Activist and writer Larry Kramer passed away yesterday at 84. Over the years, his writing was critically acclaimed and won many awards. But he’ll be remembered most for his unbridled activism. Kramer was on the frontlines when the AIDS epidemic began in the 1980s. He helped to form the Gay Men’s Health Crisis and later the more militant ACT UP. His approach was usually abrasive and confrontational. However, that anger was necessary in order to get people in power to implement changes. I enjoyed Kramer’s book Faggots and was moved by his play TheNormalHeart. I’m also very thankful for the battle he fought and the lives that it saved.
Iconic musician Stevie Wonder turns 70 today. He’s definitely one of those artists who created the soundtrack to our lives. I first discovered him in the 80s with “I Just Called to Say I Love You”. The song, from the movie The Woman in Red, was everywhere in 1984. It topped several Billboard charts and won the Oscar for Best Original Song. People, including me, just love Stevie.
“Fame, I’m gonna live forever!” Or for at least 40 years. Back in the 80s, Fame gave a fresh take on the big screen musical and instantly left a mark on pop culture. The movie follows eight students (musicians, actors, dancers) at New York’s High School of Performing Arts. Working from a script written by Christopher Gore, director Alan Parker captures all the highs and lows over a four-year period. Let’s remember, remember, remember, remember (yeah, I did it) Fame.
During the audition process we meet the fresh hopefuls looking to secure a spot at the prestigious PA school. Coco (Irene Cara) is a confident triple threat. Bruno (Lee Curreri) is the innovative musician. Lisa (Laura Dean) lacks confidence and direction, but still manages to get into the dance department. Shy Doris (Maureen Teefy) gets pushed into auditioning by her overbearing stage mother. She’s joined in the drama dept. by closeted Montgomery (Paul McCrane) and class clown Ralph (Barry Miller). Rounding out the group is Leroy (Gene Anthony Ray), who quickly impresses with his dancing. Parker cuts between the main characters and a bunch of other wannabes, establishing the culture of the school. Everyone is striving for something.
The kids arrive for freshman year (with the thoughtful “Dogs in the Yard” playing over a montage) where they discover that PA is not an easy school. It’s especially difficult for Leroy since he’s illiterate. I could have done without the stereotypical “inner city youth who can’t read and the hard-nosed teacher (Ann Meara) who pushes him to learn” storyline. But it was 1980, so what do you expect? Doris and Montgomery become fast friends as the awkward outsiders. She worries she’s not colorful enough for this school. Whereas he is trying to blend into the background.
The big rousing number in this year is “Hot Lunch Jam”. The students dance on tables, bang on the piano, and sing about macaroni and baloney. It’s a fun song.
Hilary (Antonia Franceschi) arrives on the scene in the dance department and promptly pisses off Coco by going after her boyfriend, Leroy. Lisa is kicked out of the department by her harsh teacher. We think she’s going to jump in front of a subway train, but she just dumps her dance gear on the tracks instead. I’m glad Gore spared the audience from the usual teen suicide story. It would have been too afterschool special. Meanwhile, Montgomery comes out to his drama class. A safe space for a gay guy if there ever was one.
Bruno is reluctant to share his music with others, so his enthusiastic dad, a taxi driver, steals his tape and blasts it from his cab outside of the school. In the most over the top musical moment in the film, students rush out of their classes and start dancing in the street, or on top of cars, as “Fame” plays. Off-screen the song was huge, going to number #4 on the Billboard Hot 100 and winning the Oscar for Best Original Song.
Doris comes out of her shell and rebels against her bossy mother. She also falls for Ralph, leaving Montgomery out in the cold. He expresses his loneliness with “Is it Okay if I Call You Mine”, a very pretty sad ballad.
My favorite song on the soundtrack, “Out Here on My Own”, is featured in this year. Coco’s vocals and the beautiful piano accompanying her are perfect. The track became the film’s second hit single and garnered an Oscar nomination for Best Original Song. It was the first time two songs from the same movie were nominated.
