Synopsis: An aristocratic family become obsessed with a striking young blonde actress while watching her in what appears to be a crude, silent stag film. After a visit to a local carnival they meet her in person and invite her back to their seaside mansion (the Castle of Balsoranoin Italy’s Abruzzi Mountains). The blonde takes turns seducing the family members, where she unlocks each of their fantasies, family secrets and hidden desires.
The Lickerish Quartey is Radley Metzger’s magnum opus, a delirious surreal erotic fantasy, stylish and elegant.
eyelights: the cinematography. its enigmatic quality. the carnival motorcycle stunt.
eyesores: its repetitiveness.
I’m not sure what to make of ‘The Lickerish Quartet’, the 1970 film by Radley Metzger. It’s considered one of his classics, and it has an appealing enigmatic quality and a sexiness to it that are unmistakable. And I really did like it.
But what the heck just happened?
It begins with a wealthy middle-aged couple watching a scratchy black and white stag film with their teenaged son. They’re having a good time, and discuss their views about sexuality before the son gets sick of it and decides to leave.
A little later, they go to a carnival together and, as they watch a motorcycle stunt, they become convinced that the main biker is the captivating star of the film they’ve just watched; although she looks different, there are similarities.
So they invite her to join them at their castle, with the intention of finding out all about her. Intrigued by the offer, she agrees. But, for a lark, the husband decides to screen the film and see what kind of reaction they can get from her.
Bizarrely, the film no longer plays the way they’d remembered it: now the main actress’ face can’t be seen. Bewildered, they rewind the film, only to find that the actress’ face remains hidden or, when it can be seen, is someone else.
Over the course of the next day, they spend much time trying to pry her secrets from her. But she remains an enigma: Could she be the same girl? She says she isn’t, but she also makes incredible claims to being 155 years old.
As can be expected from any self-respecting sexy film, each in turn the two men succeed at seducing her, allowing us to be graced with Silvana Venturelli’s beautiful form. Yum. And then she disappears, leaving the son utterly devastated.
It’s a simple story, but what makes ‘The Lickerish Quartet’ interesting is its artistic quality: it was made a at time when even blue movies were shot by professional directors and camera crews, so it’s well-photographed, looks real good.
There’s one scene in particular in which the father takes the girl to his private library, a secluded cylindrical space that’s all white. There’s a cool shot in which he circles her naked form, in such a way that we don’t see her nakedness.
Nice. Well done.
The setting alone is eye-catching, as it is. I don’t know how they got access to Balsorano Castle, but it’s such an impressive sight, what with its large rooms and aged ramparts. And the scenery outside the castle is equally pleasing.
I also liked the film within a film within a film quality of ‘The Lickerish Quartet’, which at one point may have suggested that there may be some sort of divine intervention involved. That’s unclear to me, but such mysteriousness is always good.
This is compounded by the inserts that Metzger peppered the film with, which were not just visually interesting but also served to foreshadow upcoming events. Yes, they helped to connect disparate bits, but I feel they served a higher purpose.
The whole conceit of the stag film consistently changing was a total puzzler and it’s what fueled the picture for me. How could that come to be? How is it that the film changed like that? Was it because she was there? Or did it forever change?
I wish I knew.
The picture is bookended with the son, now a bit older, showing his friends the same film before they head out. It suggests that this film will forever play its tricks on the people who see it. But it leaves you wondering what it has in store next.
At just a little 75 minutes in length, ‘The Lickerish Quartet’ doesn’t overstay its welcome at all; it’s just enough to tease the senses and the brain and to make a lasting impression. I like it. I can see why it’s considered one Metzger’s classics.
I’ll no doubt watch it again soon enough.
Date of viewing: May 2, 2016