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Plot: did it all truly happen, or is it merely in Lena’s head?

The best thing you can say in retrospect about Christina Lindberg is that she knew exactly where her strengths lie. Lindberg was a nude model first and she never got a hang of acting no matter how hard she tried. There’s no such thing as a quintessential Christina Lindberg movie for a reason, and probably the best thing she did was the deeply cynical Rötmånad (1970) (where she had an absolute minimum of dialogue) and Exponerad (or Exposed - released in Norway as Sommeren med Lena, no doubt to sucker in the unsuspecting Ingmar Bergman fan, and in the US as The Depraved) followed closely by Anita Swedish Nymphet (1973). Maid In Sweden (1971), often passed off by unscrupulous distributors as an innocuous coming of age drama, pointed exactly to where Lindberg’s career was headed from that point onward. For a few years Christina was a softcore superstar before the advent of hardcore pornography forced her out of the business and into a career in journalism. Decades later Lindberg still can’t escape the looming shadow of the infamous rape revenge caper Thriller – A Cruel Picture (1973). Widely hailed as Lindberg’s most artistic feature Exponerad has shades of Czechoslovakian coming of age fairytale Valerie and Her Week Of Wonders (1970) but it never quite has such lofty aspirations. Gloria Guida might have had The Minor (1974) and Christina had this, but Jaroslava Schallerová got there first.

An image, or reputation, for good or ill, is hard to shake. In the span of just a few years miss Lindberg had worked with Dan Wolman, Gustav Wiklund, Torgny Wickman, Ernst Hofbauer, Walter Boos, and Joe Sarno. Some of whom she would work with on multiple occasions. In doing so she had, perhaps unwittingly, reduced her chances of finding work outside of what she was doing already – and most of the projects she was offered fared accordingly. That isn’t to say that Christina Lindberg was some misunderstood talent, and her expressionless, glassy-eyed style can best be compared to Zora Kerova, Sabrina Siani, or Christina’s Norwegian equivalent and one-time black metal starlet Monica Bråten. Typecast from Rötmånad (1970) onwards Lindberg was an international star who worked in Germany, Hong Kong, and Japan. The majority of that international work seemed to encompass the two years from 1972-74 when she wasn’t working at home. In that capacity she appeared in Girls Who Come to Munich (1972), Schoolgirl Report 4 (1972), Secrets of Sweet Sixteen (1973), Love In Three Dimensions (1973), and Schoolgirl Report 7 (1974).

Lena Svensson (Christina Lindberg) is a seventeen-year-old promiscuous libertine at the height of her sexuality who, to escape her dull lovelife with Jan (Björn Addely), takes flights of fancy in all sorts of sordid scenarios. When things get boring she likes to imagine herself getting abused, molested, and/or killed in a fiery road collision. Lena has cheated on Jan, and he sends her out a retreat where she encounters naturist vacationers Lars (Janna Carlsson) and Ulla (Birgitta Molin). The trio engages in the usual skinnydipping, sunbathing, and nude frolicking until Jan comes to collect Lena. It is then that the lecherous Helge (Heinz Hopf) comes into the picture. Helge coerces Lena into partaking in hedonistic sex parties and extorts her with nude photographs. Life with Jan is safe and comfortable, but the underworld that Helge shows her has so much to offer too. With Helge Lena experiences pleasures she never had before. She gets felt up, tied up, and exposed in about every way. Compared to him Jan is a tremendous bore. At some point Lena is going to have to make a choice. Is the predatory Helge The Depraved of the American distribution title? Is it Lena who looks for each and every opportunity to escape her rural and boring country life - or both? The question Exponerad asks is, “did it all truly happen, or is it merely in Lena’s head?

