Turning the clock back to the swinging ‘70s is as simple as popping a copy of Radley Metzger’s “high-class erotica” adaptation of Jerry Douglas’ original stage play into a DVD player and lighting a joint.
Now remastered in high definition and including telling bonus features (“On the Set of Score” has a vivid feel for life in Bakar, Croatia where most of the film was made; “Keeping Score with co-star Lynn Lowry” gives an insider’s perspective more than three decades after the 1974 release), this classic production is simultaneously a revealing testament to the times and an unintentionally-accurate cautionary tale for the era of “anything goes” sex, booze and drugs.
The film is loosely held together by the delightfully-innocent voice of the uncredited narrator and beautifully shot in glorious Eastman Color (the blue telephone looks especially fine; the frequent skin tones will delight soft-core porn lovers of any persuasion).
The small cast pits two married couples against each other (collectively and individually) for a battle of the sexes: the score is kept but the points don’t matter.
Elvira (Claire Wilbur wonderfully sultry and bossy at will—some of her attitude stemming from a pay squabble according to several sources) has the perfect marriage. Her husband, Jack (with Sean Connery-like chest fur, Gerald Grant gaily revels in the dress-up/undress role) is a free-love devotee. The more women or men that can be lured into the “versatile” couple’s hedonistic lair (either from newspaper ads or very personal invitations) the better. Cheating in front of one another has become the saving grace of their relationship.
As the curtain rises, Elvira is hot on the trail of her best friend Betsy (a very demur Lowry who blossoms into a full-fledged sex fiend despite, or perhaps because of her Catholic upbringing) and dreamboat husband, Eddie (Calvin Culver has no qualms about finally admitting his repressed sexuality physically and emotionally—the closing sex scenes are perfectly hot, bold and loving).
But before she can entrap them both for an intimate dinner enlivened by scotch, “Chopsticks” piano duet and poppers, Mike—the telephone repairman (house calls with bed privileges seem no stranger to Carl Parker)—drops by to fix much more than Elvira’s conveniently unplugged communication device. The apparently shocked Betsy can barely manage to watch the utility man’s tool belt hit the floor before demonstrating his pole technique to the nymphomaniac.
Accompanying this unabashed coupling-fest are the strains from an innocent flute to establish the, er, fairy kingdom atmosphere, a recurring, also uncredited song (“Where is the Girl”), a zesty mishmash of high-reed jazz and stylized J.S. Bach (the Hammond organ is ideally employed).
The camera (also held by Metzger, Frano Vodopivec served as director of photography) appears to be having as much fun as its subjects. The editing (the truly uncut version—thanks go to Doris Toumarkine for cobbling all of the naughty bits together) must have been filled with difficult decisions, choosing what should stay or go from a surfeit of riches. The morning-after sequence has just the right mix of convenient memory loss and desire for another helping of forbidden pleasures; before you can say “encore for Mike,” it’s soon clear that all scores have been settled in an agreeable manner. Everyone’s relieved that same-sex encounters no longer have to be guiltily hidden.
Yes, life is beautiful in “Leisure City.” More’s the pity that the mythical tale didn’t foster the notion of safe sex all around: both Grant and Culver died of complications related to HIV/AIDS (1987, 1993 respectively). But in those liberating years why would any precautions be necessary? JWR