Tuesday, April 25, 2017
The Indiegogo campaign for Spectacular Optical's upcoming book Lost Girls: The Cinema of Jean Rollin is now live and taking donations. Head over to the campaign to see samples from the book and read about the exciting 'perks' that are being offered to contributors. Be sure to donate if you can and please help spread the word via social media and your own sites. Here is a preview of the book, featuring editor Samm Deighan, that Spectacular Optical have just released.
Sunday, April 23, 2017
Among the most welcome reissue announcements this year is that Arrow Films will be releasing Mike Figgis' incredible Stormy Monday as a special edition Blu-ray here in the United States and Britain! One of the eighties most evocative and original works, Stormy Monday has been in long need of a reappraisal and this new Arrow release looks incredible. From the press release the disc's contents include:
• High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) and Standard Definition DVD presentations
• Original stereo audio (uncompressed on the Blu-ray Disc)
• Optional English subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing
• Audio commentary with Mike Figgis, moderated by critic Damon Wise
• New video appreciation by critic Neil Young, and a “then and now” tour of the film’s Newcastle locations
• Theatrical trailer
• Reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Jacey
FIRST PRESSING ONLY: Booklet featuring new writing by critic Mark Cunliffe
More information can be found at Arrow's US and UK sites and please follow along at Facebook, Instagram and Twitter as well.
-Jeremy Richey, 2017-
There are just a few days left to donate to the Cult Epics Indiegogo campaign and there are still a number of great rewards remaining including the upcoming Cult Epics hardcover book and the all new Blu-ray special edition of Death Laid An Egg! Head over to Indiegogo to support Cult Epics and help spread the word at Facebook and Twitter. Thank you!
Wednesday, April 19, 2017
Issue 11 of ART DECADES is now available on Amazon! Our feature piece is a 26 page spread of unreleased photos by aTelecine founder Ian Preston Cinnamon, who is also responsible for our beautiful cover photo of Belladonna. The issue also contains several tributes to William Peter Blatty, including a moving piece by Bryce Wilson. Kelley Avery-Richey interviews the hip-hop trio Loyal-T, Marcelline Block interviews photographer Miles Ladin and Tara Hanks interviews author Michelle Morgan. Original photospreads are also included along with some additional surprises. Thanks so much to our contributors for their great work and readers for the continued support!
Copies are available at Amazon , Createspace and eBay.
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Monday, April 17, 2017
The much anticipated new book from Headpress, ARE YOU IN THE HOUSE ALONE?: A TV MOVIE COMPENDIUM 1964-1999, is now shipping via Amazon and your favorite bookseller of choice. Two versions of this Amanda Reyes edited guide are available via Headpress as well, the trade paperback and the deluxe hardcover.
This beautiful book contains a number of original pieces by Made For TV Mayhem's incredible Amanda Reyes as well as contributions from the likes of Kier-La Janisse, Daniel Budnik, Lee Gambin, David Kerekes, Jennifer Wallis and many more.
I am currently working my way through this informative and valuable book and I highly recommend it. Also, keep a look out for a new interview with Amanda Reyes in the upcoming summer issue of my own publication, ART DECADES.
Friday, April 14, 2017
We have lost yet another movie-making giant. Toshio Matsumoto, one of the great cinematic rebels and non-conformists, passed away this week at the age of 85. Matsumoto was a great artist and fierce boundary pusher who challenged his viewers as much as he enlightened and entertained them. For my own little tribute, here is a piece I wrote about his absolutely breathtaking 1969 work Funeral Parade Of Roses back in 2013. It's a film unlike any other and Toshio Matsumoto was a filmmaker like no other.
The questions one gets asked after typically viewing a film are mute in regards to Funeral Parade of Roses. "What's it about?" and "Did you like it?" have no place here and are like asking someone if they had 'fun' at a protest against oppression.
Product of its time? YES but in the best way possible. This has the kind of passion and anger that simply no longer exist in today's cinema. We've traded soul and intensity for a day at the mall glued to small films on small screens that fit in our pockets.
The Plot of Funeral Parade of Roses doesn't hold my attention...instead it is the elements that it transcends in every frame that hits me (I beg for its punch time and time again). Opening shot...blinding white light. Is that a boy and a girl? Boy and a boy? Unclear until it pulls into focus and we are thrown into a labyrinth of confusion that questions gender, sexuality, family, life, death and beyond.
Relations? Warhol, Morrissey...their deconstructive techniques are apparent. Rollin's Rape of the Vampire is its bloody sister in arms from a year before. Brakhage (sure), Deren (of course). How about Kubrick, who loved Funeral Parade of Roses so much that he paid tribute to it stylistically and spiritually in his A Clockwork Orange a few years later. Ultimately this is punk rock before the term was coined, exploited and made meaningless. That brick through the window reflecting the student riots happening in Paris, Japan and all over the free thinking world in 1969.
The art of deconstruction....destruction of our scripted roles in life, love and death. It's that final shot of Godard's Weekend with the ominous "End of Cinema" flashing on the screen taken several steps further. It's a beautiful monster that no modern special effects house could muster.
