THE BOYS IN THE BAND
Director: William Friedkin
Stars: Kenneth Nelson, Peter White, Leonard Frey
Review by Gary Morris
If William Friedkin’s grim gay thriller Cruising (1980) continues to send some queens, leather and otherwise, into seizures, The Boys in the Band (1970), by the same director, has taken on the aura of a sacred text of modern queerdom. And rightly so. This scathing but ultimately sympathetic group portrait of a gay birthday party that virtually self-destructs before the terrified eyes of mainstream audiences was the first Hollywood feature to take a close-up look at queer culture. In spite of a plethora of topical or dated references — “midnight cowboys,” marihuana hidden in Band-Aid boxes, Maria Montez — the film is brilliantly acted and has an emotional clarity and power that hasn’t dimmed over the years. It was also a breakthrough in obtaining an R rating from the usually prudish MPAA, which the year before had given the dreaded X to both Midnight Cowboy and The Killing of Sister George, which mined some of the same territory.