Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Score (1974)

Directed by Radley Metzger
Cast: Clair Wilbur, Calvin Culver
Lynn Lowry, Gerald Grant, Carl Parker

Plot Summary: In a quaint seaside town, in a country vaguely European, married swingers Elvira and Jack live a joyously hedonistic life seducing tourists. Two new acquaintances, the naive young Betsy and Eddie, are proving to be difficult nuts to crack, however. Undeterred, Elvira and Jack make a bet: can husband bed husband before wife can seduce wife? And what will a swarthy telephone repairman bring to the mix?

Review: In the early 1970's, having "sexual hang ups" was severely frowned upon by anyone who was truly "with it." Thus began the (brief) era of "bisexual chic." The vogue was short-lived, so short that few films had the opportunity to capitalize on the fad. This is what makes Score such a unique and enjoyable experience. In the modern era, when bisexual adult films are widely perceived to be uniformly terrible, Score entices us with a glimpse at a genre that could have been but sadly never was.

While still in the early stages of his career, director Radley Metzger had already begun to solidify his reputation as a master of arthouse erotica by 1974. His meticulously cast, wittily-scripted films were head and shoulders above those of his more exploitative contemporaries.


Come together...
It is in the film's casting that Score first approaches masterpiece territory. Claire Wilbur, who had appeared in the stage play upon which the film is based, quite expertly dials down to a pitch suited to the more cozy confines of film. She plays the coy, joyfully manipulative Elvira with a wink and a nod, seemingly daring the audience not to like her despite the characters unsavory seduction techniques.

Gerald Grant, as the Devil-may-care husband, brings to the role a wry smile, a twinkling eye, and an effortless sexuality that is simply irresistible on screen.

Betsy, the willing corruptee.
Of the leads, Calvin Culver is perhaps the best known of the bunch. He had earlier shot to icon status under the "nom-de-porn" Casey Donovan in Wakefield Poole's gay opus Boys in the Sand. Culver plays the wide-eyed but repressed Eddie with such deft skill, it is quite obvious he has met such sticks-in-the-mud many times before.

While Score is very much an ensemble piece, the entire film pivots on the performance of the immensely watchable Lynn Lowry. An actress of great depth, her transformation from "Betsy the blushing Catholic schoolgirl" to "Betsy the liberated, sexual explorer" is effortless. It's not just in her delivery of dialogue that we see the change, her eyes themselves take on a knowing new light. It's an astonishing performance.

The captivating Lynn Lowry.
Rounding out the cast is Carl Parker as Mike, the telephone repairman. Parker is given little to do besides look sexy, but this he does exceedingly well. Metzger would later use Parker to great effect in the S&M themed The Image (aka The Punishment of Anne.)

Metzger (as Henry Paris) would go on to become one of the most respected and creative auteurs of hardcore erotica, helming such classics as The Opening of Misty Beethoven, The Private Afternoons of Pamela Mann and Barbara Broadcast. Score is an early work of Metzger's genius and foreshadows the greatness to come. In Score he slowly builds, layer-upon-layer, the sexual suspense which leads to a most satisfying climax. He takes his characters to the sexual brink, bringing the audience along for the ride.

Gerald Grant as Jack.
The sexual arena is radically different in our time, the early 21st century. However, the brief and joyous period explored in Score is captured in each and every frame of the film. It is a joyful, erotic and hilarious romp that truly has, as the film's advertising exclaims, "something for everyone!'

DVD Details: Early DVD releases featured the heavily censored "soft" version. However Cult Epics has come up trumps with their recent DVD and Blu-Ray release. The film is presented completely uncut, with a wealth of extras including director's commentary and a new on-camera interview with star Lynn Lowry. Highly Reccomended! -Johnny Stanwyck



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