The follow up to his immortal adult film, The Opening Of Misty Beethoven, saw Radley Metzger (operating under the ‘nomme de porn’ of Henry Paris) take another dip back into hardcore territory less than a year later after that earlier film garnered plenty of well-deserved critical acclaim. Metzger’s blend of clever dialogue, lush production values and sex scenes both creative and erotic proved a successful formula and if Misty will likely always be regarded as the Henry Paris masterpiece, in many ways this picture is… more fun.
The picture takes place in a high-class New York City restaurant a reporter named Roberta (C.J. Laing) meets up with our titular sex expert, a prostitute named Barbara Broadcast (Annette Haven), to pick her brain about matters of carnality and the book she has just published about her torrid life. This is, however, no ordinary restaurant – food is on the menu, of course, but so too are specific acts of sexuality courtesy of the wait staff (Sharon Mitchell, Clea Carson) and patrons alike. As Barbara’s interview begins, the two are interrupted frequently by her fans, those who know her, and anyone else who wants to get in on the action.
Meanwhile, Barbara has gone to visit a friend (Michael Gaunt) who just can’t handle a meeting with his board of directors without seeing her first. She shows up and they talk for a bit before fooling around and engaging in a lengthy scene that runs about twelve minutes and which finishes with the secretary interrupting them. Intrigued by what she’s seen at the restaurant and left to her own devices, Roberta finds herself in the mood. To satiate her cravings, she heads to the kitchen where she winds up in a passionate romp with the dish washer (Wade Nichols). Later that same evening, Barbara takes Roberta to a night club where the two of them get along just fine with a man named Curley (Jamie Gillis). He’s as interested in talking as he is in doing, however, and before their night is over we see via flashback his take the best ways to discipline a playmate (Constance Money).
Compared to the three Henry Paris films that came before it, Barbara Broadcast is light on plot. The story here is really more of an afterthought in many ways and the whole ‘interview’ angle is more of a framing device than anything else. With that said, the film’s playful attitude towards the joys of promiscuity is hard to resist and its considerable witty charm impossible to deny. Where with Misty Beethoven Metzger was obviously taking George Bernard Shaw’s classic Pygmalion and giving it a decidedly pornographic twist, here he seems content to simply celebrate in grand cinematic style the joys of sex. We see this manifest most obviously in the restaurant scene which takes up a good portion of the movie. Patrons arrive and do as they please, oral copulation is passed around freely and everyone is having fun.
Things take a different direction when Roberta heads into the kitchen. Here, in one of the most intense scenes from Metzger’s Paris period we see Laing urinate into a bowl while Nichols looks on in astonishment. The kink bar continues to be raised gradually from here on out, as once things head to the nightclub Barbara and Roberta team up to take care of Curley with nothing left to the imagination. This culminates in the BDSM scene where he takes on Constance Money. Originally shot for The Opening Of Misty Beethoven, Metzger uses the footage here well. Presented here uncut, it’s an impressive set piece not just in terms of the heat that it’s able to generate but in how expertly it’s choreographed and edited. The use of reflections in the scene is also noteworthy, adding to the voyeuristic aspect of it on the viewer’s part.
Distribpix presents Barbara Broadcast fully restored in AVC encoded 1080p high definition in its original 1.85.1 anamorphic widescreen aspect ratio. As it was with The Opening Of Misty Beethoven, so too is it with Barbara Broadcast - the previous (and out of print) DVD put out years back by VCA was issued in a fairly awful pan and scan fullframe transfer that left a whole lot to be desired as it was taken from a video master. Distribpix has again gone back to the original elements owned by Metzger himself and done a brand new 2k scan that has been cleaned up and restored in a truly excellent presentation. Like all of the Henry Paris films, the movie was shot on 16mm and then projected by way of a 35mm blow up, but detail and color is strong throughout thanks to the care and thought put into the original photography and the enhanced detail brought out in the high definition presentation. Some shots are softer than others, a stylistic choice on the part of the director and cinematographer and common throughout Metzger’s filmography, but this transfer really reveals a lot more detail and texture than ever before. There’s not been any noise reduction used here, just some digital clean up and scratch removal, which results in a very pleasingly film like image throughout the presentation. Skin looks nice and natural, never waxy, and this is, for all intents and purposes, the next best thing to seeing this in the theater.
