It's almost shameful that, come June, erotic filmmaker Radley Metzger will have as many, if not more, films out on Blu-ray in America as directors Woody Allen, Alfred Hitchcock, Robert Altman, Charlie Chaplin, or Orson Welles. With the already available 'Score' and 'The Lickerish Quartet,' alongside the upcoming 'Image,' and 'Camille 2000,' we're living in a world where black means white, where cats and dogs lay down together, and where skin flicks are more readily available than all time classics.
'The Lickerish Quartet' is a curious film, to be sure. It's the type of film you'll watch and think about for a while afterwards, unsure of what to think. Of course, the fact that the film is about as clear as a rock is part of the reason for that, but this erotic tale of seduction and possibly mistaken identities has its charms. It's definitely not some raunchy smutty hardcore pornographic romp, even if nudity is readily on display.
We see a family of three unnamed souls (Frank Wolff and Erika Remberg as a married couple, and Paolo Turco as the mother's bastard child) watching a stag flick together, which is weird enough as is, in their rich, ornate castle. From the start we're given no one to relate to, as these beyond rich souls soon prove that the family that watches smut together screw a slut together. The woman (Silvana Venturelli) in the film they saw just so happens to be working at a carnival nearby, performing daring motorcycle stunts. When the family bring the young lady back to their place for a nightcap, their fantasies will be revealed and explored, while family secrets will be discovered.
That's really all there is to 'The Lickerish Quartet.' A weird family, and a smoking hot young woman. Aside from wanting to express my gratitude to Metzger for capturing Venturelli's beauty forever here, I do think that there are other elements of this bizarre flick to praise. This may very well be the smartest dumb flick, or the dumbest smart flick I've seen in some time, I'm just not sure of which it is. 'The Lickerish Quartet' teases intelligence, delves off into idiocy and ridiculousness, before showing off some very unique symbolism, before again jumping off the deep end in its quest to show as much T and A as it could within the confines of the story.
The flick within the flick, our nameless, silent stag, is the driving force of the film, and the source of all of the film's twists and turns. You see, every time someone sits down and watches the film, it changes. Without spoiling what happens, the black and white naughty picture inspires, yet casts doubt. It reveals, then denies. It reminds, but also entices. As viewers wonder where they get the women to make these flicks, over and over, the question is never so much answered as it is further complicated. Prostitutes? Random girls? Who exactly are these women that the family find so intriguing?
'The Lickerish Quartet' abandons all thought and rationale as it plays out the fantasies and passions of the three family members, each having their turn with the blonde bombshell (and that's hardly a spoiler, since it's on the packaging synopsis!), sometimes even literally, as a library full of knowledge, both known and unknown to the father, is ransacked in a fit of passion. The son's curiosity, propensity to throw a fit or two, and general immaturity is played out as he's seduced, while the mother's doubting nature is then thrown in her face. It's really rather smart and well plotted how the sex scenes happen, which is rather odd, considering all the scenes leading to the sex scenes themselves seem to drag on for no reason at all.
I'll admit, 'The Lickerish Quartet' had me from opening to close, with its bizarre sense of mystery, more so than its touted eroticism. While I can't even begin to say how icky it is having a sex scene between two women after the previous scene had her son being seduced by the same woman, I can say that it's hard to turn your head when someone at the peak of her beauty has it all on display, forever immortalized. The interesting ideas, botched in execution as they may be, are almost as great a draw as Venturelli's sex appeal. This one is sure to be a hit or miss proposition for viewers, with those looking for something more erotic losing interest while those who enjoy the odd twists finding the film to be rather satisfying.
The Disc: Vital Stats
Cult Epics brings 'The Lickerish Quartet' to Blu-ray on a BD25 disc, housed in one of those blockish cases often associated with the aftermarket. There is no pre-menu content, while the menu itself is static with a loop. There is a one-sided insert for other Cult Epics erotic titles on Blu-ray in the package, and no other packaging frills.
"You know, this picture looks like something they made during World War 2..."
You said it, lady. The 1080p encode, using the AVC MPEG-4 codec, is peculiar, to say the least. If you just got done watching a mainstream modern film, and then wander into this 40 year old quasi-skin flick, you're going to be beside yourself from the contrast. However, considering the age of the film, and the fact that it's a very minor flick, especially by modern tastes and interests, I found myself fairly impressed, even though there is hardly an element of this release that couldn't have been improved.
As the film opens, on the stag film itself, you'll find yourself wondering, is that extreme layer of dirt and debris and horrible wear just a part of the stag film, or of 'The Lickerish Quartet' itself?! As the film pans back, revealing the frame, you'll soon find out. Yes, debris ahoy, but the film does manage to clean itself up after a while, with the first reel obviously having the most wear and tear. I say first reel, because the cigarette burns are massive and impossible to miss as the film progresses. Not something that we see often on home video releases, I'll admit. Grain levels are heavy, but they're never impeded or obscured, and they don't get in the way of detail much. The picture oftentimes is fairly flat and two dimensional, with drab colors, minor noise, a jump or two here and there, and color clarity and brightness fluctuating shot to shot.
So why the relatively high score? Simply put, this one could have been a disaster, and it isn't. Blacks are solid and deep as can be, skin tones are appropriate, near perfect the entire film, stray hairs leap consistently, and edges are superb and untampered with. The lack of artifacts in the picture is definitely worth praising. This title hasn't had a USA home video release in about ten years now, and with this Cult Epics Blu-ray (which is day and date with their DVD release), there's no reason to venture back and compare. Sometimes the phrase "it will never look any better than this" is cliche and a bit of hyperbole, so as to sell a release. For this title, it's the damn truth.
Aged and decayed video can have a charm to it. Aged and decayed audio, though, most certainly cannot, and that's where this release goes a bit south.
The Dolby Digital 2.0 track for 'The Lickerish Quartet' is a bummer, through and through. Rice Krispies are all over this release, snapping, crackling, and popping virtually nonstop. Apparently the annoying cartoon mascots are being chased by a snake that loves to hiss, too. The attempts at bass in the track wind up hollow, the letter "s" brings a nasty pop quite often, while there are a few hiccups, noticeable moments where the audio just cuts out, albeit briefly. They're hard to miss, considering the constant background whir and hum. Anyone viewing the film will point out some very awkward lip synch issues, but in this film they are to be more due to overdubbing, especially due to the fact they're mostly confined to Venturelli's scenes.
Don't ever expect a major, expensive remaster on this one. Also don't expect a ton of crisp, clean clarity, either.
'The Lickerish Quartet' won't stimulate your mind or your privates. There. I said it. This "erotic" flick is interesting, nonetheless, and is worth a watch, but only under the right pretenses. It's a curious little cinematic obscurity, and maybe nothing more. The Blu-ray release of the film was doomed from the start, but it could have been worse. I really don't see the point in some films that have hit the format so far, and this is most definitely one of 'em. Order it online if you want to see the Blu-ray. No way you'll find this one in stores.