BR: Score (1974)

February 4, 2011 | By

Return to: Home Blu-ray, DVD, Film Reviews / S


Film: Excellent / DVD Transfer: Excellent/ DVD Extras: Excellent

Label: Cult Epics/ Region: All / Released: October 12, 2010

Genre: Erotica

Synopsis: A scheming couple continue their game of gender swapping, focusing on a young attractive pair.

Special Features: Audio Commentary with director Radley Metzger and film historian Michael Bowen / Vintage behind-the-scenes footage with commentary by Michael Bowen (20 mins.) / Interview: “Keeping Score with Lynn Lowry” (20 mins.) / Trailers / O-sleeve / New HD transfer of uncut version




Cult Epics’ Blu-ray release of Score is the beginning of a needed reassessment of Radley Metzger’s work within the indie film and erotic film scene.

Most of Metzger’s films have been available on DVD (albeit in aging, wringy video masters), but Score may have been more unique because of its girl-girl and guy-guy content that yielded different edits on home video, and led to much speculations among fans as to if and when an uncut version would ever be released.

Score marked the beginning of Metzger’s foray into storytelling with genuine adult content – material the director admits on the BR’s commentary track he would’ve done earlier, had the climate been more permissible – and preceded his inevitable shift to hardcore porn after The Image (1975).

Based on Jerry Douglas’ off-Broadway play, the simple premise of Score revolves around a night of couples swapping their mates, which fit Metzger’s familiar mold of using four dominant characters, using few locations, but rooms filled with props that allowed the director to build up scenes filled with innuendo, sexual intrigue and extra-curricular possibilities, as well as a physical playground of voguish furniture, and colours exploited by diffused lenses, and images refracted off canted mirrors or camouflaged by strategically placed objects (often coloured glass).

Douglas, a playwright, had already made pioneering steps with the gay porn production The Back Row (1973), so he wasn’t an utter novice in screenwriting. Metzger had Douglas expand the play somewhat, transposing the locale from NYC to a fairy tale setting – a European vacation playground where pleasure ruled above all else. The intro and outro narration also set up the film as a fantasy tale, but according to Metzger, virtually all other elements of Douglas’ play remained intact.

The decision to include adult material seemed to stem from inspiration (‘We’ve already got two adult actors in the cast, so why not?’) and it was a ploy to give Score a commercial edge over Hollywood’s own attempts to pass off its nudity-friendly product as being more reflective of the times.

Also ported over from the play was actress Claire Wilbur as chief erotic protagonist Elvira, with the remaining actors cast from wholly different venues: gay adult actor Calvin Culver (aka Casey Donovan) played Elvira’s husband Eddie, up-and-coming indie actress Lynn Lowry (The Crazies) and gay adult actor Gerald Grant played the willing swappers Betsy and Jack.

For the role of phone repairman Mike, Metzger opted to use Carl Parker, the star of a now-forgotten series of rabidly sexist cigarette ads, instead of the play’s original actor, newcomer Sylvester Stallone, because the director wanted to neuter the ethnic tone to a more a banal whitebread variety.

The locations were primarily in a coastal town off the Dalmatian Coast in the former Yugoslavia, and Metzger re-teamed with some of the crew used for his Evita Peron riff, Little Mother (1973). Few of the exteriors are shown once the couples start to engage in their bouts of erotic experimentation, but the beautiful masonry of the old homes and streets give the story little bits of visual breathing space before the film’s lengthy teasing and orgy sequences.

The story is ostensibly about a bet – whether Elvira can seduce wife Betsy before Eddie seduces husband Jack – within a strict timeline, and the goal is to maintain the highest score, although what’s ultimately intriguing is the psychological gamesmanship, as personal barriers are carefully eroded (sometimes with a little substance assistance), and each character engages in fantasy role playing to disarm their respective target with a combination of fantasy attire.

The performances are generally strong, as is Metzger’s direction, mining little behaviour nuances before the couples are separated into gender pairs. The film’s last reel is a lengthy montage of foreplay and sexual adventurism – simulated with the women, and in the uncut version, done medium-hard with the men.

