From the Mitchell brothers to Kink.com, San Francisco has always been a little…uncensored.
So it's only fitting that a local festival celebrating pre-Code films -- those made after the introduction of sound but before the enforcement of the Hays Code censorship guidelines -- would be thoroughly celebrated.
Starting this Friday, San Francisco's Roxie Theater will present "Hollywood Before the Code: Nasty-Ass Films for a Nasty-Ass World!" -- a pre-Code film festival highlighting three themes: sex, crime and horror. (Obviously, we're in.)
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In a fabulous write-up in the San Francisco Chronicle, Mick LaSalle summed up the spirit of pre-Code film:
The term pre-Code refers to a small window of time, approximately five years, between Hollywood's widespread adoption of sound and the coming of censorship in the form of the strict Production Code, which came down like an ax on July 1, 1934. Before that, only one thing held studios back, and that was their sense of what an audience would tolerate.
Fortunately for us, audiences in the early 1930s -- coming off the social rebellion of the 1920s and in the midst of a devastating Depression -- were in the mood for sophisticated, grown-up entertainment.
The result: a collection of risk-taking films that cared more about truth in expression than appeasing the right people.
Included in the Roxie's festival are classics like George Abbott's deception-laced drama "The Cheat"; Tod Browing's cult classic "Freaks," a grippingly sincere film about physically deformed circus performers (starring actual circus performers); and the 1932 original bloodbath, "Scarface."
All bets are off with pre-Code, so expect the works: drugs, nudity, violence, torture and generally disturbing material. But unlike today's Blockbusters, pre-Code films don't make it pretty.
Visit the website for a complete list of films and showtimes, and check out a few of our favorites in our slideshow below: