I have to say, Score came as a bit of a surprise. It’s one of three Radley Metzger erotic features that have just been released in the UK in double format Blu-ray and DVD editions. Metzger specialised in ‘high class erotica’ (or ‘art porn’), making numerous films in the 60s and 70s with a sexy bent. The other two movies released are Camille 2000 and The Lickerish Quartet.
Camille 2000 is a modern take on Dumas’ La Dame Aux Camélias, about a woman with a reputation for using men for their money, but who may change when she meets Armand, who appears rich but isn’t actually all that wealthy. The Lickerish Quartet is a strange but absorbing movie about a man, a woman and her grown son. They invite a young lady to their house who they think starred in an 8mm porn loop they own. However mind games ensue, much sex is had between the woman and everyone else, and it all gets very surreal at the end. They’re both better than you’d expect from 70s erotica, and indeed Lickerish Quartet is actually a surprisingly complex, ambitious and thought provoking movie.
However there are still erotica, with lots of softcore straight sex and some lesbian action thrown in for the beady eyes of hetero men – they may find reasons for it, but when things get Sapphic it’s still essentially girl-on-girl action for guys.
Then there’s Score.
For the first 20 minutes it felt like a bit of a let-down compared to the other movies. Initially it has the feel of cheesy, clichéd porn, to the extent that a telephone repairman turns up and ends up having sex with the woman of the house. I was surprised they didn’t go the whole hog and make him a plumber with a big plunger.
But then things become a lot more interesting and surprising, especially for a gay audience. The woman who’s having sex with the telephone repairman is Elvira (Claire Wilbur), the free-spirited wife of Jack (Gerald Grant). The couple like to play games and their latest bet involves young spouses Betsy (Lynn Lowry) and Eddie (Cal Culver).
If I tell you Cal Culver is better known as vintage gay porn star Casey Donovan, you might get a hint at the direction this is going.
As part of a game of bisexual conquests the duo likes to play, Elvira bets Jack that she can get much closer to Betsy before midnight. It’s going to be a tough job, as Betsy is a Catholic with a convent education. However Eddie might be an easier prospect for Jack, as the younger man doesn’t seem that interested in his wife sexually and once the joints are lit up, he takes a closeted liking to his new male friend.
Then comes a side bet – if Elvira succeeds, Jack has to promise not play with Eddie. This addendum to the wager initially appeared like it was going to be a giant get out clause, so that once more there’d be plenty of lesbian shenanigans, but the guys wouldn’t get it on, and it would turn into another voyeuristic porno session for straight eyes only.
However it’s not that at all, because as midnight approaches the girls are in the bedroom and the boys in the basement, and each is determined to get themselves a bit of same sex loving. And even more surprisingly, the film treats both gay and lesbian sex the same way (at least this UK 18 rated version does, the original cut was actually even more full-on with the male gay sex, featuring on-screen BJs – this movie was Metzger transition from soft to hardcore in the wake of Deep Throat and porno chic).
It was a bit of a surprise to find that this 1974 movie – which comes from a director who at the time had a growing reputation for high class straight erotica – treats lesbian and gay male sex in such an upfront way. Both sexes lock lips, engage in oral sex, the women put on strap-ons and the guys have anal sex. Although the film’s attitude to freewheeling sexuality seems slightly quaint to modern eyes – bisexuality might rub off on people and there’s an odd moment that seems to suggest the best way to deal with having a gay husband is for the wife to strap on a dildo – for its time it has a very open approach to sex and sexuality.
Interestingly it’s actually based on an off-Broadway play, so has a rather more legitimate basis than you might expect for erotica. The telephone repairman also comes from the play (on-stage he was played by Sylvester Stallone, no less), suggesting that the early stages are deliberately playing with the audience and their expectations of softcore porn before it turns into something a little more complex. Indeed, the early repairman scene is the only straight sex in the film – and even then another woman is watching.
Some of the film has a rather Who’s Afraid Of Virginia Woolf? feel, with issues laid bare and repressed feelings erupting. Although not amazingly deep and with a voiceover that suggests this is just a silly fairytale fantasy, it has interesting characters and a proper plot that touches on real issues – not least the problem of having a hubby who’s probably gay.
The first hour of the movie also has the feeling of being foreplay. Elvira and Jack have an agenda and the audience are being teased along for the ride. Much of the movie is their slow seduction of Betsy and Eddie, who are both interested but are unsure about actually engaging in a bit of bisexual fun. Score could have all fallen apart if it had screwed up the main event, but the cross-cut lesbian and gay male sex scenes are lengthy and feel like a literal and figurative climax.
However, as mentioned we’re not getting the full uncut version in the UK, as even in this day and age the BBFC would only give Score an 18 certificate if the on-screen fellatio was removed (it could have gone R18, but then it would only be available in licensed sex shops). Oddly the BBFC rating info suggests the distributor also removed another four minutes they didn’t have to, which is a bit strange, although as Radley Metzger was involved in this new restoration, presumably he’s okay with it.
(UPDATE: We’ve had word from the distributor about the version we’re getting in the UK. They say, ‘There were two versions of the film approved by Radley, the uncut version and the ‘soft version’ – both were prepared by Radley himself. When the BBFC wouldn’t pass the uncut version, we submitted the soft version. The soft version loses the blow job scene and another tame lesbian scene. We preferred to go with a version that had been approved by Radley, rather than a botched edit with some scenes removed to get it past the BBFC.’ It’s certainly sounds more reasonable to me to have a director approved softer version than a bowdlerised cut that was essentially edited by the BBFC).
The result is some odd editing during the main sex scenes, where not only does the film seem to jump, but the music does too. Even so, for softcore 70s erotica it’s not as coy as you might expect (just don’t expect erections and blow jobs in the UK).
So while it might be a little toned from the original version, it’s still a surprisingly thoughtful, pansexual, sometimes funny and pretty sexy movie with a far franker attitude to gay sex than you might expect for 1974.
It’s also very much a product of its time, representing that period in the 70s when everything seemed to be opening up sexually, swinging was all the rage and porno chic was sweeping US cinemas. There is a sad footnote to all this pre-HIV freedom though, as tragically both Calvin Culver and Gerald Park later died of AIDS, with the disease helping to end the era of anything-goes sexuality that Score is very much a part of.
Overall Verdict: Normally when something is claimed as ‘high class erotica’, it’s rubbish softcore with a few poncey touches, but Score is a surprisingly entertaining movie with plenty of shenanigans of all sexual persuasions.
Reviewer: Tim Isaac