Written by: George Pacheco on September 5th, 2013
Theatrical Release Date: USA, November, 1977
Director: Radley Metzger (as Henry Paris)
Writer: Radley Metzger
Cast: Annette Haven, CJ Laing, Wade Nichols, Jamie Gillis
DVD released: August 13th, 2013
Approximate running time: 82 minutes
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Sound: Dolby Digital Mono English
Subtitles: English, French, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese, German
DVD Release: DistribPix
Region Coding: Region 0 NTSC
Retail Price: $34.99
It nearly impossible to properly critique Distribpix Inc.’s new Blu-Ray and DVD restoration of Radley Metzger’s 1977 adult classic Barbara Broadcast without taking into account the company’s prior track record in bringing to life Metzger’s other adult films—directed under the pseudonym of Henry Paris—such as The Private Afternoons of Pamela Mann and Naked Came the Stranger.
Simply stated, there is no one out there today holding a candle to the work Distribpix is doing restoring these adult features to their proper status as films, as artistic works worthy of such critical appraisal and respect. The company has taken a consistent level of care with their releases, not only focusing hard upon properly cleaning up these films from a technical standpoint of picture and sound, but to also include within their releases a palpable sense of their passion behind these projects. This passion is clearly evident from the packaging and liner notes to the bevy of extras included on each of Distribpix’s releases, with Barbara Broadcast serving as no exception to this rule.
Metzger’s film had the unenviable position of following up the director’s greatest adult achievement, The Opening of Misty Beethoven, a year prior; a film which redefined the constitution of an “adult film” with its extensive location shots, exquisite cinematography and engaging characters. Ultimately, Metzger decided that this manner of lightning wouldn’t strike a second time with Barbara Broadcast, so the director decided to approach this follow-up film in a comparatively lighthearted manner, employing a vignette style to loosely tell a story while embracing all of the elevated technical aspects which distinguished Metzger’s work from those of his one-day wonder contemporaries.
Still, Barbara Broadcast was shot relatively quickly by Metzger standards, and this fast ‘n free sensibility is plastered all across the film as Radley/Henry directs his cast with an infectious feeling of fun. The film’s plot is similarly breezy, as it centers on a New York City restaurant and discotheque where sex in all its myriad forms is most definitely on the menu. It’s in this restaurant where the titular character of Barbara Broadcast—a prostitute and published author, played here by the otherworldly Annette Haven—is being interviewed by intrepid reporter Roberta (CJ Laing) over lunch.
This isn’t an ordinary restaurant however, as Metzger’s idea of a four course meal includes everything from public sex and fellatio to secret trysts in alcoves and corner offices, in a scene which employs a bit of city footage which displays old, 1970s New York in all its glory. The success of Barbara Broadcast hinges upon a number of steamy, lengthy sex sequences which wrap around the dialog and shorter, more comedic scenes. These longer setups are often set rhythmically to Metzger’s preferred soundtrack source of library music, creating gobs of atmosphere with every syncopated drum beat, slinky rhythm or sultry synth line.
Haven and Laing both have their moments in the sun, so to speak, in this regard. Ms. Haven possesses a stunning sense of elegance here, coming across in a very European, Sylvia Kristel-styled mold, while Laing leaps from the picture with a smoldering and seductive presence, an eroticism which stands against almost anything committed to the screen. Elsewhere, a stellar supporting cast—including porn’s dark prince Jamie Gillis and comedic foil Bobby Astyr—provides plenty of memorable moments which range from twisted and controlling to downright hilarious.
Laing’s climactic scene with “chef” Wade Nichols in the kitchen serves of particular interest when placed against the music-focused sequences which preceded it in the film. Here, Laing and Nichols begin their scene in total silence, with only the sounds of the kitchen and staff as their soundtrack. The effect as a whole is reminiscent of a scene from director Alex de Renzy’s notorious “roughie” film Femmes De Sade taking place in the belly of an oil tanker, utilizing only boiler sounds and machinery to emphasize the action. Laing and Nichols turn this idea into an art form, however, while the actress takes it one step further in a later scene with Gillis and Haven, one which is soaked in stylish lighting and anchored by Metzger’s expert framing and cinematography.
Barbara Broadcast is much more than a mere collection of sex vignettes, however, but a film full of memorable performances, witty dialogue, exquisite music and a “porno chic” aesthetic which lifts it as a cinematic microcosm; a near perfect example of the sort of “A list adult” film we’re not likely to see again anytime soon.
The term “definitive” is used often by critics to describe any manner of home video release, yet this is exactly where the Distribpix presentation of Barbara Broadcast lies when compared to prior VHS and DVD incarnations of the film. This Blu-Ray and double DVD combo back presents Barbara Broadcast in an anamorphic widescreen presentation which preserves the film’s original aspect ratio, eliminating all but the faintest hairs or smallest of cigarette burn marks.
The original mono soundtrack is crystal clear for both the hard and soft cuts of Barbara Broadcast, both of which are presented here alongside film facts, slides, and ephemera as part of the packaged extras. This set also offers a booklet, a “making of” featurette, outtakes, interviews and a full length audio commentary from director Radley Metzger.
Overall, Barbara Broadcast serves as yet another feather in the cap for Distribpix Inc., and thus far runs unchallenged as THE home video release of 2013.
Note: The images from this review are taken from the DVD included as part of this combo release.