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The Lickerish Quartet (1970) – Radley Metzger










In the late ’60s and early ’70s, even the most fly-by-night low-budget porn purveyor strived to convince folks of the “redeeming artistic and social merit” of their work, but Radley Metzger was one of the few adult filmmakers who not only appeared to truly believe in that notion, but actively strove to live up to his own self-imposed standards of quality. The Lickerish Quartet is often dizzyingly pretentious and threatens to sink into self-parody with startling frequency, but Metzger is so determined to pull it off, that, by hook or by crook, the film manages to work both because of and despite its ambitions. With the exception of Russ Meyer, Radley Metzger was practically the only adult filmmaker of his era who had a genuine visual style (beyond pointing the camera and hoping it was in focus), and the superb camerawork and ambitious production design makes it a pleasure to look at. And while The Lickerish Quartet’s intellectual pretensions and film-within-a-film, what-is-real-and-what-is-illusion structure reach further than Metzger can grasp much of the time, there’s a very real charm to the picture that’s engaging and entertaining. If it isn’t as smart as it thinks it is, it’s much smarter than it needs to be, and in a genre where intelligence and craft were usually at year zero, Metzger’s big ideas and ability to make at least some of them work put him miles ahead of his competition. While the film may seem tame by contemporary standards, the glossy surfaces, overly mannered European decadence, and intellectual pretenses are more compelling and sexier than the average softcore drivel you’ll find these days on cable late at night. The Lickerish Quartet plays more like a partially successful pseudo-art film than a landmark in erotic cinema (as it was hailed upon release), but at a time when most adult films appear to be the work of lobotomy cases with camcorders, it’s a thoroughly enjoyable reminder of a time when someone was actually trying to raise the creative standards of skin flicks — not a bad idea then or now.(allrovi)

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