The Biograph Review

01-197205XX 6In these days of rush and constant turmoil there is a definite need for one to be able to sit back and relax. And where better than at the pictures. I find three hours in front of the silver screen with ones favourite stars feeding those fantasies all of us have. Nowadays though there are so many films around that it is quite easy to miss something one really wanted to see, and an excellant little cinema for catching up on things one has missed, and re-seeing old favourites is at the Biograph in Wilton Road in Victoria.

Mind you though dears, it sometimes attracts the strangest people. More often than not it attracts boozers, for what else is the answer to the fact that so many people have to continually rush off to the convenience to receive themselves of a full bladder of beer or gin. l’m partial to a drop of gin, but I like to think that I can keep it inside of me long enough to have a little bit of a rest.

Another minor discomfort at the Biograph is that many people find after paying their admission that the film wasn’t really their cup of gin, sorry, tea after all; that makes many people restless and seemingly so bored that they get what can only be described as a kind of ants in your pants of the cinema, as people are continually changing their seats. Mind you they could just be seeing old friends, for many people arrive on their own but quite often leave with an aquaintence or relative or something like that. A friend did tell me though that some people find that the occassional faulty seat and lack of arm-rests make it very uncomfortable for some people.

Anyway back to the films. In what will be, I hope, a regular feature in this lovely paper, I will let you know what goodies are showing at that little haven just by Victoria Station.

Unfortunately the paper went to press too late for me to tell you of an especially intriguing feature starring that super John Wayne. Oh! what a masculine name. The epic in question is The Commancheros. John Wayne is such a gorgeous man and actor. Sad too is that you probably also missed a chance of seeing The Damned. This is a very strange film, set in pre-war (2nd) decadent Germany. And dears, the most peculiar things happen in it. Men dressed up as women is just one of the fascinating delights that come dancing from the celluloid. at least the beer drinkers and relative finders were some how oddly quiet and stilled by this tomfoolery on the screen.

Commencing on Thursday 22nd June there is that darling Simone Signoret thrilling us all in The Confession. A drama, if ever there was one. Support feature is the prophetic You Can’t Win Them All with dolly Tony Curtis.

The Sunday show on 25th June is a sailor film, Sink The Bismark, where those brave, virtuous, strong and well built boys in navy blue battle those nasty Germans and their big boat. Second feature is a newy for me, I Deal In Danger, which is an apt title for a film showing at the Biograph on a Sunday. It gets so crowded you can hardly find a seat, lots of laps but no seats.

I must say I find the air conditioning wanting at limes, so do most other patrons, most have their coats off and over their knees as soon as they get into the cinema.

Monday 26th June’s attraction is Loot. Such a queer film, involving a questionable relationship. I’ve seen it many times.

The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes is showing on 29th June for three days. It’s as well Sherlock did keep some of the incidents that are depicted private. Very indiscreet film it is, shocking at times, but I like it.

The Inspector and Nine Hours to Rammer, sorry Rama, is the Sunday show on 2nd July; followed on Monday 3rd July by A Severed Head, kinky movie about everyone forgetting who their loved ones are, but they all seem quite happy, especially the two ladies.

A future attraction to make a note of is The Amorous Virgin. It’s a first for me, missed it when it was at that nice cinema just off Picadilly,

Before I leave you this time, I’d just like to tell you of one of the extra material comforts to be found at the Biograph. They keep the lights on quite bright so you can find anything you have dropped, and it does make it easier to find ones bits and pieces when leaving. Look after yourselve dears. Bye for now.


  • The Biograph, Wilton Road, Victoria, SWI.
  • Thursday 22 June
    The Confession AA with Yves Montand and Simone Signoret.
    You Can’t Win them All A with Charles Bronson and Tony Curtis.
  • Sunday 25 June.
    Sink the Bismark U with Kenneth More.
    I Deal in Danger U with Robert Gourlay.
  • Monday 26 June.
    Loot X with Richard Attenborough and Lee Remick.
    The Secret of Santa Vittoria AA with Anthony Quinn and Anna Magnani.
  • Thursday 29 June.
    The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes. A with Robert Stevens and Colin Blakeley.
    Ordered to Love X with Maria Perschy.
  • Sunday 2 July.
    The Inspector A with Stephen Boyd.
    Nine Hours to Rama A with Robert Morley.
  • Monday 3 July.
    A Severed Head X with Lee Remick and Richard Attenborough.
    I Walk the Line AA with Gregory Peck and Tuesday Weld.
  • Thursday 6 July.
    McKenzie Break AA with Brian Keith.
    Take a Girl like You X with Oliver Reed and Hayley Mills.
  • Sunday 9 July.
    Charge of the Black Lancers U with Mel Ferrer.
    The Amorous Virgin X with Marisa Solinas.

Gay Film Busted in New York

01-197205XX 6New York City police seized Fred Halstead’s SEX GARAGE, a gay porno film, at the 55th Street Playhouse on April 14th. It is called ‘seizure’, but if you saw it happening you’d probably call it by some other name.

What happened was this; NY city police served the management of the cinema with a subpoena made out in the name of Moon Enterprises, demanding that the film be shown to court officials to determine whether it was of a distinctly abusive and debasing nature, and therefore illegal and outside the broadly legal spectrum of pornographic film shown in dozens of theatres in NY. But Moon Enterprises is the former, not the current, tenant of the Playhouse, so the subpoena was invalid.

