a film by William Friedkin
1970 | 118 mins | US
›› The Boys in the Band
a poignant reflection of self-pity and denial.
The Boys in the Band by William Friedkin In many ways this film needs no introduction, given it is one of the most famous and certainly most contentious, of all gay works.

Adapted by playwright and producer Mart Crowley from his award-winning 1968 stage play and proudly saying it like it was back in the days when gay rights were still being fought for, this emotional piece tells the story of a group of friends who gather party style to celebrate the life of acid tongued birthday boy Harold. Yet the evening turns out to be anything but upbeat, as feelings of self-loathing surface when one and all are faced with a series of bitter home truths, mind games and brutal confrontations.

The Boys in the Band by William Friedkin To some; a classic, but to others more of a poignant reflection of times that once were, this feature whilst well acted and executed throughout, is nevertheless drenched in enough emotional turmoil to sink a battleship. Thankfully in between all the angst lies some, well a few uplifting moments delivered by the original off-Broadcast players. Yet and as fine a cast as it is, including a star turn from Kenneth Nelson as self-persecuted party host Michael, it is Leonard Frey as pot-smoking and self-proclaimed "pock-marked Jew fairy" Harold who steals the show, a role that Frey went on to contrast beautifully the following year, courtesy of his Academy® Award nomination for Best Supporting Actor as timid tailor Motel in Fiddler on the Roof.

Yet if you put aside all of the self-pity, denial and cynical one-liners to be had and none more so than Harold's biting "but you'll always be homosexual Michael ... until the day you die" line that made being gay seem like a curse, which for many at the time it appeared to be, lies a remarkable piece, given it marked an all-male, all-gay feature in which and come the end credits, every character made it out alive; albeit if somewhat emotionally scarred. Only therein lies the mastery of the narrative, for and in spite of many an advance in gay rights and sexual openness during the interim decades, its underlying theme remains valid, given how many gay men still feel ill-at-ease with their sexual self? All of which makes this a powerful, landmark, if heavily debated work, delivered with all out honesty and explicit gay candour. That it was not watered down for commercial considerations is to the credit of its director and yet whilst William Friedkin went on to achieve multi Academy® Award winning success with The French Connection, his name for many still remains synonymous with his infamous 1980 work that is Cruising. Need more be said?

Only that this feature remains a tribute to all too many of its gifted players, Frey and Nelson included, who sadly would later succumb to AIDS.

Gay Visibility - overt. 
Nudity - brief bare-arsed cheek. 
Overall - file under ... 3+ stars. 

›› Available to buy from Amazon.com.
available on DVD as part of the Paramount catalogue.
starring: Kenneth Nelson / Michael, Frederick Combs / Donald, Cliff Gorman / Emory,
Laurence Luckinbill / Hank, Keith Prentice / Larry, Peter White / Alan,
Reuben Greene / Bernard, Robert La Tourneaux / "Cowboy" Tex
and Leonard Frey as Harold.
Copyright 2011 David Hall - www.gaycelluloid.com.
archive reference #438
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