It's a party film with a wild youthful abandon breaking through every moment...Superbad for the art house as a celebration of questioned gender roles and rampant unhinged sexuality. And that ending has the kind of visceral impact only perhaps Deodato later stumbled upon.
It pops with an eye gouging intensity that builds and builds until a wonderful moment when an old man stumbles exhausted onto the screen and thanks everyone for attending. Thank you and you are very welcome! A little moment that could have derailed the film completely but this bold and audacious act is like the film itself...a joyous revolution turning a mirror back to the audience. Toshio Matsumoto stating Lou Reed's "My Week Beats Your Year" in the purest cinematic way imaginable.
-Jeremy Richey, 2013-
Funeral Parade of Roses remains unreleased on disc in The United States. Region 2 imports are available.
Wednesday, April 12, 2017
R.I.P to Michael Ballhaus, one of the great cinematographers in film history. The Berlin born Ballhaus had a remarkable career that saw him lending his incredible talents to filmmakers as far ranging as Rainer Werner Fassbinder, Martin Scorsese, Irwin Winkler, Steve Kloves and Francis Ford Coppola. One of cinema's great visionaries, he changed the way movies looked and the way we saw them. He will be greatly missed.
Jeremy Richey, 2017
"Elvis Presley was the person who awakened me to music and records when I was very young, and there had always been all these things I had dreamed of doing if I ever got the chance."-
Elvis Presley was the most important and successful artist of the 20th century. He was also the most mismanaged, mismarketed and mishandled. Perhaps nowhere is this sad fact more grossly apparent than in the immediate years following his untimely passing at the age of 42 in 1977. As they had done throughout his career his record company RCA failed to know what exactly to do with the recorded legacy of Elvis Presley in the days, months and finally years following his death. As during his life, RCA and Colonel Tom Parker failed to recognize just how truly important and valuable Presley's musical contributions were and less than a year after his death they were putting out insulting and head-scratching releases like Elvis Sings For Kids and Grownups Too. Even potentially valuable projects, focusing on unreleased material, like the Our Memories of Elvis collections were soiled by cheap artwork and a general lack of vision. It's hard to imagine any other major artist being treated quite as shabbily as Elvis Presley was in the years after his death with perhaps the worst offence being 1981's Guitar Man, a countrified 'remix' album that destroyed some of his greatest American Sound Recordings of 1969. At times it seemed like RCA had nothing but disdain for their top selling artist and these shoddy releases, combined with the release of Albert Goldman's near criminal posthumous assignation biography Elvis, unfairly damaged Elvis Presley's reputation for years to come. Ironically the surprise savior waiting in the wings was a man whose name was more synonymous with Costello than Presley when he arrived to change the tide in the mid eighties.
Before he began to salvage the recorded legacy of Elvis Presley with a series of expertly packaged releases timed to coincide with what would have been Elvis' 50th birthday in 1985, Gregg Geller was probably best known as the man who had signed the astonishing other Elvis to Colombia in the late seventies. Geller had spent most of the seventies with CBS working with a number of popular and influential artists for both Columbia and Epic. By the early eighties he found himself working at RCA and the confusion regarding what to do with their biggest selling catalog proved to be one of his biggest challenges. As he would tell an interviewer years after his time with the label:
"My job at RCA was to be the head of A&R, but after hearing me complain about the generally poor quality of the label’s Elvis releases in the years following his death, my boss, Jose Menendez, said to me, in effect: “if you’re so smart, why don’t you do something about it?” So I did."
Geller recognized that Elvis Presley was far from just the guaranteed cash cow that most of the executives at RCA saw him as, and knew there was not only a market for unreleased archival recordings but also a need to put some of his past mishandled releases in proper perspective. Geller's first step towards reestablishing Presley as the force of sonic nature that he had been was the 1984 six record set A Golden Celebration, a massive collection of mostly unreleased material that would set in motion the more well-known and acclaimed Ernst Jorgenson archival releases of the nineties and beyond. A Golden Celebration was a solid hit in the days when box sets were viewed as more of a novelty than anything else and the stage was set for a series of startling releases for Elvis' 50th.
Geller's concept of how to rescue Elvis Presley's recorded legacy is so obvious in hindsight that it's almost ridiculous that it took nearly ten years for RCA to capitalize on it. Geller's plan was a deceptively simple one: Release a series of 'concept' albums made up of almost entirely of previously released material each designed to introduce a different side of the once and future king to a whole new generation...and to a whole new format, the Compact Disc. Starting in late 1984 and throughout 1985, Geller would present 4 sides of Elvis Presley to new and established fans: The ferocious rocker, the raw bluesman, the balladeer and the heartbroken deep soul singer. These 4 releases would successfully began to shift the conversation back to where it belonged, namely the music and would help lead the way to the legendary Jorgensen releases and finally Elvis 30 #1 Hits.
The first release Rocker landed in late 1984 and focused almost entirely on tracks from 1956, with a couple from '57 thrown in for good searing measure. Opening with "Jailhouse Rock" and closing with "Hound Dog" the compilation was a perfect introduction to the frenzied recordings that blew apart the fifties and American popular culture in general. The back to basics album, featuring an iconic photo of Presley channeling Brando in The Wild One, sold much better than RCA expected and most surprisingly landed Elvis in heavy rotation on the exploding MTV via the ready to go "(You're So Square) Baby I Don't Care" clip from Jailhouse Rock. After nearly a decade of botched releases Rocker was a swift kick in the face to critics and fans who had forgotten the genius of Elvis Presley and it set the stage for the next three releases Geller had in mind.
