• Naked Came The Stranger



    Released by: Distribpix Inc.
    Released on: 1/1/2012
    Director: Radley Metzger (as Henry Paris)
    Cast: Darby Lloyd Rains, Levi Richards, Mary Stuart, Alan Marlow
    Year: 1975
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    The Movie:

    Made shortly after the success of his XXX debut, The Private Afternoons Of Pamela Mann, Radley Metzger’s 1975 film Naked Came The Stranger (an adaptation of the book of the same name written by ‘Penelope Ashe’ - a fictitious author who was actually and notoriously a collection of Newsweek writers out to prove that Americans cared more about salacious thrills than good writing) stars Darby Lloyd Rains and Levi Richards as Gillian and William Blake respectively. This married couple hosts a morning radio show out of their stately Long Island mansion located in scenic King’s Point overlooking the Manhattan skyline but as we soon learn, despite appearances to the contrary not all is well with them. Billy, it seems, is having an affair with their secretary, Phyllis (Mary Stuart), something that Gilly confirms when she spies in on them as they screw in her apartment.







    Secure in her knowledge that her husband is a philanderer, Gilly sets out to screw around behind her husband’s back with anyone she chooses. This leads to a series of encounters with a few different participants, not the least of which is with a banker named Marvin (Alan Marlow) on the second level of a double-decker bus (shot in real time without permits in the middle of bustling Fifth Avenue one crisp Sunday morning). Gilly also gets it on with family friend Teddy (Grant Taylor) in a surprisingly believable black and white tribute to the silent movie era, and then eventually works her way into bed with Phyllis herself – but what will become of Billy and Gilly’s marriage?







    Written with a quick wit by Metzger himself (using the pen name of Jake Barnes – Hemingway fans will get the joke!), the comedy in this film is more effective than it was in the first ‘Henry Paris’ film and the sex steamier as well, even if in some ways it is less explicit. Once again editing the film to pre-existing library music (and therefore cutting to the music, not composing to the cuts which is far more common) Metzger crafts a film of remarkable rhythm. The score compliments the storyline and the action perfectly, accentuating the comedic elements and heightening the sexual tension in key scenes, while the dialogue flows naturally and stays on point. Metzger wrote this script with specific performers in mind and unlike a lot of adult films of the time, there was no improvising on set, which results in a film far more polished and intricate than your typical seventies raincoater.






    At the center of all of this are Rains and Richards. Hardly new to the adult film scene by the time this picture was made, both were experienced actors and gifted at more than just the bump and grind. Rains in particular does a great job with the comedy here, breaking the fourth wall in a scene in which she narrates to the audience what she sees happening between her husband and the secretary. She manages to turn us on by taking matters into her own hands without breaking character, resulting in a scene that the trivia track rightly describes as ‘sex by proxy’ which is one of the more original and memorable moments in the picture simply because it’s such an atypical moment in an adult film. Additionally, Rains brings to her role at one key point a certain sense of sadness as to what’s become her marriage – as she dances alone on the floor of their drained swimming pool, the act that precedes her Sapphic tryst with Phyllis, itself a scorching hot scene that is hotter more for the understandable and natural hesitation Stuart’s character shows than for its graphic content. Richards’ performance is also strong, and while Rains trumps him as the more memorable of the two, he makes the perfect foil to her randy suburban wife, his sex with Stuart both impassioned and taboo enough to provide some mildly kinky thrills. Supporting spots from the likes of Helen Madigan and Rita Davis are also worth mentioning, and keep your eyes peeled for a quick cameo from Marc Stevens (surprisingly in a non-sex role) during the party scene. Also interesting are two small roles played by Rains’ at the time real life boyfriend, Joe Negroni, who died all too young at the age of thirty-seven but who was a member of popular pop group Frankie Lyman And The Teenagers (probably best known for the song ‘Why Do Fools Fall In Love?’).






    Video/Audio/Extras:

    Distribpix’s 1.85.1 anamorphic widescreen progressive scan transfer was taken from the original 35mm blow up internegative. The film was originally shot on Super 16mm (save for the black and white sequence which was full on 35mm) so it isn’t quite as crisp as a standard 35mm transfer might be but you really can’t complain about the restorative efforts on display here. The previous DVD looked like garbage and that’s made even more apparent now that we can see Metzger’s film in such excellent condition – what was once murky and mucky looking is now clean, colorful and beautifully defined. Skin tones look like skin tones, even if they’re a bit warm in spots, while black levels stay strong throughout. There are no problems with heavy print damage, the picture stays stable and clean, nor are there any issues with edge enhancement or obvious noise reduction.




    As to the audio, the original Mono track is here as is a newly created 5.1 Surround Sound mix, both in English language Dolby Digital format with optional subtitles provided in English, French, Spanish, German, Italian and Portuguese. Purists will appreciate the low-fi clarity of the mono track while those who appreciate a more immersive listening experience will no doubt opt for the remix, but either way, things sound very good here. The library tracks used to make up the sound track sound lush, the dialogue is clean, crisp and clear and there are no problems with any hiss or distortion. The levels are properly balanced and the rear channels do a nice job of spreading things out while still staying accurate to the film’s tone.

