• The Henry Paris Collection - 5 Pack Collector's Box Set



    Released By: Distribpix
    Released On: October 2014
    Directed By: Radley Metzger (as Henry Paris)
    Cast: Jamie Gillis, Constance Money, CJ Laing, Annette Haven, Gloria Leonard
    Year: 1974 - 1979
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    The Movies:

    Distribpix bundles together DVD versions of all five of their previous Radley Metzger/Henry Paris releases in one convenient boxed set. Now, these are not the special edition releases that were issued prior but a more economical stripped down version – however, this set is hand numbered and limited to only 500 pieces making it highly collectible. But more on all of that in a bit, let’s start with the movies in the order in which they were made.

    The Private Afternoons Of Pamela Mann (1974):

    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 from VCA). 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.

    Naked Came The Stranger (1975):

    Made shortly after the success of his XXX debut, 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?’).

    The Opening Of Misty Beethoven (1976):

    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.

    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.

    Barbara Broadcast (1977):

    The follow up to his immortal adult film classic, The Opening Of Misty Beethoven, saw Radley Metzger take another dip back into hardcore territory less than a year later after that earlier film garnered plenty of well-deserved critical acclaim. Metzger’s blend of clever dialogue, lush production values and sex scenes both creative and erotic proved a successful formula and if Misty will likely always be regarded as the Henry Paris masterpiece, in many ways this picture is… more fun.

    The picture takes place in a high-class New York City restaurant a reporter named Roberta (C.J. Laing) meets up with our titular sex expert, a prostitute named Barbara Broadcast (Annette Haven), to pick her brain about matters of carnality and the book she has just published about her torrid life. This is, however, no ordinary restaurant – food is on the menu, of course, but so too are specific acts of sexuality courtesy of the wait staff (Sharon Mitchell, Clea Carson) and patrons alike. As Barbara’s interview begins, the two are interrupted frequently by her fans, those who know her, and anyone else who wants to get in on the action.

    Meanwhile, Barbara has gone to visit a friend (Michael Gaunt) who just can’t handle a meeting with his board of directors without seeing her first. She shows up and they talk for a bit before fooling around and engaging in a lengthy scene that runs about twelve minutes and which finishes with the secretary interrupting them. Intrigued by what she’s seen at the restaurant and left to her own devices, Roberta finds herself in the mood. To satiate her cravings, she heads to the kitchen where she winds up in a passionate romp with the dish washer (Wade Nichols). Later that same evening, Barbara takes Roberta to a night club where the two of them get along just fine with a man named Curley (Jamie Gillis). He’s as interested in talking as he is in doing, however, and before their night is over we see via flashback his take the best ways to discipline a playmate (Constance Money).

    Compared to the three Henry Paris films that came before it, Barbara Broadcast is light on plot. The story here is really more of an afterthought in many ways and the whole ‘interview’ angle is more of a framing device than anything else. With that said, the film’s playful attitude towards the joys of promiscuity is hard to resist and its considerable witty charm impossible to deny. Where with Misty Beethoven Metzger was obviously taking George Bernard Shaw’s classic Pygmalion and giving it a decidedly pornographic twist, here he seems content to simply celebrate in grand cinematic style the joys of sex. We see this manifest most obviously in the restaurant scene which takes up a good portion of the movie. Patrons arrive and do as they please, oral copulation is passed around freely and everyone is having fun.

    Things take a different direction when Roberta heads into the kitchen. Here, in one of the most intense scenes from Metzger’s Paris period we see Laing urinate into a bowl while Nichols looks on in astonishment. The kink bar continues to be raised gradually from here on out, as once things head to the nightclub Barbara and Roberta team up to take care of Curley with nothing left to the imagination. This culminates in the BDSM scene where he takes on Constance Money. Originally shot for The Opening Of Misty Beethoven, Metzger uses the footage here well. Presented here uncut, it’s an impressive set piece not just in terms of the heat that it’s able to generate but in how expertly it’s choreographed and edited. The use of reflections in the scene is also noteworthy, adding to the voyeuristic aspect of it on the viewer’s part.

    The film remains a high point of the porno chic era of theatrical adult features. Metzger's use of library music is just as good here as it was on his last film and the performers are not only talented actors but quite spirited and enthusiastic in terms of what they do and how they do it. When you combine the elegence of Annette Haven with the raw sexuality of C.J. Laing and cast them together under Metzger's watchful eye, you wind up with a great movie - and that's exactly what Barbara Broadcast is.

    Maraschino Cherry (1979):

    While director Radley Metzger's XXX output may have been limited to just five films, there's no doubt that his pictures made a lasting impression on those who saw them and that the man justly deserves the cult following that has sprung up around both his hardcore and his softcore films over the last three decades. Like Gerard Damiano and the best of the more artistic directors from the golden age of porn, Metzger obviously cared about things like lighting, cinematography, acting and most importantly, storylines and character development. The fifth and final hardcore film that Metzger would make, Maraschino Cherry may not be his finest moment, but it's definitely better than most hardcore films, vintage or otherwise.

