Radley Metzger, 1976
Starring: Constance Money, Jamie Gillis, Jacqueline Beudant, Gloria Leonard, Terri Hall
Though I’ve reviewed a lot of Radley Metzger films over the last month or so, his masterpiece is undoubtedly The Opening of Misty Beethoven, a hilarious, erotic take on George Bernard Shaw’s play Pygmalion, which also inspired the more famous Audrey Hepburn vehicle My Fair Lady. A sexologist, Dr. Seymour Love, is picked up by a cheap prostitute in Paris and decides to challenge himself and see if he can turn her into a high class, talented mistress of sex. The titular Misty Beethoven goes through a variety of training sequences until she is ready for her first test - seducing a gay artist. During this time she realizes that she has feelings for Love, but he frequently puts her down, obsessed with his own skill as a sexologist. Her ultimate goal is to seduce a famous jet setter and become the year’s Goldenrod Girl (kind of like Playboy Playmate of the Year).
After she successfully accomplishes this, Love again congratulates himself and insults Misty. When she leaves, he realizes that he is in love with her. Unlike the ending to Pygmalion, she returns to him, except in typical Metzger fashion, Misty is a strong female character and has to have the last word. She winds up taking over the sex school and writing the book that Love planned to write with him happily (and subserviently) at her side.
The big budget and beautiful locations (Paris, Rome, New York) help to make this one of the most amazing porn films of all time. Despite the numerous sex scenes, this feels more like a ‘70s art house film that happens to include sex in its plot, rather than simply a sex film stretching to fill its running time with loosely constructed plot material. There is a real script and developed characters that we come to care about. This also has some of the finest moments of Metzger’s trademark humor and satire. These elements are typically absent from sex films, but definitely makes Misty Beethoven (and the work of a handful of other directors like Deep Throat’s Gerard Damiano) stand out. One scene in particular involves Misty helping out a sex-challenged man at the opera. While they have sex, the “William Tell Overture” plays to great effect. The soundtrack in general is very well done, with one track oddly sounding like one of the Goblin songs from Dario Argento’s Suspiria.
The acting is surprisingly wonderful. The innocent-looking, beautiful Constance Money is perfect as Misty Beethoven and I can’t imagine anyone else in the role. The late, great Jamie Gillis is wonderful as Dr. Love. Shaw’s Colonel Pickering character, Henry Higgins’ associate, is transformed into Geraldine Rich, Dr. Love’s friend, played by the lovely Jacqueline Beudant. There are also some great supporting roles from porn regular Terri Hall, Ras Kean, Gloria Leonard, and Casey Donovan as the gay artist.
There is a lot of sex in this film. Though there are some scenes that advance the plot forward, probably 75% of the film involves at least basic sex acts. This runs the gamut of heterosexual and lesbian sex, though there are almost constant blow jobs, because that is the act in particular that Misty has to master. Metzger enjoyed experimentation in his films and this was the first porn film with a major theatrical release to feature pegging (Misty fucks the jet setter with a strap on while he is having sex with his wife)! The great mix of traditional and experimental, humorous and erotic sex is one of the many things that sets this incredible film apart.
The wonderful, dedicated Distribpix rescued Misty Beethoven for a lovely, crowd-funded Blu-ray that is probably the most impressive release of 2012. The print was taken directly from Metzger himself and lovingly restored with his supervision. Two versions of Misty Beethoven are available, the “hot” or XXX print, and the “cool” or softcore version. Distribpix has also returned the film to its original 1.85.1 aspect ratio and presented it in an AVC encoded 1080p high definition transfer. Another reason this release is well worth the purchasing price is because of the amount of extras. Beginning with a very insightful commentary track from Metzger himself, there is a second track with High Society publisher Gloria Leonard that serves as a good introduction to ‘70s sex films.
The 45 minute documentary Behind the Scenes of Misty is indispensable for fans of the film, as is the final interview with co-star Jamie Gillis before his 2010 death. There is a featurette showing the restoration process of the film, plus a “Pop Up Video” style subtitle track that shares information about Misty Beethoven while you watch it. There are also dozens of outtakes, deleted scenes, radio spots, posters, promotional material, and trailers. The 60 page booklet is also a great read and has some essays about Misty and porn chic from Benson Hurst, as well as some collectible cards. I simply cannot say enough good things about either this film or the Distribpix release and both come with the highest recommendation.
Steven from Distribpix was kind enough to answer a few questions about how The Opening of Misty Beethoven Blu-ray release came to be.
Satanic Pandemonium: This Misty Beethoven release is amazing. Why did you seek out crowd funding to make it possible?
Distribpix: We really sought out crowd funding to help boost the awareness of the film's restoration, as well as raise some of the money to go toward the Blu-ray process, which is so darn expensive.
SP: How did you make the incredible amount of extras happen?
DP: The amount of extras all happened because we took our time, dedicated hundreds of hours to the project and had the cooperation of some great people all over the world, like our team of language translators and historians.
SP: Was it difficult to get the rights for the film?
DP: The rights to the film were obtained when Distribpix entered into a license agreement with Metzger for the films.
SP: What releases are on the horizon for Distribpix?
DP: Many releases are on the horizon - mainly Metzger's next film, Barbara Broadcast, and many other films that have been recently transferred in HD.
SP: What is your dream movie to have restored on Blu-ray?
DP: When you say dream movie, I am assuming you mean 'adult film' from our archive, if so, I would say that I am looking forward to restore the 1976 classic, Through The Looking Glass, by Jonas Middleton. I have the elements and it has a grand cult following. With some kool extras and custom art, it might be a great package.
SP: What’s your favorite adult film?
DP: As for my favorite adult film, that is so hard to say. For now I will just say Misty Beethoven!! I also love Weston's Take Off and Chuck Vincent’s Roommates.
Thanks to Steven and Distribpix for such dedication and such an amazing release! I can't wait to see what they do with Barbara Broadcast, my second favorite Metzger film after Misty Beethoven.