If Rocker had a fault it was in its perhaps necessary obviousness. Geller's follow-up collection, focusing on Elvis' greatest love songs, A Valentine Gift For You was the more surprising album and it is in many ways a more rewarding listen. Expertly mixing some of the most moving performances Presley gave in the fifties and sixties, the pressed on red vinyl A Valentine Gift For You is equal parts haunting and lovely. While the album is filled with some of the most beloved Elvis hits it is the lesser known tracks like his stunning near six minute Bob Dylan cover "Tomorrow is a Long Time" that would have the biggest impact on fans new to Elvis' remarkably deep back catalog back in 1985.
If A Valentine Gift For You sounded surprising to many ears in the mid-eighties then its follow-up Reconsider Baby was a downright shocking experience. One of the great Elvis Presley albums, Reconsider Baby would prove to be the weakest seller of the Geller releases but it remains the most justifiably acclaimed. Focusing mostly on recordings Elvis made in the sixties, when he was supposedly just recording poor quality soundtrack recordings, Reconsider Baby still packs a major wallop. From the jaw-dropping opening title track to the smoldering epic unedited closer "Merry Christmas Baby", Reconsider Baby is one of the great albums of the eighties and its relatively obscure status today is downright tragic. Few albums in Elvis' discography are quite so ideally sequenced and perfectly thought out. With its eerie cover photo and masterful Peter Guralnick liner notes, Reconsider Baby was exactly the kind of grand slam project that RCA should have been putting out in the years leading up to its release. It's one of the definitive Elvis Presley albums and had it been the only release Geller supervised in this period it would have been enough.
The final 50th anniversary release of 1985 is fittingly enough Always on My Mind, an exquisite collection focused on some of the most evocative tracks Elvis recorded in the seventies (save for "Don't Cry Daddy" from the sixties). Pressed on purple vinyl and again expertly chosen and sequenced, the album remains one of the most devastating in Elvis' canon and represents an ideal entryway into his most complex and controversial period of recording music. If the music Elvis recorded in the seventies was his most autobiographical then Always on My Mind is its most important chapter. It's a heartbreaking listen focused on isolation, depression, divorce and rage and is as far away from the jump suited caricature that Elvis in the seventies is often portrayed as. It's the sound of a great artist at his peak and on the edge.
Gregg Geller remains one of the most unheralded figures in the history of Elvis Presley's music. His work would turn things around at the most pivotal point possible and would help lead the way to the phenomenal archival work that continues to this day through the Follow That Dream label. We should all be grateful to Geller for actually giving a damn about the legacy of one of our great artists. Music lovers everywhere owe him a great debt.
Jeremy Richey, 2017
Tuesday, April 11, 2017
Blue Underground has dropped the extremely exciting announcement that they will be re-releasing Dario Argento's stunning 1996 masterwork The Stendhal Syndrome as a special 3 disc deluxe Blu-ray/DVD combo later this year! The film has been restored from the original camera negative in a new 2k transfer and will feature a number of yet to be announced extras including a brand new interview with its extraordinary star Asia Argento. Keep an eye on Blue Underground's official page and their Facebook profile for more upcoming details.
Monday, April 10, 2017
THE PRIVATE AFTERNOONS OF PAMELA MANN (1974)
Easily one of the most important archival releases of the decade, Distribpix's collection dedicated to Radley Metzger's The Private Afternoons of Pamela Mann is a powerhouse release and essential purchase for Metzger-fans and cinema-lovers. This double-disc edition of Metzger's first outing as the legendary Henry Paris offers up the film completely uncut and beautifully remastered. Armed with an arsenal of valuable extras, this version of The Private Afternoons of Pamela Mann is not only the best edition of this film ever released but one of the best releases of its kind ever.
Frank is a private detective, and self-confessed peeping tom, who is hired on by a Mr. Mann to spy on his wife Pamela, as he suspects she is having an affair. Frank follows and films Pamela as she makes her way through various Manhattan locations and soon finds himself involved in a life much more complicated and surprising than he would have ever imagined.
Despite being shot on an extremely low-budget in less than a week, The Private Afternoons of Pamela Mann contains the same sort of depth, polish and style as Radley Metzger's more well-known films from the sixties and seventies such Therese and Isabelle, The Lickerish Quartet and Camille 2000. A wonderfully self-aware work powered by a smart script, witty dialogue, terrific performances and Metzger's considerable skill behind the camera, The Private Afternoons of Pamela Mann takes all the conventions of a typical adult-film and playfully turns them inside out. As Lawrence Cohen notes in his wonderful analysis in Distribix's near fifty page liner-notes, The Private Afternoons of Pamela Mann is a, "legitimate work of art", and, "one that deserves the loving attention of film connoisseurs." Radley Metzger's first Henry Paris film waves a defiant middle-finger to film fans and historians who insist on ignoring the golden age of adult cinema as a viable art-form, and it is an ideal entryway for newcomers interested in 'The Other Hollywood'.
