Since Sex Busters was such a dud, we decided our next review would be of a true classic - The Opening of Misty Beethoven. This was produced in 1976, and was indeed a part of the Golden Age of porn. We bought this at least 10 years ago, and for whatever reason, had only watched it the once. Having watched it again last night, we really shouldn't have neglected it for so long.
The Opening of Misty Beethoven is basically a porn version of Pygmalion, with Constance Money playing Dolores "Misty" Beethoven (the Eliza Doolittle character), a street hooker picking up johns in a porn movie theatre in Paris (where she jerks off an old man dressed as Napoleon in time to the action on the screen). Jamie Gillis (more recently seen by us in New Wave Hookers and Barbara Broadcast) plays Dr Seymour Love, a sexologist, looking for material to write his new book about (the Henry Higgins character). Directed by Radley Metzger, a mainstream director (aka Henry Paris for his porn titles, he also did Barbara Broadcast). Jake Barnes (also Barbara Broadcast) wrote the incredible screenplay. This won best actor, best director and best film at the 1976 Adult Film Association of America awards, best classic release on DVD in 2002 with AVNs and was admitted to the X-Rated Critics' Organisation USA Hall of Fame in 1985. It truly deserves all those gongs. This is a brilliant film, with fantastic cinematography, an excellent script, and amazing performances from the actors themselves. It had a comparatively high budget, there were locations in Italy and New York City and the musical score is impressive.
In trawling through the Parisian red light district, Seymour finds the porn theatre and enters, encountering a few oddities along the way. Misty approaches and offers him sex for $50, which he initially declines on the grounds that she is too expensive. After some negotiations (and after she has finished with Napoleon) he accompanies her to her place of work, where she tells him what is OK, and what isn't. He appears to be about to decline her "offer" altogether when he is distracted by the noises made by a gigolo and his client. He recognises his friend Geraldine Rich ("who is both very Geraldine and very Rich") played by Jacqueline Beaudant (the Colonel Pickering character). The two exchange pleasantries while she rides her gigolo to fulfilment and Seymour describes Misty as the "nadir of passion". She (naturally) takes offence at this and some heated exchanges ensue. Eventually Seymour and Geraldine make a wager between themselves to make Misty the next "Golden Rod Girl" (a title bestowed by wealthy "Golden Rod" magazine owner Lawrence Lehman, played by Ras King). Initially she declines their offer on the grounds that they are weird, but as they leave the premises, she looks at her surroundings and re-evaluates her decision. One quick change of mind later and she is now under the tutelage of Seymour and Geraldine to become a goddess of passion.
Seymour commences Misty's education, both actively teaching (with a variety of aids) and supervising her "work" on other men. Seymour is also very wealthy and there appear to be no shortages of male and female household servants wandering around delivering both alcoholic beverages and (mainly) oral pleasure. After some time in New York at Seymour's residence, they decide to fly to Geraldine's place in Rome - a mansion with surrounding estate. Here, Misty's education is furthered and she has a greater variety of people to practice on. We follow Misty's progress through an impressive sexual training montage (yes, every film needs a training montage).
I should mention the flight at this point. They all (naturally) fly first class. On this particular airline, first class offers a choice of smoking or non-smoking, regular, vegetarian or kosher meals, adult or family entertainment, and sex or non sex. When the sex option is chosen, the choices are "sex or just a little head". Although we never see coach class, all passengers in first class are well looked after by both the flight attendants and (in one case) the captain. One female passenger who sees and takes a liking to Misty starts munching on her only to be told that she'll have to go back to her seat in coach class if she doesn't hold a first class ticket "Captain's wife, or no captain's wife" (played by Tia von Davis). That's an impressive airline. Might make flying a whole lot more pleasurable than it is.
