Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Score! (1973): Porno Chic Brings Everybody Together

Score! (1973)
Dir: Radley Metzger

While 1971's Boys in the Sand actually brought mainstream credibility to a gay presence in pornographic features, gay male and straight male sensibilities would rarely be mixed throughout the 1970s porno chic phenomenon. Sometimes there would be MMF or MFF menage a trois situations, or full out orgies, but in most of those cases the men rarely touched each other. Lesbianism, on the other hand, remained a source of pleasure for the male eye.

In general, pornographic film was created for the male to visually get off on. The general wisdom went (and is only just barely changing now) that men's sexuality is more binary than women's sexuality, and men touching men meant you were gay, or men touching women meant you were hetero. Rarely was there any fluidity allowed between these two binaries in the porno chic era. Radley Metzger's Score! was one of these exceptions.

Radley Metzger is one of the main directors in the Golden Age of Porn, being primarily known for making erotic movies with higher concept stories. Before hardcore erotica really hit the stands, he had directed the lesbian film Therese and Isabelle (based on the novella by Violette Leduc), and the erotic picture Camille 2000 (based on the Alexandre Dumas' play The Lady of the Camellias), which so enervated Roger Ebert, he put it on his worst films list 35 years later. Later, he would adapt Pygmalion into the hardcore film The Opening of Misty Beethoven, which featured female-on-male pegging.

In between the two, Metzger adapted an off-Broadway play by Jerry Douglas into the film Score!, a movie which seemed to meld the sensibilities of Dangerous Liasons with the pairing of Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolfe?

Score! features two couples: Elvira and Jack are an established mature couple who play sexual games for their own satisfaction; and, Betsy and Eddie are a young, somewhat newly married, immature couple who seem to be innocent to their own desires. As the film opens, Elvira fancies Betsy, while Jack desires Eddie. Later, they establish a bet that if Elvira can lay Betsy before midnight, Jack cannot have Eddie.

Elvira and Jack conspire to get Eddie drunk, so that Jack can take him out for a night on the town while Elvira works her magic on Betsy. But, as midnight approaches, the seal has still not been finalized, so both homosexual pairings are allowed to happen.

Score! has existed in several versions, but notably a softcore and a hardcore version. Though, the hardcore version is only 4 minutes longer, the majority of that length comes from the intercut climactic sex scene between Jack and Eddie and Elvira and Betsy, with erect penises, pegging, and unsimulated oral sex. The actor who played Eddie, the closeted husband, is the most well known of the bunch of course, having been played by Casey Donovan (nee Cal Culver), the star of Boys in the Sand. Claire Wilbur, who had acted in the original play, also became an academy award-winning producer for Documentary - Short Subject with The End of the Game, a look at mammals on the African savannah directed Robin Lehman.

What really separates Score! from many other films of its generation is both its production value, its story and wit, its acting, and its holdover ideology that story triumphs over hardcore imagery in adult filmmaking. By the time Score! hit theaters, Deep Throat had been out for well over a year, and the bevvy of cheapo hardcore-only films that followed in its wake were generally devoid of plot or care.

The most interesting part about Score! is that it is a film where the main sex scene is between two men separate from two women, but it is filmed with a focus on happily and heterosexually married couples seducing other heterosexually-married couples. Contrastingly, right up the street, Andy Milligan's film Fleshpot on 42nd Street was exploring heterosexual coupling through a very queer lens. Score! was a celebration of the varieties of sex that could happen. Fleshpot was a denigration of life in the big city. Score! was set in a lush and lavish European coastal villa. Fleshpot was in the dives of New York City ghettos. Score! was lovingly filmed, rehearsed, edited, mixed, and made into a real film. Fleshpot frequently looks like it was hashed out on a meth-induced flurry of rage. These two films present two polar ends of a queer lens that was being shown to heterosexuals.

Of course, Score! is the easier to swallow of the two films. It is lush, witty, and the erotic scenes are actually really erotic that will tingle your naughtier sensibilities. The variety of pairings creates a more open view of sexuality than other films of its era, creating an oasis when queer sensibilities were mildly acceptable and being thrown on screen under a heterosexual-friendly story. If you're wanting something porno chic, where nobody is degraded or forced into action, this may actually be the movie you've been looking for.

Required Viewing.

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