Arrow Video branch out from Italian horror and violent American cult cinema, to bring us some vintage erotica in the form of Radley Metzger’s famous 70s outing.

A mocking female narration opens the film in a small picturesque village (the film was shot in what was Yugoslavia), telling us that professional couple Elvira (Claire Wilbur) and Jack (Gerald Grant) have a "successful and stable marriage".

On the other side of the village, we have naive young lovers Betsy (Lynn Lowry) and Eddie (Calvin Culver).

We first meet Elvira and Jack proper in their swish abode, recovering from a wild party held the night before. It turns out that these two are swingers of some repute - "the perfect marriage", he calls it - but they're looking for people closer to home than the usual tourists to fuck.

Betsy works with Elvira and calls round one afternoon when the latter hasn’t turned into work, worrying that she may have been "raped and murdered". Elvira openly laments the fact that rape would be a highly unlikely treat …

She invites Betsy to stick around and, while the two start to get close, telephone repair guy Mike (Carl Parker, looking like a younger and more muscular Gabriele Tinti) turns up. He’s duly seduced by Elvira right before innocent Betsy’s disbelieving eyes.

The afternoon ends with Elvira inviting pretty Betsy and her beau to dinner. Bearing in mind that Eddie is as gullible as his partner, the pair agrees - not knowing what they're letting themselves into.

That day soon comes. Even an afternoon spent prancing about in kinky costumes for the benefit of erotic photographer Jack's camera fails to initially raise the suspicions of Betsy and Eddie.

As the day leads up to Elvira and Jack’s seduction of their young new friends, we learn of the cracks in their own relationship. Jack, it seems, has a general indifference towards his wife’s sexual advances. Something he shares in common with Eddie, and his attitude towards Betsy …

We don't have to wait too long for said seduction to occur. Candid relationship chats, booze and a spot of amyl nitrate help things along. The evening soon arrives. Elvira tends to Betsy while Jack gets to know Eddie a little better. The foursome get drunk, the foursome get naked...

It becomes clear quite early-on that this is not going to be a traditional tale of wife-swapping. In short, the women pair off … and so do the men.

SCORE tackles edgy themes for its time of release in 1974. Homosexuality, repressed sexual mores, deeper relationship issues and anxieties: writer-director Radley Metzger was ambitious in his efforts to address more than the swinging motifs usually attached to erotic cinema of the era.

That he does it in such a witty, intelligent and insightful manner is what makes SCORE all the more impressive as a slow-burning drama. His screenplay allows the viewer space to get under the skin of these characters and understand them: this isn’t a one-dimensional sex film. As well as probing into the dynamics of commitment, lust and sexual uncertainty, Metzger is savvy enough to pepper the script with subtle comedy throughout. There aren’t any belly laughs to be had, but the dialogue he furnishes Elvira and Eddie with is slyly, acerbically amusing.

The cast are very good for this type of fare. Plus, any 70s genre film which features Lowry in it has got to be on to a good thing (she also appeared in the likes of I DRINK YOUR BLOOD, SHIVERS and THE CRAZIES in the same decade). She shines as per usual here, with her weird but good looks and self-effacing demeanour.

The sex scenes are genuinely erotic, especially in their unrushed build-up. Full credit to both Metzger and his excellent cast for summoning the tension that drums up during the lengthy seduction scenes. When the shagging finally comes, we get a lot of oral gratification, some buggery and the women even fuck each other with strap-ons – all set to a score which sounds vaguely like an instrumental version of "Whiter Shade of Pale".

But … this is not the director’s uncensored cut. Arrow have released the US theatrical cut of the film (which was apparently endorsed by Metzger back in the day). This follows their brave attempt to get the full director’s cut past the BBFC, and being told to remove a couple of minutes of footage. Instead, they opted to put out the theatrical version (my suspicion is they originally submitted both versions in a plan to contain both in this ‘deluxe’ package). The kick is, the theatrical version is almost 7 minutes shorter than the uncensored director’s cut (total running time here, 84 minutes and 44 seconds; total running time of the uncensored director’s cut is 91 minutes and 38 seconds).

What’s missing is mainly the more graphic content of Jack’s seduction of Eddie. There are a couple of trims to the girls’ sex scene too though, which in this day and age is unnecessary as their time together never strays into hardcore territory (a bit of bush, a bit of nipple – that’s all). Along with minor trims to a couple of extraneous scenes, some other tiny cuts to erotic moments don’t really make sense, as there is still plenty of full-frontal nudity – male and female – left in the film, along with a lot of soft-core shafting that borders on being very explicit.

