Opening Of Misty Beethoven, The (Blu-ray)
Released by: Distribpix
Released on: October 31, 2012.
Director: Radley Metzger (as Henry Paris)
Cast: Jamie Gillis, Constance Money, Jacqueline Beudant, Terri Hall, Gloria Leonard
Purchase From Distribpix
Widely considered (and rightfully so) one of the greatest adult motion pictures of all time and made at the height of the seventies porno chic boom when it appeared ‘porn’ might actually cross over into the mainstream, Radley Metzger’s The Opening Of Misty Beethoven has stood the test of time and then some. Truly, pornography has never seemed as elegant as it does in this film.
The story concerns an author and sex expert named Dr. Seymour Love (Jamie Gillis) who heads to the red light district of Paris to take in a screening of the XXX film Pussy Talk. It’s here that he’s accosted by a prostitute calling herself Misty Beethoven (Constance Money). Intrigued, he takes her up on the proposition and they head outside to do the deed where he seems more interested in picking her brain than poking her privates.
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After the encounter, Love discuses the event with his partner, Geraldine (Jacqueline Beaudant) and he makes her a bet that he can turn her from a low rent hooker into the hottest girl in town in time to show her off at the next party to be thrown by socialites Lawrence Layman (Ras Kean) – a Hugh Hefner-esque magazine publisher - and his randy wife Barbara (Gloria Leonard). In order to make this happen, Seymour, Geraldine and Misty leave Europe for New York City where she is instructed in the ways of pleasure as they pertain to Love’s own ideas as to what makes a great lover. As her education moves forward, it soon becomes obvious not only that Misty may have a thing or two to teach her conceited teacher, but that Seymour is very quickly falling in love with his star pupil.
Essentially a retelling of Shaw’s Pygmalion, the film may have roots firmly entrenched in classic literature and use the classiest of both European and American locations, but make no mistake about it, the sex is still plentiful and effectively erotic. An interesting contrast of playfulness and taboo busting the film toys with such untraditional elements as ageism in the bedroom, transvestism and cross-dressing, roleplaying and the use of some seemingly unorthodox toys alongside some lesbianism and a three way scene involving Constance Money, Gloria Leonard and Ras Kean.
The cast all bring some obvious dedication and polish the production. Adult films are often stigmatized and critiqued for poor acting and while that stereotype certainly does exist for a reason, there are exceptions to every rule and this particular film happens to stand head and shoulders above most of the competition in that department. Metzger always populated his ‘Henry Paris’ pictures with the best actors in the adult film industry and with this picture he really did get some great work out of his players. Nobody plays smug and arrogant in adult films the way Gillis does, his character here is so ridiculously self assured that nobody but Gillis could have made it work with such natural and cocky charm. Additionally, Constance Money (who would go on to work with Metzger on Barbara Broadcast and Maraschino Cherry in the coming years) is also impressive, appearing here without the experience of most of her co-stars. She’s got a very naïve charm to her, sort of a girl-next-door type look that gives her a deceiving innocence, but of course that’s all revealed to be a façade once the movie calls for carnality and we realize that there’s nothing innocent about her at all. Gloria Leonard is her typically reliable self here as well, playing her character with a bit of smugness but not without some grace and charm. Her back and forth with Ras Kean, previously seen in Expose Me Lovely, adds some depth to the script. Jacqueline Beudant never made another film after her appearance here, which seems a shame as she too is quite good in her role and plenty easy on the eyes as well.
Also worth mentioning is the appearance of Calvin Culver (or Casey Donovan if you prefer – the name he used when making adult films for the gay market) who worked with Metzger on Score. Appearing here as a gay art dealer, his scene involves Money’s character trying to ‘change’ him. He’s a great casting choice for the part; as he was gay in his personal life he maybe had a better understanding of what was required to convince in the role, while at the same time, he’s handsome enough and masculine enough that you can see why Misty would relish the job the way she does here. It’s maybe not the most realistic scene ever made, but in the realm of fantasy it works well here. Marlene Willoughby and Mary Stuart both appear in the film as well as Terri Hall who has an interesting, albeit small, role as a ballerina.