The only audio option is an English language DTS-HD 2.0 Mono Master Audio sound mix. Optional subtitles are available in English, French, Italian, Spanish, German and Portuguese. The audio was also remastered from the original elements and the lossless mix on this disc sounds very true to form and would seem to be a pretty accurate representation of the way Barbara Broadcast should sound. There’s a good low end when the movie calls for it, you’ll notice that primarily in the score. Like most of Metzger’s movies, this is a dialogue heavy film (especially by the standards of adult movies) so you understandably don’t get the type of activity here that you would with a more action intensive movie – as such, mono is fine. The score sounds great, the levels are always perfectly balanced and there are no problems with hiss or distortion.
The extras in the Blu-ray set are laid out across the three discs in the set as follows:
Disc One (Blu-ray):
Accompanying the uncut version of the feature is a full length audio commentary with Radley Metzger moderated by adult film historian Benson Hurst. This is on par with the previous commentary tracks these two have recorded together, meaning it’s excellent. The discussion starts off with a bit of context as they talk about where it fits in Metzger’s filmography and how he came to make the Henry Paris movies. Metzger talks about following up on the success of The Opening Of Misty Beethoven, noting that it took over his world, before then going on to talk about where some of the ideas for this follow up came from. They discuss the convenience of an equipment rental place being located so close to the hotel while Metzger elaborates on the importance of the lighting in this film and how he set out to achieve that. He also talks about how with this film he tried to create something simple after the complexity of the previous picture. They talk about the sense of humor used in the picture, they elaborate on why various cast members were chosen for their respective roles, with Metzger noting how he found Sharon Mitchell and CJ Laing extremely attractive but that there just wasn’t much ‘in it’ for Mitchell in regards to her work in this picture. Of course, Metzger also talks about working with Laing and Haven, sharing some stories about their involvement and how the kitchen scene in the movie is really the highlight of the movie in a lot of ways.
Metzger notes that although there was a lot of manipulation in the editing room that so much of the credit for this infamous scene has to go to Laing and Nichols. He discusses the use of sound, explaining that there were fifteen tracks used for this scene, and more. From there they talk about the nightclub scene, noting that it was shot in an area of the same hotel where the restaurant scenes were shot and how they just used changing lights, music and dancers to create the proper illusion. He also notes the ‘relaxed freedom’ of what happens between the film’s two leading ladies before Gillis moves in and he talks up the attributes that a director needs to have in order to direct a successful hardcore sex scene in a feature. As the movie draws to a close, they discuss the final scene with Constance Money and Jamie Gillis, discussing how it was indeed originally shot for inclusion in Misty before then talking about how it wound up in this picture instead. He credits Constance Money for helping sort out the logistics of what happens in the scene as she had some involvement in BDSM, and he does go into some detail about the issues that took place, legally speaking, between him and Ms. Money surrounding the inclusion of this scene. A solid track through and through, there’s no dead air here. Metzger’s memory is very good and Hurst is able to ask the right sort of questions to not only keep him talking but to keep him thoroughly engaged and interested throughout. The end result is a track that is not only informative but interesting and enjoyable as well.
Also included on the disc is an excellent scene specific film facts track. This track plays out as a subtitle stream and it rambles off all sorts of facts and trivia about the movie as it plays out. Topics discussed here include Metzger’s use of Super 16mm photography in the Paris movies, how the restaurant scenes were actually shot in a hotel lobby which is still open to the public today and more or less unchanged, and loads of facts and trivia about the cast and crew – some interesting details about CJ Laing’s life and times are found in here, including where she got her stage name and some of the issues that arose in her life regarding drug use, which she thankfully overcame. There are also some interesting details here about the library music used throughout the feature, where it came from, and what parts of it wound up being used in The Peoples Court and Black Dynamite! The notes also talk about what bits and pieces were generally cut out of previous home video versions of the movie, how to best recreate the sound of urine hitting a bowl, the mystery of the giant backgammon board, details surrounding the controversial Gillis/Money scene and plenty more.
Aside from that, the first disc also includes the film’s original theatrical trailer (4:30), a collection of radio spots (6:40) and a still gallery (7:17) made up of all the ephemera and related material you could imagine – color and black and white publicity shots, test strips, script pages, advertising materials, newspaper articles and other assorted bits and pieces. All of the extras on the Blu-ray disc are presented in high definition.
Disc Two (DVD):
The second disc includes the same commentary and film facts track over the uncut version of the film but additionally it includes an all new featurette entitled The Making of Barbara Broadcast (15:34). Narrated by Jerry Lentz, the featurettes begins with an overview of Metzger’s softcore films and then a quick introduction to the hardcore Henry Paris pictures as the era of porno chic hits theaters across the world. From there we learn of the challenges that occurred on The Opening Of Misty Beethoven and then the follow up, Barbara Broadcast. We learn how the movie was made in the style of a loop carrier, but not one without the Metzger touch. The featurettes also covers the locations, the spontaneous shoot, the use of the Royal Manhattan Hotel (which was going through bankruptcy problems at the time), why he shot only at night and how the sets were dressed. From there we learn about the cast, the use of library music and the overall experience of making the picture. The featurette covers some of the same ground as the commentary and trivia track but it makes some great use of still, clips and archival bits and pieces from throughout Metzger’s career – definitely a nice overview of his career and where this picture fits in with the rest of it.