That Sweden’s most famous anime sex doll would try to establish a footing in the Far East was all but a given. However, since she didn’t speak the language and/or possessed any martial arts skills she didn’t get any farther than the Eurospy romp Adventure in Denmark (1973) from Hong Kong, and Sex and Fury (1973) and The Kyoto Connection (1973) in Japan. By the time of One-Week Bachelors (1982) she was made redundant, and her career fizzled out. In hindsight it’s a tad difficult to believe that Christina never found work in Italy (Renato Polselli and Luigi Batzella would’ve loved her giant bust) or in the burgeoning Cine-S movement in Spain (Ignacio F. Iquino would have put her to good use), as would have José Ramón Larraz in his horrors. Likewise it’s a bit disconcerting that Tinto Brass never took notice of her voluminous behind, and it’s quite unfair that Christina Lindberg didn’t become a minor Eurcult royalty the way Evelyne Kraft, Janet Ågren, Marie Liljedahl, and Leena Skoog did. To her credit Christina had a habit of appearing in films with people that ostensibly would become more famous than her, whether they were Stellan Skarsgård or Lena Olin. In 1971 miss Lindberg had just started her conquest of Scandinavian sexploitation scene, and Exponerad does more than just showcase her voluptuous naked form, although there’s plenty of that too. No. Exponerad is actually pretty creative when it tries.

For all that can be said about Gloria Guida’s tour de force in bawdy Italian sex comedies at least half of them were actually pretty lighthearted and entertaining. Lindberg’s on the other hand were depressing for the most part. Anita Swedish Nymphet (1973) is downbeat and cynical compared to something as casually sexist and lovingly exploitative as Blue Jeans (1975) (Mario Imperoli’s ode to Gloria Guida’s perfectly shaped ass bordered on the poetic, lest we forget), Maid In Sweden (1971) has a nihilistic mean streak that you wouldn’t find in Monika (1974) or even So Young, So Lovely, So Vicious… (1975). It even goes as far as to recycle an entire 5 minute sequence from Tarzan Triumphs (1943) with Johnny Weissmuller in one scene. To go from the whimsical Rötmånad (1970) to Thriller – A Cruel Picture (1973), a take on Turkish thriller Karate Girl (1973), in just three years is…. something. And none of it is any good. Exponerad on the other hand displays a sense of creativity and playfulness otherwise absent in Lindberg’s filmography up to that point. The Minor (1974) does what Exponerad does in a far more lighthearted manner, and it never has the ick factor. Be that as it may, at least Exponerad attempts - however marginally and futilely - to do something, anything, different to provide la Lindberg with whatever minimal chance to act.

As legend has it, Exponerad premiered at the 1971 Cannes Film Festival in France where it was almost immediately banned in 27 countries. Promoters eagerly used said ban to sell Exponerad on the international market, and Gustav Wiklund was offered a lucrative contract to work under American exploitation mogul Roger Corman. An offer which he, inexplicably and for largely opaque reasons, apparently declined. Understandably Wiklund soon to came to regret his decision, and Lindberg’s career in America was largely built around her appeal as a delectable Scandinavian import. And what projects Christina chose to star in didn’t exactly help either. It’s one thing to star in coming of age dramas as Maid In Sweden (1971) and Anita Swedish Nymphet (1973), but to go from Exponerad and something as comically innocuous as Love In Three Dimensions (1973) to Thriller – A Cruel Picture (1973), and Wide Open (1974) speaks volumes of where the heads of Lindberg’s handlers/publicists were at the time. It’s tragic enough that after One-Week Bachelors (1982) Christina disappeared from the silver screen for about two decades. Since 2000 she has acted sporadically but it looks as if Sweden’s most popular export will forever be relegated to obscurity. Not even Quentin Tarantino (who never hid his adoration for Lindberg’s tenure in exploitation) apparently was able to legitimize the Swedish star into the mainstream.

Plot: everything is not well in casa Gustafsson. Hilarity ensues!

