Saturday, January 21, 2012

The Moseby Confidential Files: Radley Metzger's Maraschino Cherry (1978)

***Radley Metzger, one of Moon in the Gutter's heroes and favorite filmmakers is celebrating his birthday today, so I couldn't let the occasion go by without a tribute. Very soon I will be posting a long-look at the amazing special edition DVD Distribpix have recently released of Naked Came the Stranger, but today I am dusting off this old Harry Moseby Confidential Piece I wrote awhile back on an another Distribpix special edition, dedicated to Metzger's last major work Maraschino Cherry. Warm Birthday wishes to one of American cinema's great artists and mavericks!***

Few American filmmakers of the past fifty years have deserved critical and popular reconsideration more than New York born director Radley Metzger. Throughout the sixties and seventies, Metzger consistently proved himself as one of the most inspired, inventive, and original directors American cinema had ever seen with works such as Carmen Baby, Camille 2000 and The Lickerish Quartet standing as some of the great masterworks of the period. While Metzger’s reputation has grown in the years since he stopped making films in the mid eighties, his name still isn’t held in as high regard as it should, but time should solve that as his great films look better and better with each passing year.

Perhaps the most intriguing period of Radley Metzger’s career was a five-year span in the seventies when he worked under the gloriously stylish pseudonym of Henry Paris. As Paris, Metzger delivered a stirring collection of erotic films that are without peer in the industry, with his stunning The Opening of Misty Beethoven (1976) rightly considered the greatest film of its kind ever made. While it isn’t his greatest 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 including 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 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 has been 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.

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