6 March 2010 | Nodriesrespect
Metzger's Farewell to Charms
The last and least-liked of Radley Metzger's explicit quintet shows the talented filmmaker now almost dispensing with plot altogether, a trend he previously toyed with on his free form BARBARA BROADCAST in a radical departure from the classic three act structure, borrowed from stage and screen lore since times immemorial, he previously and rigorously adhered to. Though he has never gone on record about it, my guess is that Metzger realized he had pretty much expanded the fornication film form to its genre-imposed limits with THE OPENING OF MISTY BEETHOVEN and was now gently phasing himself out of what was indeed increasingly becoming an industry (rather than art form) he had entered somewhat reluctantly in the first place out of economic necessity as the commercial availability of hardcore had made simulated screen sex obsolete. That said, MARASCHINO CHERRY still towers over much of its contemporary competition and may be in need of re-evaluation, an opportunity for which now graciously granted by the kind folks at Video-X-Pix who have issued a sterling 2 disc "Platinum Elite Collector's Edition" (hopefully, the first of many) in glorious widescreen to supplant their earlier bare bones pan & scan single platter.
Metzger's customary sophisticated wit remains very much in evidence throughout. In hindsight, it's hard to shake the impression that the director was committing the cinematic equivalent of putting out the garbage, incorporating any old and unused footage (mostly from MISTY) he still had lying around. The loosely constructed narrative of upscale New York madam Gloria Leonard initially attempting to hide the nature of her business from her allegedly naive country cousin Jenny Baxter and subsequently initiating her into following in her footsteps proves perfect for such purpose. Leonard was already a respected if not always revered pillar of porn, a tell it like it is liaison mainstream sources were ever eager to pester for quips and quotes. In temperance of Gloria's grand dame glowering, the underrated Baxter (such radiant presence essaying the title role in Shaun Costello's TRAVAILS OF JUNE if usually a second stringer in high profile porn) projects an immensely appealing wide-eyed innocence without resorting to hick shtick.
As madam Maraschino takes care of husband Wade Nichols' needs at the start of another busy day at the bordello, her hardworking assistants Lesllie Bovee and Clea Carson are already preparing for their customary client onslaught, placating police and postal services in a typical example of Metzger whimsy elevating the erotic element by fusing sex with sly social commentary. Suzanne McBain, unforgettable as the tragic call girl from Gerard Damiano's stupendous ODYSSEY, is the resident "clock girl", dispassionately whipped every hour, her piercing screams telling time ! One of the industry's truly outstanding submissives, C.J. Laing, punctuates proceedings as the madam's personal slave who will be thoroughly ravished by Gloria and Annette Haven for film's climax in the justifiably legendary dungeon scene featuring the inspired use of Scotch-filled shot glasses and the threat of a hot plate.
Cult favorite Susan Jensen owes her self-despised moniker of "Constance Money" to the director with whom she shared many a myth-making spat. Not caring about her billing on MISTY (only specifying "anything but Constance", a name she loathed), the mischievous movie maker subsequently immortalized her financial demands ! Parting ways presumably less than amicably thereafter, Radley recycled cutting room leftovers into both BARBARA BROADCAST (the frequently censored S&M session with Jamie Gillis) and MARASCHINO CHERRY, the actress successfully suing for damages on both occasions. Memorably appearing fully clothed in the Central Park pond to tempt toy boat enthusiast Lance Knight, whose only other appearance seems to have been a non-sex bit in Chuck Vincent's BANG BANG YOU GOT IT, she strokes him off as they watch an 8mm reel of Erica Havens blowing a faceless stud. More intricately inserted is a second sequence with Marc Valentine actually reprising his role a few years down the line to provide context. Original footage has him playing a Spanish bullfighter (now re-interpreted as the fantasy alter ego of a shy client) sharing his saucy senorita (one shot Conchita Costello who bears an uncanny resemblance to TV's BONES' divine Michaela Conlin) with the male drag attired Money.
Special mention for all you real world skeleton in the closet aficionados must be made of Baxter's spirited threesome with the late Spalding Gray of SWIMMING TO CAMBODIA fame (who also appeared in a hardcore capacity in Zebedy Colt's notorious "roughie" FARMER'S DAUGHTERS) and Rocky Millstone, who played the title role in Ron Wertheim's LITTLE ORPHAN SAMMY. Production values are solid if comparatively generic by director's own lofty standards, an adjective extending to sets and locations, both of which while anonymously luxurious a far cry from the overwhelming Old World opulence on display in his '60s soft-core work (especially CAMILLE 2000 and THE LICKERISH QUARTET) and his initial fornication forays.