If you think of Swedish cinema as a rich heritage of artistic achievement, your focus is overly narrow. "Swedish Sensationsfilms" (Bazillionpoints Books, $19.95) is a 320-page catalog of Scandinavian skin and sin, packed with movies that demand to be ogled, not pondered.
"Sensationsfilms" reveals that beneath the placid Swedish psyche there boils an insatiable appetite for trash, sleaze and debauchery. Danial Ekroth uses his master's degree in film science from Stockholm University to detail the national obssession with exploitation films. A tireless researcher, he studied hundreds of grindhouse nudies, slashers and "kickers" (his great term for cheesy action flicks), charting the careers of the smut-meisters and gore-heads who produced them.
Here you will find fulsome appreciations of "A Handful of Love," which sexed up the tedious story of the big national labor strikes of 1909 with gratuitous nudity; the grimy underworld expose "The Hottest Shags"; and "The Chameleons," a satire of the Swedish culture establishment in the form of a "psychotic thriller where morbid visions, depraved sexuality and violence come together in perfect proportions."
Some film scholars might take exception with Eckroth's claim that Ingmar Bergman's "The Virgin Spring" spawned a cycle of rape-revenge slashers. Still, his enthusiasm for his subject is unarguable, and his writing is full of cultural insights you won't find in academic journals.
Writing about the Swedish-Danish co-production "I, a Marquis," a movie with the tagline "An erotic comedy with fun sex-sadism," Eckroth notes that it was "based on a true story -- which should hardly come as a surprise to anyone who has ever visited Denmark." The publisher's website includes a YouTube gallery of theatrical trailers.