Last weekend I was fortunate enough to be invited to talk about small gauge adult films at the annual Offscreen Festival in Brussels, Belgium. It was wonderful to be amongst such friendly and enthusiastic folk, including film archivist Jack Stevenson and the Klubb Super8 team from Sweden. On the Sunday, I was asked to introduce a rare screening of a 35mm print of Alex de Renzy’s documentary Pornography in Denmark: A New Approach (1970), supplied by the good folks over at Vinegar Syndrome. Unlike other films from around the same period that exploited Denmark’s legalisation of hardcore pornography in 1969, de Renzy’s documentary differs. Coming from a news production background, de Renzy brought a distinct approach. At the time he made the film, he was eager for content to screen at his San Francisco adult theatre – The Screening Room — and to push the boundaries beyond his usual nudie cuties.

Fellow adult filmmaker John Lamb had already scored a hit with the similar themed faux documentary Sexual Freedom in Denmark, which included very little footage from Denmark, but featured an extended sequence of a child birth and ‘sociological footage’ of a couple having sex. Lamb’s film was successful, playing for 32 weeks until becoming embroiled in an obscenity case. As Jack Stevenson notes in his book Scandinavian Blue, Sexual Freedom in Denmark, along with several other titles, were found not to be obscene, and played a key part in the eventual distribution of hardcore porn in the US.

While Pornography in Denmark: A New Approach is undoubtedly exploitation, its value as a documentary should not be dismissed. de Renzy’s journalism experience and insider knowledge as an adult film producer and exhibitor shows, as he interviews people at the Sex 69 trade fair, smuggling a camera into the the event after being refused official access. He met with a range of people involved in Denmark’s newly legalised adult industry, talking to sex shop owners, live show runners and attends the making of a 8mm porn film.

Watching it on the big screen for the first time made me realise how de Renzy took great care to ensure this was a documentary, with him filming the screening of hardcore 8mm films rather than cutting them into the film and when covering the making of a porn film, the camera stands behind the person shooting the footage, again that he was documenting its production rather shooting porn. de Renzy would have no doubt been conscious of obscenity law and eager to test the boundaries of acceptability.

Stevenson claims that Pornography in Denmark: A New Approac was so successful that it enabled de Renzy to move into larger premises, eventually grossing $800,000. It appears that de Renzy’s attempts to emphasise the documentary form helped the film to evade a couple of attempted obscenity prosecutions.

But why I am discussing this documentary on a website that discusses British porn? Well, what I personally find so fascinating about Pornography in Denmark is that we see rollers displayed through the movie. At the Sex 69 fair, we are briefly shown Climax Original’s stand (see above) and their output dominates the other 8mm films sold in shops and screened at live shows. It highlights just how dominant the Climax brand was, well before the Theander Brothers introduced their Sex Orgy films and eventually the Color Climax label.

Pornography in Denmark can be viewed at Something Weird.