'Emmanuelle' Starring Sylvia Kristel And The 'Skinemax' Phenomenon

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Set of "Good -bye, Emmanuelle" with Silvia Kristel In Seychelles In April, 1977 - Ian McCone, Silvia Kristel. (Photo by Daniel SIMON/Gamma-Rapho via Getty Images)

In 1974, Dutch actress Sylvia Kristel played a youthful model who moves to Thailand to be with her husband, a French diplomat. The film was Emmanuelle, and it depicted Kristel's character on an erotic journey that changes the direction of her life forever. Emmanuelle initially earned a reputation as a sophisticated blue movie before forming the basis of the cable-TV smutty flick revolution of the 1980s and early '90s.

Without meaning to, the Emmanuelle film series created an entire genre of pseudo-adult films that were shown late at night on paid cable networks like Cinemax, with its "Friday After Dark" franchise, inspiring teenage boys to stay up to ungodly hours of the night with hopes of catching a hint of sexuality. These films, some of which initially built a large following with female viewers during the '70s, became a rite of passage for young people a decade later.

Without trying to, this sultry drama became the highest-grossing domestically produced French film of 1974, and created an aesthetic and tone for countless imitators and the Skinemax phenomenon.