By Richard Winters
My Rating: 3 out of 10
4-Word Review: Patronizing a gay bar.
It’s Christmas Eve 1970 and a year and a half after the Stonewall Riots that first brought gay rights issues into the national spotlight. However, the patrons of the local Blue Jay Bar are still feeling like second class citizens where dancing between two men is prohibited and those who have come out about their homosexuality are being rejected by their family and friends.
The film certainly does bring up some great issues, but unfortunately pales badly when compared to The Boys in the Band that came out just a year earlier. The direction lacks style and the dialogue is too generic to be riveting. The film also has no momentum as the camera simply cuts from one group of conversing people to another. The on-location shooting done at the Zodiac Bar gives the production a static, claustrophobic feeling since almost the entire thing takes place in one building. The lighting is also dark and shadowy and at certain points even out-of-focus making it all seem quite amateurish.
The action is minimal in what is otherwise a very talky 110 minute runtime. The best moment is when Gary Sandy, who’s excellent in his film debut, and playing a man in denial about his homosexuality becomes enraged when he finds that the woman he has been dancing with (played by Candy Darling who is also excellent) is actually a man, which causes him to drag her into the bathroom and beat her that in turn creates a huge riot that is genuinely tense and startling. The scene where a mother enters the bar and openly disavows her son after finding out that he is gay is also quite good, but should’ve been extended.
Fannie Flagg gets kudos for her highly engaging performance as a snarky lady who never seems at a loss for words or verbal comeback. The way she dances by giggling her large breasts up and done like they are rubber balls is a crazy sight. Rue McClanahan is also good as a bitchy, aging blonde and so is Dick O’Neill as a conservative old-timer who shows great disdain for the ‘pansy pad’ once he finds out that it is a gay bar, but then strangely is still reluctant to leave it. This also marks the film debut of Gil Gerard who appears briefly in a small role.
The film’s few good moments and overall impactful message are badly outweighed by Mervyn Nelson’s dull direction as well as its rambling narrative that lacks a central character and makes for a flat and tedious viewing experience.
My Rating: 3 out of 10
Released: October 27, 1971
Runtime: 1Hour 50Minutes
Director: Mervyn Nelson
Studio: American International Pictures
Available: Amazon Instant Video