In what is either Sweden’s biggest cult classic or the ultimate kalkonklassiker Rötmånad (or Dog Days, rated X and released in specialized blue-film grindhouses across North America as the more poetic What Are You Doing After the Orgy?) Christina Lindberg, the biggest domestic export and soon-to-be sexploitation queen, can be seen giving her best performance ever and often with very little in the way of clothes (although not always in that order necessarily) in what is her best offering by a wide margin. Rötmånad (Dog Days hereafter) is a comedy in tune with the times, and something that could’ve just as easily have been made in Great Britain, Germany, or Italy. There isn’t much worth recommending in the early Lindberg canon but Dog Days is the exception. Indicative of where la Lindberg’s career was heading, Dog Days is rife with the blackest of humour and there’s plenty of naked Christina for everybody to go around.

Christina Lindberg was a former archeology student that took to nude modelling, and was a Penthouse Pet (June, 1970). Like Leena Skoog before her Lindberg and her voluptuous figure were bound to attract the attention of producers, and she debuted in the inauspicious Dog Days in 1970. In 1973 she released her photo book This Is Christina Lindberg by her photographer and soon-to-be husband Bo Sehlberg. By the end of the decade Lindberg had to make a choice; stay employed and graduate into hardcore (the way Marie Forså and Marina Hedman did) or change careers. Christina chose the latter, retrained herself to become a journalist and now is the driving force behind the n° 1 aviation magazine in Sweden.

The men behind Dog Days were the duo of Bengt Forslund and Olle Nordemar. Forslund gave Lasse Hallström his first directorial features after his music video work with/for ABBA and Nordemar was a specialist in family/kids movies. In the late sixties he introduced Inger Nilsson and her iconic Pippi Longstocking to the world with a television series based on the Astrid Lindgren novels, followed almost immediately by a threatrical movie, and no less than three sequels. Forslund and Nordemar chose Jan Halldoff to direct as he had a knack for social realist comedies and dramas, often (but not always) involving youth culture of the day. Very much like Skoog in her Laila (17 år) (1969) reels there’s something very cinema verité the way Halldorf photograps Lindberg, and there didn’t seem to be much acting, or anything, involved. Even without the benefit of subtitling or English dubbing Dog Days is a pretty funny affair – and the title becomes crystal clear when its Darwinistic streak kicks in…

Somewhere in the rural environs of Sandhamn in Värmdö Municipality on the Stockholm Archipelago barber Assar Gustafsson (Carl-Gustaf Lindstedt) has been spending the summer with his 17-year old daughter Anna-Bella (Christina Lindberg) and family dog Ludde at their vacation home. They experience a rude awakening from their quiet, idyllic life in the country far away from civilization when Assar’s wife and Anna-Bella’s mother Sally (Ulla Sjöblom) – the town prostitute, believed missing (and presumed dead) for the last 5 years – makes a sudden and unexpected return. When Sally discovers that Anna-Bella has blossomed into beautiful young woman she promptly announces her plan to start a brothel out of the bathhouse. She immediately starts grooming the uninhibited Anna-Bella who’s prone to walking around the house semi-nude, so Sally arranges an assessing man (Curt L. Malmsten) and a photographer (Jan Blomberg) to make the most out of the situation. She uses Anna-Bella to attract customers to her cathouse and Assar is blackmailed into working as a waiter. The brothel becomes an overnight success thanks to Anna-Bella’s silent presence.

The brothel, and the coming and going of various guests (Gunnar 'Knas' Lindkvist and Christer Jonsson), and the naked shenanigans of the mostly mute Anna-Bella attract the attention not only of their neighbour Jansson (Ernst Günther), and a Finlander in a rowboat (Frej Lindqvist) but also that of Jan (Eddie Axberg). Almost immediately sparks fly between Jan and Anna-Bella. Having had enough Sally murders Jan in cold blood on the grounds that as a prostitute Anna-Bella can’t afford the luxury of emotions and that Jan was a nuisance. Assar is none too happy when he gets wind what Sally has done, and rigs her love-nest explode to ensure her permanent absence and a return to their quiet country life from before. Learning of Jan’s death Anna-Bella metes out retribution by killing her mother. One day a tortured Assar is installing a lightning rod Sally had continually bugged him about, and is electrocuted in doing so. Memorial arrangements are made with the priest (Carl-Axel Elfving), and the only way Anna-Bella knows how of repaying friendly mortician Ivar Frid (Bo Halldoff) is by offering her body. They retreat to Sally’s dynamite-rigged love-nest and everything explodes. In the aftermath of this series of unfortunate events only family dog Ludde remains….

