Films Of The Year

1972 has been a year when less feature films have been made than ever before, and this may have something to do with the fact that what films there were, were of a consistently high standard. The lack of money, and audiences has seen further massive closures of cinemas, particularly Rank Organisation Odeons, and vast areas of suburban London are now without filmic jollification. Where cinemas remain, seat prices have risen, and it is unusual to pay less than about 50p for your evening’s entertainment. As a confirmed film freak, I still believe that there is no better way of spending an evening than at your local Classic or ABC. The bleak hollows of Haverstock Hill, South Harrow and Burnt Oak look even more morose without their garish red Odeons, and thousands of old age pensioners and bored teenyboppers have lost their only escape from sordid reality. The lack of money on the production side has meant directors have tended to make their movies on location, which has greatly added to their realism. Most of the really fine films, because of the ever crazy, impossibly unaware, monopolistic cinema owners in this country, have hardly been shown. Furthermore, advertising by the ABC chain in the local press, the means most people use to find out what’s on at their local cinema, has been sparse and uninformative to the extent of killing many potential successes stone dead.

The British film industry, except for its slight over enthusiasm for making comedy films based on TV series, has produced some splendid films, free from foreign finance and specifically British. I don’t mean this chauvinistically; several films such as Family Life and Made have really managed to get to grips with life in Britain as it’s lived today. Clockwork Orange about the Great Western World urban disease, greatly benefited from being made here.

My British film of the year is Dulcima, written and directed by Frank Nesbitt and starring John Mills and Carol White. Based on a short story by H. E. Bates, John Mills beautifully characterises a gregarious, ageing, naturalistic farmer in the West country, who falls in love with a girl from the farm down the valley, who comes to clean his ramshackle pigsty of a house. Both White and Mills give a simple, charming, loving performances as the oddly assorted couple, in this realistic yet fantastic, funny yet sad, little film, with its unyielding affection for the beauty of the English countryside and its real characters.

The American cinema has undoubtedly entered a new phase during 1972. The flamboyant, ridiculous, Hollywood wealth image has finally been irrevocably overthrown, and a new wave of fast, realistic, made where they happen, entertaining films with a widespread appeal has taken its place; the two best examples are The French Connection and Prime Cut, The former set in New York, successfully combines a documentary picture of New York with the exciting story of the relentless search and tracking down of a drug ring, by a tough cop. Prime Cut does the same thing for modern rural America, being a gangster movie set in Kansas.

The traditional Western too, continues to change beyond recognition, from the dull patriotic crap for which those hallowed names John Ford and Audie Murphy, were in various ways responsible. The transformation is magical and gives us in 1972, two totally contrasting Westerns. One Chatos Land, directed by Michael Winner, is a tough, deliberate, visual, thinking masterpiece about a half breed Indian who is relentlessly and insanely pursued by racially crazed townsfolk, who finally perish in the desert. The moral overtones of the movie, which suggest that the oppressed will finally secure the demise of the oppressors, through the justness of fate, have many parallels with present day minority problems, and the fact that society will inevitably, illogically, crucify those who are different, who don’t fit in in some way. Charles Bronson’s performance as the half-breed is deeply haunting and the bullies are superb characterisations. Winner’s fine direction and visual style makes fantastic use of the scenery, and creates a masterpiece of realistic suspense.

The other outstanding Western Dynamite Man from Glory Jail, directed by Andrew McLagen and starring James Stewart and George Kennedy, is effectively a big send up of, if you excuse the phrase, the Western myth. The story concerns three old style bank robbers who are released in the early twenties, after serving forty years.

The film is a delight with its array of eccentrics, believable sentimentality and sympathetic affection for its characters that makes Dynamite Man from Glory Jail my second place film of the year.

There have of course be«n some real bummers, like Michael Winner’s The Nightcomer, based on Henry James’ Turn of the Screw. It altogether had the appearance of being made during the three days Michael Winner had in England, between making Chato’s Land in Spain and The Mechanic in Hollywood. One is so used to expecting so much from Winner, that this version of the story, made without the slowness and careful thought and atmosphere necessary to this type of subject is just a big let down. Historical/Epic film of the year is Lady Caroline Lamb, see my review in this issue.

