Synopsis by Mark Deming
Since the earliest days of motion pictures, exploitation filmmakers have known that nudity was a potent box-office draw, but prior to the advent of the rating system in the late Sixties it was also legally problematic. That began to change in 1955, when the producers and distributors of the film Garden Of Eden, set in a nudist colony, vigorously defended their movie in court, and a groundbreaking legal decision, Excelsior Pictures Corp. vs. Regents of the University, declared that depicting nudism as a lifestyle on screen was not obscene. A small flood of nudist colony pictures followed, but nearly all followed Garden of Eden's level of caution in avoiding full frontal nudity at all costs, with sun bathers standing behind shrubs, holding beach balls or towels or simply keeping their backs to the camera when not photographed from the waist up. 1966's The Raw Ones, however, was the first major nudist film push the envelope and show extensive full male and female nudity, albeit in a decidedly non-sexual context. In The Raw Ones, a handful of cheerful and healthy young adults visit the beach, go swimming, play shuffleboard, jump rope, enjoy a trampoline and enjoy all sorts of wholesome fun in the nude as a narrator lectures on the health benefits of the nudist lifestyle, the crippling effects of shame, the dangers of sexual repression and the wisdom of the First Amendment and the great men who drafted it. While The Raw Ones faced legal prosecution in its initial release, the introduction of the MPAA rating system in November 1968 paved the way for a more adult cinema in America, and The Raw Ones now seems like an amusing curio of the era before the acceptance of nudity in cinema.