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Case Number 07126

Buy The Radley Metzger Collection (Volume 3) at Amazon

The Radley Metzger Collection (Volume 3)

Carmen, Baby
1967 // 97 Minutes // Rated R
The Lickerish Quartet
1970 // 87 Minutes // Rated X
The Princess And The Call Girl
1984 // 90 Minutes // Not Rated
Released by First Run Features
Reviewed by Chief Counsel Rob Lineberger (Retired) // July 5th, 2005

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All Rise...

Appellate Judge Rob Lineberger thinks the Lickerish Quartet beats the Lollipop Guild hands down.

Editor's Note

Our review of The Lickerish Quartet (Blu-ray), published April 29th, 2011, is also available.

The Charge


Opening Statement

Radley Metzger is a hep cat with a reputation for highbrow eroticism. He's fond of extended takes featuring flower vases, shower curtains, and other inanimate objects. He's known for mod soundtracks and beatnik chic, or rambling plots and long glances that mean more to the characters than to the audience. But every once in awhile, Metzger puts together the right combination of restraint, situation, character, and sensual style to craft potent erotic images. These moments have forged his reputation, a reputation that sometimes outpaces the experience of watching his individual films.

Facts of the Case

Carmen, Baby follows the innocent young policeman Jose (Claus Ringer, The Sweet Sins of Sexy Susan) through his journey from upstanding lawman to lowly criminal. What brought him to such a fate? The feminine wiles of Carmen (Uta Levka, The Alley Cats), of course.

The Lickerish Quartet introduces a warped family trio. Castle Owner (played by Frank Wolff, Judith) likes to watch porno movies in the basement with His Wife (Erika Remberg, Laila) and Her Son (Paolo Turco, Top Secret). Her Son is not amused by the crude game, while His Wife acts neutral towards the whole thing. Their aristocratic debauchery is upset one evening when Castle Owner invites The Visitor (Silvana Venturelli, Camille 2000) to join them because she resembles the lead actress in one of the films. The comely newcomer brings all sorts of simmering tensions, sexual and otherwise, bubbling to the surface.

The Princess and the Call Girl tells of a repressed upper-class gal, Audrey Swallow, who tours the world at the behest of an old college chum who looks just like her. It turns out that her gal pal is a notorious call girl named Lucy Darling. Hilarity ensues as Audrey follows Lucy's scarce advice: Answer every question with "Love to!" or "I thought you'd never ask."

The Evidence

The Radley Metzger Collection (Volume 1) featured Therese and Isabelle as the erotic centerpiece. Volume Three gives us The Lickerish Quartet. Films like these explain why Metzger has such a high reputation as an auteur of intelligent erotica.

The Lickerish Quartet draws its erotic power from a two-pronged attack. On one hand, we have the pornographic feature that the family enjoys discussing so much. It isn't a real pornographic feature, of course, but a carefully staged movie within a movie that captures the essence of porn without showing it explicitly. Somehow, lack of explicit crudity heightens the sensuality of this "porn construct." The second prong is The Visitor and her coy seduction of each family member. This gives us three related but distinct scenarios highly charged with eroticism. We see skin (beautiful skin and lots of it), but the real kick comes from thinking about the delicate intricacies of these situations.

The cast list hints at The Lickerish Quartet's deconstructionist nature, which leads to the predominant criticism of the film. Nothing is as it seems to be, and The Lickerish Quartet's dogged "reality within reality" structure will either delight you or annoy the living hell out of you. Is Castle Owner a representation of male dominance? Is Her Son an encapsulation of the Oedipus complex? Is His Wife's mother-lady-whore triangle meant to suggest fundamental stereotypes of woman? Is The Visitor a symbol of "the other," an upset of societal balance? If you find questions such as these stimulating, you'll have the fun with The Lickerish Quartet that Metzger wanted you to have. If you despise faux-philosophical musings in erotica, get ready for pain.

Carmen, Baby is a prototypical Metzger film with a slight bias toward lurid violence and away from obvious erotic context. The love scenes in Carmen, Baby are languid and long, but they aren't filmed for their erotic potential. The most memorable (and, according to the film notes, most copied) love scene in the film obscures the lovers behind a row of colored wine glasses. The camera moves back and forth slowly, distorting the lovers into vague colored shadows. This trademark directorial behavior endears Metzger to his fans and annoys people like me who prefer to actually see the love scene play out. The first love scene between Carmen and Jose approaches eroticism, but the scene feels unnaturally truncated.

The lack of eroticism in Carmen, Baby is actually a relief. Metzger's eroticism requires great mental effort from the viewer. Metzger always tries to reward that effort, succeeding sometimes and failing others, but the effort is always draining. Carmen, Baby plays less like an "erotic" film and more like a "film." With the burden gone, the onus to squeeze every ounce of eroticism out of Metzger's cold bottles, tables, vases, and shower curtains lifted, we're free to simply sit back and watch Jose's doomed fate play out. Carmen, Baby is a spicy tale of crime and punishment, set against a backbone of high society and seamy underbellies. It is easier to watch than most of his films, and the time went by quickly.

The Princess and the Call Girl is Radley Metzger's final film, an unfortunate anticlimax to a long career. The Princess and the Call Girl is an '80s romp that borrows Twain's The Prince and the Pauper plot to silly effect. The Princess and the Call Girl is Metzger's only film from the 1980s, and it just isn't his decade.