Another real bummer was The Godfather, a gigantic con that tries to make out the Mafia are really quite nice people. In fact they’re really the nice family in Golders Green you’d like your daughter to marry into. It’s also about 2 hours too long and downright boring. There was also the dreadful Rentadick, 92 minutes of meaningless banter that was so bad it’s very celebrated script writers had their names removed from the credits. Talking of overrated films, you’d think Fuzz was another Godfather. Really it’s a kind of mildly amusing American ‘Carry on Constable’ without the camp. If it’s Burt Reynolds you fancy, you’d far better see him in Deliverance. His acting is as bad as ever, but nevertheless, it’s a worthwhile film, an adventure drama about pollution and a nightmare canoe journey four men make down America’s last unpolluted river.

Other notable films this year were, from Australia, Walkabout and Outback, which in their own ways showed the horrors of that land very succinctly. Comedies: there were two very original and entertaining products; The Ruling Class, a bitter satire on the English upper classes, their strange habits and ridiculous way of life, with Peter O’Toole as a schizoid Earl who believes he is, and acts out Jesus Christ, and later on Jack the Ripper. Pulp is a send up of just about everything from Hollywood to package holidays, with Michael Caine and Denis Price sending themselves up beyond the point of no return. On the musical front, both Cabaret and The Boy Friend were outstanding and novel examples of the genre. The Boy Friend is my musical of the year. Certainly Ken Russell’s most successful effort, it is a charming, escapist, camp pastiche of the 1930’s and that period’s theatre and musical films.

Every year there seems to be one film which shakes everyone who goes to see it into a rigid appraisal of their lifestyle and attitudes. Last year it was Sunday Bloody Sunday, this year Billy Jack, which most unfortunately has hardly been shown outside central London due to the vagaries of Columbia-Warner. Story aside, Billy Jack is about the need to evolve a different lifestyle, within the practical limitations of the reality in which we live. Set in contemporary mid-West America, Billy Jack is half Indian, half white man and is hated and bullied by the local townspeople because of the way he protects the wildlife they want to shoot, and his involvement with the free-school in the desert outside the town. A school where all kids can go and do and create what they like, away from their parents who paranoically seek money, goods and success. The crux of the film lies in the scenes where the kids go into the town and are stoned by those jealous of their freedom, and in the unrehearsed, unscripted segments where some of the townsfolk are invited to the school to air their grievances in discussion. Again a highly moral film, in which the oppressed ultimately react violently to the oppressors, the parents. Billy Jack played by Tom Laughlin who also directed the movie, is a man neither black nor white, rich nor poor, or interested in making money. He therefore doesn’t fit into any of the ghettoes. Films like these are far more relevant to gays, than obviously homosexual movies like Fortune and Mens Eyes, since they clarify our position in society. It desperately cries out for a quick change in our attitudes to all those who are not good, money-loving, white, middle-class citizens. It is now up to you to persuade your local cinema manager to show what I would say is the film of the year.

Gay Life Behind Bars

Is Prison The Answer?

Is prison the answer? is a question that has been asked much more over the past decade in relation to gay people who fall foul of the law, and whether it serves any useful purpose. Many views have been expressed by a variety of people, but rarely have they got deep down to the root of the problem. The main reason for this is, I believe, because they have been speaking as outsiders — although they have not been against gays. In fact in some cases they have been themselves active gays.

The fundamental reason they have not been able to answer this problem satisfactorily is that they have not experienced at first hand the rigours of prison life.

On the other hand, I have been a guest at one of Her Majesty’s more exclusive colleges, and, therefore, feel capable of trying to answer the question I have posed.

Firstly, however, let me put the record straight by stating that I was given my sentence for buggery and indecent assault with a 14-year-old boy, who I must say was completely willing to all that took place, and this was taken into account by the judge when he passed the minimum sentence permitted at the time.

