Radley Metzger, 1974
Starring: Barbara Bourbon, Sonny Landham, Darby Lloyd Rains
"She needs a cock down her throat the way another woman needs a chocolate cake down her throat."
After making a series of semi-successful softcore films, Radley Metzger adopted the pseudonym Henry Paris and churned out five of the most interesting hardcore films of the ‘70s, possibly ever made. Though The Opening of Misty Beethoven is undeniably his classic, The Private Afternoons of Pamela Mann is his first and one of his best. A housewife, the titular Pamela Mann, goes on a series of adventures and her wealthy, paranoid husband sends a private investigator after her to see what (or who) she’s up to. She deep throats a random stranger on the Brooklyn Bridge, visits a hooker, distracts a conservative politician, gets kidnapped and raped by would-be revolutionaries, etc. There is a nice little twist ending that gives the whole affair a satirical note and explains away the rape fantasy sequence for those of you instantly enraged by the rape segment.
Like Metzger’s artsy softcore film, The Lickerish Quartet, Pamela Mann is full of humor, twists, and plot complexities usually absent in hardcore porn films. As a result, it lends itself to repeat viewing and the sex is predictable enough that it would probably be safe to recommend to anyone interested in erotica but afraid of anything too hardcore. The sex scenes are fairly short (not like that doozy of a couple-swapping scene in Metzger’s Score) with a focus on oral sex, and there is nothing too transgressive at work. The movie is packed with visual and verbal jokes, including a running gag where a hippy polling girl repeatedly questions Pamela to allegedly give the film some socially redeeming value.
It is also clear that this is Metzger’s (ahem, Henry Paris) first hardcore film, so things don’t run as smoothly as in some of his later works. The sex scenes feel a little forced (not in a non-consensual way, despite that rape fantasy) or almost amateur, and the character development is rather lacking, but it is an enjoyable film regardless. The cinematography of ‘70s New York is particularly fascinating and will be a point of interest for many cinephiles, along with the film’s refreshingly self-aware tone.
In addition to the stylish visuals and surprisingly developed plot, the film is full of familiar faces, at least for followers of ‘70s porn. The very sexy Barbara Bourbon, who stars as Pamela, sadly wasn’t in many films, though she is absolutely wonderful here. Sonny Landham (The Passions of Carol, Slippery When Wet, The Warriors, Poltergeist, Predator) makes an appearance as a politician. I have had a crush on him since Predator, where many of you will recognize him as Billy, one of the mercenaries. Darby Lloyd Rains (Naked Came the Stranger, Linda Lovelace Meets Miss Jones, Every Inch a Lady and many more) is one of the rapists and famous genre star Jamie Gillis makes an appearance as his partner in crime, though he barely appears in the cut, softcore version of the film. Prolific performer Eric Edwards (over 350 titles including Great Sexpectations and Laura’s Toys) also appears, as does one of my favorite sex film stars, Georgina Spelvin (Devil in Miss Jones), who has a part as the saucy prostitute.
The wonderful Distribpix released the ultimate edition of Pamela Mann, a restored, two-disc delight that is chock full of special features. Though it is hard to compare anything to their stunning, crowd-funded release of The Opening of Misty Beethoven, this is definitely the best edition of Pamela Mann available and likely better than anyone could have expected. The first disc presents the remastered, uncut, hardcore version of the film, plus a wonderful commentary track with Metzger, a lengthy interview with Eric Edwards, and a Pamela Mann trailer. The second disc includes the softcore version, a substantial interview with Georgina Spelvin, and a series of featurettes focusing on the New York-based locations. Also included is a lovely booklet with a series of essays about the film. So far out of all the Metzger films I've reviewed, Pamela Mann is at the top of the list and the Distribpix release is a wonder to behold.