped in gorgeous biblical garments.

Overall, DeMille could legitimately claim historical authenticity, scriptural accuracy, reasonable textual extrapolation and interpolation, fine art precedence, and plausible extracanonical speculation. While simultaneously generating the support of Churches, the adulation of audiences and not be hypocritical when he claimed to financiers: "We'll sell it as a story of faith, the story of the power of prayer. That's for the censors and the women's organizations. For the public it's the hottest love story of all time" (Koury, 1959, p. 206). This was also classic auteur-DeMille because his signature trait was "the irresistible formula of having one's cake (sin) and eating it too (piety)" (Lopate, 1989, p. 16). No wonder Darryl F. Zanuck enviously claimed that the public would "accept a biblical picture providing it is loaded with box-office ingredients and showmanship. Samson and Delilah is basically a sex story and when you can get one in biblical garb apparently you can open your own mint" (Gussow, 1971, p. 81). --Anton Karl Kozlovic, http://www.geocities.com/organdi_revue/April2002/Kozlovic02.html [Dec 2004]

--Anton Karl Kozlovic, http://www.geocities.com/organdi_revue/April2002/Kozlovic02.html [Dec 2004]

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