It’s the in-between that counts. Radley Metzger 1929 – 2017

Radley Metzger Henry Paris

Filmmaker Radley Metzger has passed away at the age of 88. His work under the alias Henry Paris held a profound impact in art cinema and erotic film genres, and was significant to a number of contemporary artists including Shine Louise Houston (Pink and White Productions), who considers him one of her foremost influences.

A press release issued by Juliette Metzger, Caryl Feldman, and Ashley West reports:

Radley Metzger died of undisclosed causes in New York City on Friday, March 31, 2017 at the age of 88.

Born in the Bronx in 1929, Radley Henry Metzger received a B.A. in Dramatic Arts from City College of New York and went on to graduate studies at Columbia University. During the early 1950s, Metzger served as a photographer in the U.S. Air Force before going on to edit trailers for Janus Films, a major distributor of foreign art films.

His directorial film debut, Dark Odyssey (1958), was a neo-realist drama concerning the experiences of a Greek immigrant arriving in New York. In 1961, along with film distributor Ava Leighton, Metzger founded Audubon Films, a distribution company that specialized in importing international features, some of which were marketed into the gradually expanding erotic film genre.

He emerged as an auteur in the mid 1960s making artistic, adult-oriented films such as Carmen, Baby (1967), Thérèse and Isabelle (1968), Camille 2000 (1969) and The Lickerish Quartet (1970). Much of this work was shot in Europe, and was adapted from novels or other literary sources, including ‘Carmen’, ‘La Dame aux Camélias’ and ‘Six Characters in Search of an Author’. In 1973 he directed Little Mother, based on the life of Eva Peron.

His oeuvre was distinguished by its lavish design, witty screenplays, and striking cinematography. In the words of one critic, “They capture – as much as they contributed to – the emerging sexual revolution.”

In the 1970s, using the name Henry Paris, Metzger directed some of the most famous and technically accomplished films of the so-called ‘porno chic’ genre, such as The Private Afternoons of Pamela Mann (1974), Naked Came the Stranger (1975), and The Opening of Misty Beethoven (1976). In 1978 he directed the mainstream film The Cat and the Canary.

Metzger’s work has received numerous awards, honored in retrospectives, most recently at the Lincoln Center in New York, and is part of the permanent collection of the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA).

He is survived by his daughter, nephew and nieces. A private funeral service will be held by the family. An announcement regarding a public memorial will be made at a later date.

More about Metzger

The Score marked his beginning into more hardcore cinema.


This Is Softcore: The Art Cinema Erotica of Radley Metzger

…a fascinating transitional figure whose unique brand of sophisticated erotic art cinema created an almost utopian space between the cheap grindhouse sexploitation of the 60s and the full-on hardcore porn of the 70s. [Read More]


Radley Metzger, 1929-2017

As the series rolled out, I posted a roundup of critical assessments and interviews and, also here in Keyframe, Dennis Harvey wrote: “He was certainly among the classiest purveyors of ‘arty, European’ softcore movies in the years before hardcore became a less-than-criminal form of entertainment; and he carried that artistically ambitious sensibility to the few eXXXplicit features he made when softcore was no longer commercially viable. But despite his obvious skill and imagination, he remained ghetto-ized in the sexploitation realm, leading to a premature career end. Today he’s the object of small but fervent cult adulation that may well get bigger thanks to recent home format re-releases of some vintage titles.” [Read More]


Radley Metzger, Erotic Film Pioneer, Has Died

With shifting morals and the relaxation of censorship in the 1970s, Metzger tested the waters for more explicit material in 1974 with Score, which featured one hardcore gay scene in the midst of its comedy of swinging manners, and then made The Image, based on the classic BDSM novel by Jean de Berg / Catherine Robbe-Grillet, and possibly the greatest adult movie ever made. From the mid-1970s on, Metzger shot hardcore under the name Henry Paris, and received as much praise for these films as he had for his softcore work. The Opening of Misty Beethoven still tops many ‘best adult movie’ polls, and Barbara Broadcast, The Private Afternoons of Pamela Mann, Naked Came the Stranger and Maraschino Cherry all showed the same level of style and sophistication as the earlier works even if for some people – myself included, I must admit – they didn’t really work as well as the soft films.  [Read More]


Radley Metzger Retrospective Opens at Film Society of Lincoln Center

During the mid-1970s, Radley Metzger was compelled to release some of his movies under a pseudonym.

“I’d always say the reason is too esoteric, you wouldn’t understand it,” said the filmmaker, regarded as a pioneer of erotic cinema who elevated what used to be called “skin flicks” to an art form. “The truth was, I didn’t want to go to jail. People didn’t do that kind of thing…” [Read More]


The Legend of Henry Paris

Metzger learned to walk that undefined, thin line when it came to the obscenity laws. “I always stayed five miles ahead of the speed limit,” he explains. Nevertheless, Audubon was never not in court—for more than two years with The Twilight Girls. [Read More]


Porn Before It Was Chic: An Interview With Radley Metzger on Sex and Cinema

BlackBook: Much of your work is adapted from literature, which is interesting in the context of pornographic films because it allows for the films to already have a base that isn’t just purely sex. And whether it’s the hardcore films like Misty Beethoven or something much more demure like Therese and Isabelle, it’s everything in-between the sex that allows the film to stand apart.

Metgzer: It’s funny you should use that phrase, that’s a significant one: the in-between. You know, you like to feel that what you do is filling a need, and if you’re not dealing with the in-betweens, nobody really needs you because anybody can really do that. I heard a lecture by an instrumentalist who said that it’s not what you play on the notes, it’s what you do in the silences. I always remembered that. It’s the in between that counts. Particularly when we’d do the Henry Paris films and people would say, oh it’s just a bunch of sex, and so you give them the sex and you’re successful. But it’s funny because across the street from where we were playing there was always a sexier movie with more sex. So why did people come to us, why did they see ours? It’s not just giving them a bunch of sex, it’s the in-betweens. [Read More]

Featured image based on original still from The Lickerish Quartet (1970).

Posted April 2, 2017

One response to “It’s the in-between that counts. Radley Metzger 1929 – 2017”

  1. […] Mann (1974), Naked Came the Stranger (1975), and The Opening of Misty Beethoven (1976). ” * It’s the in-between that counts. Radley Metzger 1929 – 2017 (Pink […]

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