But I’m going to try anyway.
Taschen is one of the world’s most renowned publishers of art books, and this square-shaped (but not square-minded) hardback is but one reason why: top-quality treatment with top-quality material. It’s just in this case, the subject is top-heavy.
Roughly 100 full-page, black-and-white images are included, comprising the meat of the hefty tome, with a pair of Taschen-branded 3-D glasses included inside the back cover. These images are what we lovingly call “vintage,” which sounds more attractive than “old”; most were culled, I’m guessing, from the 1950s through 1970s.
But more about those in a moment.
Believe it or not, I was more interested in the lengthy introduction by Dian Hanson (a woman also responsible for Taschen’s “The Big Book of Penis 3D,” in fairness of equal time), which serves as an overall history of the 3-D format, tying in how it shaped and affected various entertainment products and popular culture at large. Why the natural marriage of the bounds-breaking technology with nudity hasn’t been utilized by Hollywood with frequency (“Piranha 3D” being a modern exception of exploitation), print had no such qualms of exploiting it — perhaps because such things are best, um, “enjoyed” in the privacy of one’s own home.
Hanson notes the first 3-D photographs of the female birthday suit date back to 1839, but were not printed in magazines until the 1880s, and even then, not until 1925 in the good ol’ U.S. of A., where curves are as all-American as apple pie, baseball and Chevrolet. She even reveals that, although initially in two dimensions, the iconic World War II pinup was introduced as a concentrated effort to keep our troops from contracting VD while abroad. Hey, this is history, folks!
But something tells me that buyers and browsers alike won’t be purchasing this one for the words, so onto those photos as promised. Precious few are sexy; most fall into the category of camp, while others are just plain boring. Regardless, the book captures an era of cheesecake — with slices cut extra-thick, mind you — and adds a spice of novelty.
Burlesque stars like Virginia Bell, Tempest Storm and Candy Barr appear, but the work will appeal more to cult-film enthusiasts, given the inclusion of such frame-filling figures as Uschi Digard, Kitten Natividad and Candy Samples, all of whom were captured at least once by the camera of Russ Meyer, whose entire filmography was dedicated to documenting his fetish for flesh of the chest. Having recently read his best-selling biography, Jimmy McDonough’s “Big Bosoms and Square Jaws,” I can say with certainty that Russ could’ve used this book as a casting guide. And Lord knows, he would’ve been happy to.
One last note: The 3-D used here is excellent. Unlike so many movies, it actually works as intended. But as with so many movies, the 3-D also gave me a near-instant headache. Be warned it may hurt your eyes, but it will not — no matter what your mom says — make you go blind. —Rod Lott