University of Sussex
Emmanuelle paper (1).pdf (219.74 kB)

Emmanuelle: polluting Britain with as much moral poison and filth as possible

Download (219.74 kB)
posted on 2023-06-10, 04:18 authored by Adrian Smith
This paper will be exploring cultural transfer through public and institutional debates around censorship, sexual representation and pornography in 1970s London, using Emmanuelle (1974, Just Jaeckin, France) as the main case study. The UK rights for Emmanuelle were picked up by New Realm, a small, family-operated independent distributor with experience in exploiting cheap European film in British cinemas. They were unprepared for the mainstream success of Emmanuelle or the level of public outcry. Using archival materials from a number of sources, this paper will explore the way the film fared at the hands of censors, the press – it was described by one reviewer as “a pompous tract on voyeurism… lacking in both spirit and eroticism,” (Monthly Film Bulletin, October 1974, p.223) – and the public. When released it drew a huge number of complaints, and these letters reveal much about British attitudes towards sex on screen in the 1970s. In one such example, the Greater London Council received a particularly strong letter of protest, typed almost entirely in uppercase, from “300 PARENTS OF 18 yr OLD BOYS & GIRLS.” The letter goes on to accuse the GLC of taking bribes from unscrupulous filmmakers to abolish the censorship of sex films. Using Emmanuelle, this paper will examine the cross-national circulation of films, where a film is removed from its national context (in this case, France) and it becomes something for British audiences to reinterpret and understand according to their own moral standards (or moral hang-ups).


Publication status

  • Published

File Version

  • Accepted version

Page range


Presentation Type

  • paper

Event name

HoMER 2022 - Across Borders: Audiences, Exhibition And Reception

Event location

Rome, Italy

Event type


Event date

05-08 Jul 2022

Department affiliated with

  • Media and Film Publications

Full text available

  • Yes

Peer reviewed?

  • No

Legacy Posted Date


First Open Access (FOA) Date


First Compliant Deposit (FCD) Date


Usage metrics

    University of Sussex (Publications)


    No categories selected


    Ref. manager