    The film, which is fairly light in terms of plot compared to many of Metzger's other pictures, follows a New York City high society madame named Maraschino Cherry (Gloria Leonard) whose sister, Penny (Jenny Baxter), comes to visit her. The two discuss Maraschino's business and clientele, which leads into a series of sexual vignettes - and that's about it. Don't expect the rich, layered storyline of something like The Opening Of Misty Beethoven, as Metzger's hardcore swan song (he'd go back to making softcore films after this picture before retiring in 1984) is much lighter in that regard. That said, if the film is short on storyline, it makes up for it with some genuinely inspired scenes that are legitimately erotic.

    As it often tends to be with early hardcore features, many of the sex scenes are quite brief but a few stand outs are worth noting, starting with Constance Money's scene in which she wades through a pond in order to get closer to the man she knows she has to have, played by Lance Knight. Constance looks beautiful here, shot outdoors under natural lighting and looking quite stunning. Fans of Annette Haven, and there are lots of them out there, will definitely enjoy the scene where she gives it up to Alan Marlow atop a full sized grand piano and likely be even more impressed with a kinky dungeon scene in which the prettiest lady in porn gets down with Gloria Leonard and CJ Laing, both of whom come close to equaling Haven's unbridled sexiness in this scorcher of a scene (the stand out in the film). This fairly strong scene involves Laing's attempts to balance two shots of whiskey to amuse the other two ladies, who penetrate her anally with a dildo and threaten to force her face into a hot plate should she spill a drop. Other scenes, involving cast members such as Wade Nichols, Leslie Bovee, Eric Edwards, Suzanne McBain, Jenny Baxter and other luminaries from the golden age of smut (including a brief appearance from none other than Spaulding Gray) are perfectly enjoyable but none of their efforts compare to that aforementioned dungeon scene.

    While this might not be as cerebral an effort as some of Metzger's other pictures, it's still a beautifully shot film that shows some real attention to detail and a knack for framing and lighting. Shot in various locations around New York City and, according to Gloria Leonard's interview, on a soundstage on the upper west side of Manhattan, there's a fair bit of speculation that the story was written to allow Metzger to use up bits and pieces that were shot for other films but never used. The film does have that sort of disjointed feel to it but each and every frame is unmistakably Metzger's work and as such, it's good stuff.

    Ultimately, this is lesser quality Metzger but still very definitely a film worth seeing, particularly for those who appreciate adult films of the era in which it was made. The dialogue is well written, the humor genuinely funny, and the cinematography quite stunning in some spots. It doesn't quite stimulate the mind the way some of the director's better pictures do, but it'll get a well deserved rise out of anyone who appreciates classic erotic cinema.

    Video/Audio/Extras:

    Each of the movies in this collection has been digitally restored in high definition from the original 35mm blow up internegative and have never looked better on home video than they do here (the Blu-ray releases of Misty Beethovan and Barbara Broadcast obviously notwithstanding – these are standard definitions versions of those same transfers). All five films are presented in their original 1.85.1 widescreen aspect ratio in progressive scan anamorphic transfers. These still look like films that were shot on Super 16mm rather than true 35mm film, but that’s how it should be. Just expect that 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 movies should look. Compared to previous releases, not only are the presentations properly framed now but detail is vastly improved and the transfers are much more clean and stable than they have ever been before. There aren’t any problems with shimmering or compression artifacts and Distribpix have done a fine job presenting these films with the proper care and attention to detail that they deserves.

    Note: while the transfers on the first four films in this set replicate the recent special edition releases that Distribpix has previously released, Maraschino Cherry is noticeably better looking than it was on its past special edition release. The version featured here is progressive and taken from a new 2k scan. Detail is considerably stronger as is color reproduction. The last DVD release looked good, but it was not progressive and it featured watermarks during the sex scenes. There are no watermarks on this new version. Those interested in only acquiring the new Maraschino Cherry DVD with the improved transfer can do so here.

    The only audio option for the features in the set is the original Mono tracks, in English, though surprisingly enough optional English subtitles are provided for the features which is a rarity when it comes to adult cinema. The audio for each of the five films 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 crystal clear and the scores all sound great. There are no problems with any hiss or distortion and the levels are properly balanced across the board.

    Each disc in the set includes a theatrical trailer, a still gallery, menus and chapter selection. Additionally, each of the five discs in the set is in its own clear keepcase and features archival stills on the flipside of the cover art. A fridge magnet featuring the boxed set’s cover art is also tucked away inside the box, which itself is sturdy and attractive with some slick spot varnish on the artwork giving this an appropriately classy feel.








    The Final Word:

    The Henry Paris Collection 5 Pack Collector’s Box Set from Distribpix doesn’t contain all of the tantalizing extras from the previous special edition releases of the individual films but it’s not meant to. This is a scaled back release meant for this with more of an interest in only the films themselves. On that level, it’s a great success as it presents all five pictures completely uncut and restored in high definition in their best possible DVD editions at a very fair price. If you’re new to Metzger’s adult output and interested testing the waters, this is the perfect way to get all five ‘Henry Paris’ films in one fell swoop.