• Private Afternoons of Pamela Mann, The (2 Disc Collector's Edition)

    Released by:
    Distribpix Inc.
    Released on: 8/21/2011

    Director: Radley Metzger (as Henry Paris)

    Barbara Bourbon, Darby Lloyd Raines, Eric Edwards, Georgina Spelvin
    Year: 1974

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    The Movie:

    When Radley Metzger’s Score proved to be a box office flop despite widely received critical acclaim, he knew it was time to make the change. Deep Throat had ushered in the era of porno chic and soft-core films were no longer the draw that they once were only a few years prior. Metzger, however, even under his nom de porn of Henry Paris (his middle name combined with his favorite city), was so enamored with film as an art form that his pictures could never quite be labeled as mere pornography. Of course, genital close ups and penetration shots play a role in the five films he’d make under his more infamous alias, but like his softer pictures, mood, atmosphere, production values, character development and storytelling come first.

    This 1974 film, shot entirely on location in Manhattan, tells the story of a private detective named Frank (played by Eric Edwards) who is hired by a wealthy man (Alan Marlow) to tail his wife, Pamela (curvy blonde Barbara Bourbon) who he suspects is having an affair. He’s right, and she is, in fact, while he’s at work all afternoon she’s gallivanting about Manhattan screwing whoever she pleases, male or female, and indulging all of her fantasies. As Frank follows Pamela around town, photographing her and peering in on her to get the evidence he promised Mr. Mann (he tells him ‘I’ll get to the bottom of your wife!’) he starts to obsess over his subject as he watches her indulge herself with her maid (Darby Lloyd Rains), then the maid and the chauffeur (Jamie Gillis) in a rape fantasy, her best friend in the form of a hooker named Linda (Georgina Spelvin), and an up and coming politician (Sonny Landham) and then finally her husband and Frank himself. All the while a poll taker (Lola Lagrace, who was actually a crew member on the shoot) shows up in order to provide some social value, an obvious affront to the censorship issues of the day regarding hardcore adult films.

    Like the best of Radley Metzger’s film, The Private Afternoons Of Pamela Mann is playful, beautifully shot and plenty steamy. Not wanting for explicit hardcore footage, something Metzger had toyed with on The Image and Score, the film leaves nothing to the imagination in terms of showing us the goods, even going so far as to flaunt it with an impressive slow motion facial. That playfulness though, it makes all of this so much fun that you can’t help but want to know how it’s all going to turn out. Little touches, like a female putting on a bib before sucking off a male character and Eric Edwards wandering around the upper east side with a camera mounted to his head keep the film’s sense of humor at the front of the proceedings, while the director’s clever use of mirrors tends to put us in Frank’s place and let us play voyeur as well – whether we want to or not. The aforementioned poll taker character is used as comic relief, knowingly there to point out the ridiculousness of the need for legitimate social context in hardcore pornography.

    It should also be noted that the film is presented completely uncut with the eight minute scene in which Jamie Gillis and Darby Lloyd Raines rape Barbara Bourbon in the garage presented intact (it was cut out of most theatrical prints and out of the previous DVD presentation). As a gun is held to Bourbon’s face while she goes down on Gillis in this scene, it’s one of those ‘no-no’ moments that has been cut out of previous releases to avoid problems with those that would censor such things despite the fact that it isn’t what it seems to be on the surface, something that is obvious to anyone who actually pays attention to the movie. But here it is, completely restored, as it should be.

    As far as the performances go, Eric Edwards is a lot of fun as the private eye tasked with what amounts to commercial voyeurism. He’s got some great one-liners here and delivers them with enough of a straight face to succeed in the role. Metzger’s dialogue has always been witty and this film is no exception, so it’s important that all involved are able to deliver it with the right amount of conviction – and they do. Bourbon is great as the female lead, controlling her scenes with loads of genuinely sizzling sexuality and seemingly entirely into what she’s doing here. She seems to love the camera, and it’s mutual. The supporting cast is uniformly strong as well, with Gillis doing a fine job the one of the many rough scenes the late actor has become infamous for, and Darby Lloyd Rains entirely convincing in her role as his cohort. Georgina Spelvin is great here too, in the film’s steamy girl-girl scene, adding an appropriately mid-seventies carefree attitude to the movie, as evidenced when she and Bourbon spark up a doobie together. Marc Stevens, who Pamela picks up in the first true sex scene of the movie, is his usually reliable self, having a good time with Bourbon and letting everybody watching know it.

