Nudist-Friendly Movies You
Can Watch with Your Children (Feb. 2014)
Normally, this column will be
short. But this first time, I need to explain what I am doing.
There are people who know a lot more
about movies than I do. But nobody is writing about things
nudist adults and their children or grandchildren can do
together. The main value of these movies is the family
discussion afterward—about topics raised, such as school
bullying or equal respect for girls and boys. Therefore,
these are not the latest flicks playing at your local cinema, but
classic movies and forgotten gems you can watch together at home.
I came to film rather late in
life. I had not realized that the 1970s were a sort of golden
age of child-friendly, nudist-friendly movies. That was
before the confusion and hysteria about so-called child pornography
scared a lot of movie-makers away. By now, some of those
films are popular favorites at your public library, or available for a
dollar or so at your neighborhood thrift store.
At my age, I don't have little children
underfoot. I have pretty much retired from college teaching,
but still work with teenagers, and have a fair grasp of what they can
handle. They can handle some uncomfortable topics.
My aim is to point out films meaningful to young people, that happen to
include a bit of natural nudity.
I will probably discuss two movies each
time: one for the whole family (including small children), and one for
teens and their parents. We all know that families change;
what is inappropriate for your child now may be fine next
year. This column is no substitute for parental guidance.
Movie ratings are not much help, because
the people who decide those things seem to think one skinnydip is the
equivalent of about five murders. Likewise, the fine list of
naturist-friendly movies at http://www.clothesfree.com/movies.html
contains some with far more violence and ugliness than I welcome into
my living room. You will not agree with all of my
choices—or all of my rejections. That's OK.
I am aware of only a limited number of
nudist-friendly movies—especially for the younger
children. I welcome any suggestions of favorites at your
house. Just write firstname.lastname@example.org.
Now for this season's picks:
the whole family
and the Sorceress (1998) is a
cartoon for all ages. This west African folktale has survived
through the generations because it contains wisdom that parents,
children, and grandparents can equally appreciate. It's about
a baby boy who accomplishes heroic deeds, and saves his people.
In true African fashion, the women live
topfree, and children go nude. American theatre owners kept
the French movie out of this country for four years, insisting that the
artist, Michel Ocelot, paint clothes over all of his figures.
As a home video, the movie is available
only in French, with English subtitles. So the kids have to
be old enough to read—unless you want to read the captions to
them. It is all worth the effort.
With the cartoon's popularity, the
artist has released two spin-off films in 2005 and 2012. Both
are again in French. So far, only Kirikou and the Wild Beasts
is available with English subtitles.
teens and older
I remember in the late 1960s and early
'70s, teenagers were rebelling against the expectations of their
parents, but found a lot in common with their grandparents.
Time has rolled around. Today's teenagers can sit down with
their hippy grandparents who lived those experiences, and
watch—not one, but two—classic movies together.
was the ultimate sixties musical, though the movie version had to wait
a decade until 1979. The original stage play was a joyous
in-your-face songfest, a be-in, a rock-rhythm hootenanny. The
movie makers decided it needed a plot, so they added a lame one about a
ranch boy enjoying one last weekend of freedom in New York's Central
Park, before reporting for military duty in Vietnam. It's not
the same, but much of the great fun still comes through.
Young people are singing right out loud
about such forbidden topics as race, sex, drugs, and peace.
No one should be surprised that one scene of this movie about the
sixties is a hallucinatory drug trip.
The musical originally ended with all of
the young actors nude and facing the audience on the dimly lit stage,
while singing "Let the Sun Shine In." That nudity was later
moved to just before the intermission, so actors could return for
curtain calls at the end. The tamer movie instead gives us a
nighttime skinny-dip, with bare butts and breasts, while avoiding any
frontal nudity below the belt.
Still, the music of a generation
continues to throb with joy and significance.
For another perspective on the sixties and the Vietnam draft, also
This is a true story about Arlo Guthrie's singing commercial that grew
into a movie. Some families have made it a Thanksgiving
tradition to re-watch this film every year.
Before seeing it, today's teenagers need
to be reminded that Arlo's father, Woody Guthrie, was the
mid-twentieth-century's greatest folk song writer. But
illness debilitated him by the sixties. Pete Seeger, another
folk song legend, puts in a cameo appearance singing Woody's songs.
The plot begins when a couple in a
strained marriage buy an old church and turn it into a hangout for all
their young hippy friends. Despite the cover art, there is
not much nudity in this movie—just one pair of bare
breasts. Even for the army physical exam, cameramen aimed
above the waist.
My disc offers the option of viewing the
film again, with commentary from Arlo Guthrie today. That is
an excellent reason for seeing it twice.
So watch all three of these movies
together, and start some family discussions. If you don't
have family, they're still great to watch.
Nude Swimming in School (May 2014)
Today's topic is schools—boys'
schools—and the nude swimming that was a part of them for
For the whole family:
Tom Brown's Schooldays (1951) is a
movie about school bullying at Rugby in England. Thomas Hughes
wrote the book a century earlier in 1857, back when long-windedness was
in fashion. It makes heavy slogging today. (The bullying
takes up only a chapter-and-a-half during Tom's first year or so at the
The book has been made into a movie five
times. Only the 1951 British version, starring John Howard
Davies, includes the skinny-dipping which was a part of every
schoolboy's experience in the nineteenth century. After all, the
events happen in the early 1830s, and swimsuits wouldn't even be
invented until about 1870. Hughes wrote that during warm weather
"they spent a large portion of the day in nature's garb by the river
side, and so when tired of swimming, would get out on the other side
In the 1830s, Dr. Thomas Arnold (father of poet
Matthew Arnold) was reforming Rugby school. He cleaned up the
bullying, brought in modern subjects, yet firmly believed in the
ancient Greek ideal of a well developed mind in a well developed
body. Athletics (including swimming) formed an important part of
school life. You don't need to understand the rules of cricket or
Rugby football to appreciate the film.
By the way, we learn from the book (but not the
movies) that beer was regularly on the school menu. How times
Be aware that the 1951 movie was made in black and
white. It is still readily available.
Here is a fine opportunity for parents to openly
discuss bullying with their children. You will need to explain
beforehand that in English schools, "fag" meant a younger student
running errands for an older student—nothing more.
