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Conflict and Struggle

Judge rules movie obscene

Regina Leader Post
September 27, 1973. p.7

SASKATOON (Special) -- Judge E. N. Hughes Tuesday in District Court found the film The Stewardesses to be obscene and fined Daylight Theatre Co. Ltd. $250, ending a court battle which began in December, 1971.

In his 19 page judgement, Judge Hughes said "If the scenes of fornication in The Stewardesses were indeed playacting, then if and when the smut wing of the movie industry holds an Oscar night, the participants in The Stewardesses...have every right to anticipate a call from the stage to come forward to receive a deserving award."

Charges against the Daylight Theatre Co. Ltd. of showing obscene entertainment arose when city police seized the film from Midtown Cinema. In March, 1972, Judge R. H. King convicted the company in magistrate's court and fined it $1,000. Defence appealed in District Court, where Judge Hughes overturned the decision on a point of law.

Judge Hughes' first decision hinged on grounds a provincial government board had earlier approved the film, but did not deal with the question of obscenity.

When Crown appealed in Saskatchewan Court of Appeal, a three-man board ruled the film should go back to Judge Hughes for a decision of obscenity.

Judge Hughes said, when the case opened in court Sept. 6, he must judge whether the film was obscene, not by his own notion of what is tolerable, but on the basis on contemporary Canadian community standards.

Judge Hughes' decision said there is no question sex is a dominant characteristic in The Stewardesses, but the question was whether it is undue exploitation.

He said there was no evidence before him of the purpose of the producer, nor "has there been any artisitic merit indicated."

He said although the Saskatchewan Theatres Branch had approved the film for showing, he could see nothing to indicate M. A. Parker, then acting director of the branch, had any expertise on the level of acceptability in the Canadian community.

Judge Hughes said defence indicated the film portrayed the depths to which one will go to achieve goals.

"If that purpose was present, it was certainly well behind the occasion and opportunity seized upon by the producer to run together a series of sex acts.

"There was little but a preoccupation with sex," the judge said.

He said to establish contemporary standards, he focused on three main points.

He said he recognized freedom of expression as basic to maintenance of a free society. He also said he noted the "pendulum of toleration" has undergone a shift to the liberal side of the spectrum and added authorities make it clear obscenity must be judged from contemporary standards of the entire country.

Judge Hughes said it is his impression there is anything but uniform enforcement across the country and some provinces are more restrictive than others.

"In some areas of the country, the law of the land is anything goes," he said.

He said in making his decision, he drew the line with decency and cleanliness above "dirt and smut" below. Sex for sex's sake, is below the line, he said.

Judge Hughes said he is not opposed to sex when it arises from the story line and is treated decently.