A Q&A with lezsploitation maven Michelle Johnson
Sexually repressed nuns, naughty prisoners, lustful wardens, and love-thirsty vampires are the celebrated heroines of Triple X Selects: The Best of Lezsploitation, Michelle Johnson's effort to reappropriate 1960s and 1970s sexploitation flicks. Intrigued by these films' soundtracks, the Los Angeles DJ, musician, and cult-film enthusiast hunted for the genre's most precious gems and compiled them into a 47-minute metafilm. We exchanged e-mails about this unconventional history lesson, which Johnson will be presenting in person at the Victoria Theatre on June 16.
SFBG When were you introduced to sexploitation films, and what attracted you to them?
MICHELLE JOHNSON I think my first introduction to sexploitation films began when I was about 9 or 10 years old! I used to stay up late and watch cable television. My earliest memory of a sexploitation film that struck me was [1974's] Emmanuelle, starring Sylvia Kristel. I remember it was very sexy, though I had no concept of what sexy was! I knew I shouldn't be watching it and that it was for adults; it seemed forbidden but terribly exciting. I would also see adverts in the local paper for strange films showing downtown, which in my small Texas city meant the dirty, sleazy part of town. I so wanted to go to these films.
SFBG Why did you decide to make Triple X Selects, and how did you select your clips?
MJ I was approached by two friends who were curating Homo a Go Go [a queer music, art, film, and spoken word festival] in Olympia, Wash., last year. They knew I had a large amount of cult erotic films and many of them had crazy lesbian scenes. They asked if I would consider editing together a film montage from the genre the crazier and the sexier, the better.
I tried to select film clips the average lesbian might have never seen. Something vastly more sexy than is in your average lesbian film. I really wanted people to laugh as well.
I heard a comment from someone who couldn't understand how you can reclaim films that were made by men for men and present them as queer. To me, what is sexy and what is erotic is in the eye of the beholder. [These films] certainly functioned as fantasy for me way back when I first discovered Emmanuelle. As a kid growing up in a small town, I had no notion of what was queer or lesbian, but these films transported me to a really exciting fantasy world. Sure, it was a trashy, sleazy, over-the-top world populated by powerful, sexed-up women. But really, what's wrong with that?
TRIPLE X SELECTS: THE BEST OF LEZSPLOITATION Sat/16, 6 p.m., Victoria