For teens and older:
Heaven Help Us (1985) is a
forgotten gem of a movie. It takes us inside a Catholic boys'
high school in Brooklyn in 1965. (The film is known in Europe
under the title, Catholic Boys.)
Except that the girls go to a separate school, and the teachers wear
robes, it is much like any other inner-city school during the early
sixties. The rough talk rings true.
The big-talking bully in this case quickly joins the
hero and some other misfits, to form an oddly assorted group of loyal
friends. The real bully is one of the teachers.
Among the daily activities, we see the boys lined up
nude beside the school swimming pool. The first view is frontal,
blurry, and brief. Then we see them from the back and sides,
while their instructor gives them a grouchy pep talk. This is not
central to the plot—just a routine moment in an ordinary school
A bit of history: In the early years of the
twentieth century, schools in larger cities built indoor swimming
pools. Lint clogged the early filters, so nudity was mandatory
for everyone—including the teachers. All classes were
single-sex. After World War II the nudity requirement relaxed for
girls—but not for boys. They still were expected to do the
manly thing and swim nude. On rare occasions, that even extended
to competition between schools before a mixed-sex audience.
But by 1965, most American public schools had
switched to requiring swim suits. Some private schools and the
YMCA held onto traditional nude swimming for another five or ten
years. And so the movie shows us the waning days of a standard
dress code that had been a part of boys' schools for centuries.
But what about a nude
classroom? We must turn to imagination. On YouTube, you can
find Olivier Smolders' ten-minute film of 1988, Point de Fuite—which
translates as The Vanishing Point.
A Belgian teacher walks into a high school geometry class to find her
male and female students all nude. She eventually joins them, but
they are tricking her. Do NOT buy the disc. It contains
many other dreadful things you don't want near your children. Be
content to watch the only good part of this one on YouTube. Make
sure you have a version with English subtitles.
Though no movie will show it to you, boys of all
ages in ancient Greece spent their entire school day nude. In
Egypt, neither boys nor girls wore any clothing until well into
puberty. During our lifetime, an ancient and venerated tradition
has ended. Why?
Two Classic Movies by Zeffirelli (July 2014)
At the risk of telling people what they already
know, let me recommend two film classics directed by Franco Zeffirelli.
For the whole family:
Brother Sun, Sister Moon (1972)
tells the story of St. Francis of Assisi. There are no children
in this movie, no slapstick humor, none of the usual gimmicks to lure
kids into watching. Yet it is a fine uplifting film for the whole
family to experience together. In fact, parents need to be there
during the first several minutes, when younger children witness St.
Francis having nightmares about his war experience.
The rest is simple joy—helped along by
Donovan's heartfelt songs.
The turning-point comes when St. Francis famously
strips off all worldly goods—handing his clothes back to his
cloth-merchant father—and appearing in all his naked splendor
before God. Naked ascetics exist in several religions. But
St. Francis is the best-known and most beloved Christian example.
We only see him from the back, yet we also see the sense of wonderment
and comprehension on the faces of bystanders. Yes, nudity can be
a religious experience.
The movie ends after Pope Innocent III, the most
powerful pope in history, gives his blessing to the founding of the
Franciscan order of monks. We do not see Francis' trusting female
friend also start the Poor Clares. (Actually, she was twelve
years younger than him—a fact that Zeffirelli chose to
ignore.) But we see enough to tell the story. The movie
captures the best of the Christian spirit, in all of its loving
simplicity. Watch it as a family.
For teens and older:
ever-popular Romeo and Juliet
has been filmed more than 75 times around the world, including opera
and ballet versions like West Side
Story. Yet Franco Zeffirelli broke new ground in
1968. He used young actors, instead of experienced
veterans. He put them in authentic Renaissance clothing, with
young men proudly strutting around town in their brightly colored
codpieces. And we see Romeo and Juliet waking up nude—as
most people do on the morning of their honeymoon.
How did Shakespeare play this scene? At the
back of his open stage, there was a small curtained room, with another
one like it upstairs off the famous balcony. Shakespeare gives us
double action: downstairs, Juliet's parents plan her marriage to count
Paris, while upstairs, Juliet is already celebrating her honeymoon with
Nightshirts had just been invented in Shakespeare's
time. Only a few very rich people owned one. Most of
Shakespeare's audience had never seen such an outfit, and would have
laughed at the idea of putting on clothes to go to bed. (In the
next century, Puritans would try to get everybody into nightshirts, as
a way to dull the senses.) Shakespeare's audience expected people
to arise nude from bed.
Yet another problem complicated that. There
would be no actresses for another fifty years. Young boys played
all of the female roles. That was how they served their
So how did Shakespeare do it? When the curtain
opened, awakening Romeo could bunch the sheets in front of him as he
reached over and pulled on his trousers. (No one wore underwear
then.) And Juliet could wrap the sheet around herself as she
rose. In a more private setting, Zeffirelli gives us a lingering
view of Romeo's bare butt, and a blurred flash of Juliet's
breasts. (Did I see that, or didn't I?)
This scene gives high school English teachers
fits. Some skip it; others show it without comment; I know one
otherwise excellent teacher who is wide enough to stand in front of the
television screen, blocking her students' view until that scene is
over. All can be under pressure from parents and administrators.
I have taught this movie many times—mostly to
high school Freshmen and Sophomores. To avoid snickers about the
codpieces, I like to begin with a study of Renaissance art: examples
such as Michelangelo's David,
Botticelli's Birth of Venus,
and Leonardo's Vitruvian Man.
The excitement of the Renaissance was the discovery of man and human
potential. People took pride in who they were, and in their
bodies. Teenagers can understand and respect this healthy
By the way, small breasts were in fashion for
Renaissance girls. A similar thing happened in the 1920s.
The actress playing Juliet was not built that way, so they tried
cramming her into the tight Renaissance bodices anyway; it didn't work.
Young people who don't attend churches where they
still use a lot of "thees" and "thous" may find the Elizabethan English
going by too fast. Turning on the English subtitles can
help. But viewers won't miss a lot, because most of the dirty
jokes were taken out of the movie version. I always have to
explain that Shakespeare wrote for two audiences: aristocrats in the
high-priced seats, and lowly groundlings who stood around waiting for
the crude humor. That is what makes Shakespeare's language so
rich. Double-entendre abounds.
