elivra & bestsy & jack & eddie
by Douglas Messerli
Jerry Douglas (screenplay), Radley Metzger (Director) Score / 1974
become recognized as one of the best of US erotic filmmakers of the day, Radley
Metzger, having already successfully tackled soft heterosexual porn in his Camile
2000 (1969) and The Lickerish Quartet (1970), as well as having
distributed several European films that showed causal nudity that deemed them unworthy
of being released in the good ole USA, decided to dabble with bisexuality, one
of the earliest to do so, in Score of 1974. As one of the first such US
Watching this in 2021, however, the fact that it was passed off as a “first”—particularly given the fact that in the very same year Arthur J. Bressan, Jr. presented a far more intelligent and sexually explicit vision of gay sex in Passing Strangers, and that only a year later Sidney Lumet would tackle a far more complex issue of a transgender, potentially transsexual relationship that leads to a major bank robbery and hostage situation in Dog Day Afternoon, without even mentioning the fact that in Europe and Asia filmmakers such as Luchino Visconti, Lino Brocka, Rainer Werner Fassbinder, Chantal Ackerman, and others were delivering up far more professional and daring LGBTQ movies—doesn’t particularly impress me given its laughably bad script, acting, and cinematic tricks, as well as its garish sets and silly presentation of its admittedly “naughty” intentions. In hindsight Score looks like an amateurish production of someone determined to wake up suburban married couples who just loved Paul Mazursky’s Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice who are ready to move up to something slightly more kinky.
Let me be clear, Metzger’s film has very little do with being gay or lesbian, nor does it have anything at all to do with love. Both Elvira (Clarie Wilbur) and Jack (Gerald Grant), the seducing couple of Metzger’s film, admit that they’d have sex with a porcupine if they found the species attractive.
That is not to say that if you perceive it as a comedy of seduction in the same way that you can read Mark Robson’s Valley of the Dolls (1967) as a comedy of aging actresses and their drugs, that Metzger’s film doesn’t provide a great deal of campy fun. The “true” seductress of the couple, Elvira has been busy grooming the young married convent-trained Betsy (Lynn Lowry) for a lesbian encounter, while her husband Eddie (Calvin Culver) seems, unknown to either of them, ripe and ready to try out a fling in bed with another man. He’s even brought home from a convention, along with his several porno mags of females one magazine of male nudes, so we later discover from devout Catholic Betsy’s bedtime confessions. Why she’s even discovered him masturbating in the bathroom when he should be focused on his morning shave!
Everything that matters here, accordingly, is how to go about the seduction. Since Jack has a successful career as a porno and fashion photographer and the couple can afford a nice moderne home in a lovely seaside Croatian village where Metzger filmed the movie, they spend much of their time playing the game of who can succeed at seducing heterosexuals for same-gender sex. Ads for tourist couples in the local paper everyday haven’t panned out, the previous evening having produced a lot of empty wine glasses, pot roaches, and tossed off undergarments without, evidently, a “score.” And the clock is running down on their bet. Elvira only has 24 more hours to get Betsy into her bed and to put her tongue into Elvira’s “pussy.” As part of their bet, she’ll pick up Eddie on his way out....that is if Jack doesn’t jack him off first.
A little bit of wine and a lot of grass, however, is the perfect cure, and before Elvira and Jack can even begin to play “Getting the Guests,” Betsy has stripped and put on a negligee that purposely reveals what most such articles of clothing pretend to hide while Eddie has eagerly pulled the cowboy regalia out of their host’s deeply stocked costume trunk as is suddenly convince that he is Billy the Kid.
Eddie is almost ready to be seduced, but Metzger refuses to hurry the plot, and nearly bores us to death with the stumbling straight couples’ purposeful misreading of events, and with the terrace conversations of the frustrated seducers. And when, finally, things begin to unravel, Metzger’s camera goes all out of focus as it attempts to show us a truly artsy series of doubled images to signify lesbian sex while becoming suddenly terribly shy about showing the two males going after anything but a few French kisses. The seducers of this film evidently believe amyl nitrate to be an aphrodisiac, and spend more time sniffing than smooching, screwing, and scrogging. Yet, obviously, both Jack and Elvira eventually score.
Fortunately, the telephone repairman always rings twice, returning just in time to take along Eddie and Betsy on another call, forcing the slightly disappointed Jack and Elvira to look elsewhere, finding a new object of possible interest in a male waiter they’d never before spotted at a local café.
Los Angeles, December 31, 2021
Reprinted from World Cinema Review (December 2021).