VCA has recently released another of the Henry Paris (Radley Metzger) hardcore classics on DVD, "Naked Came the Stranger." They should have retitled it "EDITED Came the Stranger" and warned everyone ahead of time, because this one is really a hatchet job. Not only are there complete scenes missing (only one of which even halfway qualifies as questionable under today's prior-restraint censorship environment), there are other edits that make no sense at all and damage the flow and (in one case) the plot of the film. Further, unlike the "Pamela Mann" DVD, there is _no indication whatsoever_ on the DVD's packaging that the contents have been edited! The folks at VCA should be ashamed of themselves!
Actually, they should be doubly ashamed, and had better not attempt to use the "We didn't know - this was the Master we originally acquired" excuse. Here's why. In addition to an old video that appears to have been made from an original release print of the film, I have a VHS copy of an old (early '80s) VCA release of the film, when they must have first acquired distribution rights. These two versions are exactly the same, and it appears that no editing has taken place - which means that VCA is _solely_ responsible for the chop job they have released (sorry, "allowed to escape" is more like it) on DVD! For the record, I used the old VCA VHS version to do the shot-by-shot comparison with the DVD.
Unlike the first three Paris/Metzger films released on DVD, "Naked Came the Stranger" appears not to have been originally shot in a widescreen format. It looks like it was shot full frame, but composed with some extra "head" and "foot" room, so that it could be masked to around 1.85 to 1 when shown in theaters. In this one, the titles are not cut off at the edges, not does any of the framing look cramped or odd. So, letterboxing or pan-and-scanning is not really necessary this time. That, plus the facts that the print used was a good one (which, by the way, looks like exactly the same print used for the early VCA VHS), and that the transfer was done well are perhaps the last _good_ things I'll have to say about what VCA has done.
Let's get to the details. The running time of the original film is usually given as 85 minutes, and is shown that way on VCA's "Original Press Slick" in the Extra Features section of the DVD. The actual running time of the film as originally released is 83:17. Although the DVD case shows a running time of 75 minutes, the actual "clock" time of the feature on DVD is 72:20, which means the DVD has been chopped by 10:57 - almost 11 minutes!
Two major scenes are missing - one involving some comic S&M (the only one, by the way, that I expected to be cut from the DVD), and the other really a love scene that begins with a bit of friendly rough-and-tumble. In addition, various other scenes have been edited which should _not_ have been edited at all, including one which loses a bunch of important dialog!
VCA gets right into the spirit of things by clipping some of the main titles! 31 seconds into the film, the supporting cast title listing "Rita Davis, Steve Anthony, etc." is cut short by 3 or 4 seconds to remove a shot on the TV screen shown behind the titles. It is a quick shot of a man hanging by his wrists in a dungeon or torture chamber. He says to the woman with the camera in the TV movie, "Come on, don't hang about! This _is_ torture!" The DVD removes this shot, jump-cutting to the TV-movie shot of the woman with the camera, who says, "Exactly, dear boy!" The jump cut as the camera moves in on, and past, the TV set is obvious. By the way, nothing happens to the man in the edited shot - he just hangs there and says his line! Way overcautious, I'd say, and now the woman's line makes no sense!
For the next 25 minutes or so, all is well and the DVD matches the original shot for shot. Then, at 25:49 into the DVD, two full scenes are completely cut. After finishing the radio show, Billy runs to his car. Cut to a shot in the bedroom with a telephone and a statue in the foreground, and Gillian's shadow in the background, as she remembers the party. Cut to a two-shot from the party of "Little Love Bunny" Phyllis and Ernie Nichols - he's the one in the clown costume, who wears glasses. Then comes a close-up of Ernie. At that point, the DVD cuts to much later in the film, as Gillian and a guy-on-the-street pass a phone booth and dive for the change.
Here's what's been cut: Gillian (G), in her bedroom, places a phone call to Ernie (E), telling him, "I've been a naughty little girl!" Cut to G & E in E's office, both fully clothed, as the conversation continues. Telling E that she needs to be punished, G places a Bloomingdale's shopping bag on his desk, and pulls out of it, one by one, an assortment of S&M/B&D toys, such as a paddle, whip, manacles, chains and a vibrator. She chooses a big, black cat-o'-nine-tails and tells E to "Punish me! Beat me! Whip me! I've been very bad!" E begins reluctantly, gently, to thrash her, but soon starts getting into it, snarling and scowling as he thrashes her harder and faster. G then hands him a paddle, and leans over. E enthusiastically paddles her butt, saying "Yes! Oh, I love this!" He starts getting out of hand, grabbing and using various toys, etc. to thrash her, screaming "Here, bite on this! Where's my vibrator? Oh, I love this so much, Gilly - it's wonderful! This is the best thing that's ever happened to me! I love you for letting me do this!"