When I teach this movie, I like to follow with
Tchaikovsky's musical version of the story. Actually, he just
captured certain moods: peace, street fighting, love, funeral.
Some teens find the two intertwining melodies of its love theme even
more gripping than the play or the film. Definitely, listen for
In the years since this
movie appeared, several of
Shakespeare's other plays have been filmed with a bit of nudity: a
bathing child and a madwoman in Macbeth
(1973), lots of people bathing during the opening credits of Much Ado About Nothing (1991), nude
sleepers in A Midsummer Night's Dream
(1999), and more male nudity than is strictly necessary in Prospero's Books [The Tempest] (1991). King Lear has rarely been staged
with two nude men during the storm scene, but never on film, that I
The 1996 gangster version called Romeo + Juliet is far too ugly for
watching. And to the relief of squeamish schoolteachers, Romeo in
the 2013 movie jumps out of his wedding bed wearing long john
bottoms—centuries before they were invented.
And so Zeffirelli is to be commended for two
magnificent films that not only capture the spirit of their times, but
also bring body-positive messages to young people growing up today.
Treating Boys and Girls with Equal Respect (Sept. 2014)
This time, we look at a couple of gritty movies from
the hardscrabble south. Both have rough edges, but offer much for
For the whole family:
Shadrach (1998) provides some fine
lessons in racial harmony and social understanding. It's 1935 in
the depths of the Great Depression, when an old former slave returns
home to die in Virginia. He discovers that his master's
descendants have deteriorated into a bunch of foul-mouthed
bootleggers. But they remain decent people of compassion, who
will see that the right thing is done.
When the family goes swimming together, the boys do
it nude. Their older sister strips down only to her underwear,
while the youngest girl jumps in the water wearing nearly all of her
clothes. It's an odd double standard of southern expectations for
boys and girls in the same family. The old slave, too, fondly
remembers youthful skinny-dipping as the moment he felt most free.
Be aware that this film contains salty language that
you may not want to expose your children to. Or maybe they've
already heard it all. Use your judgement. The tape version
is becoming scarce, but still shows up occasionally at thrift stores
for a dollar or so. The disc works only on European machines or
For teens and older:
With a mostly
off-camera rape and murder, Buster
and Billie (1974) is definitely not a movie for the little
kiddies. But it wrestles mightily with teen concerns.
It's 1948 in Georgia, and the double standard reigns
supreme: boys are expected to learn about sex wherever they can find
it, but for a girl to do so means total disgrace. The same goes
for teen drinking and smoking (even in front of the sheriff).
Trouble begins when the handsomest redneck in the
senior class treats a too-willing girl with respect. When he
invites her to church with him, that upsets the whole town's moral
balance. This is a tender love story that ends in tragedy.
But so is Romeo and Juliet.
The skinny-dip scene is a classic. For a whole
generation of young people, this was their first glimpse of male
frontal nudity on the big screen. Though movie-makers
commonly exploit female nudity, while shying away from naked men, this
time, cameras show the girl only from the back or side.
Men over a certain age will recognize the boys'
bathroom with its open stalls and trough urinal. Modesty was not
really an option back then. Such piling on of historic details
gives the story believability and power.
The tape version of this important film has become
rare; Sunshine Vintage Movies are sole distributors of the DVD.
Of course, no
discussion of southern movies is complete without mentioning Steel Magnolias (1989). This
third film is wholesome enough for small children to be in the room,
but the best parts probably stretch beyond their emotional
experience. It has rightly been called "the funniest movie you
ever cried through."
Among its many riches, we see two older women doing
a radio broadcast from a boys' locker room. These are not actors,
but the actual high school football team of Natchitoches,
Louisiana. (That was in the days before boys became afraid to
take showers.) We don't see much—just a few bare
butts—so one of the old ladies whips out her mirror to get a
The movie came from a play about resilient women who
rose above the double standard of expectations, and took control of
their lives. The play happened entirely in a beauty
parlor—no men on stage, and no mention of the locker room.
Likewise, a 2013 remake of the movie with an all-black cast watered it
down for television, and left out the locker room scene. Stay
with the 1989 version.
and Billie, Steel Magnolias:
these three classic southern films are worth finding and discussing,
I Met a Man Who Wasn't There: Invisibility in the Movies (Nov.
was walking up the stair,
I met a man who
there again today.
I wish, I
wish, he'd go away.
If it is not a contradiction of terms and ideas,
today we look at a couple of movies from the 1980s about invisible
For the whole family:
H.G. Wells wrote his
1897 science-fiction novella, The
Invisible Man, about a man who can disappear, but his clothes
can't—so he takes them off. Since 1933, lots of
movie-makers have had fun with the special effects needed for this
concept. And none had more fun than the makers of The Invisible Kid in 1988.
The kid is actually a nerdy high school senior,
trying to complete the scientific work of his dead father. When
his less mature friend learns about the invisibility powder, the
friend's first urge is to sneak into the girls' locker room. We
briefly see two girls' breasts, and the boys' bare butts when the
invisibility suddenly wears off.
At one point, the heroine does an invisible strip
tease. We see nothing there but discarded clothes moving through
The film has all the dumb elements of a kids' flick:
slapstick humor, a bunch of over-reacting dimwits, and a fast car
chase. And of course, the boy gets the girl. Yet the first
bad guy we meet turns out to have a little depth of character.
The high school principal is the real villain. The movie copies
bits from several other juvenile films of the time; as in Ferris Bueller's Day Off, one more
little scene comes after all the credits.
This is a movie to watch after a bad day, when you
or your family want some mindless enjoyment.
For teens and older:
In The Emerald Forest (1985), we meet
an Amazon jungle tribe known as the Invisible People because they grind
emeralds into a paste, and paint their nearly nude bodies for
camouflage. No one is quite nude; males and females all wear
something over the pubic area—even when swimming. Breasts
and buttocks are naturally visible.
It is based on a true story of a blond boy kidnaped
from an engineer in charge of constructing a huge dam. The father
finds the boy ten years later: a teenager raised in jungle ways, and
about to marry.
