Radley Metzger, 1966
Starring: Anne Arthur, Karin Field, Sabrina Koch, Charlie Hickan, Uta Levka
“The swingin' sixties like you've never seen them.”
Radley Metzger’s third film (second directed solely by him), The Alley Cats is sort of a mad spiral of European swinging ‘60s infidelity. Leslie and Logan are engaged. He is having an affair with one of her friends, but is paranoid Leslie is cheating on him, which she soon begins to do out of sexual frustration. Irena, an elegant acquaintance, begins an affair with Leslie, who finds some liberation, but also some confusion, in her new found promiscuity.
This is one of Metzger’s more disappointing early films and even though it tries to be sexy and shocking, will likely be too tame and slowly paced for modern viewers. This is more of an erotica melodrama than a softcore porn film. There is almost no nudity and though sex is a regular occurrence, it is not shown on screen (or is shot through a greased up lens). A lot of people mush their faces together, though. Even though it is not as developed as Metzger’s later films, it shares themes that would reappear, like a positive view of lesbianism, the subtext of posing for art as an invitation for sex, a woman going on a sexual journey to gain control over her life, and sexy European settings filled with sexy people who seemingly do nothing but party and have sex. Though the film lacks Metzger’s trademark humor and wit, there is some absolutely hilarious dialogue, such as “Me? Where have I been? Around the world in 80 ways, that’s where I’ve been.” There are a number of once-shocking but now silly scenes, like a sexual whipping that suddenly turns into a threesome and a moment when Leslie’s first illicit sex partner writes how great she was on her sleeping body in lipstick. Predictably and somewhat upsettingly, it ends with what I think is an affirmation of heterosexual monogamy.
I can’t complain at all about the lovely ladies present. Ann Arthur is great as Leslie in her only role, playing up the character’s vulnerabilities. Sabrina Koch, also in her only film role, stands out as the somewhat predatory lesbian Irena. There are also more familiar faces, such as German actress Karin Field, who appeared in a number of crime-horror hybrids known as krimi: Night of the Vampires, The Hunchback of Soho, The Mad Butcher, Web of the Spider, etc. The lovely Uta Levke makes an appearance as a very sexy night club dancer. She was also in a few krimi - The Hunchback of Soho, The Monster of Blackwood Castle, etc. - in Metzger’s Carmen, Baby, in Fulci’s comedy Operazione San Pietro, and in Vincent Price vehicles The Oblong Box and Scream and Scream Again.
The Alley Cats is available on an out of print DVD from Image Entertainment and in First Run Features’ Radley Metzger Collection Volume 1 box set, which includes Camille 2000 and Therese and Isabelle. Apparently the transfers are quite bad, so I would stick with the Image release or wait for something better. Do not get this movie on accident, though. Despite The Alley Cats’ flaws, it has Metzger’s trademark beautiful visuals and fun, jazzy score and comes recommended for anyone who enjoys '60s erotica.