Like most of Metzger’s films, The Opening Of Misty Beethoven is also noteworthy for its excellent use of music. With a score once again culled from various library tracks, the selections used for the movie consistently enhance not only the drama but also the humor and just as importantly, the sex. A perfect example is the scene in which, as part of her training, Misty picks up a man at an opera and takes him to the bathroom. As they go about having sex, the instantly recognizable strains of the William Tell Overture play triumphantly in the background. While it’s doubtful that Gioacchino Rossini would have approved, it proves to be the perfect choice to mix Metzger’s sense of humor with his knack for erotic set pieces.
Beautifully shot by Oscar winning animator Paul Glickman (credited here as Robert Rochester), the film is wonderfully framed and makes great use of its various locations. Famous shots such as Misty relaxing in the mod room where she and Gillis talk have gone on to be as iconic as anything else form the adult film industry of the seventies, while the European locations and high society New York locations go on to further class up an already very stylish, witty and intelligent film.
Note: This DVD release includes both ‘hot’ and ‘cool’ versions of the film, meaning you can watch the full strength XXX original cut of the movie or the edited softcore version. While most will opt for the XXX cut, the softcore version is an interesting and legitimate variant rather than simply an edited version as it includes not only some alternate takes during the sex scenes but also some interesting bits of extended dialogue.
Distribpix presents The Opening Of Misty Beethoven fully restored in AVC encoded 1080p high definition in its original 1.85.1 anamorphic widescreen aspect ratio. The previous (and out of print) DVD put out years back by VCA was issued in a fairly awful pan and scan fullframe transfer that left a whole lot to be desired as it was taken from a video master. Distribpix, going back to the original elements owned by Metzger himself, correct all of that and offer the film up in beautifully restored condition. Though the film was shot on 16mm and then projected by way of a 35mm blow up, detail and color is strong throughout. Some shots are softer than others, a stylistic choice on the part of the director and cinematographer, but this transfer really reveals a lot more detail and texture than ever before. There’s not been any noise reduction used here, just some digital clean up and scratch removal, which results in a very pleasingly film like image throughout the presentation.
Audio options are offered in English language Dolby Digital Mono and in a newly created DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio sound mix. Optional subtitles are available in English, French, Italian, Spanish, German and Portuguese. Remastered from the original elements the lossless mix does a great job of spreading things out across the front of the soundstage, using the rears to fill in space when the movie calls for it, the wrap party scene being a good example where we hear some background chatter emanate from the surrounds. Bass response is tight without ever overwhelming, though this is primarily a dialogue heavy film so you understandably don’t get the type of activity here that you would with a more action intensive movie. The score sounds great, the levels are always perfectly balanced and there are no problems with hiss or distortion. For a film made over thirty five years ago, the sound quality is great.
Extras kick off with the first commentary track featuring Metzger himself moderated by adult film historian Benson Hurst and it plays over the hardcore version of the film. If you’ve heard the previous commentaries that these two have recorded then you’ll have a pretty good idea of what to expect and, like those tracks that came before it, this one does not disappoint. Hurst keeps Metzger pretty engaged throughout the movie as they cover everything that you’d expect them to – shooting locations, the various cast members that appear in the film, the use of music, the use of lighting, the themes that Metzger was toying with during this production and much more. Metzger discusses how the success of his first two 'Henry Paris' films lead to this, his third hardcore feature, noting that the effort and techincal expertise that was available to him as opposed to some of his comrades in arms who didn't come from the same sort of film background as he did. The pair discuss the film's name, variations that were used before settling on 'The Opening Of Misty Beethoven' (the film was originally being shot as 'Society') after it was suggested by the assistant editor. Metzger notes how his dislike of flying came into play, how Gillis was not his first choice to play the male lead, and the benefits of working with those who lack pretentiousness. They discuss how the footage shot in Europe was 'blended' with the footage shot in the United States, how certain scenes were tougher to shoot than others for various reasons, and how Metzger was able to secure a soundtage for $200.00 a day by choosing one that was in such a bad neighborhood in Manhattan that nobody was willing to use it and what the size of the crew was that Metzger used and the pros and cons of working with such a 'nimble' group of people. It’s a pretty engaging track that leaves no stone unturned and it’s very much an essential addition to this release.
