DVD Review: THE PRIVATE AFTERNOONS OF PAMELA MANN

Charlie Hobbs, Contributing Writer
Ah, vintage porn. Adult films and performers are ubiquitous these days, appearing regularly in mainstream film and on various reality shows. It has been said that every great technological innovation that the Internet has bestowed upon us was spurred by someone's need to either get porn faster, or provide more of it to consumers. By modern standards, the era of Porno Chic in the early-mid '70s seems quaint, but it was really about so much more than just getting off, there was an art to it which seems to be almost completely lost these days. At the forefront of the art was Radley Metzger, who made five hardcore films as Henry Paris in the mid '70s.

Metzger was no stranger to on screen titillation. His distribution company, Audobon Films, had been importing and distributing European erotica since the early '60s. In the interest of marketing his product to the increasingly risque arthouse and/or sexploitation circuits, he'd often recut and occasionally even reshoot the films in his care to appeal to the newly liberated America of the '60s. By 1965, Radley had decided that he could do what he was paying other folks to do, and he shot his successful first feature The Dirty Girls (which featured a cameo appearance of a young, pre-porn Georgina Spelvin). This began a string of classic erotic films that, within the space of a single decade, reshaped the entire genre.

Until Metzger showed up, most erotic films were imported from Europe. Audobon Films was a big part of that business. However, with the introduction of Metzger's signature continental style, the focus of the genre shifted sharply, as it was clear that no one was doing what Metzger was doing, and he became the iconic figure of the movement. Metzger's The Lickerish Quartet, Camille 2000, and Terese & Isabelle, became flashpoints in an industry which was more about exploitation than eroticism. He was ready to break through to a more mainstream audience with Score when something happened.

In 1972, Gerard Damiano's Deep Throat became the first hardcore adult film to make a real impression on the general film-going audience. The film was shown in regular movie houses and at colleges across the country. It met with resistance and several obscenity lawsuits along the way, but by the time those went to trial, the wave had already washed over the entire country. In a matter of months, Radley Metzger's softcore erotica became quaint.

Metzger was a businessman, and he understood how the market for the films he did was changing. In 1973, he released Score, which had some unsimulated sex scenes, but wasn't graphic enough to be considered a hardcore film. When it became clear that his was wasn't what the audience wanted anymore, Henry Paris was born.

The Private Afternoons of Pamela Mann was the first of the five films that Metzger directed as Henry Paris. This was Metzger's first hardcore film, and as much as his style is apparent in the film, it is also very obvious that he's trying to get his sea legs with this new genre and its demands. Metzger was used to shooting overseas with big locations and budgets that he could stretch to cover epic storylines without a lot of effort. However, the Henry Paris films were shot in Manhattan, where money didn't go quite so far. In addition to that, there was the fact that it is much easier to acquire locations for an erotic drama than it is for a hardcore sex film, so the scope of his films had to get much smaller, though he still managed to make it work.

The story of Pamela Mann involves a woman with a seemingly insatiable sexual appetite. Pamela (Barbara Bourbon) spends her afternoons having numerous anonymous rendezvous with whoever catches her eye. Her husband is seemingly worried about her activities and hires a private dick to follow her around and report back. What follows is a chronicle of the private afternoons of Pamela Mann in graphic detail. Over the course of the day, she meets a stranger in an alley for some fun, gets abducted revolutionaries and subjected to a bizarre sexual assault, meets up with a prostitute friend of hers played by Georgina Spelvin, and eventually beds her husband's detective before making her way home.

Pamela Mann's afternoon may only take up about eighty three minutes of our time, but she sure gets a lot of work in. We get to see several angles of '70s Manhattan and a New York that strangely hasn't changed a whole lot. We also get to see a lot of the New York adult film community in this film, many of whom appear in the other Henry Paris films, including Darby Lloyd Rains (Naked Came the Stranger) as one half of the team of rapists. The sex is shot competently, but Metzger's eye is really more evident in the shots of New York and the exteriors are where he gets to stretch his wings.

As talented as Metzger was, it was very apparent that this was his first rodeo. While all of his dialogue and exterior sequences still look fantastic and show a lot of style, the sex feels a bit forced. Metzger wasn't used to shooting hardcore porn, and as such, the camera often feels unsteady when shooting those sequences. There are very few graceful ways to shoot coitus, I will conceded that, but Radley seemed to have trouble finding any of them, and the action looked somewhat amateurish. Later films would be more stylish, but Metzger seemed uncomfortable with this first one, for sure.

The Private Afternoons of Pamela Mann is an interesting and well above-average adult film. One of the great things that made that first wave of post-Deep Throat films so watchable even without the sex was the sense of humor, and Metzger was right in the game on that front. Combine his sophisticated concept of what was sexy and his skill as a director of actors, and you end up the finest hardcore adult films out there. Henry Paris didn't last long, by 1978 Metzger was back on the scene under his own name, but he certainly made a mark on the industry and raised the bar. For as long as adult films were shot on film, they had Paris to thank for bringing the films to the level of true cinema.

The Disc:

Distribpix is the Criterion Collection of vintage adult films. Between Naked Came the Stranger and this disc, they've got quite a collection of quality material to share. The Private Afternoons of Pamela Mann comes to us in a two disc collector's edition with a remastered print and TONS of bonus materials that are truly insightful and fascinating.

Disc One:

The first disc gives us the director's uncut version of the film. This is the hardcore version with all sex in tact. In addition to the remastered print, we also get a commentary track with Metzger, in which he explains much of the technical stuff, as well as his decision to move from softcore to hardcore films. Also included is an interview with star Eric Edwards. This interview runs for 40 minutes and gives a great overview of his career, as well as his memories of the scene in the mid-70s and Metzger as a director. The disc rounds out with an original theatrical trailer for Pamela Mann.

Disc Two:

This disc features the shorter softcore version. In some of these films, like Naked Came the Stranger, the softcore version would be comprised of alternate takes that soften the action. However, in an amusing "fuck you" to censorship, Metzger filmed a commentary with Barbara Bourbon which he superimposed over the explicit section of the screen while the action went on as shot. This version is actually pretty funny, and certainly bears watching for it's creativity, I liked it. The most impressive extra on disc two is a forty minute interview with porn legend Georgina Spelvin, which is absolutely fascinating! By the time she shot Pamela Mann, she was nearly 40 and had a career in musicals and on Broadway behind her. Listening to her talk was a pure joy. Also included are a couple of featurettes about Metzger's New York and Pamela Mann locations, as well as some newly discovered b-roll from the Henry Paris archives. Truly a massive package (pun intended) for this film.

The last, but certainly not least, extra material comes in the form of a huge booklet which explores the stars, the time, the music, and the meaning of The Private Afternoons of Pamela Mann. This is quality writing, and certainly worth reading.

I'm a huge Radley Metzger fan, and I think that these films get short shrift in this filmography, though they are just as much his work as the more well-known films. If you are interested in what adult films are capable of, please, check this out, they don't get much better.
Special Features:
- Original Trailer
- 2011 Trailer
- Georgina Spelvin Interview (40 min)
- Eric Edwards Interview (40 min)
- Henry Paris' New York
- Locations of Pamela Mann
- Pamela Mann Ephemera
- Outtakes
- Booklet & Inserts
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