In the late 1970s, the emergence of home video and the lack of any official censorship attached to it – not to mention changing attitudes that meant that ideas of what was and wasn’t obscene were constantly shifting – had seen hardcore porn arrive en-masse in the UK, and for high street shops still reluctant to stock fully uncensored titles, labels like Cal Vista and TCX were releasing edited versions that still went way beyond what the BBFC would have allowed. But the Video Recordings Act – ostensibly brought in to deal with video nasties – soon put a stop to all that. By 1984, sex films were being edited to the point of containing no sex at all, and home-grown British titles were no raunchier than the 8mm nudies of the early 1960s.
In this context, the appearance of Educating Julie makes a lot more sense, though even at the time it felt like a curio. Essentially, the film is a shot-on-video return to the nudist films that were the first to bring nudity to UK cinema screens, albeit under tight restrictions (no sex, no genitals, no nudity outside the confines of the nudist camp). By 1984, times had changed enough to allow fully nude men and women to appear on-screen (no strategically placed beach balls needed here), but the film’s plot is oddly familiar to fans of the genre – shy college student Julie (Gail Ward) has to write a research paper about “nudity in the 1980s”, and visits various nudist clubs to find out the facts, in the process shaking off her inhibitions. Like the films of old, sex never rears its ugly head, and the nudist lifestyle is shown as being entirely healthy and wholesome. It’s effectively as if the last twenty years had never happened. Only in Britain.
Gail Hardman’s film is epic by genre standards, taking in international venues, and – being produced by Heritage Video, the publishers of nudist magazine Health and Efficiency, can probably claim more noble intentions than many of its predecessors. But it’s fun to see this old format being revived at a time when British adult film producers were scrambling for ways to cope with the new stringent censorship rules. And while we might admire the fact that the BBFC recognised that this wasn’t erotica and passed it with a 15 certificate, it’s worth remembering that two decades earlier, movies like Nudes of the World and Take Off Your Clothes and Live were released with ‘A’ (equivalent of PG) certificates – so we really haven’t come very far.
In the early 1990s, Heritage and other labels made a handful of other nudist dramas for the video market. But Educating Julie remains a curious pioneer. Enjoy it as nature intended below.