Perhaps the biggest surprise for audiences is how well both sequences are editorially coordinated, and how vital they are to the film’s fluid narrative. The decision to excise the fellatio scenes and create a soft version made sense, in terms of giving the film a broader appeal among the most general elements of the erotic market, but the loss of the medium-core gay material weakened the balanced portrayed of the two protagonists, and mangled some of Metzger’s most visually arresting work. Even for heterosexual audiences, the Eddie-Jack sequences are carefully filmed, lit, and edited, and they’re as striking as the dimly lit erotic encounters with silhouettes and blurred figures in Camille 2000 (1969).

In prior home video releases, the only version on tape and DVD tended to be the cut version, and some of the short footage showing more details of the gay sequences (minus the medium-core footage) appeared in the wonky 2002 Metzger compilation, Girls Who Like Girls. Timing also played a key role for Cult Epics, because with most labels pushing Blu-ray to replace DVD, it ensured any new Metzger release would be in HD.

The details of the location cinematography are sharp, the colours are saturated and balanced, and there’s no heavy noise reduction marring the images – a consistent problem in the single layer DVDs that First Run Features put out during the early years of DVD.

The only area of technical weakness is the sound mix, largely because early scenes in the homes were recorded wild, and Metzger’s style tended to favour sparse dialogue and music, rather than a densely layered sound mix. Part of that may be due to the film’s destination – adult and / or art house theatres – which didn’t require the creation of anything beyond a straight mono mix.

As with most of his films, the music is taken from library cues, most composed by Robert Cornford. The title song which worms its way through the film isn’t a Rolling Stones soundalike but a tune the cast and crew repeatedly heard by band that performed each night at their hotel. Metzger either fell under the song’s spell (or like an evil ABBA tune, fell victim to its corkscrew melodic structure), and later recorded the tune expressly for the film with alternate lyrics for specific moments of power shifts among the characters.

Besides a HD transfer of the uncut Score, the second-most important ingredient in Cult Epics’ release is a running commentary between Metzger (his first ever) and film historian Michael Bowen, and it’s probably the first time the director’s been recorded in a lengthy discussion of any single film. A notoriously private man, Metzger’s affable nature is perhaps surprising to fans used to the sparse print and online interviews.

There’s also Metzger’s astute and prescient nature at the time of filming, realizing the changes within the indie and erotic film scene in 1974, and how specific market changes affected his own career. As risqué as Score was, its impact was muted when Deep Throat was released that same year: audiences flocked to see hardcore films and mechanical graphic sex, and it took a long while before Metzger’s arty style could be appreciated again, albeit mostly on home video. In the interim, Metzger had little choice but to enter the hardcore realm (roughly 1974-1978) to remain busy, if not financially solvent.

The commentary is sometimes broken up with a few silent gaps, and it eventually runs out of steam around the film’s midpoint, with only sporadic pauses and complete silence during the gay sequences, but it’s still an engaging discussion about the film’s production, filming in Tito’s Yugoslavia, the cast and crew, the music, and Metzger’s career reflections. Bowen’s questions tend to hover around the state of adult film in the early seventies, but both keep branching off into other directions, so there’s much important material for the director and genre’s fans, with added background material on The Image, made after Score.

The remaining extras include 20 mins. of vintage behind-the-scenes footage with initial commentary from Bowen that places elements in context based on the commentary discussions, and a maniacal loop of the vocal song for the rest of the montage.

An interview with Lynn Lowry is equally enlightening, as the actress describes her casting, the declining civility with co-star Wilbur during filming and their reconciliation years later, her cast mates, the issue of nudity (having appeared in Theodore Gershuny’’s Sugar Cookies the previous year) and the adult content that ultimately affected her goal to break into more mainstream films.

(Wilbur, who acted in one more film, Teenage Hitch-hikers in 1975, and won an Oscar in 1976 for producing the short documentary The End of the Game, passed away in 2004, and veteran gay adult film actors Culver and Grant both passed away from AIDS. Writer Douglas and supporting actor weren’t interviewed, but perhaps the latter might appear in some future Blu-ray special edition of The Image, in which he co-starred before leaving films.)

Score is apparently the first of Cult Epics’ Metzger wave, and next in line for HD releases are his creative pinnacles, The Lickerish Quartet (1970) and Camille 2000 (1969).



© 2011 Mark R. Hasan


Related links:

Interview:  The Image DVD producer Don May (2002)


Related external links (MAIN SITE):

DVD / Film:  Image, The (1976)


External References:

IMDB Composer Filmography


Buy from:

Amazon.comScore (Uncensored Version) [Blu-ray] Score [Blu-ray] [1972] [US Import]


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