Radley Metzger is generally acknowledged to be one of the more stylish and successful purveyors of 1970s erotica, a filmmaker who specialized in assaying the flickering embers of anything-goes sexual adventurism, more along the edges of suburbia rather than hippiedom. Though New York-born, he often shot his movies in Europe, and therefore brought to bear a certain élan and foreign arthouse sophistication upon the porno chic subgenre that a lot of his crank-’em-out contemporaries simply lacked. His 1972 film Score, heretofore unavailable on DVD and Blu-ray in its uncensored, longer form, represents an interesting if not altogether successful branching out on his part.
Believe it or not, Score is actually based on a 1971 off-Broadway play that starred a then-25-year-old Sylvester Stallone. Adapted for the screen by Jerry Douglas, the film version moves the action from Queens to a sleepy seaside villa, where a married swinging couple, Elvira (Claire Wilbur, above right) and her photographer husband Jack (Gerald Grant), bored with the lack of erotically charged conquest in their trysts arranged from magazines’ personal ads, make a bet to see who can most quickly seduce a shy young newlywed couple, Betsy (Lynn Lowry) and her ecologist hubbie Eddie (Cal Culver, above center). The rub (ahem) is that the liberated couple are bisexual, so — after using telephone repairman Mike (Carl Parker) as a warm-up appetizer to loosen the grip of Betsy’s Catholic school upbringing — Elvira sets her sights on Betsy, while Jack eyes Eddie. Booze, weed, kinky dress-up costumes and amyl nitrate get trotted out, and the inhibitions of the younger couple eventually fall away.
The opening and closing narration is more than a little ridiculous (“Once upon a future time, in a lush land of pleasure, in an enviable state of affluence, bordering on the state of decadence to the north and the state of euphoria to the south, in a city of leisure…”), and it doesn’t quite jibe with the exploitative nature of Score‘s conceit, even if Betsy and Eddie are proven to be willing players in their own corruption. Also, Jack and Eddie’s un-ironic use of “buddy” recalls South Park‘s Terrence and Phillip in its over-the-top frequency of use. Still, there’s no small amount of amusement to some of the dialogue (Jack, in early evening small talk: “How do you think we’re going to do in the Olympics?” Eddie: “Oh, I don’t know.” Jack [sotto voce]: “Thank God it’s not going to be one of those evenings…”), and Metzger seems to have an intuitive grasp of how sexually persuadable or suggestible a certain subset of twentysomethings are, when pitched a good, hard line of bullshit. Fashion changes, but that score remains constant, it seems.
Other than that, the most interesting thing about Score, of course, is that it features not the sort of lesbian canoodling that one expects from the sexploitation genre (well, it does, but not solely), but instead explicit male homosexual scenes, in contrast to its fairly demure sapphic simulations. This was something of a departure for the genre, and certainly an act of at the very least artistic provocation, though its maker denies this in the bonus material interview. Though it’s comedically inflected (and features a winkingly ironic ending), the film itself is kind of a claustrophobic, mid-tempo push, and its psychedelic-infused love scenes (Metzger and cinematographer Frano Vodopivec shoot into mirrors and use all other manner of distorted lens gimmickry) never achieve much real titillation, beyond the aforementioned academic curiosity/notoriety.
Housed in a regular plastic Amaray case with a striking orange cover and photograph of Lowry, Score comes to DVD in a 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen presentation from Cult Epics, divided into 12 chapters. The restored high-definition transfer is fairly solid, all things considered, with extremely little in the way of grain or edge enhancement, and only a very few intermittent splotches. Far less stellar is the English Dolby digital 2.0 mono soundtrack, which features a soundtrack that frequently overwhelms the dialogue. An audio commentary track with Metzger and film historian Michael Bowen anchors the slate of bonus features, and it’s interesting to hear the filmmaker discuss both certain production hardships (having to move part of the production’s Croatian shoot from a separate studio location to the cast and crew’s hotel) and how he filmed the movie’s most explicit scenes without ever really knowing if they would even be included in the final cut of the movie. (Two versions ended up being released.)
Other supplemental material consists of an 18-and-a-half-minute narrated production featurette with loads of fascinating on-set footage, and a separate, 19-minute-plus interview with Lowry, in which she gamely recounts everything from her casting and Metzger’s admonitions to the cast to stay out of the sun (he wanted to avoid tan lines) to her rocky relationship with Wilbur (after her costar found out she was making less money, and reacted bitterly) and Parker’s off-set “rehearsal” attempts to separate her from her panties. Rounding things out are preview trailers for Score, as well as two other Metzger productions, Camille 2000 and The Lickerish Quartet. To purchase the DVD via Amazon, click here. C (Movie) A- (Disc)