Wednesday, October 03, 2007


What is it about 1979-1980 that just won't go away the past couple of weeks?

Okay, I gave in and bought the Cruising DVD this week. There was something deliciously subversive about nabbing it at a Best Buy next to all the copies of 30 Rock and The Office. It plays pretty much exactly as it did when I last saw it 27 years ago. My memory has fuzzed nothing, but the context is all different. When I saw it in a dim screening room in 1980 with a bunch of middle aged straight guys I sat transfixed while they laughed non-stop. This time I sat transfixed and laughed non-stop.

Who'd have guessed Al Pacino was such a deft comedian? The scene of him dancing with the other guy as they growl and chew on a skanky hanky is one of the most knee-slapping hilarious moments ever committed to celluloid. Some folks implied that he distanced himself from the flick for being perceived as gay in real life, but nothing confirms his pure hetero orientation as well as that scene. And he called that dancing? Stop it, Al, I may bust a gut laughing! The other hilarious bit is that Al's character is described as "a man in his late 20s." Yeah, right, and I'm a high school senior.

The interviews with the people behind the movie are pretty odd, as is the film itself, making you wonder who in the world they thought would see it. Gene Davis, the brother of Brad Davis, is rather memorable as a leather clad tranny in platinum wig and pumps. He's a fierce tranny with a heart who's tired of crap from the cops, a much more positive image than the one in Dressed to Kill from the same year.

What's easiest to overlook is that the film has some of the best music ever in a gay oriented movie. I'd take this soundtrack over the one from The Birdcage any day. No ABBA, Gloria Gaynor or other crap that sends this homo out the door. Actually some pretty cool minimalist proto-punk tunes. If they played this at Badlands, I might actually go there.

It's surprising that it never found a midnight movie audience, since some of the lines just call out for audience response, especially the killer's "You made me do it," which makes want to sing out "...and all the time you knew it/I guess you always knew it./You made me happy sometimes, you made me glad." Since I've always despised The Sound of Music, I've never had the slightest desire to go to one of those damned sing-a-longs. However, a sing-a-long Cruising is a Saturday night to remember in my book. Hey, the killer was a music theater major at Columbia anyway. You bring the amyl nitrate, and I'll bring the whips.

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At 11:44 AM, Blogger WAT said...

I hear this movie is a bit depressing. What I do love about Al is his incredible versatility at playing all kinds of roles. WHAT AN ACTOR!

Dog Day Afternoon, Angels in America...the dude certainly hasn't had a problem playing gay/bi men which many dumb actors today still shy away from.


At 11:55 AM, Blogger Ladron de Basura said...

WAT - Having nearly 30 years of distance makes this a bit less depressing. If you've never seen Frank Sinatra in "The Detective" -- made a good 11 years earlier and on a similar theme (downtown gay life, albeit minus the leather) -- it actually has a more enlightened and amazingly progressive view a full year before Stonewall. It's one of Sinatra's best roles, and he makes an unexpected a case for treating fags with respect.

Actually I really do love Al. He managed to be intentionally funny in Angels in America and made me not exactly come away liking Roy Cohn but seeing that he had varying levels of emotion. It was, to me, an honest portrayal, not just making him a monster.

At 7:25 PM, Blogger jason said...

I've never really had an iclination to see this, but your description of the music makes me curious!

At 12:57 AM, Blogger Gavin Elster said...

I remember this being a late night staple of the old scrambled tv signal "cable" station "ON TV". I havent seen this film since that time. Looks like I need to pick up this dvd.

At 11:31 AM, Blogger m00nchild said...

I saw this at the Castro Theater a few weeks ago when they debuted the 70mm digital version. I'd never seen it before. Sure I'd seen the famous stab in the back scene as depicted in Vito Russo's the Celluloid Closet -- but not the entire movie.

I found it to be very interesting. On the other side of the late 70s/80s divide I appreciated the movie as an artifact -- not just of gay culture (and str8 perceptions of gay culture) but also of how many movies from that time period possess a sort of sham grittiness. drama with a canned laugh track. or something.

And I did ask friends of mine who are a bit older, if the crazy sexual bar scenes were in any way like the real nightlife back then. Everyone said: "No. They were much more crazy in real life"

At 3:06 PM, Blogger Ladron de Basura said...

Jason - It repels, it compels. You try to look away but can't.

Gavin - I'd suggest watching it in between "Dressed to Kill" and "The Eyes of Laura Mars" over a glass of white Zinfandel.

m00nchild - I was old enough to have been around, young enough to have come at the very, very end of this era. It was like coming to the party just after last call. You saw it falling apart but still felt the blast of it, like the wind from the last car of a runaway train. Maybe that's why I have such a strong reaction against Folsom Street Fair, it feels like such a tepid imitation of the real thing.

At 10:42 PM, Blogger Gavin Elster said...

You mean a box of zin?

At 10:51 PM, Blogger Ladron de Basura said...

Gavin - Well, yes, how else do you get Zin. Ah, the Zen of Zin. Of course, I would have to put on some Basia to get my groove going. Basia is so Euro-Jazz!

At 6:00 AM, Blogger kimy said...

have to agree with jason, never saw the flick, but your description will have me putting it on hold as soon as I get home. and to hear the soundtrack is good - more icing on the cake.

pacino is an amazing actor - and I've rarely missed any of his films.


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