Ralph’s stand-up comedy career takes off, but his need to party like a Belushi after his shows hurts his personal life. Luckily, he comes down to earth before something tragic happens. Meanwhile, Hilary gets pregnant and decides to have an abortion. She won’t let a baby get in the way of her ballet career. On a better note, Leroy is offered a spot in Alvin Ailey’s dance company.
In the worst moment in the movie, a sleazy producer manipulates Coco into taking off her top for a “screen test”. She’s sobbing as the camera rolls. But there’s no follow up since we don’t see her again until the end of the film. I would have liked to see more of her POV. Without that, the scene feels exploitative. Maybe that was the point, to show how terribly young women trying to break into the industry are treated. Still, it could have been handled better by Parker and Gore. That’s actually a recurring problem I have with the film. They’re constantly bouncing around from character to character. I wish there was more of a plot and time to flesh out these stories.
The finale comes with the graduation ceremony and a performance of “I Sing the Body Electric”. Lisa, Coco, and Montgomery have solos, Leroy dances; and Bruno plays the piano, finally sharing his music with the world. The lyrics talk about looking forward to the you yet to come and knowing you’ll shine brightly then. It’s appropriate for these kids with their dreams of success, yearning to shed their old skin and be reborn as stars. I also like the arrangement with the full orchestra, rock band, and choir. The song does get schmaltzy, but it’s still works for me. It’s a touching end to the movie and a great sendoff for these characters headed towards their next chapter.
On Friday, May 9, 1980, Paramount Pictures released Sean Cunningham’s Friday the 13th. The low budget horror film about a serial killer picking off camp counselors was a surprise hit that year. It proved that a simple premise with genuine scares can go a long way. A thousand sequels followed, but none of them matched the original. Here are the five scariest moments from the movie.
5. Don’t Have Sex
The film opens at Camp Crystal Lake in the 1950s. An amorous young couple sneaks off to a storage room to get busy. They don’t count on a killer joining them. Not the kind of threesome you want. They’re cornered and quickly murdered. This is a prime example of why you shouldn’t have sex of any kind in a horror movie. But, if you do, have an escape route.
4. In the bathroom
Here’s one reason I’m not into camping: the bathroom situation. I have zero interest in walking through the woods to get to a toilet or a shower. Especially when a psycho could we hanging out in there. Marcie (Jeannie Taylor) thinks her friends are playing a trick on her, waiting to pop out from one of the shower stalls. The tension builds as we watch her pull back every curtain. But then, surprise, the killer is actually behind her and Marcie gets an ax to the face.
While Jack (Kevin Bacon) and Marcie were having sex (don’t do it!), a dead body was above them, on the top bunk, and the killer was underneath their bed. That’s a sinister sandwich. After Marcie exits, the killer drives an arrow through Jack’s throat from below. It’s disgustingly bloody. On a side note, back in the day I worked for Laura Kightlinger’s agent and got to know the actress/writer a little. Great woman. Laura worked on Will & Grace. Kevin Bacon guest starred on W&G. So that makes me two degrees away from Kevin Bacon. Kinda.
2. Kill her, Mommy, kill her
If you’ve seen Friday the 13th or the first Scream, you know that Mrs. Voorhies (Betsy Palmer) is the killer, out to avenge her son’s death. She seems like a sweet middle-aged mom when she pops up towards the end of the movie. But she quickly shows her crazy ways and it’s quite frightening, especially when she speaks in Jason’s voice. Mommy has gone around the bend. She chases Alice (Adrienne King) through the camp in a series of near misses. Alice manages to get the upper hand and chops her head off. In slow-motion.
1. Beneath the surface
After Alice has wacked Mrs. V., she decides to climb into a canoe and take a nap. Sure. She wakes up the next morning in the middle of the lake. Tranquil piano music plays as she looks at her reflection in the peaceful water. Then a deformed zombie-like Jason suddenly surfaces, dragging her into the lake. It’s one of the best last scares in a horror movie. If that doesn’t scare the bejezus out of you, you’re already lacking in bejezus.
