SCORE
U.S.A. - Yugoslavia | 1974
Directed by Radley Metzger
Starring
Claire Wilbur
Lynn Lowry
Cal Culver
Color | 92 Minutes | Not Rated
Format: DVD (R1 - NTSC)
Cult Epics
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Also available on Blu-ray
 
 
Review by
Troy Howarth

Film:8
:
DVD:9
Naïve Betsy (Lynn Lowry) and Eddie (Cal Culver) spend an unforgettable night with a pair of swingers (Claire Wilbur, Gerald Grant) in their lush home...
    Filmed in 1972 but unreleased in the U.S. until 1974 — by which time it looked tame, thanks to the advent of Deep Throat — Radley Metzger's Score is an elegant and witty slice of erotica.
    Score started life as a stage play by Jerry Douglas. Douglas — soon to become a major name in the field of gay erotica — was hired by Metzger to adapt the play for film, though the director opted to change its New York locale to a more exotic island in sun setting.
    The film strikes the perfect balance between fable and comedy, and the comparisons that have been drawn between it and Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf are most accurate. It's precisely the kind of material that most appealed to Metzger — a small ensemble interacting in a fairly isolated locale — so it's easy to see why he sought the rights to the play in the first place.
    The cast is ideally suited to the material. Metzger's films have a reputation for casting beautiful people in beautiful locales doing smutty things to each other, and Score is certainly no exception. Fresh-faced Lynn Lowry (The Crazies, I Drink Your Blood) is ideal as the childlike Betsy, who undergoes a major transformation in the space of a single night. It's a tricky role to pull off, and Lowry is to be commended for making it look fairly simple. Claire Wilbur is equally effective as the predatory Elvira, whose tastes encompass seducing men as well as women. Their 'partners' are played by Gerald Grant and gay XXX icon Cal Culver (AKA Casey Donovan). Like Wilbur, Grant's experience in film was limited to a handful of titles; Score is surely their best known picture. Grant is very amusing as the acerbic and somewhat cocky Jack, while Culver adds the right touch of naïveté to his role as Eddie. Culver, who cemented his reputation with the early gay XXX feature Boys in the Sand (1971), proves to be a skillful comedian and is also able to convey the right sense of confusion and self-denial that the character requires. The ensemble is rounded out by swaggering Carl Parker as a telephone repair man who gets in on the action; Parker would go on to topline Metzger's next major film, The Image (1975).
    Like most of Metzger's films, Score functions well as both a piece of craftsmanship and as erotica. Though he would reluctantly enter into hardcore porn after this film, because the marketplace demanded it, the director was at his best in more suggestive fare. Some of this was no doubt due to Metzger's own unease with graphic, hardcore sex scenes — but there's also something to be said for a film that stimulates the imagination as well as the genitals. His keen sense of color and framing is evident throughout, and though the film is very talky, it moves at a good pace and never feels stagy. The sex is genuinely erotic, but viewers who are uncomfortable with graphic depictions of male homosexuality would do well to steer clear. There's also plenty of lesbian and heterosexual action, but the most graphic footage on display is unquestionably in the scenes between Eddie and Jack. Metzger felt compelled to explore homosexuality due to the success of the aforementioned Boys in the Sand, and he is to be commended for not holding back in doing so. The film doesn't include any graphic penetration shots or ejaculations, but it pushes the boundaries between soft and hardcore to their limits. Luckily, Metzger understands that sex is only really erotic if there is real human feeling and emotion behind it. The actors have genuine chemistry together, and they all abandon themselves appropriately in their respective encounters. The end result is genuinely erotic, its impact aided immeasurably by some excellent editing and music.
    Score isn't for everybody, but for those who can lose themselves in its celebration of sexuality, it certainly delivers the goods.

Cult Epics have given Score a long-overdue special edition treatment on DVD and Blu-ray (this review is of the DVD version, just to clarify). Given the film's complicated distribution history, it comes as no surprise that this was a tricky title to get hold of for many years. It was originally released in a full-strength director's cut, but then was censored by about 7 minutes for wider distribution. It was this shorter cut that circulated on VHS in the '80s, but Cult has managed to track down the original, uncut version — they've also released the shorter edit for more squeamish viewers and venues, as well. The 1.78/16x9 transfer looks terrific. The opening titles appear slightly cramped, but other than that the compositions appear balanced and properly presented. Color is vivid, detail is strong, and there's a fine coat of grain — which is as it should be. Some sign of print wear and tear is evident, but it is never distracting or overwhelming. The mono soundtrack is in very good shape. The music (most of it culled from library tracks) comes through especially well, and dialogue is also distinct and easy to hear throughout.
    Extras commence with a commentary track by Metzger and film historian Michael Bowen. It's a lively and informative track, though there are a few dead patches late in the film (might the track have been recorded with the participants watching the shorter edit?). Up next is some rare behind the scenes footage, edited into 20-minute featurette form, narrated by Bowen. A 20-minute interview with Lowry allows the actress to explain how she came to be involved and how she managed to overcome her trepidation with doing softcore porn; she recalls the film fondly and speaks lovingly of most of her costars. A trailer, as well as trailers for Metzger's The Lickerish Quartet and Camille 2000, rounds out the package. 10/24/10
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