His words were that he was sending me to prison where I would receive help so that when I was released I should be able to take my place in society without being a danger to other young boys.

I did not relish the thought of spending the next 15 months in prison, but made up my mind to make the best of it.

Before my trial I had spent 11 weeks on remand most of which was spent in the prison hospital wing, a procedure which all gays sent down go through.

While in the hospital wing, I was interviewed by the senior doctor, but not by anyone else, and his was the only medical evidence submitted by the prosecution to the court, although a full medical report had been called for.

My interview with him had consisted of giving all the details I could recall of the illnesses I had suffered since birth, what I had done at school, what lessons I had liked best what I had done since leaving school, and that was that.

The only medical examination I received was on my first reception at the prison. For this I was told to strip to the waist and wait in line. When my turn came I was taken in and told to stand in the line and give my answers to the doctor who was seated behind a desk.

The examination then preceeded as follows: Doctor: “Lower your trousers”.

This I did.

Doctor: “Are you fit?”

“Yes”

Doctor: “Right, wait outside.”

At no time did he ever attempt to give me a proper medical check. I could have been suffering from the most dangerous disease for all anyone was bothered.

After this I was taken to court for further remand each week for the next five weeks, and on returning to the prison was weekly seen by the doctor, who asked just one question: “Are you fit?” And, on receiving my reply of “Yes”, sent me back to my wing.

This, then, was my experience of prison up to time of my trial, so I was quite prepared, in view of the judge’s words in passing sentence, to be subjected to a much more rigorous medical even to the extent of being seen by a head-shrinker.

However, I soon realised that this was not to be so, as on my first day I was seen by the governor who allocated me a job (mailbags, of course), was photographed for the prison records, given a haircut and allocated to my cell.

This was not, as one might have expected, a single cell to keep me from having a sexual relationship with a cell-mate, but a three-bed cell where I soon became aware that the two boys were gays, and it was not long before we were all sleeping in each other’s beds, something the night screws (prison officers) were aware of and turned a blind eye on, even though they had every chance to see what we were doing through the inspection spy hole or by the continual creaking of the iron beds, which in itself was enough to keep them awake all night.

Among the prisoners were a number of YP’s awaiting Borstal allocation, and these young chicks were generally employed as helpers for the cleaners.

I had not been in residence many days before I became aware that all the cleaners were gay, as were also the bathhouse attendants, and these cleaners, having completed their duties, would retire with at least two of these young boys. One of these boys would stand casually smoking snout while the other was on the bed having sex.

It was not long before any doubts I might have had as to these boys being seduced were dispelled. They were, in fact, willing participants — and even, in some cases, the seducers in these daily occurences — and this was carried out, I feel, with the full knowledge and even consent of the officers whose responsibility it should have been to see that such acts did not occur.

It could therefore, be assumed that they were either:

  1. Negligent in their duty;
  2. Felt it was better to leave the thing alone and let the inmates have what sex they could;
  3. Were gays themselves.

In my experience, I would say that the third reason was in the majority of cases the truest, and it should not be surprising seeing that in a way they were just as much prisoners as the inmates, and seeing all the men and boys all day long every day.

You may be under the misapprehension that these were isolated incidents, but let me hasten to dispel these thoughts from your minds.

Whenever a cleaner was transferred to another prison or was released, he was immediately replaced by another gay who carried on the tradition. This became even more apparent when a new wing was opened at the college I was attending, for I myself was given the post of number one cleaner, a position which carried a red band (trusty) and was given a list of names of those classified by the authorities as suitable for the cleaners, and as I knew most of them I could not fail to notice they were all gays. So I just picked the youngest group I could, together with eight YP’s to assist them. For this I was taken to their dormitory to select them and I just picked upon the best looking.

It was not long before I and my colleagues had got on friendly terms with these boys and were taking them to our cells to make love to them and I found that most of them were extremely experienced and always very keen to please and be pleased. Often during the day we used to have baths and showers as our wing contained its own bath-house and the boys would often join us and stand with us under the showers.