The dam project has displaced a nasty group of
cannibals, who are now invading the lands of these gentle Invisible
People. When the menfolk are away, Fierce People overrun the
village, and sell the young women to the white owners of a bordello on
the frontier. Father and son work together to rescue them.
As the girls return to the purity of nature, the first thing they do is
throw off their humiliating clothes.
The father comes to realize that his dam will
destroy the traditional way of life that his son has chosen. He
is prepared to blow up his work of ten years. But that proves
unnecessary; nature takes care of itself.
Yes, there is violence in this movie; yet the beauty
of natural living leaves a far more enduring impression. When
young men attempt to enter the bulldozer-ravaged landscape, the old
chief warns, "We are not invisible in the dead world,"—only in
the land of green and living things. As the writing on the screen
says at the end, these people still know what we have forgotten about
blending naturally into nature.
Funny or movingly serious, both of these films about
invisibility and nudity show us people who are far more than their
Stranded on a Deserted Island (March 2015)
Many movies have been made
about people marooned on an unpopulated island, where they don't have
to worry about what the neighbors think. They can dress or
undress freely. Some films, such as Castaway (1986), contain
considerable nudity. These will interest young children and
For the whole family:
Robby (1968) is a retelling of the
Robinson Crusoe story with kids in the leading roles. When
shipwrecked nine-year-old Robby meets a native boy, he follows the old
plot and calls him Friday. Next, he makes clothes for the happily
naked kid. From then on, they both swim nude, but wear clothes on
The director was an ASA official, with his
neighbor's son in
the title role. So you know it's good clean fun. In its
original version, the movie lasted half-an-hour longer, and was
criticized because it dragged. Later, they shortened the film for
the home version, and added new music. The scenery is
beautiful. It's a great hour of family entertainment with lots of
things to talk about afterward.
For teens and older:
The Blue Lagoon (1980) is THE teen
nude movie. A boy and a girl grow up on a deserted island in the
Pacific. With no adults around, they, in their teen years, have
to figure out matters of sex (and later parenting) all by
themselves. It is a wonderful tale of innocence and naturalness
in the midst of beautiful nature.
For some reason, the teenagers also wear skimpy
clothes on land, but of course swim nude. Young Christopher
Atkins did his own nude scenes. Brooke Shields did not. Her
mother was on the set at all times, making sure the girl's hair stayed
taped over her breasts.
Henry De Vere Stacpoole wrote the original story way
back in 1908. In that age of lingering Victorian prudery, he
devoted only a few pages to the years of teenage discovery.
Reportedly, the same thing happened in the British film versions of
1923 and 1949—though neither is available for comparison.
The 1980 movie inspired
several attempts to cash in on its success. Move the scene to a
middle-eastern oasis, don't waste time on innocent years, provide
several nude scenes (mostly female), add a conventional villain, some
chase scenes, and a couple of chimpanzees for dumb laughs—plus a
happy ending—and you have the formula for Paradise, made just two years later
in 1982. Even the hairstyles are copied. The film still has
charm. If you watch this one, make sure you get an old tape
version; South Koreans blurred all the nudity on the disc. Cover
art has been discretely nude for European sales, but clothed for
A year later, in 1983, came an Indonesian adaptation
of The Blue Lagoon filled
with prejudice against native people. It was remade as a horror
movie in 2010.
Stacpoole wrote two more novels about the next
generation. Part of The Garden
of God went into the 1991 film, Return to the Blue Lagoon.
But by 1991, producers feared to show any teen nudity—even when
swimming. Still, the sequel raises some interesting questions
about the values of civilization, and is worth watching.
Blue Lagoon: The
Awakening (2012) is just a television rip-off of the
title—about modern high school students wearing swimsuits in the
Caribbean. Yet the 1980 film remains a wonderful classic.
Robby's adult rescuer asks, "Are you sure you want
to go back?" He does. But the teenagers in some of the
other movies have grown enough to realize that living naturally in
nature has charms missing in modern civilization. They have found
their roots where they are.
What is Human Nature? (May 2015)
What does it mean to be human? To be
natural? Two views have long persisted.
One claims that man must struggle to rise above his
animal nature. Religion, clothing, civilization elevate him above
the beasts. The idea of progress is closely linked: things are
getting better and better; we modern people have become far more
civilized than, say, the ancient Greeks with their naked athletics.
The other view insists that babies are born
innocent, good, and free. Children are likely to tell the truth,
until society corrupts them. Education should largely be a matter
of discovering our own creative potential and our role in the natural
world around us. At certain glorious times, individuals have
shucked off their false material trappings, and found their way back to
the garden. We can do it too.
Without really thinking about it, most of us believe
some combination of these ideas. Let us look at movies
contrasting these two views of human nature.
For the whole family:
The Wild Child (1970) documents a
historical case study from the late 1700s: the discovery in France of
an 11-or-12-year-old boy who had been raised by wolves.
Completely naked, he had not learned language or how to walk
upright. Using the latest educational philosophies of
Jean-Jacques Rousseau, a kindly doctor set about bringing the boy into
There have been other known cases of children raised
by animals. Those children were never able to explain what it was
like, because, unless children learn language by a certain age, they
The director chose to film in black and white,
claiming that would give it a more authentically documentary
look. (Like rare original film footage preserved from the
1790s? I don't pretend to understand his logic.) The movie
is in French, with English subtitles.
This interesting documentary should not be confused
with a much later film about a misbehaving girl called simply Wild Child.
For teens and older:
For the same optimistic
viewpoint, teen and adult readers may also be interested in Nell (1994) about a young woman
raised in the woods and speaking her own language. It includes a
few moonlit skinny-dips.
But after seeing the
bestiality of two world wars, William Golding reached a more
view of human nature: Without ongoing civilization, without normal
rules, people throw off their clothes and become savages. That
was the premise of his book, Lord of
the Flies, made into a British movie in 1963. The director
chose the harsh contrast of black-and-white photography, rather than
the subtleties of color.
A group of proper schoolboys stranded on a tropical
island quickly revert to savagery. That includes some nudity, and
killing off anyone who disagrees with them. And they mesmerize
themselves into that condition while marching and singing hymns.
