Before Fifty Shades There Was: The Image

In 1975, Radley Metzger released his defining erotic masterpiece, The Image. 

Before everyone decides to get their panties in a bundle over next week's release of Fifty Shades of Grey, we need to realize that the cinematic S&M set existed long before this cheap and sleazy tale of whips and sex. 

In 1975, Radley Metzger directed The Image aka The Punishment of Anne, a film  that crossed the fine line between erotic cinema and pornography while offering up a lurid tale of love and obsession. In an era when porn films were becoming mainstream and couples were venturing to see movies like Deep Throat together on date night, Metzger continued to push his personal agenda by mixing sexual tones, innuendo, and unsimulated penetration into some of his best releases.

"But, I'm gonna ruin my dress."
Centered around the beauty of Rebecca Brooke aka Mary Mendum, The Image will strike some viewers as highly stylized porn that has just enough story. Others will find a focused tale of the strange relationship between three adults and the power struggle that ensues between master, slave, and the outsider that's brought in to help manipulate the situation. There are depraved scenes of whipping, fetishism, oral copulation, three way sex, and an unedited scene of public urination. 

Despite the rough nature of The Image and a super cheesy overdub, the film stands out as one of Metzger's finest exploitive films. The delivers a story that would translate just as well today. It's about control, man's desires, and one woman's inherent need to let herself be overtaken by a controlling master. With the upcoming theatrical run of Fifty Shades of Grey, Metzger's The Image holds a strong chance of developing a small cult following. It explores many of the same themes and captures a long gone era of film when people were just beginning to accept sexuality as a commonality and enjoyed it as a form of escapist entertainment. 

"Here. Have a snack."
If you can deal with semi-graphic scenes of nudity, intense whippings, bondage, unsimulated oral sex, lesbian scenarios, and a stunning lead actress, you may find this film of interest. Without films like this,  Eyes Wide Shut, Fifty Shades of Grey, and Secretary may never have existed. The Image was cutting edge for its time and continues to be a genre defining moment forty years after its initial release. The uncut version is available on blu-ray and dvd. If you're looking forward to Fifty Shades, give this one a chance.