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Monday, July 6, 2015

WITHOUT A STITCH hits NYC


Released in 1968 in Denmark under its original title, UDEN EN TRAEVL, softcore sex comedy WITHOUT A STITCH came to America in December, 1969, and played on Broadway in NYC, then seedier theaters and drive-ins until 1975. As far as I can find, it hasn't played American theaters since then. But on Friday, July 3, 2015, the wonderful Nitehawk Cinema in Brooklyn, NY hosted a rare 35mm screening of this once controversial film*, which was based on the 1966 novel by Jens Bjorneboe.

The beautiful Anne Grete Nissen stars as Lillian, a teenager ("I'm 17 and a half!") who fears she might be frigid. Her sort-of boyfriend Henry can't please her (even after they go to his parent-free house) and a lesbian encounter (of sorts) with her friend Lise has her questioning everything. Lise suggests she go see a sex therapist, and the opening section of the film takes place in the office of Dr. Petersen, a gynecologist with some very unusual methods (especially for a 1968 film).

Dr. Petersen at work. What a rough job...

It takes a bit, but Petersen manages to bring Lillian to orgasm (there's plenty of hilarious dialogue here, most of which had the Nitehawk Cinema, ironically, in stitches), and suggests that she "doesn't rely on him" for future fulfillment: "You can't keep experiencing pleasure at the expense of Blue Cross!". He recommends she travel around Europe and keep a diary of her experiences. I had to laugh at this point because:

a) it seems 90% of all "erotic foreign cinema" has this same plot and
b) I couldn't stop thinking about the episode of SEINFELD where George Costanza rented a film titled RACHELLE, RACHELLE, that had this same story line.

But moving along ...

Lillian's now satisfied, but is told to take a little journey...

Lillian soon finds herself hitchhiking across Sweden, where she meets a cameraman. They have sex in his small truck then he convinces her to star in one of the porno films he's shooting. In these scenes, and most scenes after, Lillian hears the teachings of Dr. Petersen in her head whenever she doubts trying something new. I have a feeling this slap in the face of traditional morals made the film more controversial than the nudity and sex scenes themselves.Just about everything Dr. Petersen says to Lillian in the opening office sequences goes against every Puritanical teaching known to man!

Lillian enjoying a ride (and some hooch) by a Swede cameraman


When Lillian hits Germany, she enters a huge restaurant/beer hall. As she sits and listens to the conversation going on around her, a large Oom-pah band takes the stage to wild applause from the audience. I don't know what it is about this scene but it had me laughing my ass off, and wanting to drink a mug of Dinkleacker. Lillian meets a man who invites her over to his home, and it turns out he's rich. A butler serves them dinner, and when they go to his bedroom he breaks out a whip. Again, Lillian hears the words of Dr. Petersen, and endures the beating (although it's more playful than brutal). And just when you thought this guy was a complete prick, he offers the whip to Lillian. Let's hear it for equal opportunity sadists! I haven't seen FIFTY SHADES OF GREY, but I'll bet anything this brief sequence is more entertaining than the entire film (and book series).

Germans NEVER skimp on the brew

Lillian endures lashes thanks to Dr. Petersen's brainwashing--err---suggestions...

Lillian working on her diary as she bops across Europe...

For some reason, the Danish language, subtitled film becomes English when Lillian arrives in Italy. She meets a handsome gent who we eventually learn is gay, but to be kind to tourists, he invites Lillian to join himself and his boyfriend in one of the strangest (and shortest) threesomes ever committed to celluloid. In fact, this quick scene is hilarious as it attempts to show the tryst artistically (see pic below). And in another threesome (sorry, can't recall what country this takes place in), Lillian and a lady friend first partake in an incredibly strange yet traditional dance number before they get down to business.

Yep. Scandinavian smut is slightly unbalanced

Lillian dancing in yet another threesome. I'm starting to think Dr. Petersen also spiked her drink...

As funny as WITHOUT A STITCH is at times, I found it a more bizarre offering than a sexual one. Besides the overall anarchist/hedonistic tone, who knew there was mud wrestling in 1968? And the mud wrestling sequence here (at a club, I believe, while we're still in Germany) is simply off the wall, as the two competitors both look like wardens from a women's prison film. Lillian and the crowd are splashed with mud as they cheer them on.

It's a fine decade for a mud wrestle...

There are a couple of truly disturbing scenes throughout the film, one being where boyfriend Henry, frustrated over Lillian's teasing and inability to be pleased, comes after her with a fireplace poker! But thankfully he tosses it aside and tries once again to satisfy her.

Lillian likes to tease Henry. But she should've hid the fire poker first.

After her sexual odyssey, Lillian returns to Dr. Petersen, and he's thrilled to hear his suggestion worked. She's now cured and ready for action, although she really needs to do something about that gigantic, overgrown ... you get the picture.

WITHOUT A STITCH is a real time capsule of a film. While it was surely a let down for moviegoers seeking more of the nasty stuff, this soft core outing is hilarious and strange as it breaks taboos few other films did at the time ... at least films that could be seen in major theaters. There are so many funny lines, you'd be wise to watch with a pad in hand to remember half of them, and kudos to director Annelise Meineche for actually shooting the film in Sweden, Germany, Denmark, and Italy (and probably a couple more).

In 1973 a sequel titled BETWEEN THE SHEETS hit foreign theaters, but didn't come to the U.S. until the video days. No one from the original was involved, although it was shot in Denmark.

Star Anne Grete Nissen was only in two more films (1970's BEDROOM MAZURKA and 1971's DAGMAR'S HOT PANTS, INC.), but judging from this slice of vintage euro trash her acting abilities wouldn't have carried her much further.

As the film's tagline proclaimed, "You've never seen anything like this before!" And for 1968, you pretty much didn't.

 Lillian (Anne Grete Nissen) lets her gold locks shine

 Lillian's travels land her in all kinds of odd situations...

Danish ad art





* WITHOUT A STITCH was actually a popular international hit, and one of the first films to feature a young woman enjoying sexual adventures, hence the controversy.

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