Film historian Benson Hurst points out in his excellent notes for Distribix's booklet that The Private Afternoons of Pamela Mann came about due to a few different factors, with two of the most notable being the financial failure of Metzger's previous film, the excellent Score, and the release of Damiano's Deep Throat in 1972. Hurst notes that, "overnight the landscape for soft-core films changed", and that, "the market for stylish fantasy trips made with intelligence and high production values", like the films Metzger had been making for more than a decade, were gone. Audiences were enjoying the new-found freedom to watch more explicit forms of film-making and, though he was hesitant to join in, Radley Metzger took the plunge with The Private Afternoons of Pamela Mann and for five years he delivered the most exquisite and smartest adult films American audiences had seen before or since.
The one aspect about Radley Metzger I have always valued the most is just how much this man loves film. The near fetishistic obsession with celluloid is apparent in all of Metzger's best films and this is especially true of The Private Afternoons of Pamela Mann. Hurst writes that it just took a few minutes of meeting Metzger before the conversation turned to film and he noted that, "Radley balances an encyclopedic knowledge with a humble and genuine interest in other people's opinions." Radley Metzger, now in his seventies, remains a man fascinated by all things cinematic and this obsession is reflected in many of his most memorable characters, several of which can be found in The Private Afternoons of Pamela Mann.
It might be a surprise to those who just know his reputation as an erotic auteur, but the two most repeated images in The Private Afternoons of Pamela Mann don't concern sex. Going along with Radley Metzger's love for cinema, the two things we see the most of throughout the film are a camera and projector. Like in his earlier masterwork The Lickerish Quartet, the characters in The Private Afternoons of Pamela Mann spend much of the running time watching and studying film, and we, as an audience, are treated to numerous shots of the camera, the inner-workings of the projector and even the film itself. Metzger's first Paris production is a strikingly post-modern work that is so confident in its self-awareness that it doesn't miss an opportunity to comment on it. Make no mistake though, while it certainly has elements of satire in it, this isn't a parody of an adult-film. It is in actuality an embrace of the genre and what it is capable of. It is also a slap in the face to the conservative groups looking to ban these films and prosecute those involved with the film's most biting moment being a line delivered by Metzger's editor Lola Lagarce, who shows up as a poll-taker throughout the film asking Pamela about heated issues of the day. I won't give away the film's most explosive and funniest moment but I will say that it is perhaps the most jaw-dropping line in all of Metzger's filmography.
It is fitting that such a high quality film as The Private Afternoons of Pamela Mann be graced with an extraordinary cast and it certainly is. As the title character striking looking Barbara Bourbon is quite wonderful. Sexy, warm and witty, Bourbon really shines as Pamala Mann and its a shame she only appeared in a handful of films before retiring. Distribpix's booklet features an enlightening new interview with her that will be of great interest to those who ever wondered what happened to one of adult-cinema's greatest disappearing acts. The rest of the cast is made up of some of New York's finest including the uber-talented Eric Edwards and Jamie Gillis (whose sporting a head of hair here that I would kill for) and the iconic Georgina Spelvin, who delivers a very funny and inventive performance as Pamela's friend Linda (her Rhoda to Bourbon's Mary if you will). Also on hand in smaller roles are Sonny Landham, Darby Lloyd Rains, Marc Stevens (excluding a goofy charm), Alan Marlow, Levi Richards and gorgeous Naomi Jason (billed as Day Jason). Naomi, who would appear in the terrific The Passions of Carol in 1976, is a real scene-stealer here as a receptionist dealing with a very particular form of office-harassment.
Shot on 16mm, by furure Oscar winner Paul Glickman (as Marcel Hall), The Private Afternoons of Pamela Mann, like so many other of these films made during this period, offers up a wonderful view of New York City in the mid-seventies. With its numerous street-shots, The Private Afternoons of Pamela Mann acts as much of a valentine to the city as say a Woody Allen film from the period. For folks, like myself, who have fond memories of the city Metzger's film will be a real eye-opening experience as New York is presented so lovingly and so incredibly well.
While the release of the uncut version of The Private Afternoons of Pamela Mann would make Distribpix's collection a must-buy the Criterion style treatment the film has received as far as extras go make it truly indispensable. Disc-one offers up a fascinating commentary track from Metzger himself, as well as the original theatrical trailer, a stills gallery and an excellent near 40 minute interview with Eric Edwards. The exhaustive extras continue on disc 2 in the shape of a truly special near 40 minute chat with Georgina Spelvin (such a charmer), a 2011 re-release trailer, outtakes, stills, press-clippings, a then and now look at the locations and a never before seen alternate version of the film prepared for, but not released in, 1976. Add on the impressive almost fifty page booklet and a glossy still of Bourbon and you have one of the most comprehensive and worth-while DVD collections ever released.
More information on The Private Afternoons of Pamela Mann can be found at Distribpix's official site, order-site (NSFW) and blog. It is one of the essential collections in recent memory and Distrippix's dedication to a film most would be content to ignore is both noble and noteworthy.