Relative unknown Carol Levy plays both Audrey Swallow and Lucy Darling, but crafts neither character into a whole person. She has a fresh-faced look matched with ironic detachment, which gives her quirky sex appeal. The rest of the cast is simply bland.

It doesn't help that they're placed into such ridiculous situations. At one point, Lucy Darling has to stand in for her tardy doppelganger. We finally get to see the tables turned as the world-class tart must make do in an upper-crust social gathering. Does she rely on her years of experience with chameleon-like personality shifts to gain the trust of her clients? No…she stumbles in wearing a lace bikini, hits on the butler, calls random people "Mom," and generally makes an ass out of herself. It was really, really stupid, unfunny, and lame—much like the uninspired sex scenes throughout the film.

Paradoxically, The Princess and the Call Girl's greatest strength is its subtle humor. I choose to believe that Radley intended the biting wit that I perceived in the work. He slyly makes fun of '80s fashion; one love scene features a particularly tacky taffeta dress, and the audio mix emphasizes the oily rustling of the fabric. The dialogue is perky too: Lucy tells Audrey that there are two types of people in the world, the huggers and the fuckers, and you should "fuck the huggers and hug the fuckers." Little moments like this pepper the film, and the wry sense of humor is the only aspect that makes the film watchable.

The Rebuttal Witnesses

The packaging lists each film's run time as 90 minutes. If this is true, it means that three minutes have been added to The Lickerish Quartet while seven minutes have been trimmed from Carmen, Baby. I don't have an easy way to verify whether these films have been cut or not, although Volume One certainly wasn't shy with the scissors. It's either sloppy packaging or cut films, take your pick.

Radley Metzger Collection (Volume 1) had the worst video and sound quality I've ever seen in a major studio release. I was honestly concerned that my speakers would be harmed by prolonged, random bursts of squealing static, and the edge enhancement made people seem as though they'd been drenched in mercury. In comparison, Radley Metzger Collection (Volume 3) is an improvement, but the technical quality does not accentuate these erotic films. The Princess and the Call Girl is peppered with print damage, and seems to be the worst transfer of the lot. The transfers have obvious declines in quality near each reel change, which suggests a lack of film element restoration. All three of these DVDs have unfocused, desaturated transfers with poor contrast and lack of detail. Carmen, Baby, Metzger's first color film, is the worst in that regard; the entire film feels suffers from offset elements that make the image resemble a 3-D comic book. You get the gist of the plot, but the texture and brilliance of the material do not come through. Collectively, the soundtracks get the basics of the words and sounds across, but otherwise they're uninvolving. The dynamic range is severely truncated, and hisses and pops are everywhere.

Each DVD has the same "Radley Metzger Biography and Filmography" that was on Volume One's discs, a trailer, a photo gallery, and film notes. The photo galleries are just what you'd expect. The only new, unique extras are the film notes by Nathaniel Thompson. Extras like these are nice because they give us an informed external opinion about the films. Thompson's notes are not as detailed as they were for Volume One, but they are at least unique treatments of each film. These essays range from perfunctory to interesting. As a total package, the extras are unsurprising.

Closing Statement

There are much better transfers of these films available from Image Entertainment, and you can pick and choose which Metzger films you're interested in acquiring. Radley Metzger Collection (Volume 3) is a sexy package, but the suspect quality of the discs detracts from the experience. I'd recommend buying the stand-alone copy of The Lickerish Quartet if you want a Radley Metzger fix.

The Verdict

It has its moments, but the preponderance of evidence is against the defendant.

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• Comedy
• Drama
• Erotic

Scales of Justice, Carmen, Baby

Video: 59
Audio: 64
Extras: 75
Acting: 78
Story: 80
Judgment: 70

Perp Profile, Carmen, Baby

Studio: First Run Features
Video Formats:
• 2.35:1 Non-Anamorphic
Audio Formats:
• Dolby Digital 1.0 Mono (English)
• English
Running Time: 97 Minutes
Release Year: 1967
MPAA Rating: Rated R

Distinguishing Marks, Carmen, Baby

• Film Notes by Nathaniel Thompson
• Photo Gallery
• Original Theatrical Trailer
• Radley Metzger Biography and Filmography

Scales of Justice, The Lickerish Quartet

Video: 68
Audio: 67
Extras: 75
Acting: 74
Story: 86
Judgment: 82

Perp Profile, The Lickerish Quartet

Studio: First Run Features
Video Formats:
• 1.85:1 Non-Anamorphic
Audio Formats:
• Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono (English)
• English
Running Time: 87 Minutes
Release Year: 1970
MPAA Rating: Rated X

Distinguishing Marks, The Lickerish Quartet

• Film Notes by Nathaniel Thompson
• Photo Gallery
• Original Theatrical Trailer
• Radley Metzger Biography and Filmography

Scales of Justice, The Princess And The Call Girl

Video: 65
Audio: 64
Extras: 65
Acting: 62
Story: 68
Judgment: 66

Perp Profile, The Princess And The Call Girl

Studio: First Run Features
Video Formats:
• 1.66:1 Non-Anamorphic
Audio Formats:
• Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono (English)
• English
Running Time: 90 Minutes
Release Year: 1984
MPAA Rating: Not Rated

Distinguishing Marks, The Princess And The Call Girl

• Film Notes by Nathaniel Thompson
• Photo Gallery
• Audobon Trailer Gallery
• Radley Metzger Biography and Filmography

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