Date of Graduation


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts in Communication (MA)

Degree Level





Frank Scheide

Committee Member

Ryan Neville-Shepard

Second Committee Member

Ringo Jones


Transgressive, Horror cinema, American films, Italian films


Exploitation cinema is a domain of motion picture content catering to a viewership interested in imagery that is more provocative than what mainstream audiences desire to see. These types of films are typically considered lowbrow entertainment and have been made in every era, albeit in a limited capacity proportional to the niche audience demand for them. Some time periods see a rise in exploitation film productions in response to a growing demand for such content from a larger share of the broader cinematic audience. This relationship indicates that period-specific cultural factors can cause mainstream audience members to seek out more lurid visuals than they typically would, the reasons for which are open to speculation among film scholars. Between 1960 to 1988 Italy experienced a boom in exploitation cinema. Because Italy also produced many art films during this timeframe that featured the same type of brutality and salaciousness of exploitation movies, the broader term of “transgressive” will be used to encompass all films from this era that pushed the envelope of sexuality or violence, regardless of what their artistic merit might be. This thesis proposes that Italy’s prolific transgressive cinema run was fueled by major political events happening concurrently with the loosening of censorship laws. The anxiety over decades-long crises prompted many in the general public to seek catharsis through viewing violence onscreen. A reduction in cinema censorship not only made audience anger relief by way of seeing violent imagery a possibility, but it additionally allowed for the display of never-before-seen sexual content, purveyed for its novelty rather than as a kind of emotional displacement. This thesis explains the cultural causes behind the rise and fall of Italy’s transgressive cinema movement.