‘Ghostbusters’ Director Ivan Reitman’s First Movie Was Raided By The Cops
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Sadly, legendary writer, director, and producer Ivan Reitman unexpectedly passed away on Saturday night at the age of 75. The fabric of modern pop-culture inarguably just wouldn’t be the same without iconic comedies like Ghostbusters and Stripes – not to mention Dave, Twins and Kindergarten Cop. Reitman produced everything from family movies like Beethoven and Space Jam to definitely not family movies like Heavy Metal. We typically wouldn’t think of Reitman as a controversial filmmaker, but one of his movies almost resulted in a prison sentence – and no, it wasn’t Stop! Or My Mom Will Shoot.
When Reitman was a music major at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario, he ended up taking over the school’s film club. It was there that he produced his first feature film; 1969’s The Columbus of Sex, a “16-mm experiment in soft-core pornography” directed by fellow student John Hofsess and based on the 19th century erotic novel My Secret Life. Reportedly, it illustrated “various sexual techniques, preferences and positions” in a “documentary style with a dose of comedy.”
The film was an experimental “dual-screen” take on the book, the kind of nudity-filled art-house project you’d probably expect to be made by college students in 1969. You know who didn’t love nudity-filled art-house projects in 1969? Cops. The movie played only once for a test screening of students before, during a second showing, the police raided the theatre, “seizing projection equipment” and arresting the filmmakers, including Reitman who was manning the projector. They were charged with obscenity and, after a lengthy, much-publicized trial, eventually fined $300 – or roughly twenty American dollars.
The Columbus of Sex became “the first and only Canadian feature film to be banned by the Ontario Board of Censors” before it was eventually sold to an American producer who re-edited the film and distributed it as a more traditional “softcore erotica” picture. Despite the ordeal, Reitman continued to tackle taboo subject matter in film, directing Foxy Lady and Cannibal Girls in the early ‘70s, both of which featured future Nissan pitchman Eugene Levy – who also happened to be one of the cinematographers of The Columbus of Sex.
Even after Cannibal Girls was taken “hostage” by the investors, a debt-ridden Reitman hopped a plane to Cannes where he was able to sell the film. So if it wasn’t for a schlocky cannibal comedy and an arty porno, there’s a very good chance that your childhood would have had featured far fewer laughs.
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Top Image: Columbia Pictures/Universal Pictures