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Erotica for Filmmakers: a Porn Club review of SCORE

SCORE review

A PORN CLUB review of Radley Metzger’s 1974 SCORE by guest reviewer Cheyenne Picardo.

I’m partial to films featuring house parties with short acrimonious guest lists. Extra points if it includes a potentially emotionally crippling party game. Mike Leigh’s Abigail’s Party. William Friedkin’s The Boys in the Band. Mike Nichols’ Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf. And now, I will include Radley Metzger’s art porno classic Score.

I should also mention that all four of these films were stage plays before they were adapted. (In the stage versions of Score, Sly Stallone notably played Mike the “repair man.”) But unlike Leigh’s film, where you really can feel the edge of the stage, most likely because it was shot like a sit-com, Score dives into all dimensions of visual language while retaining the great writing most likely sourced from the stage play.

The version I watched was labelled the uncensored version, but I’m not totally convinced. I am suspicious of every audio jump cut, as almost nothing in this film feels or looks accidental… until it does. Well, maybe there are a few Bob Ross happy accidents, like choosing to keep in a reflection shot where you basically get a half scene in proto-scramble-vision-as-practical-effect. (Quick, sloppy research suggests television channel scrambling as a way to restrict viewing didn’t really start for another decade.) And the result of the edits and the shooting style feels far more soft-core than Score‘s contemporaries. The hyper-santized sex scene in Carol was more explicit than the strap-on scene (I have to assume it was there, because all I saw was a belt and a spare dildo) between Betsey and Elvira — although Score‘s was infinitely more erotic and earned.

Yeah, come at me. I hated Carol.

But do not let that dissuade you from watching this film. Every line is hilarious, curled “word porn.” The Merteuil/Valmont coupling of Elvira and Jack is nuanced and delicious while their exploits manage to teeter into sex-Giallo at times.

 

 

It’s that rare film which makes you believe the actors were throughly in love with the material. There are f-stop jokes, for fuck’s sake. And there is a joyous sexual fluidity that emerges from the authentic emotional tinderbox in a way that manages to punish no one and reward everyone. A doomed marriage between sexually incompatible partners manages to evolve with no one drinking themselves into a stupor. Novel! And there are enough moments of human drama to make it feel like these relationships have stakes, even in a future time, even if the state of Euphoria is just to the south.

And I have to mention the attention paid to bisexuality, since I’m writing this the same week as Bisexuality Visibility Day. Elvira, Jack, and eventually Betsy are allowed to be open for everything, as long as it strikes their fancy, without social or cultural consequence. And Eddie, while exhibiting some icky no-homo prior to succumbing to his desires, is eventually fully supported by his wife to find whoever makes him happy. (Another fun corner of this theatrocinematic crazy quilt, Casey Donovan/Cal Culver who played Eddie was fresh off the gay porn classic The Boys in the Sand, a porn parody of the Friedkin film.)

Even if it does sometimes feel by the very nature of the scoresmanship plot that the same gender sexual pursuits are predatory — and therefore gay-panic tropish — there is attention paid to consent or lack thereof. But modern audiences may feel queasy at the 1970s laissez-faire of it all, especially when Mike the repairman aka “The Big Bad Wolf” comes in for a final scene; white men in red baseball caps and dubious consent make for one hell of a feedback loop.

But I left the film wanting to watch it again and take notes on the perfect framing, the words, the color, the light. This is erotica for filmmakers, and the sex is fine too.

Distributed by Cult Epics, Score is available to view on PinkLabel.tv, along with many many many other classic 70s explicit film classics curated by founder Shine Louise Houston.

Cheyenne Picardo warps time for a living. Director of Remedy (2013), Bob the Drag Queen: Suspiciously Large Woman (2017), and Her Next Mission (2019). Host of amazing 1970s Television and Movie appreciation parties.

This is a PORN CLUB guest review. Watch SCORE streaming on PinkLabel.TV.

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