In 1978, Jamie Lee Curtis starred in John Carpenter’s Halloween. The low budget independent film grossed 70 million at the box office, launched several sequels, and changed the horror landscape. It also made Curtis an in-demand actress. Not surprisingly she was offered several roles in horror movies. She made three that were released in 1980: The Fog, Prom Night, and Terror Train. To celebrate their 40th anniversaries I’m rating them based on their scares, the level of Jamie Lee-ness, humor, and the hot guy quotient. Very scientific.
Curtis and Carpenter teamed up again for this ghost story. Set in fictional Antonio Bay, Fog follows the locals as they prepare to celebrate the town’s 100th anniversary. Strange occurrences begin as an eerie fog rolls in from the coast. At the same time, Father Malone (Hal Holbrook) discovers a long-buried secret in the church. In 1880, the founders of Antonio Bay ambushed a ship that was coming to the area to establish a leper colony. The crew died and their gold was stolen by the founders to build the town. Now the ghosts of those wronged men have come back, in the fog, to seek revenge. JLC plays Elizabeth, a hitchhiker who arrives on this deadly scene after being picked up by Antonio Bay resident Nick (Tom Atkins). Another reason why you shouldn’t hitchhike.
Is it scary…?
Very much so. Just like with Halloween, Carpenter creates an unsettling suspenseful film. Yes, the special effects with the fog are hokey by today’s standards, but they do add an eerie factor to the movie. The ghosts popping up and dragging people away are also frightening.
She’s more of a supporting player here. The real star of the film is Adrienne Barbeau, who plays silky-voiced radio DJ, Stevie. She just happened to be Carpenter’s wife at the time too. But there is a cool bit of casting with Janet Leigh, Jamie’s mother and fellow Scream Queen, taking on the role of the town member who is organizing the centennial celebration.
Nancy Loomis, another actor from Halloween, plays a deadpan Sandy. She throws out a lot of great one-liners to liven up the mood.
If you consider Atkins hot, more power to you. I’m not quite sure why he was chosen to play Curtis’ love interest when there’s a very noticeable 23-year age difference between them. Aside from him there’s not much to look at man-wise here.
A group of preteens accidentally kill one of their classmates. Sidenote, you shouldn’t play in old abandoned schools with broken windows that you can easily fall through. The four friends vow to keep the accident a secret. Too bad someone else witnessed the deed. Six years later the four friends are attending their senior prom. There’s bitchy Wendy (Anne-Marie Martin), prudish Kelly (Mary Beth Rubens), dorky Jude (Joy Thompson), and sweet cute guy Nick (Casey Stevens). The story also focuses on their dead classmate’s sister Kim (Curtis). Her family never got over her loss, but they’re trying to put it behind them for the sake of prom. As you do. Unfortunately, a crazed killer is out for revenge and will be attending the dance too.
Is it scary…?
Well, sorta. Prom is very slow and takes a long time to get started. An hour goes by before someone from the main cast gets murdered. In fact, it’s more like a teen drama with its soapy relationship plotlines. But the movie does have an intense sequence where Wendy (who looks and acts like a low budget Nancy Allen) is chased through the school by the killer. There are a lot of near misses that keep you on the edge of your seat. Another helpful hint, if you’re hiding from a killer, try not to scream loudly and draw attention to yourself.
This is a good role for Jamie even though she doesn’t really get into the action until the end. Up until that point she just walks around looking creeped out, while the killer comes after her classmates. When she and the psycho finally have a run-in, he tries to kill Nick and she has to rescue him. It’s a nice change from the usual horror set up.
There’s some unintentional comedy. The “Disco Madness” theme for the prom really kicks in when Kim and Nick do an elaborately choreographed dance number. Who knew Jamie Lee could do the robot? It’s all…something. But I must admit that I really like the song (“Prom Night”) that they’re grooving to.
