Thursday, September 15, 2016

Glutton for Punishment: Because of Eve

by JB
“So this… is the true cost of ignorance.”

We are all interested in bad movies, inexcusable cinema, and embarrassing social diseases, for these may lead to blindness, dementia, and paralysis later in our lives. You are interested in the sexy, the titillating, and the diseased—that is why you are here. And now, for the first time, we are bringing to you the full story of the roads we pave with sexual ignorance! We are bringing you all the evidence, based only on the secret testimony of the miserable soul who survived a screening. I am that miserable soul. The low budgets, the nasty chancres, the risible attempt to turn three government hygiene films into a commercial feature—my friend, we cannot keep these a secret any longer. Let us punish the guilty. Let us reward the innocent with a simple shot of penicillin. Remember, my friends: terrible movies such as these will affect you in the future!
Because of Eve belongs to a peculiar genre of film that (thankfully) no longer exists: “sex hygiene” films. Film companies would lease territory rights to various road-show exhibitors/swindlers/carnies/conmen who would arrange screenings at local theaters for a week or two and then move the show to the next town down the road. The exhibitors would advertise the screenings with signs, posters, and general bally-hoo, divide the receipts with the lucky theater owner, then lather, rinse, repeat. They were offering Americans in the late 1940s, ’50s, and ’60s something mainstream Hollywood films were not able to provide: sex talk and glimpses of full-frontal nudity, always in the guise of frank medical discussion. These exhibitors offered something else along with the titillation: gender-segregated screenings and illustrated sex education booklets.

The real money was in the booklets.

Allowing women to see the film in the afternoons and the men to attend at night was a brilliant marketing strategy that whispered to gullible, small-town folks that what they were about to see would embarrass and shock were it to occur in a mixed crowd. The single-gender crowds were also promised a free “hygiene lecture” by noted expert Elliot Forbes. Producer David Friedman estimates that at any one time he had no fewer than 50 Elliot Forbeses criss-crossing the country. What was billed as a hygiene lecture was actually a high-pressure sales pitch, delivered mid-film, for two little booklets that cost the exhibitors 20 cents but sold for two dollars. On the audio commentary for Because of Eve, Friedman gleefully tells stories about allowing the theater owner to keep 100% of the ticket sales just so the film would be held over another week—the profits from the book sales were that much more lucrative than ticket sales. Priceless.
The Plot In Brief: Sally (Wanda McKay) and Bob (John Parker) are a married couple contemplating starting a family. They visit Doctor West (Joseph Crehan) to learn of their recent test results. In the film’s most famous scene, the good doctor informs Sally that her earlier illegitimate pregnancy would not impact her ability to have a child in the future and assures Bob that there is no longer any trace of his old gonorrhea. Both partners are understandably upset by the doctor’s revelations, and they immediately consider divorce. But wait! Avuncular old Doctor West gets the young lovebirds to listen to reason by showing them a series of excruciatingly explicit sexual hygiene films in his office. Apparently, in the late 1940s all good doctors felt it necessary to have projection equipment in their offices, just for cases like this one. Will Bob and Sally stay together? Will the scourge of sex ignorance be forever banished? Does Doctor West also have a popcorn machine?

The real star here is producer David Friedman. He not only spins tales and provides us with background about these largely forgotten days of yore on the disc’s audio commentary, but also recreates the “Eliot Forbes” lecture from memory in a bonus feature plunked down right in the middle of the film where it actually occurred during real screenings. His pitch is such that he had me eager to buy those two (no longer available) books that contain so much information that I very desperately need.
I still weep that Friedman’s recent death means we will never see the long promised and long delayed second volume of his sleazy and revealing (sleavealzing?) autobiography A Youth In Babylon. If you have never read the out-of-print first volume, track it down! It is required reading. Rest In Peace, Mr. Friedman—you were truly one-of-a-kind.

In that less enlightened time, the only way to see nudity was in the context of one of these “infomercial” screenings couched as a medical hygiene lecture. Basically, the only way to see a penis back then was if it was covered in oozing sores; the only full-frontal nudity was offered in the context of a discussion depicting the sexual act as dangerous and life threatening. Because of Eve actually contains copious nudity, which is why it was the most successful of Friedman’s three sex hygiene films. With the internet today chock-a-block full (or so I have heard) of explicit and inventive sex acts (some still illegal in seventeen states) that can be glimpsed at the click of a button, I choke back tears thinking about how far we have literally come.

Do I recommend Because of Eve? It is interesting as a historical curiosity, but it is not very entertaining as a movie. It is repellent as a source of information about sex or hygiene or doctors or booklets.
Big thanks to fan of the site Kathy for making her copy of the film available to me for review—it made me laugh and retch in equal measures. I think Something Weird Video really missed the boat by not including a reproduction of the sex hygiene booklet as a bonus feature. Then one could memorize the speech and recreate the film screening at home!

My friend, you have now read this column, based on my own sworn testimony. Can you prove that Eliot Forbes does not exist? Perhaps on your way home, someone will pass you in the dark, and you will never know it, but that person will secretly dose you with gonorrhea! Many scientists believe that bad social-disease scare movies are being filmed at this very moment. We once laughed at chancres, the wheel, mysterious discharges, the horseless carriage, and the hopelessly insane. So much laughter! And now some of us laugh at very bad movies. God help us in a disease and ignorance-free future.


  1. You've... gone above and beyond on this one sir.

  2. The biggest laugh I got out of this (Spoiler Alert) is that this movie wants you to believe that both Sally's pregnancy and Bob's VD were the fault of one man!
    Don't wonder why Bob never met Sally back then even though Bob was one of this guy's closest friends and he and Sally were engaged....
    Don't wonder why Sally didn't end up with VD as well since the fiance was obviously banging infected skanks behind her back...
    And try not to notice as you're beaten over the head with the set up for the main flashback at the beginning ("Remember when we came to your office, Doctor? Remember that? REMEMBER HOW THAT WENT????").
    Film making at it's finest. :-p