NAKED CAME THE STRANGER (1975)
For a brief period in 1969, a Long Island housewife named Penelope Ashe was one of the most popular novelists in America. Her face was everywhere and her first book, Naked Came the Stranger, was a smash and eventually landed on The New York Times bestseller list. While there was nothing strange about a first-time writer having a hit out of the gate, the thing that made Mrs. Penelope Ashe unique was that she was as fictional as the book her name had graced. Penelope Ashe and Naked Came the Stranger were an elaborate, and quite brilliant, literary hoax put-on by a frustrated Newsday columnist named Mike McGrady, and a number of his colleagues, who set out to prove that by 1969 it was trash that was selling and not great literature. To make an odd story even odder, when the truth was revealed about Penelope Ashe, Naked Came the Stranger became an even bigger phenomenon spawning copycat books and even sequels of sorts by McGrady himself, all of which is detailed extraordinarily well by Benson Hurst in his great liner-notes to the special edition of the 1975 film based on the literary prank.
While the novel of Naked Came the Stranger was deliberate trash, the cinematic version written and directed by Radley Metzger (under his Henry Paris guise) was great-art and Distribpix's tremendous special-edition of the film finally grants its proper-placing as one of the defining films of the mid-seventies. Erotic, funny, and very smart, Radley Metzger's Naked Came the Stranger is among his greatest and most provocative works and one of the best adult-films ever made.
Radley Metzger mentions on the terrific audio-commentary for Naked Came the Stranger that by 1975 he felt, in a way, that he could do no wrong and that thought is more than accurate as he had been creatively on fire throughout the early and mid-seventies. Within just five-years Metzger had unleashed a series of erotic masterworks including The Lickerish Quartet (1970), Little Mother (1973), Score (1974), The Private Afternoons of Pamela Mann (1974) The Image (1975) and Naked Came the Stranger. This unbelievable winning-streak would crescendo in 1976 with the dazzling The Opening of Misty Beethoven, a work rightly considered as the best adult-film ever made.
While many are content writing a film like Naked Came the Stranger out of film history books, the film is a truly exceptional and special work. Lawrence Cohen writes in his wonderfully crafted analysis of the film, featured in the Distribpix liner notes, that, "if one simply dismisses Naked Came the Stranger as just another hard-core offering from the mid-seventies that is not worthy of critical attention, one utterly fails to do justice to the film's undeniable sophistication and polish." Cohen (who summons up the ghosts of Diogenes, Fitzgerald and Valentino in his notes) later writes, that Naked Came the Stranger is, "vintage Metzger" and I think it is just as good, if not better, than his first superlative effort as Henry Paris, The Private Afternoons as Pamela Mann.
While The Private Afternoons of Pamela Mann seemed obsessed with the idea of vision, then it is sound (and during one sequence the lack of) that is at the forefront of Naked Came the Stranger. From the talk radio-show that stars Darby Lloyd Rains and Levi Richards host in the film, to the incredibly humorous and sexy sequence featuring Darby listening at the door as Levi has a romantic encounter with Mary Stuart, to the astonishing silent-film section, Naked Came the Stranger is a film pushed by the importance of sound in cinema and the way that characters listen (but often don't hear) one another. Like all of Metzger's great works, it is a film fueled by his enduring love for cinema and the fact that it embraces old Hollywood in the midst of a cultural revolution that all but ended the classic-period makes it a quite profound and moving work. With Naked Came the Stranger, Metzger is indeed paying a sweet-farewell to the old while totally embracing the new.
Like all of his other Henry Paris productions, Metzger was blessed with an extraordinary cast for Naked Came the Stranger. As the frustrated housewife Gilly, who attempts to get her philandering husband's attention by having her own string of affairs, Darby Lloyd Rains is an absolute revelation and her work here is quite astonishing, as she mixes humor, grace and sexiness to absolutely devastating effect. Hurst's notes on Rains fascinating, and often frustrating, career are particularly poignant and he writes that today, "Darby lives quietly" and "remembers Radley well." Extremely handsome Levi Richards is on hand as Gilly's husband Billy and the charming Mary Stuart makes a big-splash as Billy's assistant and mistress Phyllis. Keep a look out for a hilarious cameo by iconic Marc Stevens during a party-sequence as well.
Hurst, Cohen and Ian Culmell do such an exhaustive job discussing the film in Distribpix's notes that it feels a bit awkward to go over much of it here. A few facts are worth repeating though. Metzger shot the film, just before Christmas in 1974, less than six months after The Private Afternoons of Pamela Mann had its premiere. Once again Metzger would use New York as an additional character for the film and the many shots of the city remain some of the most arresting and captivating ever captured on film. Upon release Naked Came the Stranger would be a hit with both mainstream and adult critics as well as audiences, who flocked to the film. A particularly telling portion of the disc's 'ephemera gallery' is a vintage article stating that Naked Came the Stranger was the highest grossing film in New York for a stretch in 1975, ahead of such films as Monty Python and the Holy Grail, The Day of the Locust and The French Connection 2! It's a jarring reminder as to just how disturbingly conservative film goers and theater-owners have become since the artistic golden-age of the seventies.