G, meanwhile, sees that things have gone too far. She's getting much more than she bargained for, and starts screaming for E to, "Stop it! That hurts - stop it!" Finally, she grabs one of the black leather accessories and, screaming "STOP IT!," hauls off and really belts him with it. E falls back against a bookcase, breaking a lamp, then slowly gets up, holding his back in pain. Winded and momentarily spent, E slowly turns to G and smiles, saying, "That was … wonderful!" Turning his back to her and pulling down his jacket, he points to his back and asks, "Would you beat me, right here? Right here? I've got some skin … I've got a bruise here! Beat me! Beat me! Ouch! Ouch! Come on, beat me!" G, however, has had it with the whole scene, and as E follows her, pleading for her to beat him, she disgustedly goes around collecting the toys. By this time, E is lying face up on his desk, begging G to beat him on the stomach. She takes the whole load of toys, dumps them on his chest and walks out. E grabs some of them and starts hitting himself with them, as his frenzy continues.
Cut to some general exterior shots of Manhattan traffic, and a shot of "Big Love Bunny" Billy (B) in a park, looking at his watch. Then "Little Love Bunny" Phyllis (P) joins him, and they play around a bit in the park. As they come down a children's slide right into the camera, cut to a shot of P literally tackling B in her apartment, pulling off his jacket. Laughing, B protests, saying, "Really! I don't have time now!" Meanwhile, P's pulling his belt off with her teeth. B manages to break away a couple of times, but P keep pursuing and tackling him again, both of them laughing, knocking over furniture and a stack of books. P keeps climbing on top of him, straddling him, at one point trapping B's head underneath her short, tight skirt as she kneels over his head. B wriggles out and P pursues, her skirt around her waist, revealing that she's not wearing any panties. He keeps laughingly protesting as she keeps hauling away at his pants, pushing him onto his back atop a dining room table.
P gazes down at B, and he looks up at her, smiling and relenting. With a huge smile, P pulls down B's pants and begins giving him head. B tells her, "Little Love Bunny does that so well!" Once he's hard, B looks up at her and says, "OK, honey - you want it? You got it!" They switch positions, she lies back on the table, pulls up her skirt and he enters her. There follow a number of shots of them screwing, with emphasis on P's face as she has an orgasm. Once she has, she says, "Little Love Bunny wants her bottle …" Cut to a shot of P standing over B as she says, " … now!" B is back on the table as P bends down and finishes him off with her mouth, sucking in every last drop. They exchange tender smiles as she gently caresses his cock and the background music ends.
Not until then does the original cut to Gilly and the guy-on-the-street at the phone booth. The total time cut out for the two scenes - 6:58. OK, granted, I expected the scene with Ernie and the S&M/B&D stuff to be cut, even if it _was_ played for laughs. There was a moment or two when G was really starting to feel some pain, and they really did hit each other with the toys, so I expected VCA to play it safe here. (I'll repeat, as I've said many times before, that I'm against _any_ of these kinds of edits to these classics, especially if they have appeared and been available before in their unedited versions! But that's a whole 'nother discussion for a whole 'nother time.)
OK, so what the hell is wrong with the second scene, the one between Billy and Phyllis?? I know - I can just hear some whiny, putrid VCA lawyer sputtering, "But … but … but, that's date rape!" To which I say, "But that's bullshit!! It's just a little friendly wrestling" It ain't no kind of rape or forced sexual imposition if both of them are laughing and smiling at each other the whole f**king time! It's a great, very funny, highly erotic scene - one that deserves to remain in the film and has no reason to be cut out!
I have another theory about why it was cut that may also be true, and may also explain some of the following trims, as well. If you cut the S&M/B&D scene and this last scene, you're getting close to being able to fit the film onto a T-75 VHS cassette. The original version probably needed a T-90. So it just might be that when VCA originally decided (oh, I'm sorry, "was forced") to cut the scenes for later VHS releases, they saw a chance for a larger profit margin by being able to use less-expensive T-75s. A little snip here, a little snip there ("Who cares if we're butchering a classic?"), and we can spend a few less cents per dub! Better watch it, VCA - smells like you might be coming down with a case of the dreaded _Vivid_ disease!
"Case" in point: The next edit occurs at 44:45 into the DVD, during the black and white, "silent movie" sequence. After a series of low angle long-shots as Gilly (G) and Taylor (T) dance, there is a sudden cut to a closer two-shot and the music jumps. 1:31 of various shots of G and T dancing have hit the (dance) floor. After the edit, he "dips" her, the music stops, and they return to their table. What's up with that?? Has stylized ballroom dancing been added to the "no-no" list? I think not!
A short time later, at 45:42, there is a similar edit, just after G & T enter the huge bedroom. Immediately after T kisses G's hand in front of the window, there is a jump cut to him kissing her in front of a different window, and music suddenly starts in mid-phrase. 52 seconds have gone out the window this time. In the original, the scene continues as T kisses G's hand again, and they then kiss each other. As G moves away to the next window, the dance music begins again. T follows her, and they kiss again, more passionately. Once more, G moves away to the next window and T follows. Again, they kiss. This is where the DVD cuts back in - just before the phone rings and the scene changes to color. Same as before, I suspect another touch of Vivid-itis!