The judges reaction to all this was to throw up his hands and say, “Work it out with the District Attorney”. And that means de facto that the film can go on playing for months (or as long as the customers keep paying) before the jury ever gets hold of the case. In the meantime, the film is doing very well indeed at the box-office and in its first week grossed over $20,000 (over £8,000)

In their more or less regular raids of pornogrinds, police have been leaving the explicitly gay theatres untouched. But a perceptive look at Halstead’s Sex Garage, a sado-masochistic (S-M) film, and its co-feature L.A. Plays Itself which was not seized, explains the change in policy. Both are films which begin with a gay S-M consciousness toward their subject matter.

It’s not that homosexuals are anything new in movies. John Schlesinger’s films have frequently portrayed male homosexuals from the point of view of straights, or, worse even, from the point of view of homosexuals who look self-denigratingly at themselves through some imaginary version of heterosexual ‘eyes’. This can lend the films the air of reporting (in the true liberal fashion) on the cutting edge of changing sexual mores, while still holding up their characters as curiosities. Billy Wilder too has featured faggots in many of his films. Again, they’re seen from a straight point of view, but Wilder has had the decency to never hold his own characters up to ridicule. As a straight dealing with gays, he has consistently been compassionate or left well enough alone.

What Halsted has done is to make a radical demand; homosexuals must recognise that their own view of themselves is the only one with which they can comfortably carry on their lives. They must get over that self-destructive impulse to accept the thought-controlling prejudices of the straight world. Further more, they must begin to show the straight world that a homosexual consciousness is in fact part of their (the straights’) everday world too. It is present everywhere. It is interpreting the billboards which sell commodities and line the streets of Los Angeles (Birmingham) and every other American (British) city. It is giving new erotic meaning to casual gatherings in the city’s parks.

Sex Garage is like a homosexual La Ronde (the Ophuls film, remade by Vadim). In the butch environ of an automobile repair shop shop a girl seated in a Mazda gives a young stud a blowjob. Intercut with her sucking are shots of details oft are shots of details of the car. Can he be fantasising these while she works on him? The stud then turns around and screws the chick. This scene is intercut with shots of a Mercedes Benz. Now clearly a Mercedes is more desirable as a commodity than a Mazda.

Sex Garage and L.A. Plays Itself represent therefore a very radical threat to the heterosexual domination of Planet Earth. The films, apart from their arousing pornographic intent, (and God knows they could stimulate a myopic mule, including the one sitting next to me in the theatre… ‘Excuse me sir, thats my leg’) constitute a liberating rallying-cry to homosexuals.

Is Halsted implying that one type of sex-act is preferable to another in some absolute scale of sexual values? But the Mercedes actually arrives at the garage, and from it steps z another boy, a masochist. Roughly the stud fucks him, during which he entertains masturbatory fantasies of a motor-cycle, which in fact arrives on the scene moments later.

What is happening here is simple. Halsted has played with certain cinematic editing conventions, making unclear the function of the motor vehicles in the film. They can be representing either fantasies or actual vehicles by which people connect together in the far-flung parts of L.A. as they run from one orgasm to the next. All of this builds to the film’s final shot of masses of cars bumper to bumper on the freeway. All are driven by actively-fantasising men and women, passing their days linking orgasm bumper to bumper with orgasm.

The seizure of Sex Garage is based on a rather primitive notion of the effect that film has on viewers: that the viewers can accurately penetrate the metaphors which enshroud the ‘real’, that they are powerless to resist the ‘message’ that is hidden there, that once having received the message their behaviour (bereft of other stimuli) is determined by it and accords with its dictates.


The above article was written by Mitch Tuchman and is taken from a recent issue of Cinema Rising. Many thanks to them both.

What follows is a section of a letter (received by a member of the Gay News collective) which reviews the films in a different and possibly more personal context. Many thanks to Manus Sasonkin for his permission to print this part of his letter.


An Afternoon at the Cinema

‘In the afternoon, I attended, for the first time – ever – a cinema which was showing a double bill of gay ‘pornography’. The films, Sex Garage and L.A. Plays Itself, were virtually interchangeable, except that Sex Garage had been photographed (appallingly) in black and white, whereas L.A. Plays Itself had been photographed (no less appallingly) in glorious colour. There was no attempt made in either film to tell a story; neither was there any attempt made to create (let alone develop) any characters. Both films displayed extremely pretty young men, copious amounts of masturbation, detailed accounts of fellatio, and the occasional anal penetration. My favourite episode (which was from Sex Garage) involved a comely young stud standing in a shower-bath, masturbating, whilst the sound track issued Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desire in the piano transcription of the late Dame Myra Hess.

Elsewhere the bodies were all attractive. and the activities which the bodies performed caused me to feel wistful and just slightly covetous; but the impersonality of all the encounters – the total lack of human (as opposed to physical) contact – depressed me, and caused me to feel nobly justified in hailing declined the attentions of a Piccadilly Cruiser on my recent visit to London. Seeing the films helped to convince me that, for me at least, sex without human involvement is futile, barren, unrewarding, and – in the last analysis – more frustrating than gratifying.’

It is unlikely that either of these films will be shown in the British Isles, however, as is obvious here, different people react differently to ‘gay’ films. And it occurs to us, with further relaxation of censorship, if seems likely there will be more films with a more explicit ‘gay content’.

There have been in the last few year a number of films on general release portraying the homosexual stereo-types, and in the showing of Some Of My Best Friends Are… the first attempt to cash in on gay audiences in this country.

We of the collective have varying ideas as to the possible good that may come from these developments in the cinema, and would like to know how you feel about and react to this.