While Naked Came the Stranger is a wonderful film throughout its running-time it is at its most extraordinary and daring when Metzger brilliantly recreate a classic black and white silent-film at the Hotel St. George. The scene is visually jaw-dropping, beautifully-shot and stands as one of the great tour-de-force moments of Metzger's career. Watching it, in the lovely transfer from Distribpix, I teared up several times due to the fact that you would hard-pressed to find such ingenuity, passion and skill in too many American films after the seventies.
Like their exemplary releases of Metzger's The Private Afternoons of Pamela Mann and Maraschino Cherry, Naked Came the Strange has been beautifully restored from the original negative and comes armed with a slew of valuable extra-features. These include the aforementioned booklet and audio-commentary as well as deleted and alternate scenes, a look at the film's locations (then and now), trailers, radio-spots and a film-facts subtitle track. It's another beautiful and lovingly put-together package from Distribpix that again solidifies their place as some of the best film-archivists on the planet.
THE OPENING OF MISTY BEETHOVEN (1976)
What a magnificent run it had been. Between 1966 and 1976, New York born filmmaker Radley Metzger had delivered a series of stunning films that showed him as one of the bravest, most innovative and most vital directors on the planet. Whether his camera was capturing the streets of New York or a European countryside, Radley Metzger proved himself as one of American Cinema’s true greats, even though his deserved place in the Golden cinematic canon has still not been granted by many film historians who have continued to either ignore his landmark work or degrade it.
While an argument can be made as to whether The Opening of Misty Beethoven is Radley Metzger’s greatest film, it is hard to deny that this 1976 masterpiece isn't his most representative. With The Opening of Misty Beethoven, Metzger managed to capture and combine the sensual decadence of his European lensed work of the late sixties with the witty hard eroticism of his New York based pictures of the seventies. The Opening of Misty Beethoven is the ultimate Radley Metzger film and one of the most important, and finest, English-language films of the seventies.
While The Opening of Misty Beethoven is rightly often granted the title of the greatest adult film ever made it is also one of the warmest and wittiest. Metzger’s modern update of George Bernard Shaw’s Pygmalion has the exhilarating flair of a classic Lubitsch film and the cinematic bravado of a vintage Hawks. Metzger’s razor-sharp script is packed with the kind of memorable dialogue that would have made any of the great classic American screenwriters he so admires blush with envy. The globe-trotting The Opening of Misty Beethoven (Metzger took the production to Paris, Rome and New York) is also stylistically one of the most thrilling films of the period and Metzger’s compositional strengths teamed with Oscar winner Paul Glickman’s photography will be eye opening to even the most jaded film buff.
The Opening of Misty Beethoven was unleashed on DVD and Blu-Ray collection by Distribpix that rivals anything Criterion has ever mounted. Treating the film as the great work of art, and bold cinematic achievement, that it is the folks at Distribpix (led by the great Steven Morowitz) have released the best archival disc of the decade and the most important, as no other film offers up the much needed rewrite of accepted film history like The Opening of Misty Beethoven. Distribpix’s collection offers up a sparkling and lovingly restored new remaster of Metzger’s uncut opus with hours upon hours of supplemental features including documentaries, interviews, vintage materials, outtakes, deleted scenes, audio-commentaries and, best of all, the long-rumored ‘alternate’ cut of Misty. Lawrence Cohen writes in his beautiful liner notes, in the massive fifty-plus page book that accompanies the DVD, that watching The Opening of Misty Beethoven will make film lovers rub, “ones eyes in disbelief that a such a creation actually exists” and that pretty much sums up the feeling I get when I hold the package Distribpix produced for us.
Metzger admits in the enlightening audio-commentary that accompanies The Opening of Misty Beethoven that after the success of his first two “Henry Paris” productions The Private Afternoons of Pamela Mann and Naked Came the Stranger that he felt like he could do anything he wanted with his newest venture and that confidence is on display throughout the film. The Opening of Misty Beethoven is the work of a master with the knowledge that he was at his peak of his powers as an artist and a filmmaker. Film historian Benson Hurst writes in Distribpix’s booklet that The Opening of Misty Beethoven, “premiered in 1976 boasting a script, cinematography, music and acting of a caliber never seen before or since in the (adult) industry”. This was Radley Metzger’s Magnum-Opus and I think, perhaps, the great director realized that very fact when he was making the film in the mid-seventies.
While all of Metzger’s films are wonderful examples of true ‘director-driven’ works they all benefit greatly from Radley’s uncanny eye for casting. The Opening of Misty Beethoven is populated by perhaps the greatest cast he ever assembled from the star making supporting turns of Gloria Leonard to Jacqueline Beudant to Ras Kean to Mary Stewart to Jenny Baxter to Terri Hall (seriously swoon) to the jaw dropping legendary lead performances by Jamie Gillis and Constance Money…every scene is just filled with some of the most beautiful, charismatic and talented performers of the period and to say they all serve the intelligence, and timing, of Metzger’s script incredibly well would be a gross understatement.