The last edit happens just before the last sex scene in the film, and just about destroys the set-up for it. It occurs at 62:05 into the DVD, as Gilly (G) and Billy (B) are in bed, just after she hands him a glass of wine. He turns to her, and the picture suddenly cuts to a shot of the TV, with the actor on it in the middle of a line. 1:28 (and an important piece of character development!) have been chopped out, during which the following happens:
The shot of B & G continues, as B says, "… and a joint?" As G reaches back to get him one, cut to the TV screen (which B turned on before getting into bed). It shows a close-up of a Young Woman in an oxygen tent. A Young Man enters the room, looking at the Young Woman tenderly. Cut back to B & G as B lights the joint and asks, "Why don't they show the _Garbo_ version?" (This is an in-joke, since the footage on the TV seems to be from Radley Metzger's own "Camille 2000" (1969), one of the softcore films he made in Italy some years earlier.) Cut back to the TV showing a close-up on the Young Man as he says, "Marguerite, I know why you left Porter and me that day. I know why you said and did all the things that you tried so hard to make me believe." Cut to a close-up of the Young Woman in the oxygen tent as the Young Man continues, saying, "You should have told me the truth." In the middle of the line, cut to a tight two-shot of B & G, who turn to look at each other, reacting to what the Young Man on the TV has just said. Cut back to the TV and a close-up of the Young Woman, who says, weakly, "I meant well … but that isn't enough, is it?" Cut back to B & G, who slowly turn back to look at the TV.
Cut to a wider shot of B & G. G is resting a legal pad on her knees, and holds a pen or pencil. B glances at the pad and asks her, "Who are we going to have tomorrow?" She answers, "An explorer." He says, "Oh, really? What's he done?" Billy takes a drag on his joint and a sip of wine as G replies, "I think he's the only man, with just the stars to guide him, to ever successfully reach the top … of Anita Ekberg." They smile at each other painfully at the bad joke, then turn away. B looks away and sighs, despondently. Cut to the TV and a close-up of the Young Woman, as B is heard, saying, "Phyllis is leaving the show." Cut back to B & G as G says, "No one's irreplaceable." B says, "No," and G repeats, "No … We still get the folks to work." B continues, dispiritedly, with the mantra, "And we get them home." G turns to look at B, puts her hand on his arm, and slowly says, "We even appeal …" B begins automatically to finish the phrase, "… to those …(who roam)" and then stops, realizing what he's saying. He looks down at her hand for a moment, then says, "I feel lousy." Cut to a tighter two-shot, favoring G, as she leans toward B, saying, "Poor baby." Cut to the TV as the Young Man says, "I'll help you, Marguerite." Cut back to B & G as B says, "Don't start, Gilly. I don't think I'll ever be able to f …(he pauses) … get it on again." Cut to the TV as the Young Man says, "I'll make you well again!" This is the line in the middle of which the DVD rejoins the film. The final "kiss and make up" sex scene and the end of the film follow, with no further edits.
HellLLO? Anyone home???? Why - because of the joint? It's not really recognizable as a joint in the picture - it could easily be seen as a cigarette. Besides, Billy really doesn't smoke it like a joint, anyway. All VCA had to do was cut the line! Instead, they completely screwed up the end of the film, trashing an important part of the plot and emotional information about the characters (remember when that still mattered? - in a Henry Paris classic, it sure-as-hell still does!). To make matters worse, the DVD cuts out the first part of the "I'll make you well again" line at the edit point, making it all but unintelligible, thereby making it useless within even the edited scene!
A note about the extras before a final rant: While VCA labels them as "Original Box Art/Cover Shoot" and "Original Press Slick," these are _not_ the original versions of same. They may be the first ones _VCA_ put out, but they are not the Original Originals, which did _not_ feature some half-topless, stoned-looking model on a stool in front of a piece of seamless, wearing headphones and with a microphone pointed at her mid-torso (presumably the better to pick up her stomach growling when she got the munchies!).
As many know, I have been among the first and the loudest to applaud VCA's earlier efforts in bringing some of the all-time adult classics to DVD, while at the same time deploring the editing of these same classics because of VCA's (and others') prior-restraint self-censorship. While the technical quality here is still up to VCA's usual high standards, I can't say much else is! Had I known this much had been cut, and in such a sloppy, ham-handed fashion, I never would have purchased this title! But then, I never would have been able to warn others out there who care about these classic titles and want to see them WELL-preserved! This one, most definitely, is not - and, as I mentioned above, the fault is totally VCA's! They once had a complete, unedited master videotape that was well transferred from as good a print as could have been expected. Either they chose to ignore that fact, conveniently using the newer, edited-version master - or, even worse, they _had_ to use the newer, edited-version master because they either lost, mistreated or allowed to be destroyed their original, unedited master. In any event, shame on you, VCA! You've done a significant disservice to this film, and may very well have irreparably damaged what is universally regarded as one of the all-time classics!