What Are Loops?

Before Deep Throat and Behind the Green Door introduced Porn Chic to an unsuspecting American public in 1972, there were loops. Loops were basically stag films that had been given a facelift. They usually lasted no more than 7-10 minutes and were made for peep-show machines - 8mm projectors closed in solid boxes in a small booth with a screen and a door that could be locked. The films were on constant rotation - hence the term loops. The huge demand for sex films to show in these booths helped establish the adult film industry in the late 1960s and early 1970s.

A short history

Stag films had existed almost as long as cinema itself, which is hardly surprising. The evolution of visual technology from ancient Greek pottery, to painting, printing, photography, then motion pictures and now computers, has always been followed by their adaption to further enhance the visual depiction of eroticism. It’s human nature.

The first public exhibition of projected motion pictures in America was at Koster and Bial’s Music Hall in New York City on 23 April 1896. That very same year the French filmmaker Albert Kirchner made the earliest known stag film, Le Coucher de la Mariée, which depicted the cabaret performer Louise Willy doing a striptease before taking a bath with an unknown male. The first hardcore stag film that can be dated with any certainty is A L'Ecu d'Or ou la bonne auberge. Shot in France in 1908, the plot depicts a soldier having sex with a servant girl at an inn.

These early stag films, however, were mainly shown in brothels and gentlemen’s clubs. It was only after the Second World War, with improved technology and the introduction of the 8mm and super-8 film gauges that things really took off.

In the 1960s, social and judicial attitudes towards the explicit depiction of sexuality began to change, while the pill allowed the hippy generation to experience “free love” without unwanted repercussions. Many people, such as early porn director Alex De Renzy, have argued that without the “free love” ethos of the flower-power generation and the availability of the pill, it would have been impossible for hardcore pornography to explode onto the mass market the way it did in the early 1970s.

However, mainstream theatres were reluctant to even screen softcore films, never mind hardcore pornography; so the logic of demand and supply led to the rise of adult cinema theatres in the United States and Europe. Peep-show booths in sex shops added an extra element of privacy for the discerning viewer, which leads us back the subject of loops.

Lasse Braun in 1969
The king of early Euroloops was Lasse Braun (real name Alberto Ferro), the son of an Italian diplomat. He was an idealist, a pioneer and a man of his times. Without his single-handed efforts in the 1960s and 1970s to legalise pornography in Europe, the industry would probably look very different today. It is impossible to discuss the history of 20th century adult entertainment without tipping your hat to this Italian maverick.

From 1966 onwards he produced loops operating out of Denmark and later the Netherlands. He worked mainly with unknown women he met in bars, but also with established names, such as French porn actresses Claudine Beccarie and Sylvia Bourdon. His films were generally well-shot, often with interesting settings, costumes and themes such as the adventures of Casanova, or flimsy stories based on Vikings or spies. This was a long way from art, but it was definitely a step up from the existing cheaply made fuck-flicks shot in dirty basements!

“I make porn movies for two reasons: first of all because I’m fond of sex and secondly because it is forbidden.” - Lasse Braun

1971 loop by Lasse Braun
On 4 June 1969, Denmark became the first country in the world to legalise hardcore pornography. This opened the floodgates.

In the early days loops were silent. Later sound was introduced, but often they were dubbed to suit the market so it didn’t matter whether they were shot in France, Denmark, Germany or even the UK (where hardcore porn was still illegal at the time). Some of the many European labels in the late 1970s were Tabu, Teenage Climax, Love Film, Karl Ordinez, Color Climax, Rubin Film and Starlight.

In the USA production was split between New York, Los Angeles and San Francisco. New York turned out the M Series and the G Series. LA had the Pretty Girl and Playmate series. San Francisco had the 200 series, the OZ series, Collection series and Diamond Collection.

The most famous US series was Swedish Erotica, but there were many more, such as the NM Series, Erotica Unlimited, Danish Films, Joys of Erotica, Pleasure Productions and later Limited Edition and Roger Rimbaud. Some of these labels, like Vogue, would release no more than a dozen titles; others, for example Swedish Erotica, would run into the hundreds.

Many early porn stars like Tina Russell, Linda Lovelace, Brigitte Maier, Uschi Karnat, Linda McDowell, Patricia Rhomberg and Mary Millington first made their names in porn shooting loops. By the mid to late 1970s the adult film industry was well established in both the US and Europe, but it was still common to see future stars such as Leslie Bovee, Candida Royalle, Jean Jennings, Seka or Dorothy Le May launch their career through loops before moving on to feature films.

"There were loops and then there were features. Only the biggest stars got to do features. On the other hand there were a lot more loops being done than features, so lots of A’ list porn stars did loops in between features… We’d get paid for a day’s work and that was it.” – Seka

One of the last labels in the US to focus on loops was Golden Girls during the early 1980s. This introduced a number of porn girls like Ginger Lynn, Debi Diamond, Danielle and Stacey Donovan that would become famous later on in the decade.

The format eventually died with the introduction of video.

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