Stevens supplies most of the eye candy with his golden curly locks. Also, Kelly’s boyfriend, Drew (Jeff Wincott) may be a jerk, but he’s cute.
A fraternity prank gone wrong leads to murder. Has there ever been a fraternity prank that has actually gone right? Doc (Hart Bochner), Mo (Timothy Webber), Ed (Howard Busgang), and Jackson (Anthony Sherwood) lure their naïve pledge, Kenny (Derek MacKinnon), into a darkened room with the promise of a hookup with a girl, Alana (Curtis). But instead Kenny finds himself cozying up to a corpse. The trick traumatizes him and he’s sent to a psychiatric hospital. Three years later, the fraternity throws a huge party on a train for New Year’s Eve. What they don’t know is that a killer is also on board and taking them out one by one.
Is it scary…?
From the beginning, the movie sets an ominous tone. Being trapped on a train with nowhere to escape from a killer is frightening and claustrophobic. The lighting for the film is often very dark, making every corner a potential hiding place. Plus, the party on board is a masquerade, which equals creepy masks.
This is the only movie of the three where JLC receives top billing. She is featured in the majority of the scenes, fighting with her boyfriend or running like hell from a psychopath. In the last act, she has to evade the villain while being trapped in a small train car and then a cage. She plays the tension well.
Again, there’s some unintentional humor courtesy of David Copperfield. He’s the magician (a stretch) who has been booked for the party, doing tricks while cheesy disco music plays in the background. It’s like if Travolta did magic. I couldn’t help but giggle.
There’s some interesting chemistry between fraternity brothers Doc and Mo. Doc spends most of the trip trying to break up Mo and Alana. At one point he stares intensely at his bro and reminds him that if Alana leaves him, Mo still has him. I bet. The movie needed more scenes like this. You could also say Copperfield is hot. It worked for supermodel Claudia Schiffer.
The documentary Scream, Queen! My Nightmare on Elm Street thoroughly delves into the history of A Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy’s Revenge and the effect it had on its star, Mark Patton. It’s an interesting look at how a movie can change someone’s life for better or worse.
In the first Elm Street, a group of teenagers are stalked and killed by boogeyman Freddy Kruger (Robert Englund) in their nightmares. Nancy (Heather Langenkamp), the final girl, survives and defeats him. The movie did extremely well at the box office and led to a sequel being rushed into production. Part 2 strayed from the original’s formula though. For starters, the final girl was replaced with a guy, Jesse (Patton). That wasn’t something you normally saw back then. Also, Freddy wasn’t just haunting Jesse, he wanted to possess him and escape the dream world. The movie was moderately successful compared to the first. The biggest critique, mainly coming from straight men, was that it was too gay. They weren’t that off base.
In the film, Freddy wants to “get inside Jesse’s body” and his interactions with his prey are quite homoerotic. Then there’s Jesse’s possibly gay gym teacher, Coach Schneider (Marshall Bell). Jesse dreams about running into him in at a leather bar. Later, Schneider is stripped (rare male nudity) and whipped with towels. Seriously. There’s also the notion that Jesse (and Patton) wasn’t masculine enough. It was said that he was too sensitive and screamed like a girl. The criticism negatively impacted Patton’s life. At the time he was a closeted actor trying to make it in Hollywood, so he worried that being associated with anything gay would derail his career. This was also 1985, the height of the AIDS epidemic. Gay equalled diseased and ultimately blacklisted. Patton discovered he was HIV-positive and retreated from acting. He went off the grid and moved to Mexico.
The documentary cuts to the present day with Patton coming to terms with Freddy’sRevenge. He’s still hurt by the jabs about his performance in the film and blames one person in particular, the screenwriter. For decades, David Chaskin denied that he purposely put gay elements into his script. Instead he inferred that Patton made the movie gay. But he never had a conversation with Patton about it either way. Luckily, the documentary captures their long-time-coming meetup. The film also shows Patton interacting with his former castmates, going to horror movie conventions, and doing Q&A’s after screenings of Freddy’sRevenge. You see that he’s accepted the legacy of the movie and Jesse. Yes, he still has issues from his past experiences, but he has been able to move on and create a good life for himself outside of Hollywood. Instead of becoming bitter he has a sense of humor about the situation. Plus, the once panned movie has now become a cult classic for many.
