Friday, May 17, 2013

Blu-ray Review: THE OPENING OF MISTY BEETHOVEN (1975)

THE OPENING OF MISTY BEETHOVEN (1975) 
Collector's Edition Blu-ray 
Label: Distribpix
Region Code: Region FREE
Rating: Unrated
Duration: 86 Minutes 
Video: 1080p Widescreen (1.85:1) 
Audio: English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1,  Dolby Digital 2.0 
Director: Radley Metzger
Cast: Jamie Gillis, Constance Money, Jacqueline Beudant, Ras Kean, Gloria Leonard

Erotic auteur Radley Metzger's THE OPENING OF MISTY BEETHOVEN (1975) is widely considered the premier adult film of the late-70's porno chic zeitgeist  following the mainstream success of DEEP THROAT (1972) which had housewives and A-List celebrities flocking to 42nd Street to catch a glimpse of Linda Lovelace's orgasmic birth defect. Metzger was already well known for softcore delights CAMILLE 2000 (1969), SCORE (1974) and THE IMAGE (1975) before filming a foursome of hardcore sex film under the alias Henry Paris, and this fascinating fornication-film was an porno chic adaptation of George Bernard Shaw's classic play Pygmalion, it's a pretty great idea and it's executed quite wonderfully by Metzger and the cast.  


As the films begins a noted sexologist named Dr. Seymour Love (Jamie Gillis, THE LICKERISH QAURTET) is at a XXX theater in Paris, France where he  is propositioned by a super-cute street walker named Misty (Constance Money) who refuses to to anything but straight sex, she doesn't take it in the ass or the mouth, the mere thought of sucking a cock seems to turn her stomach. They're conversation is put on hold as Misty meets up with a regular hand-job appointment at the theater, it's an elderly gentleman dressed in a rather large Napoleon hat and costume, he seems happy enough with her skills and after she spills his geriatric-goo she returns to the conversation with Dr. Love who's intrigued by the spunky, if rather uninspired whore. During the conversation Seymour is also distracted by the orgasmic moans of a friend named Geraldine Rich (Jacqueline Beudeant) who's "both very Geraldine, and very rich", she's pleasuring a man in the wings of the theater and the three strike up a conversation, the  subject of which is the absence of anal or oral in Misty's oeuvre    


Seymour makes a bet with Geraldine that he can turn Misty from an uninspired,  low-rent hooker into the a true sexual dynamo in time for the next party to be thrown by socialite and magazine publisher Lawrence Layman (Ras Kean) where she will be crowned the new Goldenrod Girl. Misty agrees to the terms and the trio are off the New York City where Seymour trains Misty in the ways of lovemaking and how to suck a proper cock. We're treated to a fun series of titillating training montages as Misty learns to take it in the mouth, up the ass to hw make three men cum simultaneously - the latter is designed to give her self confidence. Throughout the film Misty conquers one lover after another, working her way up the social sex ladder until the film culminates at the Layman party in an unforgettable sex scene involving a threesome and pegging!


The film has a great cast, firstly Jamie Gillis is fantastic as the smug sexologist Seymour Love which plays perfectly against Constance Money''s portrayal of the titular Misty, she plays it super sweet and a bit naive and it's a total turn-on from start to finish. The dialogue is comedic and witty, its fun stuff, not what you would expect from a typical hardcore sex film but then again Metzger was never a typical filmmaker and the hardcore sex is punctuated by his typical air of elegance and style. 


There's lots of great sex scenes, we get some carpet munching, threesomes, pegging, slow cocksucking, handjobs  and the seduction of a gay art dealer - there's nothing too outrageous but I guess pegging in '75 must have been a bit of an eyebrow raiser to the suburban set maybe, having just rewatched Metzger's SCORE which features an extended gay-sex scene I didn't find it too startling. There's a lot of nice comedic touches throughout the film, fun music cues, witty banter and great fun set pieces, there's even an airline which offers blow jobs on their flights. 

The erotic training montages of Misty's sex lessons are fantastic, her work with a rainbow colored dildo is awfully exciting, the sex on screen is scintillating. Honestly, it's pretty rare that a hardcore film actually stirs the still waters for me but this film had me squirming in my seat - simply put the sex is hot!  Metzger's eye for erotica so evident in his softcore films is fully intact. His films are always a visual delight and this is no exception, great location shoots in Europe and New York City, great set pieces including a stylish mod room with a cut-out wall which features prominently in the film and it's advertising. It certainly doesn't hurt that the film was shot by Academy award winning cinematographer Paul Glickman who shot the film under the name Richard Rochester, you may recall his work on many Larry Cohen films including GOD TOLD ME (1976) and THE STUFF (1985) and this is some of his best work right here, Metzger always surrounded himself with a great crew whom extracted he best stuff from small budgets.

Blu-ray: Distribpix present the film on a 50G dual-layer Blu-ray in 1080p widescreen (1.85:1) with a brand-new HD transfer that's uncut and restored and it looks fantastic. The film was shot on super 16mm and Distribix went back to the original elements for this stunning transfer, it looks great with some nice detail and color saturation. Some scenes are a bit softer than others but overall this is a very pleasing image. 

Audio options include an English language Dolby Digital Mono and a newly created DTS-HD 5.1 surround mix with optional subtitles which are available in English, French, Italian, Spanish, German and Portuguese. Like the image the audio was remastered from the original sound elements and it sounds great, the outstanding library music score sounds fantastic, no one utilized a canned score like Metzger could, there's some real gems to found here. 


