THE LICKERISH QUARTET Blu-ray Review

Charlie Hobbs, Contributing Writer
Cult Epics have taken on the erotica of Radley Metzger in a very serious way.  In fact, very few labels can say they've taken 60's and 70's arthouse erotica as seriously as Cult Epics.  Between their collection of Radley Metzger on DVD and Blu-ray and their upcoming Tinto Brass release on Blu-ray, I think they're position in this small field is secure.  It is one thing, though, to simply release these films on Blu-ray, it is altogether another to produce releases worthy of the format.  Have Cult Epics succeeded in this regard?  The answer, with a few minor caveats, is yes.

The Lickerish Quartet is one of Metzger's most well known works, and the last of his erotic films not to feature any hardcore action.  Is this a benefit?  I think so.  With so much dependent on suggestion, I think that it forced Metzger to make the films more sensual, and less exploitative.  I love exploitation, don't get me wrong, but Metzger is a rarity among erotic filmmakers; he is an artist.  Him holding back the hard stuff makes for a fascinating and titillating look into sexuality in the tail end of the seventies.

Here's the synopsis from the box:
An aristocratic family become obsessed with a striking young blonde actress while watching a stag film. After a visit at a carnival they meet her in person and invite her back to their seaside mansion (the Castle of Balsorano in Italy's Abruzzi Mountains). The blonde takes turns seducing the family members, where she unlocks each of their fantasies, family secrets and hidden desires. THE LICKERISH QUARTET is Radley Metzger's magnum opus, a delirious surreal erotic fantasy, stylish and elegant.
From that synopsis, I was looking toward something akin to Pier Paolo Pasolini's Teorema or Takashi Miike's Visitor Q, but unlike those films, The Lickerish Quartet isn't really trying to say anything.   The film simply uses the woman from the carnival as a conduit through which the story can move from one character to another.  Each character is seduced in their own elaborately constructed set piece.  The seduction of the father is my personal favorite, as he takes the girl on the floor of his wonderfully decorated library, the floor of which is decorated to read like a dictionary page, except in this case, all of the words have to do with sex.  Absolutely astounding editing in that sequence.  The others are less bravura, but still pretty intense.

One constant theme running through the film is how untrustworthy our own memory can be, and how perception can be molded by just the slightest of outward changes.  The girl from the carnival, though immediately recognized by the family, denies that she is the figure from the stag reel.  For a moment, they are convinced, some more than others.  This ultimately becomes a point of contention between the husband and wife, though their conflict goes far deeper, and they appear to be acting out at symptoms of their unusual sexual relationship.

The film concludes on a very typically arthouse note.  Was it all a dream?  Who is in the film and who is in the real world?  Who have we been following?  The whole conclusion is a bit of a mess, really.  I think I would've much preferred it just to go the route of Teorema, with the girl completely upending the family and sending them into oblivion, but the ending we get is much more ambivalent.  Eh.

The Lickerish Quartet is not the best arthouse erotic film out there, but it sure as hell is in the upper reaches.  It is well worth watching for anyone curious about these types of film, as I think it is very typical and well done, even with it's flaws.

The Disc:

Cult Epics brings us The Lickerish Quartet is its original 1.85:1 ratio on Blu-ray.  The print won't fool anyone as a million dollar remaster, but it looks damned good for a forty year old cult feature.  The is a healthy amount of grain and a surprising amount of detail to the image.  Unfortunately, there are a few noticeable marks and specks on the print, but after the first few minutes either they go away, or I become engrossed enough in the story to become oblivious.  Either answer is good for me!

The audio on the disc is equally good.  The film was completely redubbed after shooting, so the lips flapping are, at times, slightly out of sync with the audio.  This isn't the fault of the transfer, though, it is just the way is was done.  There is a barely noticeable hiss behind the audio, but again, after a few minutes, it was mostly unnoticeable.

The extras on The Lickerish Quartet are pretty decent, and worthwhile for a fan.  The most informative of them is a feature length commentary with Metzger, moderated by film historian Michael Bowen.  This is a good mix of anecdotal stories and production history with Bowen doing a good job keeping the flow, totally listenable.  There is also a somewhat brief "making-of" featurette with lots of on set footage and stills from the film, this was enlightening and I really enjoyed seeing how and where the film was made.  The castle they used was immense!  A few of the lesser extras include "cool versions" of the love scenes for territories that would've considered the uncut stuff too racy, and some samples of the live audio versus the dub jobs.  The dubbing was definitely necessary, two of the main characters had very limited English and appeared to be speaking their lines phonetically.  Finally, Cult Epics have included trailers for their other planned Metzger Blu-ray, Camille 2000, coming this summer, and the previously released Score.

Cult Epics take Radley Metzger very seriously, and if they can do this good of a job with his other works, such as Terese and Isabelle, you can bet I'll be there!  Highly recommended for the arthouse erotica fan.
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