Radley Metzger's stylish and provocative soft-core films of the 60's and 70's were renowned for lush visuals and tastefully orchestrated love scenes, thanks mostly to the fact that Metzger's cinematic influences were of the decidedly non-erotic variety. During the 1970's, the director's films grew more explicit without losing the air of class that made his earlier movies such wonderful examples of what erotic cinema could be. 1975's S&M opus, The Image (aka The Master and the Slave), is perhaps, Metzger's most controversial and sought after film next to his swinging romp, Score. With Score recently receiving a wonderful Blu-ray treatment courtesy of Cult Epics, Synapse Films brings L’ Image to the medium in equally impressive fashion.
Jean (Parker) is a writer who meets a lovely young woman named Anne (Brooke, credited as Mary Mendum) at a party. She is at first skittish and quiet, and seems to be particularly attached to an acquaintance of Jean's named Claire (Roberts). When Jean finds out the Anne is Claire's "slave" of the S&M variety, the trio embark on a series of erotic adventures in which Claire orchestrates Jean and Anne's trysts. It is not long, however, before Anne is entrusted to Jean to do his bidding, and he relishes the thrill of controlling this gorgeous woman's every action. While Claire and Jean seem to be the masters tugging on the puppet strings of their shared slave, it slowly becomes apparent that Anne is actually a conduit between the two and may ultimately bring them together.
Unlike the majority of the erotic films of its era, Metzger’s The Image deftly balances titillation with good storytelling, and, as a result, the myriad sex scenes (many of the XXX variety) are that much more stimulating. Metzger's handling of "hardcore" sex is understated and artistic, eschewing the "in your face" (no pun intended…sort of) style of your average adult film for a very subdued and erotic feel. Cameras don't simply ogle an extreme close-up of someone's anatomy; they drift around the sets, focus on the expressions and surroundings, and flash to the actual acts with a patient and natural style that truly heightens the erotic experience. When one factors in the lovely cinematography by René Lefèvre and Gaston Muller, whose photography of the lovely Parisian locales is as intoxicating as the sex scenes, L' Image is more than just another adult film, it’s a provocative and highly stylized example of the genre at its finest.
When The Image was first released on DVD back in 2002, Synapse went to great lengths to restore the film from original 35mm negatives. The results were impressive then, but the new 1080p transfer presented here is nothing short of a revelation. Culled from the same 35mm negative, Synapse has put together their most visually striking offering to date with The Image. This is as clean and vibrant a transfer as you’re apt to see, wonderfully crisp with lush, striking colors, and not a hint of the sort of artifacting or age one would expect from a film of this vintage. As with the video, Synapse went to great lengths to clean up the audio presentation for this Blu-ray release, offering both a 5.1 DTS HD Master Audio Track as well as a DTS HD 2.0 Master Audio Track. Both tracks are exceptionally crisp and clear with nary a hint of the buzzing distortion or tininess that usually plagues films of the period. Personally, I prefer the classic stereo track, here, as it’s more in keeping with the original mono presentation (which was available on the DVD, however not included here), and, honestly, the 5.1 track, while well mixed, isn’t necessary for a film such as this. Also included is a DTS HD 2.0 isolated score track.
As with the DVD, extras are limited. In addition to the aforementioned isolated score track (something I consider an extra, anyway) we also get a text-only Metzger filmography. While this package isn't as feature rich as most Synapse releases, one wouldn't expect a load of extras from a film that has been butchered and shown in as many alternate versions as L' Image.
The Image is a beautifully made erotic treasure that will surely please fans of vintage adult cinema as well as couples looking to add a touch of spice and class to their next “romantic” evening. Synapse Film’s Blu-ray presentation is absolutely superb, and should be considered an essential purchase for Metzger fans. Highly recommended.