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.
The incomparable Quentin Crisp (1908-1999) shared a birthday with Jesus and was played by John Hurt in 1975’s The Naked Civil Servant, adapted from Crisp’s memoir of the same name.
The Queen of interwar Old Compton Street, he starred with Helen Mirren, among others, on the London stage before moving to the United States where his dinner parties became legendary. He played Queen Elizabeth I opposite Tilda Swinton in 1992’s Orlando and appeared as a party guest in a scene of the same year’s Philadelphia.
Imperiously disparaging about everything from AIDS (”a fad”) to Princess Diana (”vulgar”), he wrote a classic series of film reviews for Christopher Street magazine, some of which are reprinted here at Outrate. For more information, please visit the Quentin Crisp website, or purchase the anthology of Quentin Crisp film reviews, “How To Go To The Movies”, here.
June was a month of debauchery.
During it, I watched two films in one week, one wantonly with a movie maniac and the other in the line of duty with your Mr. Steele. The one that my movie-mad friend chose was called Man, Woman and Sin. Two days later, I saw Mr. Babenco’s masterpiece, Kiss of the Spider Woman. Though this was screened in an upper room on Broadway for the most highbrow critics in the land and is as sordid a tale as you will ever find (however hard you try), the woman sitting next to me laughed delightedly throughout the entire two hours of its showing time.
Kiss has glaring faults but none that, in my opinion, make it ludicrous.
Perhaps we should deal with these errors at once and quickly so that we may dwell at length on the film’s remarkable virtues.
Spokes is an absolutely sensational, white-hot gay porn classic. A team of five cyclists - “The Club” - pull in at an abandoned barn to initiate a new member by gang fucking him half to death. According to club tradition, the first guy to get a hard on fucks the new member first, then the rest follow. Cheeky Mark Hunter plays the insatiable inductee, and Lee Ryder springs a quick fat one and is the first cab off the rank. Little do they all know that a well-hung drifter - played by a clone who looks like he’s on his way to a Skatt Bros. audition - is hiding behind a hay bale, ready to emerge and join in the private fun.