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Ah, the '70s. Porn was chic. Swinging was chic. Bisexuality was chic.
By rights, Score should have been the decade's chicest movie.
Jack (Gerald Grant) and Elvira (Claire Wilbur) have been married a while, but they still like to have their fun. They swing with other couples, have quickies on the side, and they are both bisexual. They currently are having a contest to see who can bed the most same-sex partners.
Elvira has her eye on Betsy (Lynn Lowry), a pretty young thing who's married to Eddie (Calvin Culver)—himself a pretty young thing.
To complete the conquest, Elvira and Jack invite Betsy and Eddie over for…well, an evening of fun and games.
A cheery riff on Edwards Albee's Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, Score was adapted from an off-Broadway play by Jerry Douglas and directed by Radley Metzger. Metzger was one of the great auteurs of erotica in the '60s and '70s, with classic softcore films like The Lickerish Quartet and Therese and Isabelle to his credit. He also directed what is considered by many to be the best hardcore film ever made, The Opening of Misty Beethoven.
Score is a fun and funky little comedy that's a departure for Metzger—and for most mainstream-ish erotica—in that includes both female and male bisexual couplings. As a matter-of-fact, the most explicit scene—one that was apparently "censored" for a long time and is evidently making its home video debut here—involves Grant and Culver. It's a few minutes long and easy enough to fast forward through if such things disturb you.
But it shouldn't discourage you from checking out the film, which is witty, well-acted, nicely shot and directed, and surprisingly fresh for a film that's nearly 40 years old. The pre-AIDS hedonism is bawdy without being vulgar, and so playful that it's almost innocent. That's not to say it's tame, either. Even with the non-faked footage gone, this would have more than earned its original X rating.
But neither is it by any means a porn film. The sex scenes are few and far between—from a prurient standpoint, Score barely earns a two-raincoat rating. What we do get is extremely well-done, not at all gratuitous, and refreshingly sexy.
Douglas' script is filled with clever lines, and Metzger and his cast find the rhythms and the beats to make it work like a smutty—or smuttier—Billy Wilder comedy. The references to Albee's classic are shameless. In addition to the whole conceit of the older, more experienced couple inviting the naifs over for "fun and games," we get a very funny nod to Virginia Woolf's take on Martha's "housekeeping," as well as a show-stopping moment that apes Albee's show-stopping moment when Martha appears in an outrageously inappropriate get-up.
Claire Wilbur reprises her stage role as the predatory Elvira, whose seduction of a telephone repairman (Carl Parker) for the benefit of the wide-eyed Betsy kicks things off. Wilbur has presence to burn, and she's a riot as the demanding and commanding mistress of the house. As her happily and indiscriminately philandering husband, Gerald Grant matches her every step of the way. The scenes in which the two comedically banter are highlights. Cult favorite Lowry (The Crazies, They Came From Within) is also great as the sweet-looking girl who loses her inhibitions thanks to a couple of drinks, a little pot, some amyl nitrate, and the purring manipulations of her hostess.
Cal Culver takes a couple of scenes to find his footing, but once he does, he turns in a fine performance as the naive-to-the-point-of-dumb Eddie. Culver's boyish looks and easy charm serve him well, and he's certainly enthusiastic during the sex scenes. This makes perfect sense, since Culver actually was a porn star. As Casey Donovan, he appeared in several hardcore gay films in the '70s and '80s. In fact, he was the first real gay porn star, having top-lined Boys in the Sand (1972), the first—and maybe only—gay hardcore film to have had any kind of mainstream success. Both lead actors died of AIDS complications, Culver in 1987, Grant in 1993. Wilbur, who won an Oscar in 1976 for a documentary short, passed away in 2004.
Score is being released by Cult Epics, which I thought was an arm of Alternative Cinema (home to Retro-Seduction), but apparently, it's not. I thought this because the release is so damned good. While the Blu-ray image might not be pristine, it certainly looks very good; the case boasts a "restored high-definition transfer," and that would seem to be the case. The mono audio track is acceptable, though here and there, a few bits of dialogue get lost; the groovy synth-pop score sounds just fine, though.
Cult Epics serves up a nice slate of extras befitting this alterna-classic. Radley Metzger offers up a feature-length commentary with Michael Bowen, who's contributed so many great tracks to Retro-Seduction releases. Bowen seems absolutely thrilled to be speaking with Metzger, and who can blame him? The guy's a legend. This is a terrifically entertaining and informative track that includes some cool info about the history of erotic films circa the late '60s/early '70s.
"Keeping Score with Lynn Lowry" is an endearing 20-minute reminiscence with the actress, who looks great and has plenty of tales to tell. "The Making of Score" is a 19-minute retrospective narrated by Bowen that features lots of behind-the-scenes footage; as with any Bowen feature, there is a ton of information and trivia here. Rounding out the set are trailers for Score, The Lickerish Quartet, and Camille 2000.
I don't know if decadence has ever been this charming.
Score is a terrific '70s alterna-indie comedy, and the Blu-ray from Cult Epics a good way to experience it.
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