So church and state have often led peaceable citizens into warfare.
In Golding's book, all of the boys skinny-dip
frequently, and sometimes stay undressed afterward. In the movie,
we see only the young and the innocent choosing to go totally
nude—not the older half-naked savages. Except for the
rational fat boy, they excite themselves into fearing a beast.
The book points out more clearly that the beast lies deep within their
own natures. The philosophic boy who figures out some of these
things does not play a significant part in the movie.
The American remake of Lord of the Flies in 1990 used full
color, but fell short in every other way. They "improved" the
story to make it more American—that is, more military, more gore,
much more foul language, and without any religious irony or
nudity. Stick to the original version.
did not print the next paragraph.]
The idea of kids run
amok without the structure of rules shows up in other movies. As
an extreme example, unsupervised teenagers in The Cement Garden (1993) go so far
as incest. With a liberating nude dance in the rain, the film is
actually a sensitive treatment of a potentially dangerous topic.
This one is best left for adult viewing.
It is not unusual for movie-makers to examine basic
human nature by looking at children free of rules and free of
clothing. Some reach an optimistic conclusion, some less
hopeful. Next time we will discuss a more joyous nudist-friendly
film influenced by Lord of the Flies.
Beach Boys (July 2015)
What brings more joy to the heart than the sight and
sounds of children gamboling free and naturally on a beach? In
our video selections this time, they all happen to be boys.
For the whole family:
Have you ever been tempted to
sell your kids? If so, Popi
(1979) is the movie for you. We meet a Puerto Rican father
hustling to hold down three jobs in an effort to raise his two young
sons in a rugged neighborhood of New York City. (The boys have
picked up some rough language, that occasionally slips out.) When
the father hears that Cubans are sending their children to the United
States as refugees, in hope that rich people will adopt them and give
them a better life, he decides to try the same for his sons. This
sacrifice is difficult because he loves them and they love him.
The last straw comes when a neighborhood gang strip
his sons naked and tie them up. So he takes them to Miami, where
we briefly see them playing nude on the beach. (These cottontail
actors were not experienced skinny-dippers—which fits with the
story.) There is no frontal nudity. There are, however, a
couple of spoken references to sex, yet the movie's G rating is
From the beginning, all sorts of things go
wrong. Children will love the slapstick humor. Parents will
appreciate the bonds of family love. Before the movie starts, you
should probably explain US-Cuba relations and waves of refugees.
For teens and older:
The Genesis Children (1972) is not your
run-of-the-mill movie. In the late '60s and early '70s, Lyric
Films International produced several short amateur home videos that
they sold through nudist magazines. The 8-milimeter films
much the same group of boys—one time at a pool party, another
time playing with motorcycles, another time on vacation in
Europe. None are available today. (If anybody still has
one, I would be curious to see a copy.) The Genesis Children was their only
full-length feature film. By then, all but two of the boys were
We see eight boys from an English-speaking school in
Rome recruited for a sort of live theatre on the beach. They are
given no script or plot. So they act naturally, and go
skinny-dipping whenever they feel like it. They explore and just
have fun. This film contains more teen male nudity than any other
movie I am aware of. The focus is almost entirely on the boys;
one person plays most of the adult roles.
In the early '70s, the only model for a movie about
nude boys away from home was Lord of
the Flies. So the screen writers decided to have the boys
abuse their freedom and go too far (while the same hymn plays in the
background that the trouble-makers marched to in the earlier
movie). They torch an old van abandoned at the seashore.
The realization that they have done something wrong ends the innocence
of their Eden-like stay at the beach. We see some biblical
When the raw footage got edited down, most of the
nude scenes ended up on the cutting room floor, and the movie ran way
too short. So the producers fired their big-name editor, and
hired a new one to repair the damage. He decided to go
artsy. He restored the omitted scenes in odd places, forcing the
viewer to move back and forth in time. Hint: All of the clothed
in-town scenes are flashbacks that actually happened before the nude
beach scenes. The movie provides no blurry beginnings to let you
know when you are entering a flashback; clothes and scenery are the
I showed this movie a few years ago at a Mid-Winter
Naturist Festival. Most of the older people in the room disliked
it because it didn't follow a traditional plot from beginning to
end. But I like it for the sheer joy of living.
Children asks some profound questions, yet falls short in
answers. The movie also has great music—some of it
reinforcing the aura of sacred nudity, other moments throbbing with
But trouble lurked behind the cameras. In the
1970s, the line between nudity and sex was blurring—even in
nudist magazines. Unfortunately, the man with the money behind
these innocent films also invested in a company that produced
pornography, and he got in trouble for that. So all production
ended abruptly. Still, we have their one glorious movie.
Popi and The Genesis Children both overflow
with joy—symbolized by boys running free and naked at the
Boys Will Be Boys (November 2015)
I had not intended to discuss movies about boys two
times in a row. But current events are dictating otherwise.
For the Whole Family:
American movies about Tom
Sawyer have shown very little of the traditional nudity described in
Mark Twain's book. In 1938, David O. Selznick filmed a distant
skinny-dip for the beginning of his movie. Company censors
removed it, and it has never been restored.
A brief flash of bare butts while the boys swam in
the delightful 1973 musical version of Tom Sawyer caused a
sensation. Aunt Polly openly sang about the boys "swimming in the
nude." With a compassionate Aunt Polly and Warren Oates'
endearing performance as the town drunk, this was, and remains, a great
family movie. But after that, American movie makers grew more
Huckleberry Finn and His Friends (1979) was a Canadian-German
production filmed in Canada—and that explains a lot. With
three skinny-dip scenes, the two-year TV series has been repeated many
times on children's television in Canada, Germany, Scandinavian
countries, England, Australia, Venezuela and much of Latin
America—but never the United States. The DVD is in a
European format; even Canadians can't watch it now, except on their
computers or a region-free DVD player (which is not expensive.)
To get a more professional performance from
children, movie directors frequently use actors older than the roles
they are playing. Several of the boys in this series were
actually actors in their mid-teens. They could shave their pubic
hair for the skinny-dip scenes, but there was no easy way to disguise
their deepening voices.
