After his partnership with Elite Entertainment, Don May decided to leave in 1998, and founded his own company, Synapse Films. May and new partner Jerry Chandler have released a genuinely eclectic array of movies on DVD.

The label's initial focus on horror and thriller titles has widened, in not only embracing other genres, but historically significant and controversial works as well - the most notable, perhaps, being Leni Riefenstahl's 1934 documentary/Nazi propaganda template, Triumph Of The Will.

And now comes the enigmatic Radley Metzger.

Starting off as an independent filmmaker as co-director (with William Kyriakys of the revenge drama, Dark Odyssey, in 1961), Metzger discovered the distribution system of the sixties were still heavily influenced by product from the Hollywood studios.

After investing a small fortune in his first feature and discovering theatres weren't willing to take a chance on a worthwhile, little drama, Metzger (with partner Ava Leighton) co-founded Audubon Films, and discovered success as an importer and distributor of foreign, arty skin flicks.

The alien languages and foreign bosoms were ideal for the art house circuit, and Audubon eventually rekindled the filmmaker spirit in Metzger himself, resulting in 1964's The Dirty Girls, his first directorial venture in 3 years.

With a wide audience base (sex always sells), Metzger's lushly photographed European productions revealed the writer-director-producer was more than an exploitationer.

Taking literary works - classic and contemporary - and investigating the nuances that comprise intimate human behaviour, Metzger's skill as director also elicited compelling performances from relatively unknown actors, and his grasp of cinema techniques inevitably led to projects that not only pushed acceptable taboos, but played with basic film structure and standard techniques.

The flashback nature of Therese and Isabelle (1967) eventually begot the intricate of Lickerish Quartet (1970), in which four characters not only discover a projected stag film elicits a different cast for each viewer (with themselves in different roles), but their respective realities blend with fantasy and murderous WW2 flashbacks elements.

One of Metzger's finest films, The Lickerish Quartet also followed the director's usual ploy of emotionally disrobing a handful of repressed characters. These explicit cinema-plays also pushed the envelope of graphic imagery, with Score (1972) revealing full frontal male nudity, but remaining inches away from the hardcore barrier.

Inevitably, Metzger had to face a difficult decision after Score, as his next cinematic choices were arguably limited: go mainstream, and submit to the studio system; make films within that safe pocket of R-rated erotica; or transform the hardcore adult format to suit his existing artistic desires.

The Image (1973) marks that final step before the director would disappear under the moniker of Harry Paris and direct 6 hardcore films - Naked Came the Stramger (1975), The Private Afternoons of Pamela Mann (1975), The Opening of Misty Beethoven (1976), Barbara Broadcast (1977), Maraschino Cherry (1978), and The Tale of Tiffany Lust (1981). While The Image film lacks graphic penetration, there's no doubt Radley Metzger used the film to test the possibility that a fusion of erotica, structured narrative, and hardcore elements could create a new and successful hybrid.

Given the decades that have passed since The Image's theatrical release, its reputation has endured as a bold work, yet its obvious controversial elements - graphic S&M naughtiness - have made it a tough movie to issue in any video format.

In an interview conducted in July 2002, Synapse Films' Don May kindly took the time between his ever-busy schedule to discuss the company's brave release, and some of the challenges he and the Synapse team face when preparing an independent film for DVD.

Mark R. Hasan : What actually brought The Image to your attention?

Don May : Well it was one of those things. I've been a fan of Radley's stuff for a while, and it kind of was this weird coincidence that has actually happened. One of the guys who works at First Run Features (which is the company that took care of most of Radley's films on videotape) was a friend of mine, and he came to us and he said, "Hey, you know, you should talk to Radley… The Image is really great, and it's too much for us to release." I mean, it's very explicit, and they said, "It's kind of something that's not up our alley… We can't really do it."

And I know that Image Entertainment, who put out the DVDs of his other materials like Therese and Isabelle, had also passed on the title because of its controversial nature. I got [Radley Metzger's] email address and I asked Radley, 'Hey, you know, I'm Don from Synapse Films, and I'd love to do The Image.'

And as soon as I emailed him - about two days later - another guy had just emailed me and had said 'I run this web site [Mondo Erotico] that is this sort of Radley Metzger site, and you guys should do The Image.'

All of a sudden it just came together in a week, and we ended up striking a deal with Radley and ended up getting the title, and it's been really, really great for us. It was a chance; we'd never done anything like this before, and we just decided to take a chance see how it would work out, and it's worked out really well.

MRH : I've seen most of Image Entertainment's Metzger titles, and I guess the transfers were made from the best available prints -

DM : Radley had offered me [his own transfers] as well for The Image that he had made, but me being the person that I am - I always like to have my hand in everything - I decided to go back and redo the transfers all over again.

In the case of The Image, I personally supervised it from the original negative. I think that's basically what [Image Entertainment] had done: Radley had given them masters to use for his releases, and they just took them. I think they were older masters that had already been done for a quite a number of years, and I don't believe they were anamorphic, and Radley just gave them the transfers and [they] went with it.

I, just being the person that I am - I'm a sucker for quality; I gotta have it the best it can be - said 'Hey, let's go the extra mile, and do the transfer again over from the negative. Can I?' And Radley was a little hesitant at first, [but] he relented and he said "Okay, go ahead and do it from the negative," and he sent me his actual negative.

So I think that's the reason why the Image Entertainment ones look the way they do (because they were dumped from older masters and not digitally remastered, brand new, like the one that we did).

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