By Richard Winters
My Rating: 9 out of 10
4-Word Review: This party turns sour.
A group of gay men get together for an intended night of food and laughs as they celebrate Harold’s (Leonard Frey) birthday. Things begin to unravel when Alan (Peter White) appears who was an old college roommate of party host Michael (Kenneth Nelson). He insists that he is not gay, but Michael and the rest of the group intend to prove otherwise, which leads to many harsh and interesting revelations.
This film packs a wallop and is as relevant and daring now as it ever was back then. Director William Friedkin does a terrific job of making this story, which was originally an off-Broadway production seem cinematic. I loved the capturing of the apartment, which makes you feel like you are right there.
The performances are outstanding and all are the original cast from the stage production. Cliff Gorman as the flaming gay personality is a particular standout. The script by Mart Crowley is captivating from beginning to end as it brings out all the different personalities and myriad issues that make up the gay community and the whole thing is a tour-de-force on all levels.
My only complaint would be the character of the Cowboy played by actor Robert La Tourneaux who is the dim-witted, but good looking ‘gift’ giving to Harold for his birthday. I realize the intention is to make him a bit dumb, but it gets overdone. It’s one thing to be an ‘airhead’, but a complete other thing to sound so stupid it’s like he is from another planet. His character is the only one that does not get fleshed out at all and his utterly inane comments come off as hollow and annoying. Ironically La Tourneaux was unable to find many acting parts afterwards and became a gay prostitute in real-life by the late 70’s in order to make ends meet.
The characters are believable and the dialogue moving. It’s a compelling study of those feeling isolated from society and sometimes even themselves. Even if you are not gay the film can still have a great impact and its quality viewing either way.
My Rating: 9 out of 10
Released: March 17, 1970
Runtime: 1Hour 58Minutes
Director: William Friedkin
Studio: National General Pictures
Available: VHS, DVD