By Tim Purtell
Updated November 27, 2007 at 05:00 AM EST

In an era of onscreen gore (Saw IV) and hardcore sex (Shortbus), it’s hard to fathom that hell and bastard were once verboten. Ditto homosexuality, ”lustful” kissing, and unpunished adultery. As Hollywood’s Production Code honcho from 1934 to ’54, robust Catholic Joseph Breen almost single-handedly shaped the moral tone of thousands of movies. Sly directors like Ernst Lubitsch snuck by the rules with under-the-radar naughtiness. As Thomas Doherty’s spry history, Hollywood’s Censor, points out, the repressive Breen era ironically produced a golden age of films rich in ”exotic charm and exquisite brinksmanship.” B+