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Tuesday, July 26, 2011

CRUISING


I first saw this movie on Encore Movie Channel was I was 10 or 11 years old. A lot of people have a hard time believing this fact, but my parents were/are fucking clueless so they paid zero attention to the amazing shit I watched during this period. Back then Encore could only afford gritty low brow 70's/80's movies for the most part, and Cruising is in no way an exception. When the IMDB listed this DVD release in an ad on their frontpage I went out the same day and bought it. Its a peculiar film documenting a pre AIDS facet of gay culture, and I steadfastly believe its an important time capsule of a very strange time and place. Watch the trailer below:


This movie is off the hook, would I lie to you? Watching that gives you a rough idea of what this film is about, but I will give you a little more in depth plot summary anyhow. A serial killer targeting gay men is prowling New York's heavy leather scene. Enter Steve Burns (Pacino), an ambitious and charismatic rookie cop who matches the appearance of all the deceased making him a shoe in to lure the killer in an undercover operation. Offered a straight promotion to Detective once the assignment is complete, he jumps on board. The assignment leads him on a spiral of discovery into a strange and seedy world of cruising and bars where any fetish imaginable is played out in front of your eyes. As the film progresses, it becomes clear that Steve Burns is diving into a world that he begins to find more and more appealing...

During a conversation with his girlfriend (played very well by Karen Allen) about his new job hints are given that Burns might be a closeted homosexual. This makes his leather bar journey more interesting for me as he goes from being a nice "average" guy with a girlfriend into the most extreme scene of gay underground culture possible and simply can't contain himself any longer. While this film is today considered an important document to a time where AIDS was just about to become a horrific epidemic, it was not always held to such esteem by people. The modern gay rights movement was finally gaining steam around the time this film was being produced, and there were many in the movement who tried to routinely sabotage the production any time filming was in progress. Everything from picketing to standing on top of building with mirrors and reflecting light into shots to fuck them up were a regular occurrence. See the documentary on the DVD for more info on this portion of the film's history, its pretty interesting stuff.

This is one of those movies everybody knows about or heard about somewhere along the way but has never seen. I'm really glad this finally got a DVD release as the VHS was long gone and its presented here in widescreen format (not sure if any of the old laserdisc releases were widescreen, chime in if you know, or don't as nobody really comments on here anyway) along with a feature length commentary by director Friedkin giving various (and sometimes hilarious) insights into the production of the film.

One thing I cannot comment on is how this film differs from the novel of the same title (authored by Gerald Walker in 1970) on which this film is reportedly rather loosely based. Highlights of the film include the fact that all of the leather bar sequences were filmed in REAL leather bars with REAL leather bar patrons, a very early cameo by Powers Boothe, the film debut of Ed O'Neil (better known to us as Al Bundy from the tv series Married With Children), an unusual appearance of a song by LA punk band The Germs playing outside of a jerk off booth right before one of the murder sequences, and the fact that this is a movie that Al Pacino REFUSES to speak about whatsoever which is too bad because its one of his better movies I think. All that and a little Joe Spinell mixed in for good measure.

Oh yeah, and this scene:


WHO IS THAT GUY!?!


WARNING: A DISCUSSION INVOLVING A PLOT SPOILER IS ABOUT TO TAKE PLACE BELOW, SO SKIP TO THE BIT WHERE IT SAYS IT IS SAFE IF YOU HAVE NOT SEEN THE MOVIE.

One thing the plot is never quite clear on is whether or not the dude Al Pacino subdues is in fact the wanted man. If one simply follows the plot as is then yes, however with repeated viewings this unravels somewhat. How is this so you ask? I will try explain as best I can. If you look closely you will notice that the killer is played by a different person every time. Sure they have the same voice, same murder weapon, and of course the same outfit, but let me break it down to you: The voice doesn't matter so much. It could be anyone's voice. The murder weapon was a steak knife from practically any restaurant in New York City, and they all had the same outfit. What does that all add up to? The leather scene depicted in the film is a scene that is all about anonymity. One leather daddy looks much like another in a sea of motorcycle jackets and blue jeans. The so called "gay clone" look is in full swing in the cruising circuit at the time and who's to say who really murdered who? Political pressure forced an arrest at any cost so in actuality the cops grabbed the first man they caught with evidence and pinned all the other killings on him while who the hell knows how many random psychos were still killing in the scene. See what I'm getting at?



OKAY DISCUSSION OVER, BELOW IS THE SAFE AND SPOILER FREE ZONE I SO DUTIFULLY PROMISED YOU.





There now that wasn't so bad now was it? No I thought not. Cruising is a strange and dark cop thriller when it all comes down to it. Its one of Friedkin's stranger film outings before he started making super 80's cheese. Some of you won't like it at all, some of you will think its okay, and some of you will think its great. That's all I can really say about it. Now because I love you all so very very much, I have added a special treat to this post: THE SOUNDTRACK! I hope to convert other vinyl only soundtrack tidbits for you in the future so have no fear. It was released in 1980 by Lorimar Records but only featured 10 tracks. This one features a wallopping 16, which include the other five songs The Germs recorded for the film (of which only the song Lions Share was used out of the six) and a suite of Jack Nizsche's film score lifted off the movie itself as none of it was included on the lp. The track order is completely wrong despite my best efforts to correct it which really pisses me off, but this ost is not awfully common and if you really want the proper running order that bad you can do it yourself. Oh, and whoever made this file decided to put dialogue samples before many of the tracks, these are not present on my original lp copy but you're getting it free so who cares. Enjoy yourself by clicking here

2 comments:

  1. Cruising is one of my top 15 movies. Very Sleazy and very giallo-esque in my opinion. The soundtrack indeed rules and is one of my favorites. The Cripples were a amazing band. I own the LP.

    I actually caught this movie late one night on Cinemax when I was 13-14 years old and I loved it and became obsessed with tracking it down with no luck until the DVD came out which was a godsend.

    Awesome review though. Keep up the excellent work!

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  2. Our most sincerest thanks to you! Keep on stopping by, we'll keep rolling out the hits.

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