Back to the main plot. Misty is tried out on polite society gradually in her preparation to be the next "Golden Rod Girl". First by chowing down on a man in a limo while on their way to the ballet (much to his wife's disgust, as it has made them late), then on a ballet patron known for both his impatience when aroused, and also his difficulty in sustaining that arousal if delayed. Eventually the ladies' toilet at the theatre sees their liaison completed, with Seymour telling Geraldine the sequence of events as the occur. This is split with actual footage of the event in question, with Misty's client reaching orgasm at the same time as Seymour and Geraldine both do with their respective partners. Polite European society is starting to talk about Misty, trying to find out who she really is.
Eventually, they decide that Misty is ready for her next challenge - an "impotent" (or in 70s porn innuendo - gay) art gallery owner, played by Casey Donovan. Seymour enlists the help of Tanya (Terri Hall, also in Alice in Wonderland and Devil Inside Her) a former flame of his and an actress, as he wants her to make her way into the premises in question to take photos and generally scope the place out so that Misty has some idea of where she will be when the time arrives. She also provides some of the tutelage for Misty, acting out on Geraldine what Seymour wants Misty to do to the gallery owner. Eventually Misty does the deed and does it well. So well in fact that polite society is talking about how she has "converted him and his friends want him to see a psychiatrist". Not very PC these days but it was the 70s. Gossip columns are filled with news of sightings of this mysterious new girl and predicting what star sign she is. In other words - Misty is now the talk of the town.
Finally and after an impressive simultaneous 3-way hand/blow job (one in each hand, one in her mouth) Misty is declared ready to tackle her final challenge - Lawrence Lehman, self-absorbed magazine owner. At a large, exclusive party, Seymour, Geraldine and Misty enter and she is sent to her task. Instead she takes charge and offers a challenge to Lawrence that he can't refuse. Nor can his wife Barbara (Gloria Leonard). A very vigorous and active threesome ensues, and at one point Misty straps on a large cock and does Lawrence from behind while he does Barbara. According to Wikipedia this was the first time that a mainstream porn release featured this, colloquially known as "pegging".
Misty emerges triumphant as the new "Golden Rod Girl" only to hear Seymour bragging about how bad she'd been to start with and how her success was all due to him and Geraldine. A bitter scene follows with her leaving them to go to the Lehmans. Seymour and Geraldine return to New York (via that fantastic airline where one flight attendant even takes a cigar case in her vagina to smuggle through customs for a passenger, despite his wife telling him that it isn't illegal to smuggle Jamaican cigars into America, and him frantically shushing her).
While life returns to normal for them, it is clear that there is a bitter-sweet ennui, with Seymour watching reel after reel of Misty's education, while being serviced by a variety of maids, and Geraldine watching on. Eventually a maid appears, but the uniform is slightly different. Misty has returned. Seymour, watching her on screen, doesn't notice at first that something has changed in the person sucking him off. He twigs to the situation, and as a laughing Geraldine leaves the room, he starts criticising Misty's technique on the screen in order to (successfully) irritate her. A bitten penis is the result, although after some conversation and a reunion (of sorts) a very passionate sex scene follows between the two.
Society moves on to the "next big thing" and Misty is forgotten for a new girl. As the film closes, we find that the cycle has started again, but roles have been reversed. A new girl is being tutored, but by Misty this time, with Geraldine on the side lines. Seymour is there, but in a lesser (and somewhat restricted) role, sitting on the floor reading, while in a collar and chains.
As I mentioned at the start, this is a brilliant film. While Jamie Gillis was, frankly, creepy in New Wave Hookers, and a bit ho-hum in Barbara Broadcast, he excelled in this. He proved that he can act, and act well. Both Constance Money and Jacqueline Beaudant also turned in exceedingly strong performances. Sets and costumes are amazing and incredibly well done. The whole production has an air of no expense being spared (and no-one reading off cue cards). I really cannot rate this film too highly. If you want plot, humour and dialogue in addition to your sex, then this is the movie for you. This is not only a keeper, but one that should be watched regularly.