Whether defined by the carnivalesque excesses of Troma studios (The Toxic Avenger), the arthouse erotica of Radley Metzger and Doris Wishman, or the narrative experimentations of Abel Ferrara, Melvin Van Peebles, Jack Smith, or Harmony Korine, underground cinema has achieved an important position within American film culture. Often defined as “cult” and “exploitation” or “alternative” and “independent,” the American underground retains separate strategies of production and exhibition from the cinematic mainstream, while its sexual and cinematic representations differ from the traditionally conservative structures of the Hollywood system. Underground U.S.A. offers a fascinating overview of this area of maverick moviemaking by considering the links between the experimental and exploitative traditions of the American underground.
I would recommend readers to pay particular attention to those articles [in Underground U.SA. by Steven Jay Schneider] that take issue with the representation of sexuality and graphic nudity in the underground canon such as [Elena] Gorfinkel’s work on taste and aesthetic distinction, Sargeant’s research on voyeurism and sadistic transgression and Michael J. Bowen’s work on the violent eroticism of what he terms the ‘roughie’. The work on the sexploitation film is interesting in terms of a discussion of taste formations and cultural distinctions, but more importantly (in terms of the aim of this book), the sexploitation film is interesting due to the fact that such films provide a ‘shadow history to cultural and social events’ of particular historical periods. —Rebecca Feasey, Scope