    The plentiful extras start off with another commentary track in which adult film historian Benson Hurst sits down with writer/director Radley Metzger for a thoughtful and thorough analysis of the film. Hurst does a great job of getting Metzger involved here, pulling a good deal of information out of him such as how he wound up adapting one of the more infamous literary hoaxes of the era to how and why certain performers were cast in their respective roles. Metzger talks about the ease of using Super 16mm versus the 35mm film stock he shot his earlier, non-XXX work on (The Private Afternoons of Pamela Mann was his first Super 16mm project) and also notes the difficulties of shooting a blowjob scene on the second story of a double-decker bus in Manhattan. He points out what locations were recycled from Pamela Mann, provides some background information on how various locations were secured including the King George Hotel in Brooklyn where the black and white dance sequence takes place, and discusses why there’s so much oral sex in this and some of his other films. Pretty much everything you’d want to know about this movie is covered here – but if that’s not enough, there’s also a trivia/fact track that, when enabled through the DVD’s subtitle stream, compliments the audio commentary quite nicely. This covers some of the same ground as the commentary but also manages to work in a good bit of information about the library music used in the film and provides additional information on subjects as varied as Levi Richards’ real estate career (he apparently was the man who sold the original Troma building on 8th Avenue in Manhattan!) to the director of photography’s cameo in the film to a few interesting film references, including references to Metzger’s own Camille 2000, which are scattered throughout the movie.






    If that weren’t enough, there are a few interesting featurettes included here as well, the first of which is The Locations Of Naked Came The Stranger which does a great job of contrasting and comparing the locations used for the film as they were when the picture was made versus how they are now. While some are shockingly almost completely untouched, others are now almost completely unrecognizable. The Restoration Of Naked Came The Stranger is also interesting as it provides not only the typical side by side comparison showing how great the movie looks now compared to previous releases, but also gives us a look at what went into cleaning up the image and restoring the audio as well. Fairly technical in nature, it shows us just how much work went into getting the film into the condition we see it here on this DVD.





    Also of interest on this disc is a collection of deleted scenes that were taken from the director’s own personal tape copy. As such, they’re not in the greatest of shape here but it’s interesting to see these never before released snippets, thankfully now preserved as they should be. They don’t wind up altering the film all that much, but a comedic bit in which a character impersonates Charles Bronson in an attempt to get into an apartment building is pretty amusing. This segment is well worth watching as is the featurette that contrasts the footage shot for the ‘soft’ version compared to the uncut ‘hard version.’ More than just trimmed clips devoid of penetration, some of this material actually uses completely different shots and angles, sometimes using props and materials strategically placed in front of the camera to hide the naughty bits.



    Rounding out the extras on the disc are a trailer for the feature, trailers for Maraschino Cherry and The Private Afternoons Of Pamela Mann, a few radio spots for Naked Came The Stranger, a slideshow of promotional materials and behind the scenes stills and a gallery of articles written about the film when it was first released. Animated menus and chapter stops are also included on the disc.

    Inside the keepcase (which fits inside a slick looking slipcase cover featuring artwork by Robin Bougie of Cinema Sewer, inspired by the original book cover) you’ll find a full color forty page booklet of liner notes from Benson Hurst, Ian Culmell and Lawrence Cohen that provide insight into the history of the film, details on its musical score and some analysis respectively. Also inside the keepcase is a color photo of Darby Lloyd Rains and inserts advertising the other Metzger/Paris titles available from Distribpix and the CD collection The Music Of Henry Paris.

    The Final Word:

    Naked Came The Stranger isn’t the best of the ‘Henry Paris’ films but it’s close. Well made on every level a film should be, it’s classy, funny, sexy and smart and directed with the confident style that put Metzger in a class of his own. Distribpix’s DVD looks and sounds fantastic and features loads of great extra features, the crown jewel being the commentary which makes this one worth the price of admission alone.
    Comments 8 Comments
    1. Alison Jane's Avatar
      Alison Jane -
      The female lead was much more likeable than most and the black and white scenes were neat, but overall, American stuff just does nothing for me.
    1. Alison Jane's Avatar
      Alison Jane -
      PS... there were no strangers.
    1. Todd Jordan's Avatar
      Todd Jordan -
      Quote Originally Posted by Alison Jane View Post
      American stuff just does nothing for me.
      Snob.
    1. Alison Jane's Avatar
      Alison Jane -
      So for Ian, I will rephrase that to say MOST American stuff does nothing for me. This film being one of them.
    1. Todd Jordan's Avatar
      Todd Jordan -
      If we dubbed the movies, would that make them better? I'll do that for you.
    1. Robin Bougie's Avatar
      Robin Bougie -
      Odd comment, Allison -- as this is one of the most Euro-feeling American smutty movies I can think of.
    1. Todd Jordan's Avatar
      Todd Jordan -
      We should take this to a seperate thread. I'm waiting for my copy to arrive. Can't wait to watch it. I've not seen this one before. I really dug Pamela Mann and the work Distribpix did on that one, and I expect this will be just as fulfilling.
    1. Alison Jane's Avatar
      Alison Jane -
      It seems to me that American stuff (of this type) that tries to be funny attempts to do so through witty dialogue but Euro stuff does so through bizarre situations and unintentionally out of place comments. They have a sort of fairy tale feel to them as they're in locations more foreign to me and just the way they're filmed seems more dreamlike to me. Even when they're hc it's secondary to the story and usually doesn't have the dirty feel most American stuff has. It focuses more on the act than the body parts.