MISTY (ALMOST) INTACT!
To paraphrase one of Jamie Gillis’ lines in the movie, “They’ve left alone Misty Beethoven! They’ve left alone Misty Beethoven!” After side-by-side, shot-by-shot comparison of the new DVD version of the Henry Paris (Radley Metzger) classic with an old video that appears to have been made from an original release print of the film, only two short shots and the end title appear to be missing from the new DVD. Although the DVD case puts the running time at 86 minutes, the actual “clock” time of the feature on DVD is 84:22, which matches the running time of the old “release print” video within a few seconds.
That said, it must be noted that the original film (and the old video) are “widescreen,” with an aspect ratio of about 1.66 or 1.70 to 1. The DVD is not – it is full-screen, with a slightly enlarged, “pan-and-scan” version of the film. This is, I believe, because "Misty" (as well as most of Metzger's other porn films) was shot in Super 16. This process uses the space on the 16mm camera negative that otherwise would eventually be occupied by the soundtrack for additional picture area. This results in an aspect ratio of about 1.66 or something like that. So you get a "widescreen" image, which is then blown up to 35mm (matted) or slightly reduced to 16mm (matted) release prints.
Of course, all video transfers since the original ones (I also have an old Video-X Pix VHS copy) have been "pan and scan" full-screen. This might help explain some increased grain and noise, as well as a slight “softening” of the image on some scenes. Since the original image was only 1.70 or less to begin with, not much is missing from the image on the VHS and DVD, even though some of the framing does look even more severe than in the original. Interestingly, on the DVD, the black-and-white "flashback" scenes (where Misty is listening to/recalling her audiotaped instructions from Terri Hall, while seducing the "impotent" man in Geneva) are in the original "widescreen" format. So you can see and compare the widescreen and full-screen aspect ratios.
Now, as to what’s missing – not much at all! There are just two shots and the end title left out, making a total of eight or nine seconds of missing footage. The two missing shots (six seconds total) occur during the “Impotent Man/Geneva” sequence. The edit occurs in Chapter 14, at 46:41 into the film, as Misty is seducing the man, just after Terri Hall’s instruction to Misty to “kiss his nipple.” You can hear a jump in the music at the point of the edit. On the DVD, Misty then moves to kiss the man’s right nipple. What’s missing is (1) a shot of Misty kissing the man’s LEFT nipple, followed by (2) a “flashback” shot (in black-and-white) of Hall as she says into the microphone, “I’m gonna kiss his other nipple.” The next shot is the one in the DVD, as Misty moves from his left to right nipple and kisses it. I have no idea why the two shots were cut – perhaps the print used for the transfer had been damaged at that spot. Anyway, no great loss.
The only other “edit” is the end title, which simply isn’t there on the DVD, nor on most other VHS versions of the film, my Video-X Pix version included. On all of these, the music abruptly cuts out in mid note and the picture cuts to black. At the end of the “release print” video, however, the music continues to a natural end about three seconds later, as a “The End” title comes up, then fades out. What’s interesting, though, is that the “The End” title here is exactly the same as the one at the end of “Barbara Broadcast,” which was released a year later! Maybe it was a “rights” thing (about something on the original “The End” title) or, more likely, it was due to eventual damage to the printing elements at the lab, which can happen at the beginning and/or end of a film, especially if a lot of prints or reprints are made. Since, back then, the soundtrack negative was apparently still intact, they probably slapped on a copy of the other “The End” title from “Broadcast” – what the hell, they were both Metzger’s pictures from the same production company!
Other than some overly tight framing resulting from the “full screen” treatment, there’s not much to complain about here! In fact, a good look at the “widescreen” version reveals some scenes which were a bit tightly framed even then. Meanwhile, better, more experienced reviewers than I have had lots to say about “Misty Beethoven” and I wouldn’t want to get into their territory. My only purpose here was to talk about the edits and answer the “widescreen” question, which I hope I’ve done adequately.