    With a lot of Metzger’s previous films having been shot in Europe, The Private Afternoons Of Pamela Mann marks an interesting shift, location wise, by placing all of the action in Manhattan. While the shift may be obvious in terms of what’s up there on the screen to look at, it’s shot with the same sort of style and artistic intent as the films that were shot in Europe and while it may not have that old world charm that films like Score and Camille 2000 did, it makes up for that with some fantastic shots of seventies era New York City, the kind that add atmosphere and mood in abundance.

    As Henry Paris, Metzger would go on to make better adult pictures like Barbara Broadcast and of course The Opening Of Misty Beethoven, but that’s not to take anything away from The Private Afternoons Of Pamela Mann. His ‘hardcore debut’ is a few notches above most pornographic movies of the era, showing the director’s trademark attention to detail, composition, storytelling and character development first and foremost and centering the sex scenes around those other, more important qualities of the film. The end result is a clever and completely fun film that celebrates sex with a wink and a nod to the audience from all involved, in front of and behind the camera.


    Digitally restored in high definition from the original 35mm blow up internegative, The Private Afternoons Of Pamela Mann has never looked better on home video than it does on this DVD. Presented in its original 1.85.1 widescreen aspect ratio in a progressive scan anamorphic transfer, this still looks like a film that was shot on Super 16mm rather than true 35mm film. There is a certain softness to much of the image and some graininess in addition to some inconsistencies in the color timing but this is par for the course and how the movie should look. Compared to previous releases, not only is the presentation properly framed now but detail is vastly improved and the image is much more clean and stable than it’s ever been before. There aren’t any problems with shimmering or compression artifacts and Distribpix have done a fine job presenting this with the proper care and attention to detail that it deserves. The liner notes point out that periodically throughout the movie there is a green scratch towards the right side and that this problem was inherent in the original negative and was left in on purpose.

    The only audio option for the feature is the original Mono track, in English, though surprisingly enough optional English subtitles are provided for the feature, a rarity when it comes to adult cinema. The audio is clean, on par with the video in that it’s been cleaned up and presented in the best possible condition while staying true to the movie’s original intended sound. Dialogue is clean and clear and the score sounds great.

    Extras, and there are a lot of them, start off with a commentary track from writer/director Radley Metzger himself, moderated by adult film historian Benson Hurst. This track isn’t always a scene specific play by play look at The Private Afternoons Of Pamela Mann so much as it is an insightful discussion as to how and why Metzger’s career took the turn from importing and spicing up European imports under the Auduban Films banner to making the transition into full on hardcore film. Hurst keeps Metzger talking about every aspect of this film, from what went into pre-production to writing the script to actually shooting different scenes in the picture and Metzger, whose memory is quite sharp, keenly discusses all of the roles that he played in making this movie. Noting that his livelihood depended on this movie, he discusses the importance of Damiano’s movies in his transition into XXX, how and why he used the name Henry Paris, and what it was like making adult films in 1974. Metzger discusses how certain elements of this script appealed to him, such as the comedy and the satirical elements, and how some of his previous films were far more complex than this film on a technical level and how this more modest production afforded him a different kind of freedom not just in terms of what he could show and how but in terms of camera movement and how Super 16mm allowed him to try different things as the camera set ups were just far easier. He talks about the importance of a performers ability to ‘make believe’ and how various stage actors wound up supplementing their income in porn, and they of course discuss the controversial ‘rape scene’ involving Gillis, Rains and Bourbon. Metzger notes that he never thought of it as a rape scene and how he always stayed away from combining sex and violence in his work, but again returns here to the concept of ‘make believe’ and notes that this is nothing more than play acting on the part of the characters in the movie, though he notes that this was the only scene in the film that was cut when it played in Sweden, who had very lax censorship laws at the time. They discuss how Barbara Bourbon was cast in the film through Metzger’s acquaintance with Georgina Spelvin and he talks about how he solidified her involvement in the film by writing down on a napkin how much she would get to do what she does in this movie. Metzger offers up a wealth of information here about not only his work on the movie but the contributions of cast and crew members and winds up delivering a fascinating history of the adult film industry itself. It’s a fascinating track and one that anyone with any inkling of an interest in the history of adult films should absolutely take the time to listen to.