The second commentary track features Gloria Leonard and it plays over top of the softcore version of the movie. Leonard starts off more or less describing what we’re seeing on screen but once she warms up a bit, she starts to get a bit more into things. She puzzlingly enough has the least to say about the scenes that she was involved in, when she’s on screen she seems to clam up and pay attention to her own performance, which is actually kind of cute in a way. She does spend some time talking about working with Ras Kean (who she says ‘fancied himself a Rastafarian’ after living in Jamaica) and sharing some details about Constance Money and some of the other cast members. She notes how the European locations gave the film some authenticity, and shares some memories of her first experience meeting and working with Jamie Gillis, describing him as having a ‘booming, Shakespearean voice.’ She comments on how certain players would keep the atmosphere ‘sexually electric with their own antics’ and talks about how in the party scene she gets to wear an actual Chanelle jacket that she borrowed from a rich friend. She notes Metzger’s directorial style, particularly in the scene she shares with Constance, and how his tendency to do things ‘under the clothes or over the clothes’ made things more appealing and also discusses how unusual it was to see a man getting penetrated by a woman in a ‘straight’ porno movie. This isn’t as jam packed with information as the first track is but Leonard’s feisty attitude and sense of humor comes through loud and clear and it’s a nice compliment to the soft version of the feature.
Complimenting the audio commentaries is a ‘Film Facts’ subtitle stream that fills us in on all manner of interesting facts, figures and tidbits of information about the movie as it plays out. This covers some of the same information as the liner notes and the commentary tracks but it’s a fun way to fill yourself in on some of the more esoteric aspects of the history of the film. there’s a lot of focus on the music, the cast and the locations here, and really it just works like any other subtitle track though it’s timed to offer a lot of scene specific information on the bottom of the screen as the movie plays out. This track does, however, allow the extras to cover more esoteric aspects of the movie, delving into some interesting technical details about the restoration of the film and quite a bit more. Of course, we also get the requisite trivia about the cast and crew in spots and some critical commentary in regards to what works and what is noteworthy about the movie such as Glickman's lighting and compositions and what they infer in the context of the movie.
Also worth checking out are the never before seen Outtakes And Deleted Scenes. There’s roughly twenty five minutes of footage here rescued from the Audobon Films archives. Presented scanned from the only existing elements it’s pretty fascinating to see regardless of the fact that there are no sound elements for these clips. Culled from 3 reels of 16mm film of 'Henry Paris' outtakes, we get a scene in which Dr. Love teaches Misty in the ways of sex, some clips from 'Cascade Flight 111,' clips of Gillis getting head in the fancy living room surrounded by servants, more of the lesbian encounter between Constance Money and Gloria Leonard, footage shot at the opera house and the meeting that occurs in the bathroom there, clips from the wrap party, outtakes from the scene with 'Napoleon' at the moviehouse, more footage of the bathtub scene and some great deleted scenes with Dr. Love and Misty in bondage as well as various cast and crew snippets of interest.
From there we move on to an all new forty-five minute long featurette entitled Behind The Scenes Of Misty. Part retrospective documentary and part interview collection, it allows us to hear from actress Gloria Leonard about working with Metzger and the draw of this particular film and the comparisons to Pygmalia. We get a quick rundown of Metzger's background and his journey into the world of Henry Paris, shooting in the sex district of the 'city of love' and bits and pieces on some of the lesser known players like Casey Donovan and Ras Kean, who we learn performed his own stunts in the movie. Additionally we spend quite a bit of time with cinematographer Paul Glickman who talks about lighting and setting up for the film to give it the specific look that it has and what it was like working with Metzger on the project. George Craig, who was responsible for the music in the movie, also speaks at length about his involvement in this film and what it was like working with Metzger, who he describes as an 'innovator in his own way.' Towards the end of the feature two sex historians show up to talk about the significance and uniqueness of the 'pegging scene' and how unusual it was to see something in a movie like this at the time, though given where Metzger went in Score, it's maybe not so surprising after all.
