Retro Porn: The Private Afternoons of Pamela Mann

January 26, 2014
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Radley Metzger was an experienced film editor and director who, after a series of European sexploitation and softcore films, took a shot on the rapidly growing hardcore porn world of the mid-70s. Under the pseudonym Henry Paris, Metzger wrote and directed his first explicit movie in 1974, The Private Afternoons of Pamela Mann. Still two years before his spin on Pygmalion cemented Metzger’s reputation as a much more sophisticated filmmaker than what the genre was used to, he made a smaller yet fairly good film.

The Private Afternoons of Pamela Mann

Set in Manhattan, with some cool exterior shots when needed, the film follows a private eye/voyeur (Eric Edwards) who receives a phone call from a man whose wife, he claims, might be cheating on him. He’s hired to follow her. Pamela Mann, played confidently by the elegant Barbara Bourbon, was a wealthy psychotherapist whose unknown afternoon activities were a tad more sexual and experimental than originally expected.

In general, all the film’s characters seem driven by deception, not only the main roles, but even the small cameos had some sort of agenda that isn’t completely clear till the end of the movie. Still, it’s one of those stories that, even without the sex, would work (albeit in a far less exciting manner, obviously.)

The standout scene for me was a lesbian encounter between Mrs. Mann and her prostitute friend, played by the amazing Georgina Spelvin. Both women seemed to have a lot of chemistry, not just sexually, but acting-wise. In an uncommonly lengthy clip for its era, we’re treated to a sex scene that is both hot and intimate.

Another interesting moment was during a staged rape fantasy, where an angry female radical reads the text of a Supreme Court decision on pornography, while a guy goes down on Pamela. That says a lot about the nature of freedom of speech back then, and the important role porn had in it.

The Private Afternoons of Pamela Mann

There’s a point where the script admits its own self-serving nature and justifies the occasional interruption by a female poll taker who explains her role as “providing sexually redeeming value.” It’s in this kind of candid acknowledgement where we see Metzger transcend cynicism and openly mock his own creation’s silliness.

The legendary porn personality Bill Margold, who eventually became the director of the Free Speech Coalition, once wrote: “The Private Afternoons of Pamela Mann signals an end to the all-balling, no purpose, disposable mastur-movies that go into one orifice and out another.” Indeed, it was nothing like any other pornographic film made before, and even if its creator’s follow-up would become the masterpiece, this was the first step towards a kind of product that raised the bar of adult cinema in its time.

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