Also included on the disc is an Interview with Actor Michael Datorre (a.k.a. Michael Gaunt – 30:54), which is basically a career spanning look back. He talks about growing up in Manhattan, how he developed a ‘great love of poetry and literature’ in high school and how this lead to his interest in the theater. This obviously lead to other things for him, as he worked his way up the ladder and wound up hanging out in the Times Square area of the day just as porn looked like it was going to hit the mainstream. Of course, he wound being involved in some of these pictures himself, noting that all the pictures had scripts and how he approached this material as an actor first and foremost. From here he looks back on his career, talking about some of the people that he worked with including Radley Metzger who cast him as ‘the French sailor’ in Misty which lead to their working together on Barbara Broadcast. He shares some fun stories from both shoots, expressing his admiration from many of his co-stars and discussing how Sharon Mitchell got him smoking again after two years of keeping clean. He also talks about how and why he wound up with the stage name of Michael Gaunt, the importance of keeping your eyes open when fooling around with Annette Haven on camera and how everything that happens in that scene came to be. Datorre’s an interesting guy and is not in the least bit bashful about talking about his work in these films. He opens up and shows an infectious enthusiasm that makes this a lot of fun to watch.
Disc Three (DVD):
The third disc in the set includes a remastered presentation of the seventy five minute soft version of the feature. This version removes all of the hardcore footage as well as much of the kitchen scene and the scene with Gillis and Money. It does, however, have some interesting additions in that it uses footage of a couple watching the movie in a theater at one point. They bicker about whether or not God watches movies or not and banter back and forth as the movie plays out. There’s also some alternate first person narration from Barbara Broadcast that opens and closes the film. It’s not as good as the film in its original incarnation but like a lot of the Metzger variants that exist, it’s a legitimate alternate version of the movie worth preserving and its inclusion here is an important to the release.
Disc Three also includes A Tribute To The Players (17:23) which is narrated by Michael Datorre and which is basically him reminiscing about the cast members of this particular film. He recites some interesting facts and trivia about C.J. Laing, Bobby Astyr, Annette Haven and Suzanne McBain overtop of archival clips, behind the scenes photographs, publicity stills and theatrical posters.
The third disc also includes a selection of Outtakes From Barbara Broadcast (36:23), seen here for the first time. Here we see unused footage from The Olympia Ballroom – some oral for the waiter while patrons dine, some cutaway shots of Laing, some more bits with Zebedy Colt going down, Barbara giving oral in the restaurant, salad dressing preparation (!), Shirley Peters in action, Barbara in the office scene, C.J. and Wade in the kitchen, clips from the nightclub (including more with C.J. and Annette getting to know one another) and yes, even more with Jamie Gillis and Constance Money roughing it up. All of this is presented without sound, some of it fullframe and some of it in widescreen. It’s not been restored the way that the feature has but it’s cool to see it here just the same.
Rounding out the extras are trailers for all five Henry Paris features transferred to DVD from a high definition source and the ephemera gallery and radio spots that were on the first disc. All three discs in the set include menus and chapter selection.
All three discs are packaged in a Blu-ray case that fits inside a slick O-card sleeve. Also found inside is a great twenty-eight page full color booklet of liner notes and essay materials: What Makes A Great Adult Film by Benson Hurst (a general overview of why this picture stands out), The Music by Ian Culmell, A Reminiscence Of Barbara Broadcast by Storm Rider (a look back at a young black man’s experience seeing this one in its first run) as well as a C.J. Laing tribute comic strip page by Robin Bougie and a bunch of photos and related images. Distribpix have also included a collectible insert photo card and a double-sided bookmark inside the case – a nice touch!
For better or worse, Barbara Broadcast will forever live in the shadow of The Opening Of Misty Beethoven, but that hasn’t stopped Distribpix from going all out with this restored special edition release. The movie itself is a playful, funny and beautifully made film for grownups, a celebration of carnality and earthly delights shot with an artist’s eye for composition and set to an excellent score. Seeing it restored in high definition completely uncut with a load of extra features really helps to put it all into context and if this isn’t the ‘best’ of the five Henry Paris films, it’s damn close and comes highly recommended.
This review originally appeared at Rock! Shock! Pop! and is reprinted here with permission.