The spirit of the late Jamie Gillis haunts every frame of The Opening of Misty Beethoven. His award-winning turn as Dr. Seymore Love is one of the great, great creations of the seventies and stands with any ‘mainstream’ performance from 1976 you care to mention. Gillis’ delightful work in the film is given a further heart wrenching dimension after one reads Hurst’s lovely notes about how much the film meant to the great man, which is summed up so wonderfully succiently with, “Happy times. Happy Place.” Hurst’s later recollection of helping put touch Jamie in touch again with his greatest leading lady Constance Money shortly before his death due to cancer in 2010 is unbelievably moving and I doubt any lover of the film, and this period, will get through this story without shedding at least a few tears.
And what of the elusive and mysterious Susan Jensen a.k.a. Constance Money, the alluring and intoxicating disappearing-act who brought Misty Beethoven to glorious life more than thirty-five years ago? While Distribix couldn't convince her to appear in the supplements that are on their Misty Beethoven collection, they did track her down and the documentary (and notes) on her are eye opening (I especially love when Metzger helps warmly set the record straight about her in the commentary) and the fact that she is penning a memoir is amazing news. While she appeared in a few films after The Opening of Misty Beethoven, Money remains frozen in time due to her iconic work as Metzger’s most memorable heroine. There is no need to say the film wouldn't have worked without Constance Money…she‘s like a collective cinematic dream as Misty Beethoven and every moment she had in front of Metzger’s camera is, for the lack of a better word, magical.
Fueled by a tremendous ad-campaign, a grand-opening night and an audacious soundtrack (compiled by the great music director George Craig), The Opening of Misty Beethoven opened in 1976 and damn near became the crossover smash Metzger had hoped for and deserved but, at the end of the day, America (and mainstream cinema) was (and is) just too uptight to truly accept the film and it remains one of the great ‘hidden’ movies in film history, although Distribpix’s jaw-dropping collection has already started opening some eyes and changing some minds. Time rewards great works and the time for The Opening of Misty Beethoven is NOW and Radley Metzger’s acceptance into the established cinematic canon is long OVERDUE.
Benson Hurst writes that The Opening of Misty Beethoven left Radley Metzger absolutely exhausted and that, “the grueling months in the editing room (really) took their toll". While he managed to direct a few more films, including the final two Henry Paris films Barbara Broadcast and Maraschino Cherry, Metzger would never again be able to make a film quite as powerful and visionary as The Opening of Misty Beethoven. With the film, he had reached the top of the mountain, took a moment to survey his great creation and then took the inevitable journey back down.
Distribpix went to heroic lengths in restoring The Opening of Misty Beethoven and getting it, not only on a DVD set, but also Blu-ray. While all of the extras they assembled are indeed godsends finally getting to see the alternate cut of the film (which includes a number of takes and even scenes not in the original) is particularly breathtaking. The collection is exhaustive, lovingly assembled and it makes previous releases of the film seem absolutely quaint (although the VCA disc is worth holding onto for a commentary track with Gloria Leonard and Jamie Gillis that isn't included on the Distribpix release). The DVD and Blu-ray set isn't the only prize available for fans of the the film as there is finally now a soundtrack (which features an astounding forty page booklet detailing Ian Culmell’s astonishing archival dedication and digging), t-shirts, posters and more. The lucky patrons who were able to give larger amounts to the ambitious drive to get the film on Blu-Ray were even treated to additional discs of outtakes (which I oh so hope to get to see someday). The whole package (and the passion that went into making it) is quite awe-inspiring.
Recently Sight and Sound conducted their once every decade poll regarding the Greatest Films ever made and the results were as dull and stagnate as ever. The history of film is being turned into a tenured aging professor, at another gala honoring his past works, ignoring the students who carried on his great ideas long after he has stopped caring. Ignore the canon, seek out the cinematic fringe dwellers and create your own greatest films list...in the words of the great Hyman Mandel, "never let the fact that they are doing it wrong stop you from doing it right."
BARBARA BROADCAST (1977)
There was no real way to follow up a work quite as towering as The Opening of Misty Beethoven. Metzger's 1976 masterpiece closed out a stunning ten year period that few of even the greatest filmmakers could even dream of matching. Metzger's final few years behind the camera would yield more great work but he would never top The Opening of Misty Beethoven and to Metzger's credit he knew better than to try. Ironically, despite the fact that it doesn't stand among his greatest works, Barbara Broadcast is perhaps the most influential film Metzger ever shot especially in the realm of adult cinema as its almost gonzo like episodic nature and emphasis on stars rather than story remains the most copied hard core trope in history. With Barbara Broadcast, Metzger took a huge creative step backwards while virtually inventing the modern hardcore film.
Barbara Broadcast is controlled by its extraordinary cast. While bits of Metzger's trademark humor are on display, and his expertise behind the camera never falters, Barbara Broadcast is essentially a showcase for Annette Haven, Susan McBain, Jamie Gillis, Wade Nichols, Constance Money and especially C.J. Laing. It's the work of a master but an exhausted master and it feels more like an vibrant postscript more than a completely realized great work.
