The 1970s were defined by a mind-boggling array of cultural and political phenomena. Some were serious—the energy crisis, no-fault divorce, Margaret Thatcher. Others were silly—crop circles, Charlie’s Angels, disco. And some were simply sublime—the American Basketball Association, SCTV, the proliferation of oral contraceptives. Among the most popular, yet controversial, of the decade’s attention-grabbers was a series of German films that explored the sex life of schoolgirls. (Those easily offended by such movies should perhaps stop reading now.) Based upon a best-selling book by German psychologist Günther Hunold, the films were presented as cautionary tales filmed in a quasi-documentary style in hopes of giving them a veneer of social responsibility. The public service aspect took the form of on-camera interviews with teenage girls answering blunt questions about their sex lives. The series purported to inform the public (i.e., parents) about what their supposedly innocent daughters were getting up to behind closed doors, in public parks, in automobiles, in swimming pools…
What they were, when one came right down to it, were soft-core sex films featuring an ever-changing cast of nubile young German actresses (most of whom ironically appeared to be at least college-aged, if not older). While the films were undeniably erotic, they were written and directed with a light touch and imbued with an earthy, farcical humor (think Benny Hill at his sleaziest). Most of the actresses exhibited an unabashed attitude toward sex that somehow made all the shagging seem like the wonderfully natural act it is rather than something shameful and prurient. The formula evidently worked. The Schoolgirl Report series was an immediate and smash success in Germany, and proved equally popular as a filmic export. The 13 films made over a 10-year period were seen by millions worldwide, including here in the God-fearing yet pre-Moral Majority U.S.A.
Each film presented up to eight vignettes in which German schoolgirls encountered a variety of sexual situations, including first-time sex, interracial sex, promiscuous sex, voyeurism, masturbation, rape, incest, and that old standby, pupil-teacher encounters. The boffing and boinking was by turns erotic, humorous, disturbing and poignant. Each story had at least a modicum of subtext, variously centered on the girls’ search for self-affirmation, the freedom to act as they pleased, and a determination to be treated as adults. Seen in a larger context, the series can be read as a swinging sexual statement of revolt on the part of its youthful protagonists against their parents’ authoritarian, dare one say dictatorial, World War II-era generation. Achtung, baby! As in the previous films, the fourth installment in the series, What Drives Parents to Despair (1972), begins with an unintentionally hilarious on-camera prologue, presumably delivered by Hunold himself. “Well, ladies and gentlemen, here we are again. You’ll remember us if you’re among the 30 million people who saw our first three Schoolgirl Reports in 28 countries and turned them into a global blockbuster,” he intones, assuming an air of seriousness that fails to completely camouflage his inner perve. “Still, no film has ever been attacked as ours. But almost everything you saw came from authentic sources. Life writes the most interesting scripts. Of course, we will not claim that all schoolgirls behave the way they are portrayed in our films. But it would also be foolish to close your eyes to the facts.” Or to the hot teen action about to unfold, he might have added.
The vignettes revolve around an 18-year-old who seduces her math teacher in order to ace her final, then blows him off with a curt auf Wiedersehen; a 16-year-old who talks her boyfriend into posing as a doctor and making a “house call” so they can get it on upstairs while her naive parents watch television downstairs; a group of high school girls and boys who set up a profitable prostitution ring to better partake of Germany’s economic miracle; and a quartet of oversexed young lovelies who get more than they bargain for when they prick-tease an Italian immigrant into proving his virility. In a much harder-hitting tale, an African girl adopted by a German couple is the target of crude racial insults from her Aryan schoolmates—in the locker room shower, naturally. Later, the Deutschland dollies arrange for her sexual violation by their equally racist boyfriends. There’s nothing titillating about this sequence, which comes across as a strong anti-rape statement. Another edgy story depicts a sexually curious teen virgin who harbors incestuous fantasies about her older brother. After spying on him making love to an older woman at a party, she begs him to deflower her, with predictable results. (No surprise considering the girl is played by Swedish exploitation film star Christina Lindberg.) In keeping with the series’ non-judgmental tone, the coupling is presented as a one-time-only adolescent experiment. The filmmakers don’t condemn the siblings as much as the socio-economic conditions that can give rise to such misdirected sexual development. And in the final story, as if to somehow reassure parents that not all schoolgirls are completely depraved, an 18-year-old waits until she is certain that her boyfriend loves her before giving up her V card.
The actual sex scenes truthfully aren’t all that exciting, at least, not by today’s XXX-on-demand standards, yet for their time they obviously fulfilled the needs of audiences from Berlin to Baden-Baden and beyond. And the sincerity of these at times awkward couplings takes viewers back to their own fumbling first attempts at sexual expression. That alone makes these films worth revisiting. Additionally, viewing the Schoolgirl Report films today is like opening a time portal onto a genuinely stylish era, one filled with beautiful young people following their natural instincts against a cultural background of casual drug use, space-age pads, trippy cars and the Hammond-driven sounds of Gert Wilden’s stunning jazz-rock music. For those who aren’t afraid to confront their own secret desires, this is trash cinema at its most diverting.
(Impulse Pictures has released
the first three films in the series with letterbox transfers, original German
language dialogue and English subtitles. For more info go to official web site)