The ear­ly 1970’s was a time where the bound­aries were being pushed in all walks of life.  Thus, it made per­fect sense that artists of every kind reflect­ed this new free­dom of expres­sion in their work. Filmmaking was nat­u­ral­ly at the van­guard of this exper­i­men­ta­tion and some of the most arrest­ing films from this time were made by direc­tors of erot­i­ca, who brought the sex­u­al rev­o­lu­tion to main­stream screens in ways that were unthink­able just a few years before.

One film­mak­er who did inter­est­ing things with his new free­dom was Radley Metzger.  By the 1970’s, he was already a pro at blur­ring the line between erot­i­ca and art­house fare thanks to his abil­i­ty to mix car­nal con­cerns with a rar­i­fied sense of style and an intel­lec­tu­al ambi­tion that some­times elud­ed his com­peti­tors.  Score is one of his most unique achieve­ments, a film that starts with the then-trendy top­ic of swingers and opens it up to explore even more com­plex psychological/sexual ter­rain.

Score focus­es on the tricky inter­ac­tion between two sets of cou­ples over one 24-hour peri­od.  Elvira (Clare Wilbur) and Jack (Gerald Green) are the more cos­mopoli­tan cou­ple of the pair, a duo that embraces a jet-set swing­ing lifestyle.  They set their sights on a more naïve cou­ple, Betsy (Lynn Lowry) and Eddie (Calvin Culver).  Elvira and Jack hav­ing a play­ful com­pe­ti­tion going and Elvira has the chance to turn its score in her favor if she seduces her cho­sen mem­ber of the cou­ple before Jack gets his.

However, the twist of the sto­ry is that Elvira and Jack aren’t inter­est­ed in het­ero­sex­u­al com­pe­ti­tion.  Instead, Elvira is aim­ing to seduce Betsy and Jack has his eyes on Eddie.  The vet­er­an seduc­ers approach their cho­sen task like spi­ders clos­ing in on the flies in their web.  They are lucky in that Betsy and Eddie have hit that rough patch in their young mar­riage where they are dis­cov­er­ing mat­ri­mony isn’t the per­fect dream they were hop­ing for.  However, clos­ing the deal will prove a chal­lenge for both Elvira and Jack as the clock ticks down — and the end result might take both of them by sur­prise.

Score was based on a play — it was adapt­ed for this film ver­sion by the play­wright, Jerry Douglas — and as such, it is an actor-cen­tric piece with min­i­mal loca­tions.  Thankfully, Score nev­er becomes sta­t­ic for a few rea­sons.  This first is the fast-paced nature of Douglas’ nar­ra­tive.  He uses a screw­ball com­e­dy approach to dia­logue, cre­at­ing machine gun-paced exchanges laden with hid­den mean­ings and saucy dou­ble enten­dres.  The end result is the ver­bal equiv­a­lent of a roller­coast­er ride, one that is made all the more heady by its advo­ca­cy for bisex­u­al­i­ty and sex­u­al exper­i­men­ta­tion.

The oth­er thing that keeps Score from get­ting too stagey is the sleek, art­ful direc­tion from Metzger.  His visu­als and edit­ing reflect the story’s snap­py pac­ing, using a lot of cam­era setups and cut­ting back and forth between them in a brisk yet care­ful­ly con­trolled man­ner.  He’s always draw­ing the viewer’s eye to speci­fic and inter­est­ing details in a way that reflects the ever-shift­ing bal­ance of pow­er between the­se char­ac­ters.

Interestingly, the film only has two sex sce­nes despite the sub­ject mat­ter but Metzger turns each into an ambi­tious set­piece that shows off skills as a pho­tog­ra­pher and edi­tor to oft stun­ning effect.  The dou­ble-seduc­tion sequence that dom­i­nates the third act is prac­ti­cal­ly a film unto itself, full of daz­zling psy­che­delic touch­es.

Metzger also gets strong per­for­mances from his main quar­tet of actors.  Wilbur was the holdover from the play’s New York stage pro­duc­tion and she is effort­less­ly con­vinc­ing as a seduc­tress who affects a casu­al tone while schem­ing relent­less­ly beneath her cool exte­ri­or.  Green cre­ates a gen­uine equal for her to bounce off of, mix­ing play­ful­ness and manip­u­la­tion with a con­vinc­ing, sub­tly-expressed joy.  Lowry and Culver do solid work as the two ingenues/seduction tar­gets, with Lowry show­ing a nice knack for sly com­e­dy that she sel­dom gets to use in her hor­ror-gen­re work.  Metzger fans will also be amused by a cameo from The Image’s Carl Parker as a randy tele­phone repair­man (a role that a young Sylvester Stallone played in the stage ver­sion!).

The end result is a movie that daz­zles the audi­ence while also chal­leng­ing their views on sex­u­al­i­ty.  Viewed through mod­ern eyes, it cre­ates a fond and fun-lov­ing por­trait of a time where the only risk of sex­u­al exper­i­men­ta­tion was a loss of one’s old val­ue sys­tem.  That said, the issues it rais­es about sex­u­al­i­ty, gen­der iden­ti­ty and the rela­tion­ship between love and sex remain as time­ly as ever.  Simply put, Score is a mem­o­rable exam­ple or erot­i­ca that stuns your mind as much as it does your eyes.