The famous tagline of Barbara Broadcast is "An Erotic Film in Four Courses" and that sums it up very nicely. Gone is the audacious ambition of Metzger's masterworks that led up to it. Barbara Broadcast is a deliberately bare-bones work that manages to be among the most erotic films Metzger ever made while being among the least transcendent. Benson Hurst notes in excellent liner notes to Distribpix's incredible Blu-ray release of Barbara Broadcast that in many ways the film was, "a reaction against" the "particularly lengthy, arduous and complicated" production that had been The Opening of Misty Beethoven. There is a sense of fatigue that controls Metzger's direction of Barbara Broadcast that isn't found anywhere else in his filmography but his perfect cast makes up for it, especially in the film's most legendary sequence featuring the smoldering pairing of Nichols and Laing, which Distribpix restored to its uncut presentation after years of being censored on past video releases. As Hurst correctly notes, Barbara Broadcast's most acclaimed scene is the "ne plus ultra of adult cinema" and the "apotheosis of C.J. Laing."
Barbara Broadcast closes with a scene that was cut from The Opening of Misty Beethoven that would damage the professional relationship between Metzger and Constance Money. It's easy to see why the bondage themed segment between Jamie Gillis and Money was cut from Misty and it's a pity that its inclusion in Barbara Broadcast would lead to litigation between Metzger and Money, who hadn't approved its appearance. Regardless of the behind the scenes drama, the scene is brutally hypnotic and undeniably memorable.
Distribpix's Barbara Broadcast special edition is dazzling and exhaustive. Powered by a beautiful restoration of the film and another wonderful commentary by Metzger, the Blu-ray DVD combo is loaded with extras including a documentary and the rarely seen 'soft' version of the film. Like Distribpix's other Henry Paris titles, it's an absolutely essential release of a flawed but extremely important film.
While it is perhaps his weakest work as Henry Paris, 1978’s Maraschino Cherry is one of the most important, as it the swansong for Metzger’s alter-ego.
Starring a dazzling cast made up of the best New York based actresses of the seventies, including Gloria Leonard, Leslie Bovee, Annette Haven, C.J. Laing, Jenny Baxter, Susan McBain and Constance Money, Maraschino Cherry is an extremely stylish spectacle that sends Henry Paris out in style.
Made up of new footage interspersed with some unused older scenes (including the ones with Money), Maraschino Cherry is, along with Barbara Broadcast (1977), the most episodic film Metzger created under the Paris pseudonym, but what it lacks in narrative consistency is made up for by the go for broke attitude of Radley and his extremely talented cast. Maraschino Cherry is a seriously cool film that run hot in its rather slim running time of 84 minutes, and it remains one of the most memorable films of the late seventies.
A visually dynamic production, thanks to Metzger’s always dazzling cinematic eye, Maraschino Cherry also benefits greatly from sharp editing (credited to a Harvey Katz but probably done by Metzger himself) that keeps the production flowing quickly and smoothly. Metzger’s directorial flourishes and great camera work is also apparent in every shot of the film as his great eye for composition, even though Maraschino Cherry finally plays out as one of the least defined great films of Radley’s career.
What will really put Seventies film enthusiasts in absolute heaven with Maraschino Cherry is its extraordinary cast. The always reliable Gloria Leonard was never better, or sexier, as the title character and she generates so much intelligence and wit for Metzger here. Scene-stealing Leslie Bouvee is particularly lovely here and drop-dead gorgeous Annette Haven is especially memorable in the film’s final section. The exquisite Constance Money also brings her oh so distinctive brand of beauty and Jenny Baxter is a real charmer as Maraschino’s sister Jenny, but the film ultimately belongs to the fearless C.J. Laing, who really blows the roof off the place in the show-stopping ‘dungeon’ set finale. Laing, as she did in Barbara Broadcast, proves herself to be one of the most searing and sexiest performers film world has ever seen and it is impossible to take your eyes off her when she appears.
Radley Metzger would all but retire from the film world after the release of Maraschino Cherry, as he only had a few relatively minor works on his resume after its release. His final true Henry Paris production is marked by the same innovation, skill and style of all his great works and it is an absolute must see for Metzger enthusiasts and seventies film fanatics in general.
Thankfully Maraschino Cherry was also granted a full-blown special edition release thanks to DistribPix’s Platinum Elite Edition. This beautiful double disc collection, which comes with a booklet (with tremendous liner notes by Benson Hurst, which can be read at Distribpix's blog) and film negative, contains a very nicely remastered version from the uncut 35 mm negative as well several really nice extras, including a fascinating 30 minute recent interview with Leonard, bonus scenes, rare photos and trailers. Like their other collectors editions, the team at Distribpix put a lot of love into the release of Maraschino Cherry and it gives this important film a great home.
All of Distribpix's special Henry Paris editions come with the highest possible recommendation. For those looking to get the films on a budget minus all of the extraordinary bells and whistles, a box-set featuring just the films is also available and each film can now be bought separately as well.
Radley Metzger's period working as Henry Paris remains one of the most important, if undervalued, moments in film history. A jaw-dropping meeting between the European Art House, Hardcore filmmaking and the American Independent spirit, there are simply no other films like The Private Afternoons of Pamela Mann, Naked Came The Stranger, The Opening of Misty Beethoven, Barbara Broadcast and Maraschino Cherry. They aren't just great films, they are great art and no serious study of film history is complete without them.
JEREMY RICHEY, 2017