A look back at this day in film history
December 10
In the Realm of the Senses October 8, 1976
In the Realm of the Senses released in Japan

On this day in 1976, one of the most controversial movies of all time, Nagisa Oshima’s In the Realm of the Senses (aka Ai No Corrida), opened in Oshima’s native Japan. The sexually explicit film told the real-life tale of the torrid love affair between hotel maid Sada Abe and her boss Kichizo Ishida, which famously ended when Abe asphyxiated Ishida during sex, and then cut off his penis and testicles (which she then carried in her handbag). Any film tackling this subject would inevitably been mired in controversy, however Oshima pushed the envelope even further during the production of the movie by having his actors Eiko Matsuda and Tatsuya Fuji engage in unsimulated sex for their highly charged love scenes. To get around Japanese censorship laws, In the Realm of the Senses was deemed a French film, with the footage being sent to France, where it was subsequently edited. When Oshima had completed the film, he premiered it in May 1976 at the Cannes Film Festival, where interest was so great that an unprecedented 13 screenings had to be organized. When the film was released in Japan in October of that year, five minutes had been cut from the original 113 minute version, and many shots had been blurred to obscure the actors’ nudity. The fact that Senses was released in Japan at all was impressive: it was banned after screenings at the New York and Berlin Film Festivals (though both rulings were later overturned), and wasn’t publicly shown in Britain or Canada until the 1990s. In 2000, a full-length version entitled Ai No Corrida 2000 was finally released in Japan, although the actors’ genitalia were still obscured, this time by pixelation.

More Flashbacks
December 10, 1968
Oliver Released

When Oliver!, Lionel Bart’s musical stage adaptation of the Charles Dickens classic, proved a surprise hit in 1960, Hollywood knew a film adaptation wasn’t far behind.

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December 10, 1948
Sturges' Unfaithfully Yours

In December 1948, Twentieth Century-Fox released Unfaithfully Yours, the latest work from the comic writer-director Preston Sturges.  Fox was hoping to profit from the director’s possible comeback. From 1940 to 1946, the writer/director had a string of seven major hits, but then, after leaving Paramount and setting up a production company with Howard Hughes, Sturges seemed to have lost his magic touch. But Fox was betting he still had it in him, especially since the film was actually written in 1932, just prior to his hitting it big. Here a symphony conductor (Rex Harrison), believing his wife is having an affair, imagines different scenarios for murdering her as he conducts three classic orchestral pieces. During Rossini's Overture to Semiramide, the conductor envisions his wife as a vamp; during Wagner's Overture to Tannhäuser, he imagines a better life for himself, and finally during Tchaikovsky’s "Francesca da Rimini" ruminates on that special place in Hell for cheating wives. And while everyone was excited by the outcome, publicity storm clouds were on the horizon. Studio lawyers feared possible law suits from the English conductor Sir Thomas Beecham, who bore more than a striking resemblance to the main character. Then in July, Rex Harrison’s name was linked to the scandal swirling around the suicide of Carole Landis, an actress he was having an affair with. But, in the end, the film’s dark comedy was out of touch with a hopeful post-war America. And while it was praised by critics, few came to see it.

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