I like that Scream, Queen! co-directors Roman Chimienti and Tyler Jensen also focus on the overall appeal of horror movies to gay audiences. Many of the interviewees are fans of the genre who talk about escaping from their own harsh realities through these films. As outsiders, they find strength in seeing the protagonist fight back and beat the evil that is out to get them. It’s even more meaningful when a gay character or theme is added to the mix. The filmmakers show how powerful it is when a horror fan can identify with these movies with one fan mentioning how Jesse inspired him. Hopefully, in the future there will be more final “out of the ordinary” guys in horror movies and it won’t be so scary.
Yesterday it was announced that actor Roscoe Born had passed away. He was known for his roles on soap operas like One Life to Live, Ryan’s Hope, Days of Our Lives, and The Young and the Restless. Being an OLTL fan, I remember him as the villainous Mitch Laurence. I missed his first run in the 80s, but caught him when Mitch returned from the dead (wouldn’t be the last time) in 2002. Mitch lied, cheated, blackmailed, kidnapped, assaulted, and murdered his way through Llanview. At one point he started a cult and called himself The Messenger, seducing followers into doing his bidding. He really was a son of a bitch. Yet, he was very entertaining. The success of the character was because of Born. He was an incredible actor that made you love to hate Mitch as opposed to plain despising the guy. Of course, you wanted the heroes to win, but you enjoyed seeing Mitch torture them a bit. It takes a smart charismatic actor to pull that off. It helped that he was quite handsome and had a delicious voice. I’m glad I got to see Born in one of his defining roles. He’ll be missed.
The late screen legend Elizabeth Taylor would have turned 88 this month. She left behind an incredible legacy as an actress, businesswoman, humanitarian, and activist. She was also a stunningly beautiful woman. It’s no surprise that she had eight husbands. In fact, the world was fascinated by her personal life and all the men she captured. I’m more into her movies, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof being a particular favorite, but that’s another post for another day. Let’s focus on the shallow stuff and rank her husbands.
8. Conrad Hilton Jr.
Conrad Hilton Jr. was Elizabeth’s first husband. On paper, he seemed like the perfect catch. A young, handsome, hotel heir. He and Elizabeth got married in a huge ceremony that was covered extensively by the press. Unfortunately, the fairytale ended quickly. Elizabeth realized that her new husband was an abusive heavy drinker. She divorced him after only 8 months of marriage. Conrad was like the first pancake of her husbands. He didn’t turn out right, so she tossed him in the trash and tried again.
7. Michael Wilding
Michael Wilding may be the least know of her husbands. He was a mildly successful actor, twenty years her senior, and fairly bland. But I guess he was a step up from Conrad. The marriage went downhill as her career took off and his lagged behind. Similar to A Star is Born, but less entertaining. After five years they were done.
6. John Warner
I wonder if Elizabeth was imaging herself as the new Jackie Kennedy when she married politician, John Warner. Going on the campaign trail may have seemed like a novel concept to a movie star. In any event, this was no Camelot and he wasn’t as handsome as JFK. Liz was soon bored with her life as a senator’s wife in D.C. She passed the time boozing, taking pills, and eating. Luckily, she got a divorce and went back to Hollywood.
5. Larry Fortensky
The substance abuse that began during her marriage to Warner eventually led Elizabeth to check into the famed Betty Ford clinic where she met her next husband, Larry Fortensky. They fell in love and got sober together. What a sweet meet-cute story. The marriage didn’t last long though. Larry, a construction worker who came from simple means, didn’t enjoy being “Mr. Liz Taylor”. There are worse things. Like, his mullet.
