Radley Metzger is one of the great makers of erotic cinema in the history of cinema. That said, his competition is virtually non-existent. Generally when filmmakers use nudity and sexuality it’s simply for exploitation purposes (be it pornography or Swordfish) or as a grand statement – be it Bernardo Bertolucci (Last Tango in Paris) or Nagisa Oshima (In the Realm of the Senses). But with Metzger and Russ Meyer, there were a couple of directors who trafficked in nudity and still manages to do it without making films where you simply wait for the sex scenes. The Lickerish Quartet is now on Blu-ray, and our review is after the jump.
The story follows a family, the husband (Frank Wolff), wife (Erika Remberg) and son (Paolo Turco) watch a dirty movie, and are intrigued by its star. When they go to the carnival, they see a motocross rider who looks like the star of the film. They introduce themselves, and invite her (Silvana Venturelli) to their home. There the game’s afoot as the woman reveals that she’s wearing a wig, and goes about seducing every member of the household, while their interactions eventually come to mirror those in the film.
Though the film attempts to deepen its narrative with its heady mind games (the film opens with a quote from Pirandello’s Six Characters in Search of an Author), Metzger is one of the rare filmmakers who manages to create erotic tensions, and narratives based around fucking. I wouldn’t call this the best of Metzger – I prefer his more audacious Score – The Lickerish Quartet is a real film, and it’s trying to be something. Again, which is more than can be said about most “adult” films. Quartet is compelling as a narrative with a central conceit that’s clever enough, but in terms of modern films the film is somewhat soft. In that sense it reminds of antiquated pornography, it gains a level of niceness and pleasantries simply because it’s tame in comparison.
But the idea of people watching pornography and they themselves getting caught up in the idea of porn is such a great idea that the film works in spite of the age. There’s enough meat on the bone here to make for fascinating viewing, and like so many, Metzger understood that voyeurism is inherent to the genre, so playing up that element of watching the watching is what gives the film a kick. Perhaps it’s simply pretentious, but in the context of its era, what Radley Metzger does is try to justify a narrative based around sexual intrigue, and to that he succeeds.
On some level I prefer when Metzger got closer to the porn he eventually ended up directing under the pseudonym Henry Paris. The later films are racier, and though Metzger was one of the rare directors who was able to work in a ghettoized genre with some credibility, the era of the tease has not aged well. This is interesting, but not the best of the director.
Cult Epics presents the film in widescreen (1.78:1) and in 2.0 Mono. The picture quality is excellent for the film, though much of the film features scratchy back and white footage. The film comes with a commentary with Metzger and film historian Michael Bowen that is revealing, and Metzger offers solid insights on the making of the film, and what he did. Also included is a making of (11 min.), and a comparison of the original audio and the dubbed version (13 min.). There’s also the tamer version of some of the sex scenes (32 min.) for different markets that wouldn’t allow nudity. Also included are trailers for this and two other Metzger films.