Scandinavia has always had a far more liberated, relaxed, and not nearly as repressed attitude towards nudity and sexuality compared to the rest of Europe and the North American continent. Denmark and Sweden were considered the Mecca of hedonism and both took an active role as a pioneer in the bridging the gap between soft – and hardcore pornography. They welcomed Joe Sarno when he was exiled from America in the late sixties and graced the world with the likes of Solveig Andersson, Marie Forså, Leena Skoog, Margareta Sjödin, Marina Hedman, and Marie Liljedahl. Canada had the maple syrup porn of Valérie (1968) (with Danielle Ouimet) and Sweden had Inga (1968) and the two Laila (17 år) (1969) one-reels. The rise of Christina Lindberg coincided with the halcyon days of the bawdy sex comedy in such places as France, Germany, Great Britain, and Italy. So, it’s no wonder that miss Lindberg ended up in one of the many Schoolgirl Report (1970) sequels years later. Denmark was one of the first countries to legalize hardcore pornography in 1969, but the sexploitation genre took a blow only when the rest of Europe followed suit about ten years later. There was a brief revival of the genre during the early-to-mid 1980s with the Cine-S in Spain and the Brazilian pornochanchada, but they were quickly made redundant with the wide availability of the harder format in the then-booming home video market.

And what other reason to seek out Dog Days than to see Christina Lindberg in her prime? Compared to her sometime colleague and contemporary Leena Skoog, Lindberg is something of a boorish bore. Whereas Skoog illuminated the two Laila (17 år) (1969) one-reels with her radiant sensuality, carefree uninhibitness, and considerable girlish charm Lindberg doesn’t generate so much as a pulse at the best of times. Skoog would go on to star in Britain’s first 3-D film Four Dimensions of Greta (1972) from Pete Walker whereas Lindberg would star in ugly and kinda nihilistic sexploitationers as Exponerad (1971), Maid In Sweden (1971), Thriller - A Cruel Picture (1973), Anita Swedish Nymphet (1973), and Wide Open (1974). The things Christina appeared in make you wish she found a footing in Germany, Great Britain, or Italy, who at least made their sex comedies lighthearted, full of slapstick and, well, fun. There’s more than plenty of naked Christina for anyone to go around in all of her movies, but none of them are particularly worth revisiting after an initial viewing. Gloria Guida also consistently made churlish sex comedies – but at least they were fun, and for every more melodramatic one there was a lighthearted romp with Lino Banfi in return. No such thing was the case with Lindberg’s career that went from bad to worse in the span of just a few years. No wonder Christina called it a day at the dawn of the eighties, alhough she would have found a home in Spain’s shortlived Cine-S circuit. Oh well, at least it’s good to see her get reappraised in recent years thanks to Quentin Tarantino.

It’s a question for the ages why Dog Days was released with an X rating in North America. Outside of Lindberg’s near-constant state of undress there’s nothing particularly explicit about it. Next to that, this wasn’t a case of The Devil’s Wedding Night (1973), Malabimba (1979), or Satan’s Baby Doll (1982) either where the presence of hardcore inserts would condemn it automatically to a universally fatal X-rating and thus to a release exclusively in the sex cinemas on 42nd street and practically no marketing campaign worthy of the name. Nor did it have to compete for attention on the home video market (as that was still a decade away) or see only limited threatrical release and distribution across the Atlantic as many Italian titles had to a decade later. Dog Days is an anomaly of sorts in the early Christina Lindberg canon and it was indicative of exactly in what type of movies she would make a name for herself. Which sorts of begs an additional question: what would have become of Christina had Tinto Brass discovered her at the dawn of the eighties? Would she have become the Swedish Serena Grandi, Luciana Ottoviani, or Debora Caprioglio? One thing is certain: Dog Days is Christina’s best film… and you should really see it, if you can.