This was done with the full knowledge of the officers who would tip us off whenever the government was paying a visit, or if a group of visitors was to be shown round, but otherwise they just didn’t seem to care.

At the time I write of, it was against prison regulations for only two persons to share a cell, but since the change in the law many prisons have complete landings designated as married quarters where gays live together, just as they do outside.

Readers will, by now, have realised that far from reforming a person, prison only assists to take him further into the gay world.

That is something which I feel none of us would want to see changed. The only change now needed is in the law relating to consent. After all, it is antiquated to say that a girl is old enough to consent to sex at the age of 16. Or that a boy and girl can get married with their parents’ consent at 16, or without it at the age of 18.

Surely it is time that the politicians of the Land of Hope and Glory came to realise that a boy of sixteen is just as capable of falling in love with another boy or man as he is with a member of the opposite sex. So what is the reason for making him a criminal until he is 21?

Although the law has in part been changed, gays are still being sent to prison for pederasty, importuning, or committing an act in public. But, whether you believe it or not, one overriding fact emerges. Once a person has a prison record it stays with him for the rest of his life, and he will find it difficult to obtain a decent job or, if he does, to keep it, for the fuzz will always inform on him whenever they get a chance. So for that reason I shall have to remain anonymous except to my close circle of friends, who will be able to recognise me from what I have written.

Love to you all and keep fighting for our rights.

Some of the photographs used in this feature are stills from Fortune And Men’s Eyes, released in Great Britain by MGM-EMI. All the others show the realities of prison life.

Undergrinspoon Movies

While the lovely JD Grinspoon is just collecting her things together for her nightly troll down Wilton Road, I just thought I’d pop in and tell you all of the wonderful gay movies they’ve been showing in London.

The ICA is a haven for us gays with weekend doubles of Andy Warhol’s Lonesome Cowboys (1968), My Hustler (1965) and Chelsea Girls (1966) showing regularly along with Kenneth Anger’s Scorpio Rising (1964), the gay movie that started all the gay movies.

With the exception of some commercially financed and marketed ‘gay’ movies, such as The Boys in The Band, I Want What I Want, Fortune and Men’s Eyes, Some of My Best Friends Are… no gay movie has been given a reasonable circuit showing (ie nationwide) by Rank Voyeur Services or Electricity Means Income Theatres – with the possible exception of The Killing of Sister George – which was a cop-out in every way, I feel.

Warhol’s delicious Flesh (1968) was given a reasonable length screening at the Essoldo, Chelsea, but now the Essoldo group has disappeared into the Classic group, a group that’s learned that there’s gold in them thar safe programmes and bingo halls, when they’re not busy turning perfectly good cinemas into Tatler wank clubs.

Trash (1969) has still not been given a proper public showing in Britain. Stephen Murphy, the secretary of the British Board of Film Censors, and Jimmy Vaughan, the movie’s renter in Britain are still haggling over the cuts that should or shouldn’t be made. None should. Not that Trash is a specifically gay movie, but its star, Joe Dallesandro (see This Months Rent) is enough to keep this boy’s eyes glued firmly to the screen.

What happens with these beautifully made movies is that they say too much for people like Murphy, who’s besieged on one side by liberals and on the other by “responsible Christian gentlefolk”.

Flesh sat on the censor’s shelves for a couple of years before it was finally given an X-certificate. It deals with Joe, who has to go out and hustle on 42nd Street to earn money to buy his girlfriend’s girlfriend an abortion.

Trash has been sitting around since last year when it was given a limited showing at the London Film Festival. As all showings then were booked solid within a few days of the announcement, very few people ever got to see it.

What’s put the shits up Stephen Murphy isn’t a scene where Joe, a trash-picker from the very worst of Greenwich Village in New York, fixes with heroin — a horrifying scene which made my boyfriend pass out at the time – but a scene where Holly Woodlawn, a drag queen, jerks off with the aid of a beer bottle because Joe’s incapable of anything approaching sex, he’s too full of junk!

