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With the recent release of Radley (“Henry Paris”) Metzger’s Barbara Broadcast, Distribpix once again offers an amazing restoration of a classic adult picture from the era of “porno chic”, when XXX films moved from the early back room smokers and loops to plot driven, fully scripted features that at times rivaled more “mainstream” Hollywood efforts.

The industry would move into a more direct, overtly visual orientation in the 80’s and the dawn of (cinematic) video production, and would eventually devolve into the Red Shoe Diaryesque “couples” nonsense of Andrew Blake and the like (the less said about the entire subsequent “gonzo” era the better).  But throughout the mid to late 70’s, well known and respected directors like Radley Metzger, Joe Sarno, Michael and Roberta Findlay, Max Pecas, Jean Rollin and Jesus Franco (to name just a few) would make their moves into the adult underground, often resulting in some near works of art.

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Of particular note in this regard are the films of Metzger, who worked under the nom du guerre of “Henry Paris”, and delivered a steady stream of fascinating, well shot, artistically inclined pictures marked by an intrinsically vital foregrounding of aesthetics.  In short, these films, from The Image through the likes of The Opening of Misty Beethoven on to his final adult picture Maraschino Cherry are gorgeous, and often feature some of the most stunning ladies of the field at their most dazzling.  Yeah, these are good – practically the sine qua non of “porno chic”.

What’s most interesting is that these prints have been restored to the sort of condition they appear in today.  In the heyday of Paris, et al, films tended to bounce from one Times Square grindhouse theater to the next, getting more worn, ratty and spliced as they went.  By the time they got to the last (and lowest rent) guy on the strip, even the brightest of prints was in pretty sorry shape, and this is the way they have been presented over the intervening decades by companies like Something Weird, much less the various bootleg outfits working the field of DVD and DVD-R since.

But then you get companies like Distribpix and Vinegar Syndrome, who have managed not only to uncover and restore these (for all intents and purposes) obscure and frowned upon films to their original running times, but cleaned these up to Blu-ray standards and beyond, digging up outtakes, surviving (and willing to participate) stars and ephemera to round out what amounts to a jam packed package for the appreciative consumer.

With the welcome addition of a BDSM sequence cut from Metzger’s prior Opening of Misty Beethoven between Jamie Gillis and the stunning Constance Money, Barbara Broadcast makes a worthy successor to that near-career highpoint (Metzger will always be the director of The Image for me) while simultaneously taking a very different tack in terms of mood and approach.

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With far less of a script and much more comedic silliness, the film bears a lightness and airiness far more pronounced than the touches of same enlivening Misty Beethoven.  While still foregrounding the aesthetics of location (and featuring some rather attractive young ladies culled from an often catch as catch can industry in that respect), this is hardly Misty part 2, but an entirely different film, likely to find its own unique audience.

As a result, there’s not a lot to say here by comparison with Misty, which had a lot more going on, so to speak – except to say that this is a beautiful picture.  As always with Metzger, expect a lot of head and not enough good ol’ fashioned pounding, with kinks more hinted at than explored (there were far raunchier pix floating around out there back in the day, let’s just put it that way).

And from the man who helmed what is very likely the greatest S&M film of all time, that’s a bit surprising – though the Gillis/Money sequence (and the trailer for Maraschino Cherry) do promise a bit more thrills in that particular arena, and it can’t be said the kitchen sequence lacks for the presence of a certain kink for those into that end of the fetish spectrum (you’ll know it when you see it, I assure you).  Fun, sorta sexy, but not really raunchy enough for my taste.

A cheesier, peppier music score (Misty was far more dramatic and European by contrast, as much in aesthetic and soundtrack as continent-hopping fact) and a brighter, more pastel-based palette mark Barbara Broadcast as a very different picture than Misty, and the long silences conspicuously absent of dialogue hammer that point home.

With little in the way of actual plot (let’s face it – it’s more about the location and a lot of fellating than any overriding story here), this is more “modern” in approach than the former picture – while I generally don’t bother with the softcore edits on these sort of films, I’m somewhat tempted to here, just to see how strange and brief the picture actually plays minus the parts that mark its entire raison d’etre.