Onto the extras let's begin by saying that there are both "hot" and "cool" versions of the film on the Blu-ray meaning you can watch the full strength XXX version or the more subdued softcore version with extended dialogue and alternate takes, it's pretty interesting stuff and I recommend a viewing of the softcore version at some point. 


There are two audio commentaries, the first with Radley Metzger moderated by adult film aficionado Benson Hurt which plays over the XXX version. Like most the Metzger commentaries it's an engaging listen from start to finish. There's a lot of ground covered from the cast and crew on the film, to the production, the score and Metzger's other Henry Paris films.  


A second commentary with adult actress Gloria Leonard can be listed to during the softcore version, she talks a lot about what's happening onscreen and reminiscing about working with Constance Money and Jamie Gillis as well as what it was like to work with Metzger. It's a fun track, not as fact filled as Metzger's but quite entertaining on it' s own merits. 


If the commentaries are just not jam-packed with trivia enough for you, don't worry, there's also a 'Film Facts' subtitle trivia track that recycles a lot of the information you will find on the featurettes, interviews and booklet but it's an informative track just the same. 


More extras include Outtakes and Deleted Scenes (24:16)  from the Audubon Film Archives which are presented without sound, it's an interesting watch and most of it's quite familiar except for some sweet Misty bondage footage, which those scenes by themselves are worth a watch. 


There's a very nice documentary on the disc, too. Behind the Scenes of Misty (48:21) is a narrated documentary featuring interviews with actors Gloria Leonard, Casey Donovan and Ras Kean plus cinematographer Paul Glickman and George Craig who sourced the library music used in the film plus other Metzger projects. It gives a well-rounded perspective of Metzger's career leading up to Misty Beethoven and it covers a lot of the production of the film, great stuff. 


The Back to Cinetta Studios 2012 (3:08) featurette is a nifty then and now comparison of the location used to shoot the wrap party scene, it's surprising how little has changed in 37 years, I've always a fan then and now video tours.


If you have an interest in film restoration you are going to love The Restoration of Misty (25:58)  featuring Ryan Emerson and Joe Rubins of Process Blue who scanned and restored the film for this release. We get a tour of the facility and a nice look at the Goldeneye Film Scanner and the processes involved, the tools used and a very cool demonstration of noise reduction, the good and the bad of what it can do to a film. 


Up next are two video tribute features narrated by adult film historian Benson Hurst. The first Desperately Seeking Susan; Constance Found (7:41) felt a bit like deja vu as he narrates a lot of what he wrote about her in the 60 pg. booklet which accompanies the release. It's a nice overview of Money's somewhat secretive life beginning with her middle class upbringing in Kenmore, WA and the pain caused by the reaction she received following her career in porno. The second tribute Remembering Jamie Gillis (9:00) is a nice eulogy for the actor, a nice remembrance of a truly one-of-a-kind adult film actor. 


Jamie Gillis - The Final Interview (18:53) features the actor shortly before his death speaking about his life as a nice Jewish boy turned adult film star beginning with low rent basement porno shoots before making a name for himself. When the topic turns to Paul Thomas Anderson's film BOOGIE NIGHTS (1987) he get's a bit irritated, he obviously didn't care for. 


The last of the exhaustive Blu-ray special features are a collection of Henry Paris Trailers (25:52), a selection of Radio Spots (3:06)Vintage Slideshow (3:05) and a neat Ephemera Galley (6:41)


Included inside the keepcase is a 5x7 replica of the 1977 Erotic Award Certificate presented to the filmmaker by the AFAA for best screenplay. The slipcase and insert feature newly commissioned artwork by artists Anthony Palumbo, this is a very attractive package. Last but not least is the aforementioned 60 page collector's booklet with writings on the film from Benson Hurst, Ian Culmell and Lawrence Cohen. It contains an overview of the film, it's principle cast, locations and filming, artwork, score and details about the infamous pegging scene plus notes about the transfer. It should be noted the booklet is designed for insertion in a DVD keepcase, not a Blu-ray, as such it does not fit inside the keepcase. whew, that was a lot of features, fantastic stuff. 

Special Features: 

- Audio Commentary with director Radley Metzger and adult film historian Benson Hurst on the 'Hot' Version
- Audio Commentary with co-star Gloria Leonard on the 'Cool' Version
- Behind the Scenes of Misty (48:21) 
- Remembering Jamie Gillis (9:00)
- The Outtakes and Deleted Scenes (24:16) 
- The Restoration of Misty (25:58) 
- Desperately Seeking Susan; Constance Found (7:41) 
- Jamie Gillis : The Final Interview (18:53)
- ‘Fim Facts’ Subtitle Track
- All 5 Henry Paris Trailers in HD 
- Back to Cinetta Studios 2012 (3:08) 
- Vintage Slideshow (3:05) 
- Ephemera Galley (6:41) 
- 7 Radio Spots for NAKED CAME THE STRANGERS and MARASCINO CHERRY  (6:03) 
- Henry Paris Trailers (25:52) for THE PRIVATE AFTERNOONS OF PAMELA MANN, NAKED CAME THE STRANGER, THE OPENING OF MISTY BEETHOVEN, BARBARA BROADCAST and MARASCINO CHERRY 

Verdict: Radley Metzger's erotic oeuvre has enjoyed a recent amount of prestige releases from Synapse, Cult Epics and Arrow Video but nothing comes close to the sweet love that this film has received, a phenomenal tribute to porno chic's supreme document. Might I also add that no film has made me want a blow-job more than after watching this, a truly seductive film and an outstanding presentation from Distribpix! 4 Outta 5 

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