Beginning from the years 1965-66, an array of soft-core magazines and adult comics invaded the Italian cultural landscape, bringing to the average (male) reader a bulk of (almost) legitimate erotic content. At the same time, our national movie production was undergoing (since the late Fifties) a radical change in its erotic imagery, due to a steady liberalization of sexual norms and habits within the social context, as well as to internal developments in the media sphere related to the appearance of television as a new entertainment asset (and to the subsequent initial crisis of movie spectatorship). This growing “eroticization” of Italian (popular) culture was to all purposes the perfect social and commercial background for the birth of the sexy cineromanzo, a hybrid cultural product capable of capitalizing on the remarkable success of the male-only-magazine formula (that produced “bestsellers” such as Playmen) as well as on the ever increasing availability of beautiful naked actresses or risqué sex scenes provided by countless exploitation movies circulating on the screens worldwide. Magazines such as Cinesex, Cinestop, BigFilm, TopFilm and others, in fact, were essentially characterized by a bizarre mix of “spicy” news from the (cinema) world, sex ads, film reviews, and photo-novels directly taken from Italian and international erotic movies.
As it’s generally acknowledged, the idea of an entertainment magazine exclusively focusing on cinema and films was nothing new in our history, being movie novelization a distinct feature of the Italian cultural industry since the early decades of the XX century. In particular, the cineromanzo itself rose during the Fifties as an archetypical product of the synergy between films and popular magazines in an integrated media system. During the Seventies, on the contrary, the peculiar (decentralized) position of cinema within the media landscape and the typological restrictions due to the specific generic features of the films that were transposed in this kind of publications created a sort of “anomaly” in the great tradition of novelizations.
Through a short survey of the sexualisation of Italian media and culture during the Sixties and Seventies and through the analysis of a few case studies, this paper aims at tracing a brief history of the Italian sexy cineromanzi of the Seventies, highlighting their particular relationship with contemporary exploitation movies and adult magazines, and also stressing their controversial historical links with similar experiences of the previous decades.