The boys' handlers made sure the two main stars were
photographed nude mostly from the back and sides. Fortunately,
Twain included a third boy in their island adventure; all lingering
frontal views are of him. Yet the skinny-dipping scenes were shot
from such a distance that not much detail can be seen. They come
in season 1, episodes 1, 6, and 7. The series is available as a
4-disc set, though the first disc (which happens to contain all of the
skinny-dip scenes) was originally sold separately. Dailymotion
has posted all episodes on the Internet, so you can watch them that way
if you don't mind a little jerky motion.
Season 2 focused on Huck's raft trip down the river,
and there all nudity stopped—despite his insistence in the book
that "we was always naked, day and night." For 130 years, no book
illustrator or movie producer has ever dared to show Huckleberry Finn
nude during his long raft adventure.
Then this summer, The Whitney Museum of American Art
in New York City refused to exhibit the larger-than-life nude sculpture
of Huck and Jim by Charles
Ray. The artist explained that Huck bends down to catch food in
the water, while Jim blesses his effort. The Art Institute of
Chicago did show the group in an inconspicuous place. Nervous
officials at both museums said they were not worried about reactions of
museum-goers, but of the ignorant people who never go to museums, yet
could start a lot of trouble on Facebook or Twitter. They also
worried about differences in race and age—something our society
obsesses on right now. Nobody mentioned that the black man is
circumcised—something totally inappropriate for the nineteenth
Museums (and advertising) are full of female
nudes—but not many males. In contrast, movies have lots of
skinny-dipping boys, but few girls. Go figure.
For Teens and Older:
What would Tom, Huck,
and Joe be like at age 18? Their kind of mischief remains
timeless. Calendar Girl
(1993) gives us three similar boys in the early 1960s. Just
graduated from high school, they travel across country to catch a
glimpse of their heroine, Marilyn Monroe.
The title comes from
her famous nude Playboy calendar picture, and the opening credits
include some famous nude paintings. This movie should not be
confused with the plural Calendar Girls, about aging English housewives
(which is also excellent, but not particularly appealing to teenagers).
At one point, the boys pursue Marilyn onto an early
California nude beach. Though the cameramen filmed only a few
backsides, the beach looks pretty authentic.
It's a funny movie, until one of the boys actually
meets Marilyn, and they have a serious conversation. She was far
more than a pretty body.
This and the two Twain movies are all great fun to
watch. Actually, Tom, Huck, and the boys in Calendar Girl were not the only
young people who knew how to get into mischief. Next time: Girls
Will Be Girls.
Girls Will Be Girls (Jan. 2016)
This time, we look at movies about girls—girls
who can get into just as much mischief as the boys can.
For the whole family:
From 1934 to 1968, the Hays Code of censorship
stifled Hollywood movies. As a precaution, film studios hired
their own censors to eliminate anything that might not pass the
code. In 1938, nervous company officials removed the boys'
skinny-dip scene from the beginning of David O. Selznick's Tom Sawyer. Then all through
the 1950s and 60s, movie producers pushed the limits of the code, until
it was finally abandoned.
Walt Disney, with his solid
reputation for wholesome family films, struck his blow for common sense
about innocent child nudity in Pollyanna
in 1960. He recreated the banned boys' skinny-dip scene and put
it at the beginning of this girls' movie. Only this time, it had
nothing to do with the plot—just setting the mood of small-town
America at the turn of the twentieth century. And he got away
The movie begins with a close-up of a nude boy's
back, as he swings out over the water, and drops in to join several
other skinny-dipping boys. The part was played by a local extra,
who got a new bicycle for his pay. Pollyanna never goes swimming,
though we do see lots of nude sculptures in the houses of the wealthy.
Like Tom Sawyer, Pollyanna can get into her share of
mischief—from sneaking out of her room, to climbing trees, to
trespassing. But mostly, her cheerful optimism makes a lot of
grumpy people happy.
Though few men and boys went to see it in the
theatres, they missed a good family movie. It's hard to keep a
dry eye during the ending.
For teens and older:
We look at two movies about teenage girls.
Both contain some of the same stock characters. Both include
locker room scenes.
Sixteen Candles (1984) is about an
awkward but good-hearted girl whose family all forget her sixteenth
birthday. (They're preparing for her sister's wedding the next
day.) She tries to not feel too hurt.
The sight of a beautiful girl showering makes her
feel even more inadequate, yet two very sincere guys take an interest
in her. (The younger boy grows as much as she does, adding some
depth to an otherwise shallow film.)
The movie is both sad and funny—if you like
physical humor reminiscent of the Keystone Kops. The loopy
wedding has to be one of the most laughable on film. Even some of
the background music is ironic. But be aware that the girls do
not always use the most ladylike language.
On the other
hand, Just One of the Guys
(1985) is a modern adaptation of Shakespeare's Twelfth Night, where,
for her safety, a girl disguised herself as her twin brother. In
the old play, romantic complications arose, and then the brother showed
up. The movie has only a younger brother (charming, though too
desperately in search of sex). Yet this girl must cope with
something Shakespeare never thought of: high school gym class.
Rather than admit she chose a boring topic, a
student decides that her journalism article did not win an award
because of her teacher's gender bias. So she disguises herself as
a boy, and resubmits it in another school, where it also gets
rejected. (The movie certainly makes fun of male sexist
attitudes, but they can't be blamed for everything.)
Meanwhile, the girl has to figure out what to do
about gym class, and changing in the boys' locker room. These
were the days when students still took showers after gym class.
We only see boys above the waist or wearing jock straps—no actual
male nudity on screen. The girl does, however, bare her breasts
at the end.
(Eight years later, the producers tried reversing
the situation in Just One of the
Girls. Though it included real locker room
nudity—female this time—the male hero just wasn't
convincing as a girl. It flopped.)
Today's examples show us why it is difficult to find
movies about girls and innocent nudity. In movie convention,
pre-teen boys can skinny-dip, but to show a girl doing it would be too
shocking. Then at about age 14, the convention reverses: Female
nudity becomes sexy and desirable, but frontal male nudity is just too
shocking to show. None of this makes much sense. But that's
the way most movies are.
