Wednesday, March 28, 2012


Citizens for Decent Literature, Inc.'s 1965 Perversion for Profit is Christian anti-pornography propaganda of the most exploitative and entertaining kind. Narrated by "outstanding reporter" and talk show host George Putnam, this endlessly quotable short film was financed by George "Mr. Clean" Keating, a Roman Catholic censorship advocate best remembered today for his criminal mischief in the Savings and Loan Crisis, as well as for the extensive smut collection he maintained in his law offices, ostensibly to educate skeptics about the corrupting influence of "dirt for dirt's sake." (A pre-jailbird Keating was memorably portrayed in Milos Forman's The People vs. Larry Flynt [1996] by actor James Cromwell.)

Over the course of a thirty-one minute harangue, the stentorian Putnam--an acknowledged inspiration for The Mary Tyler Moore Show's asinine newsman Ted Baxter--stands before a map of the United States while alerting us to the "floodtide of filth...engulfing our country in the form of newsstand obscenity and...threatening to pervert an entire generation of our American children."  Perversion for Profit is a mouthwatering time capsule of Swinging Sixties filth, ranging far and wide from such forgotten girlie magazines as Nightcap and Rapture to the dreaded physique publications (one of which, Male Classics, sports muscleman Steve Reeves as Hercules on its cover), whose "homosexual viewpoint and poses are often not understood by many youngsters who take them as instructions of body development."  All models have their eyes blacked out, presumably to save the poor creatures from embarrassment; their naughty parts, however, are barely concealed.

The film completely degenerates into paranoid lunacy when Putnam warns us that "moral decay weakens our resistance to the onslaught of the Communist masters of deceit"--the very same scoundrels who were attempting to sap and impurify our precious bodily fluids during the Cold War, and for all I know are still trying. This same decay, we are gloomily instructed, "caused sixteen of the nineteen major civilizations to vanish from the Earth." As Gore Vidal pointedly observed in a 1966 essay on pornography, "This simplistic view of history is a popular one, particularly among those who do not read history." "Oh, God," Putnam piously intones at the conclusion of this camp masterpiece, "deliver us, Americans, from evil." Amen.

A highlight of Perversion for Profit is Putnam's dramatic recitation, as an example of indecent literature, of a passage from Sex Jungle (1960), a pseudonymous novel by none other than award-winning science fiction author Robert Silverberg, laboring mightily to pay off his new house. Silverberg later modestly described his "Don Elliott" oeuvre as "outstanding"; it certainly delivers a shock to Putnam's system. "'Dirt,'" Camille Paglia explains, "is contamination to the Christian but fertile loam to the pagan. Far from poisoning the mind, pornography shows the deepest truth about sexuality, stripped of romantic veneer." Indeed, despite the perpetual protestations of concerned citizens, gender feminists, and other foes of the First Amendment, "pornography is art, sometimes harmonious, sometimes discordant. Its glut and glitter are a Babylonian excess."

Perversion occasionally materializes as wee hours filler on Turner Classic Movies, usually after the network's Underground series, and is the source for Zombie Popcorn's YouTube presentation.  The fullscreen print is in rough, faded condition, which actually enhances the film's loopy allure. Settle back, dear reader, fire up a colortini, and watch these dirty pictures as they fly through the air.


Paglia, Camille. Vamps and Tramps. New York: Vintage, 1995.

Vidal, Gore. United States: Essays 1952-1992.  New York: Random House, 1993.