Mar 1, 2013

The Feathered Serpent: Gay British Aztecs

During the "British tv invasion" of the late 1970s, I discovered The Prisoner, The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, Upstairs Downstairs, and The Tomorrow People, but I missed The Feathered Serpent (1976-78).  It was never broadcast in the U.S., maybe because it's not set in Britain.  It's set in a mythic pre-Columbian kingdom that mixes Maya and Aztec (and a little Inca), stage-bound -- no exteriors, but with some nicely decorated sets.

The Emperor Kulkulkhan (Tony Steedman) wants to ensure peace with the neighboring Toltecs by having his daughter, Chimalma (Diane Keen), marry the young Toltec prince Heumac (27-year old Brian Deacon).  Meanwhile the evil priest Nasca (Patrick Troughton) tries to sabotage the wedding and generally make trouble, sometimes with supernatural assistance.

Although their wedding is an overarching goal of the series, Heumac and Chimalma do not behave at all like lovers; they are diplomatic allies about to create an alliance.  They become friends -- especially when they must work together to fight Nasca -- but there is no tenderness or  longing between them.

Instead, Heumac devotes all of his attention to his young servant, Tozo (19-year old Richard Willis, right).  Twice Tozo is captured by the bad guys and tortured, prompting Heumac to attempt a daring rescue.  They also go on a perilous quest together.  As the series ends, Heumac, Tozo, and Chimalma sit on the royal platform together, as if they will be co-rulers.

There is also significant beefcake.  In the first season, Tozo's long hair and two-piece servant costume make him somewhat too much like a girl to be of interest, but in the second season he drops the suit, often wearing only a revealing Mayan pouch.

Heumac usually wears a sleeveless robe, but during the perilous quest he strips down to another revealing Mayan pouch.

And other characters often display muscular physiques, or at least revealing pouches.

Brian Deacon was very busy on British tv before and after Feathered Serpent, with roles in Love and Mr. Levisham, Good Girls,The Emigrant, and Jesus.  The movie Zed and Two Noughts (1986), about twin brothers (played by Brian and his brother Eric) involved in a three-way relationship, features frontal nudity.

Richard Sheridan Willis, who was born on Stratford-on-Avon and named after the famous playwright Richard Brinsley Sheridan, is mostly active in theater in Britain, Canada, and the U.S., though he occasionally performs on television and in movies.  Here he encounters pirate Peter Sellers in Ghost in the Noonday Sun (1973).