4. Eddie Fisher
Eddie Fisher and his wife, actress Debbie Reynolds, were best friends with Elizabeth and her third husband, Mike Todd. After Mike’s tragic death, Eddie “comforted” a grieving Elizabeth. They began an affair that led to Eddie leaving Debbie, America’s Sweetheart, and marrying Liz. Of course, Debbie got the last laugh when Elizabeth dumped Eddie for her Cleopatra co-star. Karma is a Burton.
3. Richard Burton
Elizabeth and Richard Burton were married twice. So, he counts as husband #5 and #6. The second marriage lasted less than a year and was uneventful, so I’m putting it at #3 on the list. Follow that? More to come below.
2. Mike Todd
Producer Mike Todd was Elizabeth’s 3rd husband and at the time she called him the love of her life. He was as big and over the top as his productions, which included Best Picture winner Around the World in 80 Days. He liked the spotlight and making a show of things, so he and Liz were a good match. Plus, he lavished her with jewelry, including an ornate ruby necklace and diamond tiara. Elizabeth once said that the best thing about him, though, was that he made her feel protected and loved. It’s sad that they didn’t get to spend more time together. He died a little more than a year after they married.
1. Richard Burton
Elizabeth’s love affair with Richard Burton began on a dramatic note. They left their spouses for each other causing the tabloid press to lose its mind. The Vatican was also playing close attention since they denounced the couple, charging them with “erotic vagrancy”. Should the Church really have been throwing stones from its glass house? After divorcing Eddie, Liz and Richard rushed to the altar. The next ten years of marriage were filled with elaborate vacations, tons of jewelry, kids, 11 movies together, and raucous partying. There were also many fights. The press didn’t call them the Battling Burtons for nothing. In the end, though, they had a deep love for one another that lasted long after their union ended.
In theory, Cruising probably sounded like a great idea 40 years ago. An exciting thriller directed by Academy Award winner William Friedkin and starring celebrated actor Al Pacino. It should have been a winner, but instead it became one of the most panned films of 1980. Where did it all go wrong?
Th film is set in New York’s gay S&M and leather scene in the late 70s. A serial killer is picking up men, having sex with them, and killing them. Police Captain Edelson (Paul Sorvino) assigns officer Steve Burns (Pacino) to go undercover in the gay community to catch the murderer. As Steve delves further into the case, he begins to lose himself in the world he’s inhabiting and grows distant from his girlfriend Nancy (Karen Allen).
Friedkin wrote the screenplay by drawing from a few different sources. There was the novel of the same name written by Gerald Walker in 1970. I’ve read it and it’s horrible. Zero redeeming qualities. Much of it is told from the POV of the killer who is extremely racist, homophobic, and sexist. So, it’s not fun to be in his head page after page. Luckily, Friedkin only used the outline of the novel and threw out the rest. There were also the real-life murders in the 70s in NYC. Several gay men were brutally killed, dismembered, and placed in trash bags that were tossed into the Hudson River. Friedkin studied Arthur Bell’s articles in the Village Voice newspaper chronicling the case. At one point a suspect, Paul Bateson, was arrested, but it was never concretely proven that he was the killer. In a crazy coincidence, Bateson appeared in a small role in Friedkin’s film The Exorcist a few years before Cruising came out.
Friedkin took all of these elements and blended them together. Unfortunately, the concoction is messy. First, the script is uneven. It starts off with a great premise for a murder mystery, but quickly gets lost. There are a lot of scenes that go nowhere with Steve wandering through the bars or other cruising grounds. We see his wide-eyed reactions to the supposedly crazy things he’s seeing, which comes off as comical rather than suspenseful. As the film progresses, he becomes more uncomfortable with his assignment, but we don’t know why it’s messing with his head. Is he actually gay? Does he like this new scene he finds himself in, which scares him and causes him to retreat from his girlfriend?