    Also of note on the first disc is a ‘music subtitle’ track which, when enabled, provides a text commentary that details the use of the music in the film in easy to read yellow text on the bottom of the screen. Not only does this point out what library tracks are being used here and where they came from, but it also provides biographical information for the people who wrote the tracks. It’s a very thorough study of the music in the film, something that would have been very easy to overlook but which is actually quite interesting once you sit down and start getting into it. This isn’t just a rundown of what’s used here but an insightful mini-history of the use of library music, where it came from, why it was used, how it was used and the historical significance of certain portions of the score – if you ever wondered what The Private Afternoons Of Pamela Mann had in common with Swan Lake and Spongebob Squarepants, this will answer that question for you.

    An Interview With Eric Edwards, which clocks in at roughly thirty-eight minutes, lets the male lead of the film shed some light on his experiences in the adult film industry. He speaks at length about how he wound up in New York City in the first place and soon found himself doing loops with Linda Lovelace for extra money. One thing lead to another and before you know it, his minor mainstream film career was over and he was one of the top rated leading men in porn. Unfortunately, while we get to watch ten minutes or so of Edwards watching The Private Afternoons Of Pamela Mann, he doesn’t have much to say about the movie. This is made up for by the fact that he’s got great stories about everything else, from how much he made during his heyday to the quality of the catering on set to his battle with cancer and why he got out of the industry when he did not to mention working with Henri Pachard and Joe Sarno.

    Closing out the extras on the first disc is the film’s lengthy five minute original theatrical trailer, a still gallery of color and (mostly) black and white production shots, animated menus and chapter stops.

    The second disc contains the soft version of the film, running roughly eleven minutes shorter than the hard, uncut version contained on the first disc. This version starts off with an introduction from Barbara Bourbon who tells us that they’re celebrating the bi-centennial with this special version of The Private Afternoons Of Pamela Mann, calling it a ‘red, white and very blue movie’ and how she’s going to exercise her right to privacy by showing us a lot, but not quite everything. As the movie plays out, and ‘in keeping with the current American political climate,’ the movie features some on screen narration from Bourbon whose face appears overtop of any ‘hardcore’ footage. This winds up creating a completely different version of the film and gives the movie an entirely different (and surprisingly political!) context. This isn’t just a ‘cut’ version of the movie, but a legitimate alternate version of the film.

    An Interview With Georgina Spelvin is up next, running thirty-eight minutes, in which the star of such classics as The Devil In Miss Jones, talks about how her career started on Broadway before moving into her first adult film, that being Metzger’s The Twilight Girls. She talks about how she took ballet classes before getting into performing, how she got to do a lead in a Broadway show the first year she was in New York City, how appearing in Twilight Girls lead to other work and how when the theater work started to dry up she had to make a living. She talks about her experiences while involved with a film commune called The Pickle Factory bent on making anti-war films and discusses her role as the ‘high priestess of sexual witchcraft’ and her first impressions of Marc Stevens who she met for the first time when he had a ‘huge dildo hanging around his neck,’ and, naturally, then she segues into talking about her work with Gerard Damiano, the pictures that quite literally cemented her spot in film history. She discusses taking the role of Miss Jones for $100 a day and did the cooking on the set for an extra $25 a day for her and her roommate, which lead to them doing a scene together in the movie. She talks about her nom de porn, her work in the Police Academy movies, what a typical porn set was like in the seventies, her one and only experience making a loop, using an aphrodisiac before a scene, working on adult features of various budgets, drug use (or lack thereof) on set, and then to finish, some clips of Georgina watching The Private Afternoons Of Pamela Mann.