The Return To Cincetta featurette is a ‘then and now’ look at the location used for the wrap party scene in the feature. It uses picture in picture style camerawork and editing to show the locations in the film contrasted with how they appear today. It’s just as interesting to see how much of this location hasn’t changed than how much has – quite a bit of it looks exactly the same as when the movie was shot there.
Restoring Misty is a look at what was involved in bringing the picture back to life in high definition by way of some interviews and demonstration footage with Ryan Emerson and Joe Rubins, the team at Process Blue who were responsible for scanning and restoring the original film elements for DVD and Blu-ray. This clocks in at just a few seconds shy of twenty-six minutes and covers everything from handling the elements to scanning them for restoration to the tools that were used and why. There's some interesting discussion, and telling examples, of the pro's and con's of using noise reduction on a film like this, and we see how software was used here not for that but more specificlly for clean up and scratch removal.
A couple of video tributes are up next, the first of which is entitled Desperately Seeking Susan and is in memory of Constance Money. Narrated by Hurst, this reiterates a lot of what he wrote about the actress in his liner notes but has the addition bonus of being illustrated by a pretty impressive slideshow of stills, behind the scenes images and related bits and pieces that compliment the narrative history of her work in the adult film industry. The second is Remembering Jamie Gillis and it pays respects to the film’s late leading man. Once again narrated by Hurst, it talks first person style how he came to meet Gillis and develop a friendship with him over the years and what it was like getting to know him. It’s a nice eulogy, basically, and a fitting piece to include with the definitive release of the film that he was the most proud of having worked on.
Speaking of Gillis, also found here is his final interview, which gives the late adult film star the chance to talk about his career in front of the camera, his thoughts on a few of his compatriots, his aspirations, and his experiences. He remains fairly docile here and gives a lot of short, brief answers until he’s asked about Boogie Nights, in which case he becomes visibly irritated as he discusses why he took issue with Anderson’s ‘ripping off’ and misconstruing of his ‘Own The Prowl’ series. Interesting stuff.
Rounding out the extras are trailers for all five Henry Paris movies (the feature on this disc, The Private Afternoons Of Pamela Mann, Barbara Broadcast, Maraschino Cherry and Naked Came The Stranger), a few radio spots used to promote the movie during its initial theatrical run, a massive still gallery of Misty related production photos and ephemera, very classy animated menus and chapter selection.
Included inside the keepcase alongside the discs is a replica 5x7 Award Certificate and a massive sixty-page color booklet that contains essays on the history of the film while also touching on how it was received, the key cast members and what they’ve been up to since, the music used in the film, how locations were chosen and much more. Like the other liner note collections Distribpix has been including with their deluxe reissues, it’s quite the well researched and well written tome and even goes into some detail as to who did what and why in the film’s infamous ‘pegging’ scene - but without it would we ever know that 'Tio' from Breaking Bad has an uncredited cameo in this movie? Probably not. The booklet is too big to fit inside the Blu-ray case, however. Also worth mentioning is the cover art. The slipcase/O-card features the newly commissioned painting on the front as does the front of the insert sleeve.
The Final Word:
The level of dedication and commitment in this set is, quite frankly, amazing. No one has ever given a vintage adult movie the type of deluxe treatment shown here, the bar has definitely been raised. From the quality of the transfer to the audio options to the supplements, no stone has been left unturned. Truly a labor of love, this two disc special edition release of Radley Metzger’s seminal The Opening Of Misty Beethoven sets a new standard of quality, and it’s truly worth every penny.
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