If you’re a newcomer to the film, you may watch this version and think it’s butchered because you’re not seeing any hardcore content. That’s not the case: SCORE was never a hardcore film, more a particularly liberal softcore film which broached taboo subject matter with occasional hardcore content (the homosexual sequences are the most explicit in the film, and at their time represented something of a first in a film not specifically aimed at the gay marketplace).

As an aside, Metzger made his transition to full-on hardcore pornography with his next film, the classic THE PRIVATE AFTERNOONS OF PAMELA MANN. A couple of years later, he made his outright masterpiece THE OPENING OF MISTY BEETHOVEN. The latter has a loose thematic link to SCORE (the sexual educating of an innocent young beauty), and if you haven’t already bought the sublime Special Edition of it that came out last year (on blu-ray or DVD) then this is a timely reminder to do so!

What remains of SCORE here still makes for a highly satisfying film. The most irksome part of the edits is that, as they were made back in the 70s, they’re not as seamless as they may well be today. So there are jarring jumps in the soundtrack at times …

It would be remiss of me not to mention at this juncture that the film is available fully uncut on a region-free blu-ray disc from Cult Epics in America. Bizarrely, Cult Epics also released the theatrical cut on a separate disc at the time, as an alternate to the uncut film.

SCORE is getting its debut UK release courtesy of Arrow as a dual format blu-ray and DVD combo pack. The blu-ray, which is locked to region B, was made available for review purposes.

SCORE looks great in this extremely filmic 16x9 presentation, boasting a full 1080p HD resolution. Minor grain is consistent throughout; there is a pleasing amount of both detail and depth to each and every scene. Colours are strong without ever overwhelming the action. Check out the red of Mike’s cap, or the blue of Elvira’s telephone. Or maybe the green of the scenic locations – or maybe just focus on the natural flesh-tones as the women get naked and the warmth of this transfer truly hits home. The opening titles look a little tight at times, so perhaps minor cropping is at play. But the film looks correctly framed once the action starts proper.

English audio comes in a satisfyingly clean, problem-free 2.0 LPCM mix. Dialogue is evenly balanced against the hippyish acoustic musical interludes perfectly. Optional English subtitles for the Hard-of-Hearing are well-written and easy to read.

The disc opens with an animated main menu page (no prolonged Arrow promo reel, I note). From there, pop-up menus include a scene-selection menu allowing access to SCORE via 12 chapters.

Extras on the disc are the same as those provided on the aforementioned US release.

An audio commentary track from Metzger is typically good. He’s aided ably by Michael Bowen, who knows what questions to ask to keep the kettle boiling. Metzger is a good host, being that he is fluent and graced with an excellent memory for the finer details of the film’s production. He’s also explicitly fond of the film, which is nice to hear.

An 18-minute Making Of documentary is presented in window-boxed fashion. It's essentially comprised of lots of truly involving behind-the-scenes footage that, despite being somewhat juddery, is massively appreciated. Best of all, Michael Bowen narrates over the top of it with plenty of interesting titbits about the tumultuous production. For instance, did you know that the original stage version starred Sylvester Stallone?!

Beyond that, we get "Keeping Score With Lynn Lowry". This is a rather spiffing 19-minute interview with the actress. She looks good for her age and is at ease while she talks about how she got the gig, and how she got along with Metzger on set - and how he gave her his assurance it would be a soft-core film only (note how she barely shows her boobs in the film, let alone her gash). There is a really interesting story raised about the tension on set caused by Lowry inadvertently blurting out the salary she was receiving - thus alienating another cast member. Watching the film with this in mind is fascinating.

A trailer for SCORE follows. We also get trailers for Metzger's THE LICKERISH QUARTET and CAMILLE 2000.

This set is also prepped to come with a double-sided cover sleeve containing a choice of original artwork or a newly commissioned piece by The Red Dress. Usually my first task when I get a new Arrow release is to tear off the shrink-wrap and switch the cover over to whatever’s on the reverse. Not because I’m not appreciative of the work that Rick Melton, The Dude or even Graham Humphreys do, but there’s a certain nostalgia to be had in choosing the original cinema/domestic release art. However, I think these new designs for Arrow’s Metzger titles are very nice indeed.

A booklet containing liner notes by Cinema Sewer’s excellent Robin Bougie is also promised, but wasn’t available to review.

SCORE is a surprisingly intelligent, liberal film that improves upon each viewing. I’m not sure what Arrow regulars who aren’t already familiar with this movie will make of it, but it definitely deserves to be given a go. It’s disappointing that Arrow were required to cut the uncensored version – even more so that they opted to release the even shorter theatrical cut instead.

But I’m here to review what they’ve released, and their disc is good in so far as the feature’s picture and audio quality are great, and the extras (the same as the Cult Epics release, plus the booklet) are very enjoyable.

Review by Stuart Willis

Released by Arrow Video
Region 2/B
Rated 18
Extras :
see main review