    There are also a few shorter featurettes here worth discussing, staring with The Locations Of Pamela Mann which is seven minutes worth of footage that shows the various Manhattan locations used in the film as they were when the movie was made compared to how they appear now in 2011. It’s interesting to note what has changed and what has stayed the same since the movie was made. Metzger’s Manhattan, another seven minute segment which explains how the Henry Paris films used test footage to prepare – some would be used for establishing shots for the films, most of it was not used and was unseen until now. There was no sound for this footage so some narration provides some context and location information for this footage (there’s some great Times Square footage here – the outtakes are taken from all five of the Henry Paris films).

    Also of interest is a section called Cutting Floor, which is nine minutes worth of outtakes from the movie including a scene with Barbara Bourbon and Marc Stevens that was shot with a faster frame rate so it could be shown in slow motion after post production. Shot without sound due to the camera noise, this outtake shows Bourbon gagging on Stevens’ who, according to Metzger, said ‘that was the best gag in the film.’ There are also three deleted clips here showing the Pamela Mann character acting out a fantasy sequence as a Times Square hooker, shot guerilla style without permits. Also included here is some hardcore footage with Linda and Leo Lovemore getting down and dirty with Bourbon in a hotel room. There’s no soundtrack here, but the narrator provides as much context as possible and it’s awesome to see this material included here.

    Rounding out the extras on the second disc is the Distribpix 2011 release trailer, a massive still gallery of Ephemera including posters, lobby cards, ad mats, and more, animated menus and chapter stops.

    Inside the keepcase is a forty-four page booklet that contains three separate essays on the film. The first, from Benson Hurst, covers the film and provides some interesting details on the real Pamela Mann, what has happened to Barbara Bourbon since this film was made, how Radley Metzger became Henry Paris and, just as importantly, why. The second essay from Ian Culmell discuss the importance of music in the movie and how it is used so effectively, noting where some of the tracks originated and why they were chosen, while the third essay, from Lawrence Cohen, provides some interesting analysis for the picture and discusses how it subverts the typical conventions of the adult film genre to transcend those limitations and stay proudly as a legitimate work of cinematic art. Also tucked away inside the disc is a nice black and white reproduction of a Barbara Bourbon promotional photograph and advertisements for other releases current and future in the Henry Paris line as well as for the upcoming CD release of
    The Music Of Henry Paris. The commentary that was recorded for the previous DVD release from VCX with Veronica Hart and Eric Edwards has not been ported over, so completists might want to hold on to the old DVD for that reason.

    The Final Word:

    As Henry Paris, Radley Metzger would go on to make better and more interesting pictures than this one, but here, his hardcore debut, he set a bit of a standard really and raised the bar in terms of what could be done within the confines of adult film. The movie holds up incredibly well as a beautifully shot and remarkably well acted film and Distribpix have done an insanely admirable job not only restoring and preserving it but documenting its origins, its impact, and its importance.

    Comments 2 Comments
    1. Todd Jordan's Avatar
      Todd Jordan -
      I'm ordering this asap. This looks amazing. Great write up, Ian. I can't wait to listen to what Barbara has to say when her face appears over the hardcore sequences. And those extras sound fantastic. I really hope this is a runaway success for Distribpx so they will put out more sets of this caliber. Other than the half dozen that seem to get all the attention, there are so many excellent adult films out there that get passed over simply because they show cumshots. Man...this looks like a great set.
    1. Jimmy Simard's Avatar
      Jimmy Simard -
      It even include subtitles Most labels doesn't used them anymore sadly... Can't wait to know what his the title of the instrumental piece use in the end montage... Hope they will do it for the others Metger's film and of course I can't wait to get the future cd release. One of the best review I've read from you Ian