This was the scene which provoked the usually staid, prim and generally harmless Margaret Hinxman, the alleged movie-critic of the Sunday Telegraph to exclaim: “I think it’s disgusting, and it should be banned. What I thought was really horrible was the bit where the girl masturbates with the beer bottle.”

Holly Woodlawn is a drag queen.

Chelsea Girls, which has been running at the ICA Club for rather longer than this reporter cares to remember is a very lengthy (210 minutes) and alternately boring and screamingly funny piece of Andy Warhol’s dissection of Amerika.

Flesh and Trash were made under the banner of the Warhol workshop and directed by Paul Morrisey, who’s brought big-pic production values to the workshop. His movies are “better-made” than Warhol’s own but no less interesting.

Chelsea Girls, My Hustler and Lonesome Cowboy all predate the arrival of Morrissey at the Warhol workshop. The movies are bittier, not so technically well-made, but often funnier.

As I’ve said, Chelsea Girls was for me, largely a bore. I found I started watching the screen with the soundtrack and then drifting off onto the silent screen alongside it. Often the dialogue on one screen doubles for both. In places then, it was funny. But, I would add that 75 per cent of the audience left by halftime.

My Hustler was very disappointing. I’d wanted to see this movie about hustlers on Fire Island, starring Paul America, for years. When I saw it, it looked like two reels rescued from the centre of a home-movie. Paul America is almost enough to make up for the disappointment.

Lonesome Cowboys comes last because it’s the funniest movie ever made perhaps. Obviously the entire cast and crew were stoned out of their heads when they shot this — everyone’s having so much fun. So many lines were fluffed, so much is ad-libbed. More than anything else it’s got a nice gay story-line. This group of cowboys ride into town, and they’re immediately picked up by the local equivalent of Barbara Stanwyck — Viva and her pimp, Taylor Mead.

Needless to say the cowboys are fucking each other from one end of the range to the other. So they tell anyone they meet they’re brothers, to try and create a good impression.

Their usual group sex activities are interrupted somewhat by Viva trying to get off with each of them in turn. The result is hilarious. Boys to watch are Joe Dallesandro and Tom Hompertz and anyone else that takes your fancy.

That brings us to Kenneth Anger — who GN will interview as soon as possible.

Anger was making movies at the age of 16. They’re still not certificated although his Scorpio Rising is the untimate in motorbike/S&M flix which uses intercut pieces of movie footage of Brando and Jesus to make the neo-Nazi cult thing not just frightening but funny.

MESSAGE TO ALL OUT OF LONDON GAYS: These movies are only on display at the ICA because the place has found a loophole in the censorship law. As a non-profit-making charity it may show uncertificated movies for two days or less without harassment.

If you can’t work the same fiddle in your area, join a film society and demand that they’re shown, the BFI, the film society’s fairy godmother will back you to the hilt. These are the movies film societies should show. Not middle of the road, harmless pap like Elvira Madigan.

Peter Holmes

Forthcoming Attractions

At the time that GN9 went to press Censor Murphy and Trash’s distributor in Britain were still deadlocked over what — if any — cuts should be made from the movie before Murphy will grant it an X-certificate.

Inside sources at the censors’ board tell GN that it’s not the drug sequences that are worrying Mr Murphy – for instance, a full-frontal heroin-fix – but the sex-deviance angle that emerges most when Holly Woodlawn masturbates with the beer bottle.

Had this latest in the series of deadlocks not happened the Classic group had planned to open Trash at the Classic Curzon, Chelsea, some time in late September.

Before Gay News was even a newspaper, a German movie-maker called Rosa von Praunheim asked the GN collective if it would distribute (in the UK) his movie called It Is Not The Homosexual Who Is Perverse, But The Situation In Which He Lives.

It Is Not The Homosexual etc is to get its first London showing at last — at the National Film Theatre, which means it’s a members-only do. It shows on Wednesday October 25 and Thursday October 26. After each showing there will be a discussion about the movie, in which people in the audience can take part. People invited to take part in the discussions include the director, Derek Malcolm, George Melly, the Campaign for Homosexual Equality, the Gay Liberation Front and Gay News.