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"Cruising" (1980)


jaragon
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William Friedkin's "Cruising" is a about a cop (Al Pacino) who goes undercover to catch a serial killer who is targeting gay .   The film was controversial even before it was released with protest led by gay journalist Arthur Bell.   I had caught the movie on VHS but was curious to see it again because Friedkin had done some changes for it's blu ray release.  The movie still really doesn't work as a thriller.  Pacino is not too sexy in his leather drag but the killer is attracted to men who look like him.  The murders are still violent and shocking -Friedkin seems to have inserted some sexually explicit cuts.  The various scenes in the clubs look more explicit than in the original cut.  Is the film homophobic- well yes and no. There is only one really gay positive character Don Scardino.  The leather scenes is erotically charged .   The killer turns out to be a Broadway queen with daddy issues but no clear reason is given for his need to murder.   Pacino is also given a token girlfriend (Karen Allen) who is seems to exist to show the audience that the hero is not really a homosexual he is just playing one . The movie is fascinating documentary about a New York that has vanished.  The supporting cast is filled with young actors including James Remar, Powers Booth and Ed Oneil.   The movie is still dark and depressing and  the plot would probably be one hour episode of Law and Order Special Victims Unit. 

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I remember the film and was living in NYC at the time.  One of my suitemates allowed her cousin or brother to room with her (illegal).  He used to go Cruising at night.  Excellent topic for gay pride month.  Has anyone here seen the movie The Boys in The Band or Long Time Companion?  There is so much to say about Hollywood stars and the closet.  I don't remember ever seeing Cruising and it is shameful that gay characters or homosexuals were portrayed in such a horrible light.  I also remember the baths in NYC (helped to make Bette Midler famous).

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On 6/8/2020 at 3:51 PM, TopBilled said:

Why did Arthur Bell protest it?

Bell was really against the negative portrayal of the gay community in the film- and he was right of course because at that time positive gay images were rare in mainstream movies and non existent on television.   Bell who was not only a journalist but had written a true crime book about the murder of gay man call "Kings Don't Mean A Thing".

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On 6/8/2020 at 2:07 PM, chaya bat woof woof said:

I remember the film and was living in NYC at the time.  One of my suitemates allowed her cousin or brother to room with her (illegal).  He used to go Cruising at night.  Excellent topic for gay pride month.  Has anyone here seen the movie The Boys in The Band or Long Time Companion?  There is so much to say about Hollywood stars and the closet.  I don't remember ever seeing Cruising and it is shameful that gay characters or homosexuals were portrayed in such a horrible light.  I also remember the baths in NYC (helped to make Bette Midler famous).

I've seen THE BOYS IN THE BAND. It was on YouTube a few years ago, but didn't stay posted long. I am glad I had a chance to see it.

Last year, if I am not mistaken, TCM had put it on the schedule during Pride Month, but then it was replaced by a Rita Moreno film called THE RITZ (1976).

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The special edition of "Crusing" is worth getting for the stunning image clarity alone- you can really see what's going on in those leather clubs now.  There are two good extras which go into the making and controversy surrounding the film.  The commentary by William Friedkin is a bit dry but he does explain why he made all these choices about confusing the true identity of the killer. 

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On 6/16/2020 at 12:00 PM, TopBilled said:

I've seen THE BOYS IN THE BAND. It was on YouTube a few years ago, but didn't stay posted long. I am glad I had a chance to see it.

Last year, if I am not mistaken, TCM had put it on the schedule during Pride Month, but then it was replaced by a Rita Moreno film called THE RITZ (1976).

One of the actors from "Boys in the Band" makes a cameo in "Cruising"

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  • 2 years later...

We are getting "free" movie channels from our TV provider with very little of interest on them, however CRUISING was on last night, so I looked at it.  I had seen it on VHS in the '80s and it remains unclear and repulsive.  ARTHUR BELL's keen interest in the film - and objection to it - was the film was partly inspired by his own articles for The Village Voice about a series of unsolved murders.   KAREN ALLEN is merely perfunctory and wasted.  Much is implied by the film, but nothing is explained.   I cannot relate if I know which character was the killer for sure, it is all vague yet ham-handed pseudo-psychology.

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I've never seen the film but, from what I remember, a copy of the script was leaked, giving gay activists time to organize and protest even as it was being filmed, so Arthur Bell definitely wasn't alone. The biggest objection I can remember is the claim that gay men were portrayed like vampires, recruiting "victims" to their ranks in order to survive and operating almost exclusively in the dark. (The "recruitment" charge against gays persists today.) The leather scene was another issue with some gay people who had always been nervous about being under the same umbrella; factions within movements seem to be inevitable and I know there were some who thought "we've come so far and this will set us back", etc., etc. Anyway, there were some high-profile protests in major cities. By the late 1970's there was some backlash building against "the gay movement" and an uptick in violence against gays, so it was a big worry that the movie would stir the s**t even more. The "Disco Sucks" sentiment that led to mass burnings of disco records in ballparks and other places also did double duty as a not-so-veiled anti-gay initiative, so fear was in the air on both sides. Not the ideal environment in which to make a movie about gays killing gays.

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18 minutes ago, DougieB said:

The biggest objection I can remember is the claim that gay men were portrayed like vampires

I don't remember any "vampire" remarks about the film; the content is seedy enough without it.  There was certainly plenty of public sexual activity in the film to offend, particularly "in the park".   There is a historical precedent as such activity yielded terms like "park fairies".   Also true is that significant advances had been made in Gay rights by 1980.  Unfortunately it was also the dawn of AIDS which had been called "the gay cold" just prior to the whole world seeing an epidemic that could no longer be ignored... which REAGAN did anyway. 

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2 hours ago, Allhallowsday said:

I don't remember any "vampire" remarks about the film; the content is seedy enough without it.  There was certainly plenty of public sexual activity in the film to offend, particularly "in the park".   There is a historical precedent as such activity yielded terms like "park fairies".   Also true is that significant advances had been made in Gay rights by 1980.  Unfortunately it was also the dawn of AIDS which had been called "the gay cold" just prior to the whole world seeing an epidemic that could no longer be ignored... which REAGAN did anyway. 

I got most of my info from Boston's Gay Community News in those days so that must be where I first heard the vampire comparison, Vito Russo also referenced the "vampire" criticism which had been leveled at the movie in his book The Celluloid Closet.

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