Color, 1981, 86 mins. 23 secs. / 83 mins. 55 secs.
Directed by Gérard Kikoïne (and Radley Metzger)
Starring Dominique Saint Claire, Vanessa del Rio, Roger Caine, George Payne, Veronica Hart, Desireé Cousteau, Samantha Fox, Ron Hudd
Mélusine (UHD & Blu-ray) (US R0 4K/HD) / WS (1.66:1) (16:9)
A curiosity released in the waning years of theatrical hardcore, this glossy feature has always borne a credit for its director as Gérard Kikoïne, a star of the French theatrical porn heyday in the late ‘70s with films like Parties fines (The Education of the Baroness) and Enquêtes starring Brigitte Lahaie. Kikoïne would also dip his toes in horror with films like Edge of Sanity and Buried Alive, both of which betrayed his constant attraction to cinematic erotica. Eventually the film was revealed to have another director, none other than NYC-based distributor and erotica maestro Radley Metzger (Score, The Image, Camille 2000, The Lickerish Quartet), who made this after completing his cycle of classic XXX films under the name Henry Paris (including The Opening of Misty Beethoven, Barbara Broadcast, and Naked Came the Stranger). Metzger's involvement shouldn't come as much of a shock since this feels very much in his wheelhouse, including some scenes shot outside the apartment where he lived for decades. However, the question of who contributed what remained a mystery for decades, with some suggesting Metzger was the de facto director and Kikoïne was on hand to consult and appease the French financiers. Having included this film on his two-hour video compilation The World of Henry Paris, Metzger himself fessed up that this was an uncredited project for him along with Aphrodesia's Diary, and a 2019 stash of photos and documents published by The Rialto Report suggested Metzger was more or less the guiding hand. Out of circulation since its '80s VHS release, the film has been resurrected by Vinegar Syndrome offshoot Mélusine as a combo 4K UHD and Blu-ray release that finally lets this one really shine -- and with some valuable extras shedding some light on its creation.
One morning, Manhattan housewife Tiffany (Dominique Saint Claire, credited here as “Arlene Manhattan”) leaves a note for her working husband (Payne) as part of a sexual itinerary on the town to broaden her sexual horizons. Her attendance as an audience member and on-stage guest for popular live radio sex therapist Florence Nightingale (Del Rio) serves as a kind of narrative linchpin for the loose story which finds our protagonist getting same-sex tips from Veronica Hart, witnessing a kinky bar tryst involving Desiree Cousteau and multiple guys, and hooking up at a sex spa shower with Martin's Roger Caine before he takes her back to his place for a surprise.
Metzger had decided to abandon the adult film industry officially at the end of the '70s due to the opportunity of an all-star production of The Cat and the Canary and his dissatisfaction with the loop-style construction of his last official XXX film, Maraschino Cherry. This one has something of a narrative thanks to the presence of Saint Claire, though some weirdly-shot insert bits involving Baby Cakes' Misty Regan pleasuring herself in a chain-filled room all day listening to Florence Nightingale's show feel a lot like loop material wedged in to pad out the running time. The location coverage of New York City at the turn of the decade is priceless here and a great time capsule all by itself, with a cast of industry superstars lending support to the French leading lady who's actually the most subdued participant in the film. Thematically this does depart from the usual Metzger modus operandi, with a final sex scene between Saint Claire and the very underutilized Payne providing a much more conservative final message than all of his other films. That seems eerily appropriate though given what was hitting the sexually active community by the time this hit the screen.
The UHD in this edition is devoted entirely to the feature itself in its original uncut hardcore form, presented in HDR and looking gorgeous here with a meticulous scan from the 35mm original camera negative. Apart from the grainy and dark Regan bits, the film is a real visual treat with vibrant colors and pin-sharp cinematography courtesy of Gérard Lobeau. The English DTS-HD MA 2.0 mono track is also immaculate and features optional English SDH subtitles. A French dub is also included sourced from VHS and in lesser condition, but it's nice to have for curiosity's sake. The Blu-ray features all of the extras with one real biggie: the elusive 83-minute softcore version of the film (which is still pretty spicy stuff). In keeping with the Henry Paris films, this soft variant is very valuable as it's packed with alternate footage to keep the running time in the same ballpark and presumably make it a possible sale for cable TV play. While some of the Paris soft cuts could vary wildly from their source (most notoriously The Private Afternoons of Pamela Mann), this is still the same essential film but with more of a focus on suggested eroticism with lots of moaning and writhing. "Talking About the Tale of Tiffany Lust" (18m45s) is an audio interview with Kikoïne about coming to the film through his association with producer Wilfrid Dodd and his work on the film directing more on the technical side while Metzger handled the actors, location choices, etc. There's also some great behind the scenes 8mm footage sprinkled in here as well as he chats about filming at some very colorful spots around New York City (especially the Christopher Street gay bar Badlands) and working with the actors (like Del Rio "the sodomy queen"). For some reason this defaults to French subtitles, so you have to switch to English ones with your remote. Also included are the hard and soft trailers, plus a locations featurette (2m28s) spotted by Michael Gingold showing side-by-side comparisons of various spots in the film then and now.
Reviewed on September 3, 2023.