›› Beefcake ‹‹

a film by Thom Fitzgerald.

1998 | 92 mins | Canada.

a homoerotic homage to the life and times of photographer Bob Mizer.

Dave says:

From filmmaker Thom Fitzgerald of The Hanging Garden fame, comes this homoerotic homage to the life and times of Physique Pictorial publisher, photographer and editor Bob Mizer; founder of the Athletic Model Guild of America and a man with a passion for erotic male photography, during a period of ingrained sexual prejudice.

Showcasing his life story, this docu-drama merges fact with fiction in the tale of Neil O'Hara (Joshua Peace); an innocent all-American boy who in seeking his fame and fortune in Los Angeles, is soon to find himself in front of the camera of one Robert Henry Mizer (Daniel MacIvor). Seemingly wide-eyed to the dubious activities of others around him, Neil's playful story is countered by the reality of Mizer's infamous arrest and subsequent trial. For it was the symbols that Mizer for reasons best known to himself, left on a series of photographs that were to be his downfall, given such gave rise to the claim of his involvement in a male prostitution ring, by way of their reference to the character attributes and sexual predilection of his models. Be it if you like and certainly in the eyes of the prosecution, akin to a hustlers' catalogue.

Frankly, it remains somewhat unclear as to what degree Mizer was knowingly an integral part of such. What is apparent, is that it would be extremely naïve to suggest that he was not aware that some of his models were earning - extra money on the side. Yet not all were of street trade origin. Indeed and for the main part, most were straight, proudly displaying their chiseled physiques unaware of any homoerotic overtones. Yet it was those very overtones that set Mizer on a different direction in life. For what had began as an agency for athletic models and reference photographs therein, soon evolved into the Physique Pictorial empire that his name became synonymous with.

As expected MacIvor of Whole New Thing fame excels in the role of Mizer. Yet and in as much as Peace, together with Carroll Godsman as Mother Mizer offer fine support, the real power of this piece comes not from the narrative, nor from the almost endless series of erotic excerpts taken from the Physique Pictorial archives that Fitzgerald delights the boys with. Rather it lies with the enlightening interviews with the models and fellow photographers of the time, who bring home how both their and Mizer's love for artistic and photographic freedom, was a direct affront to the moral values of the America of the day.

Based on the book by F Valentine Hooven III, the result is as much a tongue-in-cheek lesson on the history of American male photography, as it is a work overflowing, if not ejaculating with homoeroticism and in particular men both in and out of their posing pouches. That AMG's artful photographs morphed, as laws governing the male nude changed, into full frontal nudity was reflected in the photographic prints and short films of later years. Yet there's no denying that Mizer's earlier work showcasing hunky young men in various bodybuilding poses, wrestling with each other, or acting out improvised scenes remain highly popular to this day. Indeed, as a visual testament to such and the social attitudes of the era, this film is not only informative, but simply captivating. Need more be said?

›› revised: Tuesday, 9th November, 2021.

Gay Visibility - overt. 
Nudity - the full monty. 
Overall - file under ... 4 stars. 

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