Defective Detectives (Mar. 2016)
Inept investigators have provided the humor for many
a mystery movie. And some people think that nakedness should be
funny. This time, we look at whodunits that involve nudity.
Unfortunately, none of them qualify as non-violent. Few detective
For the whole family:
The Nude Bomb (1980) was based on
the Get Smart television series. There are no children in this
film, but the plot and the jokes are too dumb for words.
Ten-year-olds will love it.
A mad scientist has developed a bomb that destroys
only clothes, leaving people naked. This possibility has the
American president quaking. World leaders wonder how they will be
able to wage war if armies can't tell each other apart by their
uniforms. Actually, we only see some bare behinds and
strategically placed briefcases and rifles.
So they call in a blundering detective, surrounded
by beautiful women and amazing gadgets. He eventually saves the
world from nudity.
There are a few bad words, and a few jokes with
double meanings that will pass right over the heads of the
innocent. The violence at the end is a spoof on all movie
shoot-outs. If it's any consolation, only clones die. You
may need to explain what cloning is, but the kids probably know more
about that than you do.
For Teens and Older:
If you want more
sophisticated humor in a detective story that is beyond the experience
of young people, take a look at A
Shot in the Dark (1964). It's part of the Pink Panther
series, and has the bumbling Inspector Clouseau going undercover in a
nudist resort. Much of the plot revolves around marital fidelity
(or lack thereof). Other than the zany humor, there's not a lot
to interest teens.
Most teenagers would
probably prefer to hone their skills of detection watching Wildthings (1998). It's an
edgy movie, not appropriate for younger children. A rich Florida
high school girl accuses her guidance counselor of rape. He
protests vigorously that he did nothing of the sort. So who is
telling the truth? Or is the truth far more complicated than
that? I thought I had sort-of figured it out. Then came
lots of additional scenes during the end credits, and I realized I had
gotten it all wrong.
The detective also gets it partially wrong, and this
time there is nothing funny about it. They made two versions of
this movie; you want the unrated (not R) version because it provides
far more clues. Just be aware that it has more sexy scenes too.
In either version, we see some ordinary household
nudity, as a man casually steps out of a shower. A couple of
girls also swim topfree, though one always keeps her back to the
camera. (The screenplay called for this girl of trashy background
to reveal tattoos and body jewelry, but the producers accepted a
no-nudity clause to get a well-known actress. In contrast, the
other actress refused to use a body double, playing her own semi-nude
self wherever the script called for it.) Both were in their
mid-twenties, playing teenagers.
Three so-called sequels have used different actors
slogging through pretty much the same deceptive plot. Don't waste
your time or money on them.
There are many mysteries in life greater than what
lies beneath people's clothes. I suppose one of them is how
totally incompetent people manage to survive. Another is how,
despite facts, people can leap to such erroneous conclusions. All
is revealed in these enjoyable movies.
Turning Nude Stereotypes Upside-Down (May 2016)
We've all encountered the misperceptions about
nudists. And we have grown rather tired of the coy ways nudity is
almost-but-not-quite shown in the movies. Let's look at two films
that cleverly stand some of those conventions on their heads.
For the whole family:
At last—a movie now
playing in neighborhood theatres that deals with nudity and is fit for
kids to watch. That used to happen often in the 1970s, '80s, and
'90s, but in the twenty-first century has become a rare event.
Disney's Zootopia (2016)
works at different levels for people of all ages. Kids will see
an action-packed detective story. Sophisticated adults will see
parallels to glass ceilings, racism, and stereotyping. But nobody
will miss the sly references to nudity.
The animals have formed a Utopia where they
all get along. But, as so often happens, the cartoon animals all
wear clothes. For no very good reason, the crime trail leads
through what they call a "naturalist" park where a few animals wear
nothing. Imagine that—animals without clothes. How
shocking! But that's where any understanding ends. The
film-makers fall back on old stereotypes by showing us a bunch of hairy
animal butts in awkward positions. This scene lasts only a couple
of minutes; still, the point has been made that clothing is not always
The movie comes in 3-D and regular versions.
The few 3-D effects are not worth the price difference. There is
no home version yet.
For a movie with absolutely no nude people in it,
the mere mention of nudity gave this cartoon a PG rating. Ignore
that, and enjoy.
For teens and older:
Flirting (1991) is a story of
interracial dating in Australia. A misfit intellectual boy and a
sophisticated daughter of the Ugandan ambassador find each other in
nearby private and oppressive schools. The time is
1965—just before the Existential "shape your life by making your
own choices" philosophy of Jean-Paul Sartre hit the streets in the
hippie movement. He is reading Sartre; she has met the famous
man. When they have to disguise their names, they choose Camus,
another Existential philosopher.
We get a brief view of the boys' showers. But
instead of the usual cutsie waist-up view in most teen movies, we see
the boys only from the waist down—and not all of them with their
backs turned. Later, there's a glimpse of her breast.
Teenagers need to know something about the Idi Amin
dictatorship in Uganda to understand the ending.
Don't be confused by the cover art that emphasizes
one of the supporting actresses. This is a thoughtful and tender
movie about a boy and a girl with depth of character, who gradually win
the respect of their more traditional classmates.
Actually, this movie is a sequel to The Year My Voice Broke (1987),
about the boy's first crush. That earlier film is good, but
without nudity, and in a quite different mood. Flirting can stand very well on its
So yes, thoughtful references to nudity can and do
show up in movies that young people can watch and understand. The
encouraging news is that it occasionally still happens today.
Three Great Native American Films--July 2016
This time, we examine three fine films about native
Americans—and not a cowboy in sight.
For the whole family:
Surprisingly few movies have been made about
American Indian childhood. Indian
Paint (1965) is a good one, but it includes no nudity. Let
us instead look at one that does.
For the warmth of native
American family love, it's hard to beat Windwalker (1981). A
windwalker is the spirit of a person who has died. In this case,
the Great Spirit calls an old Cheyenne back from death to finish his
task of finding his twin son, who had been stolen as a baby. The
movie should not be confused with the horror film, Wind Walkers, or with Windtalkers, about Navaho code
messengers during World War II.