In the third act Steve zeroes in on a suspect, Stuart (Richard Cox), a college student in the city. We’ve seen glimpses of him in earlier scenes, but now the audience learns that he’s a closet case with father issues. Not very original. He could be killing these men because he hates himself. Or he’s doing it to appease his disapproving father. His motivations aren’t revealed. It’s also confusing because in earlier scenes featuring the killer he appears to be played by a different actor. Were there multiple murderers? This leads to an open ending where Friedkin makes us suspect the Steve could possibly be the killer. I’m not asking for everything to be spelled out, but it can be dissatisfying when a film gives you more questions than answers. It has been reported that Friedkin had to remove a lot of footage from the final cut in order to avoid an X-rating. Maybe the answers were lost with those edits.
Even though Pacino was a great actor doesn’t mean he was the right guy for this film. For one, he was too old. Not that 40 is ancient, but it’s a leap from the 30-year-old that he was supposed to be playing. Plus, he was looking particularly rough at this point. Maybe from working so much over the past decade. Then there’s the fact that his character is supposed to hide behind the persona he’s taking on while undercover. But when you have a well know actor with very identifiable characteristics, you can’t see anything but him. As a result, there’s no real transformation. Pacino also has a tendency to overact. He’s dialing it up to a 10 when a 5 or lower would have sufficed, like the scene where Steve does poppers and dances. Wow. Richard Gere was actually interested in the role and was in negotiations with Friedkin, but Pacino came along and inadvertently pushed him out. Gere would have been a much better choice. Physically he fit the character more. Plus, he wasn’t very well known at this point in his career and could have easily disappeared into the role. On the other hand, if Gere had been cast, he might have missed out on the opportunity to star in his breakthrough film, American Gigolo, that came out the same year.
If gay activists had their way, Cruising would have never been released. From the moment the film was announced, they condemned it. The thinking was that it would portray the gay community in a negative light: depraved, immoral, and psychotic. There was also the fear that the movie would inspire copycat killers who would target gay men. When production started the protesters arrived on set as well. Crowds of people yelled, banged on pans, or blasted air horns. As a result, the actors’ dialogue for scenes shot on location had to be dubbed in post-production because they couldn’t use the sound. Some gay bars refused to let Friedkin shoot on the premises, wanting to avoid any ties to the backlash. I understand where the protesters were coming from, but I think they should have waited to see the film before trying to take it down. Instead, after Cruising was released, they urged theaters not to show it and a handful complied. Reviews from critics were also extremely negative. The movie made 19.8 million at the box office. Not a total bomb, but far from a hit.
Not everything about Cruising is wrong, though. For one, it captures a time in New York that can never be replicated: the gritty 70s era. It’s one of the best periods. The city was dark and dirty, but it had great character. I like seeing the neighborhoods, parks, or old businesses that have since changed. A few of the leather bars allowed Friedkin to film inside and their patrons were featured in the background. It’s interesting look in on this moment in gay history, post-Stonewall and pre-AIDS.
The movie also has an incredible soundtrack. In the 70s, gay bars, even the leather ones, were playing disco. Friedkin decided that music didn’t fit the film he was making and replaced it with hard rock and punk. The soundtrack features bands like the Germs, Rough Trade, and the Cripples. It really works. For a story about a serial killer you need sinister music blaring at you. I bought the deluxe vinyl re-release last year. Mutiny’s “Lump” and Willy DeVille’s “Heat of the Moment” are two of my favorites.
In the end, Cruising isn’t terrible. There are worse things out there. Did I mention the book? In addition to the locations and the music, the film is shot very well. There’s a charismatic group of supporting players, like Don Scardino (Ted) and Gene Davis (DaVinci). And, it’s a memorable film. It stays with you. Probably because you’re still seeking answers to all those unanswered questions. Yes, it definitely could have been executed better, but I actually like it for what it is, including the flaws.
I saw this meme earlier today and rolled my eyes. What a load of crap. How is that Rue McClanahan (aka Blanche Devereaux) at 50 is somehow less desirable than JLo at the same age? Rue was a vibrant beautiful woman at the time. She also helped to change the perception, in the 80s, that women of a certain age weren’t sexy or sexual. She effortlessly made 50 fabulous. Plus, she did it without having to get on a pole.