The Film Society's Gavin Smith in conversation with Radley Metzger

The Golden Age of Erotic Cinema took the spotlight last Thursday at the Walter Reade Theater. Legendary erotica filmmaker Radley Metzger visited the Film Society to present his 1974 sex romp classic Score. The film is one of many within the Film Society’s tribute “This is Softcore: The Art Erotica Cinema of Radley Metzger.”

Screened at the Walter Reade Theater, Score presents the story of a swinger couple who engage in a night of sexual misadventures with a younger, naïve couple… and even the telephone repairman, too. What begins as a melodramatic battle of wits between the experienced and the not-so-experienced turns into a free love odyssey of body exploration throughout the course of a single night, leaving little to the imagination.

The first time Score screened publicly in New York City, it was not in the same form. Significant edits were made to the final cut to prevent nudity and homosexual content “to avoid being arrested,” as Metzger put it. Today, Score can be purchased on Blu-ray as either the “cut” or the “uncut and uncensored” version.

Score was released in 1974, just one year before West Coast sexploitation filmmaker Russ Meyer premiered his legendary Supervixens. When asked about Meyer, Metzger stated: “Someone said once that Russ Meyer was burlap and I was silk. I thought it was a good line… because I was the one that said it.”

All jokes aside, Metzger credited Meyer to playing a crucial role in the decay of American film censorship in the late '50s and '60s. “I did see one film [of Meyer’s], and if it weren’t for that one film, there would have been no Audubon Films [Metzger’s film distribution company] and there would have been no me. It was The Immoral Mr. Teas.”

The Immoral Mr. Teas (1959) is about a common salesman who sells dental appliances. What’s unique about this shy protagonist? He has the ability to see all women as being nude from the waist up whenever he looks at them in public.

“Doesn’t sound like much today,” Metzger said, “however up until that film, to see a women’s bare breasts, the only justification would be in a nudist camp. Without that, it was impossible to present a film where you could show a woman’s bare breasts: it was man’s imagination. The acceptance of that film started to rupture the potent censorship at that period. Things were very different state by state and two things happened: one was The Immoral Mr. Teas and the other was Playboy. Playboy established the concept that censorship was no longer village by village. What was accepted in each village individually became national. Community acceptance was done legally and established what was now nationally accepted. Playboy was not local, it was national. That was one of the most profound changes in censorship in America.”

Today, the Film Society celebrates freedom of speech in the form of publicly screening films, both new and old, that challenge how we view the human body and the human experience, having recently screened new releases Nymphomaniac: Volume I and II, as well as having announced the upcoming complete retrospective of the work of John Waters in September, among many others. “This is Softcore: The Art Erotica Films of Radley Metzger” continues with daily titles until Wednesday, August 13. Stop by for some of the finest in uncensored erotic cinema from one of the greats!