FORTUNE AND MEN’S EYES
Director: Harvey Hart, Jules Schwerin
Stars: Wendell Burton, Michael Greer, Zooey Hall
Tom of Finland meets “Banana Splits” in the completely stupid Fortune and Men’s Eyes.
Doe-eyed hottie Smitty (Wendell Burton) gets six months in the Canadian clink for using pot. Smitty’s prison life initially seems much like a boys boarding school – roughhousing high jinx, buddies, power plays, and the lurking suggestion of male-male sex. He’s shocked to find, then, that gang raping is common, and is only preventable by being another powerful inmate’s exclusive bitch. Smitty reluctantly chooses to marry up with Rocky (Zooey Hall) who expects him to bend over and put out whenever he’s asked, and, when he’s not busy with that, make Rocky’s bed and fetch him hot drinks.
What’s worse, Smitty has to put up with Queenie (Michael Greer), one of the most annoying gay characters in film history. Inexplicably acclaimed by many critics for his performance in this film, Greer, who played the same role around four hundred times on stage, overacts beyond all acceptable limits, making Queenie a grotesque who gets on everyone’s nerves (especially the viewers) and who looks, incidentally, for all the world like Buffalo Bill from The Silence Of The Lambs. Things screech along desperately, climaxing with Queenie’s Christmas party drag show (yikes!) and a riot, murders, suicides, steamed-up shower scenes etc.
Dramatically, Fortune’s a mess, and unimaginatively adapted from the stage. Scenes are wholly contained within the four walls of various rooms of the prison, with characters engaging in non-stop dialogue before exiting to the left or right. Smitty is corrupted by sex and power, rising up the ladder in double time and turning the tables on weaker inmates who’ve supported him in the past - none of it is convincing.
What could have been a thrilling cross between Deliverance and One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest ends up as a cautionary, phys-ed tale about doing drugs in 70’s Canada with a completely incongruous and underdeveloped camp/homo tilt. There’s a miniscule shade of a white-hot Skott Bros. aesthetic but you have to look hard to see it.
But any nascent eroticism is spoiled by the inclusion of some horrible acting, redundant dialogue and a ear-raping Hammond-organ soundtrack, which intrudes shrilly at completely inappropriate moments. There’s the occasional speech or semiotic about homosexuality, male confinement and gender relations, but they don’t really go beyond the same kind of things that you’d find on a TV soap. Bizarrely, the inmates alternate between cornering and raping each other to indulging in pillow or water fights.
So despite any earnest intentions, Fortune’s interesting premise - sex and power behind bars - goes nowhere and as my viewing partner commented, you’re better off watching real seventies gay porn, as at least then, when aimless and disjointed scenes suddenly climax with sex, at least you get to see the sex.