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While no Constance Money, Annette Haven is quite stunning, and costar and poster centerpiece CJ Laing, who bears the unique distinction of being one of the most 70’s looking women I’ve ever seen on film, is both Streisandesque and enthusiastic about her scenes.  Of course, there are other lesser but still attractive ladies peppering the running time (to say “narrative” would be disingenuous, given all the long silences and foregrounded background music that take up the majority of same), but this is really all Laing and Haven’s show.

The end result here is something of a visual feast (albeit not quite so much as Misty was), but not a lot to chew on intellectually or in terms of after-viewing discourse.  Think of it as feature length cotton candy: not incredibly filling, but damn tasty and enjoyable while it’s rolling around inside your mouth.

The film comes with a commentary track from Metzger himself as well as, in what is quite a welcome and oft-wished for bonus to which fans of the classic 1963-1989 Doctor Who series have become accustomed: a subtitled “film facts” option – something quite informative and indispensable for fans, but one rarely seen on DVDs outside of that series.  Not even 3 minutes into the film, and I’d already learned that the somewhat familiar gent in the beard ordering a bit of lunch from cute Clea Carson was in fact Zebedy Colt of Story of Joanna…

In an odd move which I’m seeing increasingly across companies of date, the extras are separate from the Blu-ray, being split across the two DVDs.

DVD1, which contains the feature, also sports a “making of” narrated by the laid back, soft spoken Jerry Lentz which gives a quick overview of the dawn of “porno chic” and the career of Metzger from a more mainstream arthouse erotica to his Henry Paris career.  Some interesting details come out, such as how the filming at the Royal Manhattan wound up being a night shoot – not because of the expected hotel traffic and guests, but because the owners were under bankruptcy proceedings at the time, and there were auctions going on in the other room(s) during filming!

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Among other notable tidbits: “chef” Wade Nichols (who gets that memorable kitchen scene with C.J. Laing) starred in both gay and straight porn before winding up pitching Mennen deodorant, singing the Merv Griffin show theme and taking on a prominent role in the long running Edge of Night soap (!).  The film further showcases a library music theme that would go on to become the theme of The People’s Court (!)

You also get an interview with Michael Dattore, an R Bolla by way of Quentin Tarantino type (at least at the time of the film – he looks quite different these days) who was one of the film’s stars (as “Michael Gaunt”) – notable for his scene with Haven here as well as a cameo early in Misty Beethoven (as a French sailor john at the brothel where Misty works).  His reminiscences of his days in the industry come to a close about halfway through the extra, though, as we’re treated to a somewhat uncomfortable sequence where he watches and comments with obviously growing excitement on his sequence with Haven (which airs in a windowbox).  Amusing in a way, but odd and somewhat squirm inducing in another…

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DVD 2, which frontlines the “soft” R rated cut of the film, features a salute to the stars.  This is a 17 minute bit where you get some rather nice, salutary odes to the enthusiastic CJ Laing (whose numerous sub roles from the clips presented here I’d certainly be interested in reviewing, hint hint), likeable funnyman Bobby Astyr (who we’re told had the admirable trait of helping addicted coworkers to kick their respective habits), pretty Annette Haven and derriere blessed Suzanne McBain, delivered in a somewhat over-dramatic fashion by Dattore, whose over the top and slightly seedy narrative style add an unintended layer of incredulity to the otherwise positive-oriented script.

You also get a 36 minute collection of outtakes, some radio spots, and the usual posters, photos and sundry bric a brac.

My copy came with not only some lengthy liner notes, but a still of Haven from the film and both a magnet and bookmark featuring the iconic CJ Laing poster art.  So now I have both Jamie Gillis (with Constance Money) and CJ Laing on my refrigerator…can’t wait for the folks to drop by for dinner!

All told, another quality restoration and release from Distribpix, and I’m looking forward to reviewing Metzger’s Maraschino Cherry sometime…(big hint there, guys!).

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