|MPAA Rating (USA):||Unrated|
Lyric International's publications included magazines, photo sets and short films. Press coverage of the 1973 Lyric scandal said, "One confiscated film shows the boys playing nude on a beach believed to be near Corpus Christi," a description that would fit Summer Freedom. Unlike Peter and the Desert Riders and Boyhood Scrapbook, which are slideshows of Lyric still photos assembled and filmed by others, Summer Freedom is almost half an hour of full-motion video. It or Sandy Hill is Lyric's first venture into film, a journey that ended with The Genesis Children.
The film shows youths ranging from preadolescent boys to near adults, playing on a beach, almost invariably nude. It opens with a white-on-black title card with "Summer Freedom" in all caps in an Onstage Regular font with a 3D effect, spinning down from the top center, and ends with a simple "The End" in the same font. There are no intermediate titles, no copyright claim, and no identification of photographer, director or publisher. The instrumental sound track is at the start occasionally penetrated by such sounds such as waves, gulls, firecrackers and a barking dog, though later when a soda pull tab is popped, it does so silently.
The movie is edited from assorted rolls of film, clearly reflecting more that one trip to the beach or beaches.
Until approximately the seven minute mark, the film shows two boys with very visible tan marks and little or no pubic hair, and a black dog with a white chest and a stubby tail, possible a bulldog. They run on the beach, inflate and float on two air mattresses, and set off firecrackers. The end of the segment shows two boys a year or two younger, possibly the same boys.
The second segment shows nine boys and an avocado-colored Volkswagen mini-bus. What may be an offshore oil platform is briefly glimpsed, as is the front of another vehicle, SUV or 4WD sized. The boys are briefly carrying bathing suits, and later some put on and remove suits. All have prominent tan lines, but sunburn is never visible. Ages range from preadolescent to nearly adult, the "ages 6 to 17" of the 1973 article being plausible. A large watermelon is split lengthwise into eight segments, eaten by a line of eight standing boys. Two boys carry a vintage red Igloo ice chest; one extracts and opens a can of Coke. One of the older boys, nude but for socks and sneakers, repeatedly attempts to start a fire of driftwood.
Other items that appear are a small shovel and a gardening trowel for digging in the sand, a red Styrofoam surfboard, and a model glider with a wingspan nearly equal to the small boy carrying it; two straw hats; two inflatable orange mattresses; and a wooden pallet carried into the waves by five boys. Near the end, nine boys engage in a tug-of-war.
While Peter Glawson is nearly omnipresent in Lyric's works, and appears in still photos of a similar beach, a quick viewing of Summer Freedom does not identify him.
The movie was available some years ago on Usenet as a file with a resolution of 352x240, 29 frames per second, a runtime of 28'53", and sound. There is some shakiness that betrays a hand-held camera. The color is reasonably consistent throughout, notably in the flesh tones, probably the principal concern of those who photographed and sold the movie, and of those who transferred it to other formats.
Lyric collaborator Guy Strait said he usually filmed 12-minute loops and longer movies with a 16-millimeter Beaulieu, but intentionally lowered the quality of 8mm prints sold, to make piracy difficult. While this early film probably predates Strait's collaboration with Lyric, the studio's techniques may have been similar.
Summer Freedom does not appear dissimilar to many family beach movies, except of course for the nudity. At no time do the subjects engage in any behavior that is inappropriate for boys on a beach. While the resolution is quite low, the allegations in the 1973 scandal would have been based on the far clearer 8mm films sold by Lyric or even the 16mm original.
The six-part Dost Test is one of the methods used by courts to determine if pictures or film are child pornography: meeting any of the six criteria may be enough. Item four—"Whether the child is fully or partially clothed, or nude"—is certainly met by Summer Freedom, though no more so than by any other naturist film, where nudity by itself has been found insufficient to meet the Dost Test.
Item one is, "Whether the focal point of the visual depiction is on the child's genitalia or pubic area." That does not seem to be so on a quick viewing, though no doubt a prosecutor could cherry-pick frames. Summer Freedom precedes by two decades the Dost Test, enunciated by a California district court in 1986, but seems to have anticipated the same sensibility.
The sixth item is, "Whether the visual depiction is intended or designed to elicit a sexual response in the viewer." Would Lyric have been able to sell Summer Freedom without the nudity? The older boy in socks and sneakers may be showing a partial erection, or may merely be well endowed, another hallmark of the Lyric stable. Is that intended to elicit a sexual response in the viewer?
According to the Electronic Freedom Foundation,
This test requires a case-by-case analysis and is devoid of bright line rules. [...] Nudity is not enough for a finding that an image is lascivious, but clothing does not mean a photo is in the clear.
A description in words of what the film is—and of what it isn't—is certainly a safer alternative.
- ↑ Farr, William. "14 Men Indicted in Sex Movies Featuring Boys Ages 6 to 17". Los Angeles Times 27 Oct 1973, p. B1, B8
- ↑ Linedecker, Clifford L. 1981. Children in Chains. New York: Everest House. p. 230
- ↑ Adult Material, Electronic Freedom Foundation.