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Joseph F. Robertson
Back in 1969, the editorial staff of Newsday magazine was amazed and appalled that writers like Harold Robbins and Jacqueline Susann dominated the bestseller lists with their trashy tell-all "romans à clef", so they decided to do them one better with each reporter contributing a chapter of escalating outrageousness to what was to become "Naked Came the Stranger", a saga both saucy and soapy attributed to fictitious "Penelope Ashe". Ironically, it outsold many of the competitors it sought to send up, sales figures barely influenced even once the hoax was exposed.
Almost immediately, rumors of a possible movie adaptation began to circulate but even at the height of "Porno Chic" it remained most unlikely that it would eventually wind up as the second hardcore project for respected erotic auteur Radley Metzger a/k/a "Henry Paris" following his well-received though unflinchingly explicit THE PRIVATE AFTERNOONS OF PAMELA MANN. Perhaps with an eye towards mainstream acceptance of a film form he had largely embraced because it was what the domestic adult movie marketplace at least demanded, an illusion all too cruelly exposed as such once the genre shifted towards home video a mere decade later, Metzger toned down the level of graphic detail on this occasion. As compensation, he lavished more time and attention on the central characterizations of radio talk show hosts William and Gillian ("Billy & Gilly") Blake, sort of a '70s Nick and Nora Charles whose sparkling repartee considerably enlivens their extra-marital erotic encounters.
As with all of his full color penetration films, Metzger wrote the screenplay under his usual "Jake Barnes" porn pen name, truly outdoing himself with a plethora of genuinely witty one liners that echo the sophisticated brilliance of an Ernst Lubitsch or Billy Wilder comedy classic of which this is as close an approximation as the adult genre could ever hope to achieve. Thankful for an opportunity to show off more than their physical prowess, Darby Lloyd Rains and Levi Richards rise to the occasion beautifully. Already something of an industry veteran by 1975, Rains was one of the finest early adult actresses and has never been better. Her mimed shock when she catches her husband sticking it to his secretary Phyllis (a delightfully dizzy Mary Stuart) on a daily basis, which naturally evolves into arousal and a staircase solo both sexy and extremely funny, is absolutely priceless.
Their New York morning show a smash hit, Billy and Gilly appear the perfect couple to all who know them. Once she learns of her husband's frequent infidelity with his "Love Bunny" (a term of endearment which provides the movie with one of its best running gags), Gillian decides that what's good for the gander might also benefit the goose and embarks on a sexual spree within their circle of jet set friends and casual acquaintances. Tied together by a masked ball where all characters mingle, these various episodes of planned seduction supply the movie with most of its, albeit fewer than the industry norm, accomplished sex scenes. Particularly memorable is Rains' orally servicing of Alan Marlow (the vile womanizer who was to forced to return to earth Post Mortem AS Rains in Roberta Findlay's ANGEL NUMBER 9 !) as harried investment banker Marvin Goodman for whom time equals money on a double decker bus actually whizzing through the streets of the Big Apple ! Upper-crust bosom buddy Taylor (well-played by Gerald Grant, who juggled legit stage work with excursions into bisexual erotica, including Metzger's SCORE and Jerry Douglas' BOTH WAYS, thereby presumably scratching a personal itch) provides Gillian with a shoulder to cry on when she decides enough's enough and briefly flees her homestead. In a refined silent movie spoof, he wines, dines and romances her in glorious black and white with silly inter-titles attempting to put a sophisticated spin on Gilly's blunt come-on (read her lips !), switching back to color by the time they reach the bedroom stage.
Saving the best for last, Gillian moves in on her husband's object of affection, circling around the feckless Phyllis as she dances alone in an empty swimming pool, another arresting image in a film fairly rife with them. Their slow Sapphic exploration provides the sexual showstopper and leaves the young girl hopelessly in love with her erstwhile paramour's betrothed. Conveniently quitting the scene rather than remaining the couple's dirty little secret even while switching camps, Phyllis leaves Billy and Gilly to kiss and make up. Now I'm not sure how up front Metzger was about his career change from such lofty erotic epics as THE LICKERISH QUARTET to, well, basically documenting the dirty for real at this stage but he certainly threw in a cute inside joke when his simulated CAMILLE 2000 is seen playing on the couple's bedroom TV set and Billy bemoans how they're showing this "trash" rather the Garbo version !
Production reflects the perfectionism Metzger has shown throughout his distinguished career with mainstream-worthy camera work by the reportedly pseudonymous "Robert Rochester", who adult actress Gloria Leonard insists is actually an Oscar-winning documentary filmmaker. Rita Davis, a minor starlet also in Shaun Costello's LOVE BUS and Carter Stevens' HOT OVEN, appears as Darby's socialite acquaintance dressed as a harem girl during the masked ball sequence, going down on bewhiskered waiter John Buco, C.J. Laing's cop lover from Costello's indelible WATERPOWER. The late Marc Stevens briefly appears as himself in a non-sex capacity and the always enthusiastic Helen Madigan plays the porn star guest on the radio show.
On a practical note, this movie has been released on region O DVD by VCA, missing a substantial amount of mostly non-sexual footage. Far preferable is the Italian region 2 disc from Schendene, as LA STRANIERA NUDA, unfortunately saddled with irremovable subtitles, with soft but watchable image quality, at least sourced from a complete print supplied by the director.
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