No, this story happens during the 1700s, after the
arrival on the plains of the white men's horses, but before the arrival
of white men, themselves. Instead, Cheyennes and Crows keep
fighting each other.
The costuming is completely inappropriate for the
times. We do see the little boys playing naked. But their
parents wear leather clothes to go swimming. Women never covered
their breasts during warm weather, until they had trouble with white
settlers. Here they wear the full-length dresses of the late
1800s. The movie-going public get what they have become used to.
Children may have a little difficulty following the
plot because, at one point, the action keeps shifting between three
different groups of people until they all come together. Some
phrases are spoken in Cheyenne and Crow with English subtitles, but
most of the movie is in English. Using native languages was such
a new idea that the movie could not qualify for an Academy Award, for
lack of a category; only foreign films had subtitles back then.
The American Anthropological Society has voted this the greatest
anthropological movie of all time.
For teens and older:
Dances with Wolves (1990) is a far
grander film about a Civil War soldier who makes friends with a wolf
and his Lakota Sioux neighbors. He eventually marries into the
The soldier of course bathes nude (though we see him
only from the back). But while the Indians camp along a river, we
never see any of them swimming or bathing. Three boys keep
showing up where they shouldn't be, but they never strip down. As
in the earlier movie, the women all cover their breasts before they
have had any contact with white women's dress styles.
The tribesmen speak Siouan (with English
subtitles). We see everyone gradually learning each other's
language. And the theme music will stick in your head for weeks.
This movie was immensely popular, and deservedly
so. Now that the disc is available, it seems like every thrift
shop in America has about three copies of the tape version.
take film seriously, you could also try Atanarjuat: The Fast Runner
(2001). This Canadian movie re-enacts an important shift in Inuit
history around 1200. Sons of tribal leaders had a bad habit of
murdering their fathers to gain power. The hero came from a
different family, and ended that tradition.
It's not a movie to everybody's taste. The
plot jumps along slowly, and pale yellow subtitles against a background
of ice and snow don't help a lot. You will get lost if you don't
first read about the legend and family relationships in Wikipedia. Basically, the
hero takes a second wife, the sister of his ruling enemies—and
she betrays him to her murderous brothers. He escapes naked from
his bed (yes, Eskimos sleep unclothed), and is chased for miles across
the ice. Advertising on the case calls it erotic; we all know
that nude running is nothing of the sort. And the photography is
honest—without shy camera angles trying to hide the nudity.
Not as heart-warming as the other two, this long
movie does not flinch from the tough realities of daily survival.
All three show us people centuries ago, living naturally in nature.
With more languages and tribes than Europe ever had,
the natives of North America cannot be understood by watching these
three movies. But it's not a bad place to begin. Some other
time, we will look at films about the lives of modern American Indians.
Growing Up Too Fast--Sept. 2016
This time, we look at movies about young people
growing up too fast. Adolescents go through many natural changes,
and perhaps a few experiments. But a youthful experiment must
never be confused with a lifetime commitment. That is why people
should not marry too young, or declare their sexual orientation before
they have finished growing.
These three classic films have always been
controversial, but they can teach us much.
For the whole family:
Child Bride (1938) deals with some
heavy stuff, including a couple of off-screen murders, and hooded thugs
with torches. Yet most movie critics say children should not
watch it because the twelve-year-girl with beginning breasts goes
skinny-dipping. (It would be OK for a boy that age to swim nude,
but not a girl.) I am more concerned that parents be there during
the scary scenes.
The girl's well-meaning teacher has filled her head
with a bunch of conventional nonsense about being too old to skinny-dip
with boys, so she does it with a clothed boy watching. That's
supposed to be better.
The movie is set in hillbilly country, where
children sometimes married way too young—and not always to people
their own age. This will require some explanation
beforehand. You may or may not need to explain moonshining.
And you need to be there at the end to clarify who stopped the villain.
It is a black-and-white film, only an hour
long. Because it was independently produced, it escaped the
censorship of the Hays Code that was paralyzing Hollywood at the time.
For Teens and Older:
More than thirty years later,
the charming heroes of Friends
(1971) are not the sort of role models that parents want for their
children. He is a 15-year-old, irresponsible, rich English boy
living with his too-busy father in Paris. She is a poor,
newly-orphaned, 14-year-old French girl, sent to live with an uncaring
relative. These unappreciated young people find each other, and
run away to the countryside, where they play house for a year.
Though both are bilingual, they speak English with each other.
Their initial embarrassment on bathing in a washtub
is amusing. (We only see them from the back or above the
waist.) But they soon get over that timidness, and find
themselves pregnant. He has to take up menial jobs to support
them, and learns responsibility for the first time in his life.
Yet their love never fades. He is there to deliver the baby.
The movie ends with the
police about to nab him as a runaway. In the hard-to-find sequel,
Paul & Michelle (1974), we
learn that his father packed him off to an exclusive high school in
England, where he graduated with honors three years later. Back
in France and admitted as a student at the Sorbonne, he is determined
to spend the summer looking for Michelle. He eventually finds her
and their daughter, but not the dream world where they once
lived. The grim reality of supporting a family sets in.
While they sleep nude and she no longer wears a bra, this sequel
continues to avoid anything frontal below the waist.
has nothing to do with a later television series of the same name.
movie, You Are Not Alone
(1978) takes place in a small private high school for slightly troubled
boys. There are a couple of natural shower scenes, but the boys
swim and sleep in their underwear. They also sport the long
hairstyles of the '70s. The movie is in Danish, with English
subtitles—including a few blunt expressions.
Until now, I have hesitated to recommend this movie
because it hints at possible homosexual attraction. But with
transgendered students and their bathroom use now in the headlines, the
public discussion has moved way beyond this. It is true that two
boys kiss at the end of the movie, but nothing more happens; the young
13-year-old hero is simply looking for the affection he is not finding
at home. That doesn't make him gay for the rest of his life.
I would not want to take the responsibility of
showing this movie to a young person going through confusion about who
he or she is. Self-confident teenagers of any leaning can handle
it with ease. Or if your family is already in the midst of coping
with gender-identification issues, this movie could be a way to reopen
some family discussion and understanding.
But don't rush into these things. All three
movies warn us of the dangers of kids taking on adult burdens too soon.