The Opening of Misty Beethoven Collector’s Edition 2 DVD set

When the late hardcore historian cum fornication filmmaker Jim Holliday, who was to reanimate a stagnant sex industry through his longrunning not to mention increasingly labyrinthine Sorority Sex Kittens saga, published his deceptively concise 1986 Only the Best, aptly described as an “adult video almanac and trivia treasury“, he had painstakingly quizzed every fellow fuck film critic of note as to their professional and personal favorites of the past fifteen years, a period then as now more commonly known as adult cinema’s Golden Age.  Remember, kids, this was well before the Internet became a household word, making Holliday’s efforts to compile info and comments all the more impressive.  Taking top honours by a landslide critical consensus was Radley Metzger’s The Opening of Misty Beethoven, already a decade old by the time of publication.  Try and imagine that in today’s attention deficient carnal climate when even a worthy wankfest released only the year before can completely bypass collective critical consciousness come awards time, unless there’s truth to the rumour that they’re rigged after all.  Surely not !  But I digress.

Beyond petty politics and with proper historical hindsight, these seasoned smut scribes firmly established the movie’s enduring reputation as the greatest adult film ever made.  Up to that time, inevitably, though I feel it might still secure a prominent position, should another poll be taken after a quarter of a century among aficionados as knowledgeable as the original set.  In his individual review in said volume, Holliday conceded that there were indeed adult movies that surpassed it in certain areas but that for overall brilliance in all aspects of filmmaking, the dirty movie to dethrone Misty still had to be made.  Concurring with my mentor, whose writing was instrumental in arousing my interest in the intimate industry, I would tentatively suggest that perhaps it still does.  Which begs the million dollar question whether Distribpix‘s long in the pipeline double disc DVD (with its BluRay incarnation and much sought after soundtrack CD to follow soon) has been worth the extended wait ?  Is the Pope Catholic ?  Yes, technically he still qualifies and this eye-popping edition overflowing with extremely worthy extras is sure to become the new gold standard for classic adult film releases.  Hollywood rarely treats even its legitimate legends with the sheer reverence Steve Morowitz displays on this must own set !

Metzger took his inspiration from the story of Pygmalion, once a Greek myth but more familiar because of the frequently filmed George Bernard Shaw play turned into Lerner and Loewe stage and screen musical My Fair Lady.  The film was initially conceived, at least in its embryonic state, as a cinematic conduit to acquaint American adult audiences with French fuck film starlet Béatrice Harnois, who had headlined as Max Pécas’ flirtatious Félicia alongside Metzger’s girlfriend Mary Mendum aka “Rebecca Brooke” on the Continental sojourn which also yielded the couple’s transgressive S&M romance The Image.  Having reached the pinnacle of her profession by accident rather than choice as relaxing local censorship laws obliged her to expand her horizons well beyond her comfort zone, Harnois was however already harboring plans of an early exit and could not be swayed.

Left in the lurch without a leading lady, the idea still struck him as too good to pass up so he chose to continue regardless.  Jamie Gillis, easily the industry’s most accomplished thespian fresh from portraying Pamela Mann‘s rapist chauffeur, was to portray renowned self-satisfied sexologist Dr. Seymour Love.  The quest was on to find an (if at all possible, unfamiliar) actress of beauty, talent and versatility to play the unsophisticated Paris prostitute.  Misty – formerly Delores – Beethoven would after all have to show her mettle not just by standing up to her smug mentor but eventually towering over him as the low rent hooker transformed into national sex celebrity.  Enter Susan Jensen, a lower league skin flick starlet who had briefly appeared in Zachary Youngblood’s supremely silly Confessions of a Teenage Peanut Butter Freak and Edwin and Summer Brown’s compelling The Joy of Letting Go.

As much as I would like to say the rest is history, a mighty bumpy road was still ahead for both director and newfangled diva.  Temperamental to a T, their egos famously clashed right from the start.  By the time principal filming wrapped, the still relatively inexperienced actress proved stumped for a stage name, telling the director “anything but Constance” (she hated the name !) with him rather mean-spiritedly adding the last name that would forever make her out to as a conniving “cash register cunt“.  Contrary to his intentions and bitter feuds since notwithstanding, the actress taking him to court over unwarranted use of outtake footage on both Barbara Broadcast and Maraschino Cherry, a star was undeniably born, as well as a myth to rival Pygmalion‘s.

Thanks in large part to the sparkling production values that had by now become de rigueur for a Metzger or “Henry Paris” dirty movie and the wit with which he scripted, the carnalisation of the classic material runs remarkably smoothly.  Cruising the seedier streets of Paris, snooty Dr. Love bumps into coarse ex-pat streetwalker Misty whom he immediately sizes up as “a sexual civil servant“.  Never one to resist a challenge to his authority and suitably fired up because of a wager with fellow jetsetter Geraldine Rich (awesome single shot goddess Jacqueline Beudant), he agrees to groom the unlikely strumpet into the next Goldenrod Girl, a title annually bestowed upon the most erotically captivating creature shattering the jaded monotony of the sophisticated circles by magazine publishing tycoon Lawrence Lehman, an unexpectedly self-satirizing turn from Ras Kean, pretty boy star of Armand Weston’s excellent Expose Me, Lovely.  Seems like Seymour has his work cut out for him.  On a carnal crash course, Misty’s put through her sexual paces like an increasingly well-oiled fuck machine, gaining intimate insight as well technique as the good doctor presents her with a number of “difficult” cases for seduction.  All the while, she’s falling in love with her mentor who doesn’t or pretends not to notice.

Gillis and Money positively strike sparks off one another, one of the finest pairings in romcoms, only amplified by the adult content.  Pristine porn perfection, they’re most ably supported by a cast chockfull of fan favorites, all of them delivering dialogue with the same effortless expertise as the dirty deeds audiences more readily associated them with.  Then still very much the sensational star of Gerard Damiano’s other 1975 S&M romance The Story of Joanna, the ever captivating Terri Hall shines as Russian prima ballerina Tanya, reflecting her real life background as a former dancer with the Stuttgart Ballet, devouring the beautiful Beudant in a sweltering Sapphic number.  Gay porn icon Casey Donovan from Wakefield Poole’s groundbreaking 1971 classic Boys in the Sand adds a welcome whiff of camp as the effeminate gallery owner who finds himself at Misty’s mercy in an excruciately erotic closing time clinch.  Donovan also supplies the buttocks for the Ras Kean rectal excavation (by strap-on) portion of his high voltage threesome with Connie and Gloria Leonard, latter marking the start of what was to become a most distinguished career in the adult field, well documented in our Video-X-Pix back catalogue.

Perhaps making up in part for the unfair accusations that his previous porno picture Naked Came the Stranger was a bit “soft” on sex, its “commercial” scenes fewer and spaced further between than they had been on Pamela Mann, Metzger has Misty absolutely teeming with the stuff.  At the same time, he wickedly undercuts much of its turn-on value through demystification with raunchy bits of business either taking place in the background or in the most mundane situations.  With sex literally everywhere, treated in jaded matter of fact fashion by those having it, the frisson is foregone in favour of a depiction of decadence that has been stifling Seymour and his cowtowing entourage.  Hence the line-up of silently servicing maids forever dropping by with brandy and blow jobs, barely even taken notice of as Love continues his diatribes unperturbed.  Their number includes such fan-friendly females as Nancy Dare, Crystal Sync and Marlene Willoughby but blink and you just might miss them.  Proving neglect an equal opportunity disgrace, there’s hardly more attention paid to the perpetually pantless manservants, reduced to their primary “purpose” which is to pleasure Geraldine and provide “training” for Misty.  Dependable Peter Andrews, Gloria’s much vaunted final fling at the start of Joe Sarno’s All About Gloria Leonard, is easy enough to spot but it probably takes an eagle-eyed viewer to identify Michael Ronds, a generic stud for hire on Joe Davian roughies such as House of De Sade and Prey of a Call Girl who landed somewhat meatier parts (no pun intended !) on Howard Ziehm’s Sweet Cakes and the Christie Ford sleeper The Night Bird.  Likewise, Michael Gaunt pops up (…as before !) as the sailor submitting to Geraldine at a Continental cathouse.

The rightfully famous airline sequence not only plays as a prime example of the wacky off the wall outrageousness Metzger excelled at but also features two endearing adult actresses occupying a special place in his explicit oeuvre.  Acting as accomodating stewardesses catering to their customers’ every whim, Mary Stuart and Jenny Baxter light up the screen.  The soon to fade from view Stuart had of course been a complete delight as Phyllis, the heartbreaking homewrecker causing a mere ripple rather than a rupture between Darby Lloyd Rains and Levi Richards in Stranger, while the boisterous Baxter would find a fertile forum to flex both carnal and comedic muscles as Gloria’s hick sister Penny Cherry on the subsequent Maraschino Cherry.  Frizzy-haired Tia von Davis, the pilot’s wife brazenly propositioning Misty, was another Davian mainstay though better known by far for playing mom to Carter Stevens’ Teenage Twins.  Still a struggling character actor at the time, the instantly recognizable mug of Mark Margolis (as a disgruntled passenger, present if not participating in porn, so not much of a skeleton there) would soon grace Brian De Palma’s Scarface, playing Alberto the Shadow, and as the SCUM Manifesto‘s Valerie Solanas’ dad in Mary Harron’s I Shot Andy Warhol prior to embarking on an enduring artistic alliance with arthouse darling Darren Aronofsky of Requiem For a Dream and Black Swan notoriety.

With lovingly restored (HD) sights and sounds, Misty hasn’t approached this magnitude of magnificence since her first theatrical run and several of the extras focus on the great lengths Mr. Morowitz and his ace technicians have gone to assure this sterling turnout.  The presence of deleted scenes is always a joy, especially on such a mythical movie, but the really big news is the inclusion of the fabled “cool” (as in softcore) version containing a surprising amount of additional as well as alternative footage and dialogue.  And yes, the long believed lost bathtub scene involving cult queens Connie Money and Jackie Beudant is present and accounted for in all its sensual splendor !  Our very own Benson Hurst moderates another humdinger of a Metzger commentary track with much prior input culled from fans’ suggestions on the social network sites.  The nothing short of amazing 45 minute behind the scenes documentary papers over any remaining cracks this thorough discussion might have conceivably left open, along with the by now becoming customary Film Facts subtitle track.  Elusive star Money’s the subject of a tantalizing where might she be now profile while her leading man has been both profiled and interviewed, sadly for the very last time.  But wait, there’s still more to come in the form of trailers, radio spots, stills and candid on the set photos, just about anything you could care to shake a stick at.  A 60 page liner notes booklet covers all aspects of production with the thoroughness we have come to expect from the exceptionally knowledgeable and well-researched Mr. Hurst.  Plus you do get the bag of chips in addition to all of these goodies as well in the form of a 5×7 replica of the film’s award certificate from the Adult Film Association of America, cementing this set’s status as something no self-respecting carnal collector could possibly hope to live without.  Spread the word !

By Dries Vermeulen

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