Dec 7, 2019

"Anna and the Apocalypse": Another Teen Zombie Christmas Musical

Do we need another teenagers vs. zombies movie?

How about a teenagers vs. zombies comedy-horror-musical mashup?

Set in Scotland.

At Christmastime.

With a lesbian character.

Ok, we have one:  Anna and the Apocalypse.

Anna (Ella Hunt) already feels like her world has already come to an end when she's transplanted from the city to small town Scotland.  She hangs out with a group of teens who have insecurities of their own, and break into song at the drop of a zombie:

1. Goofy John (Malcolm Cumming) has a crush on her, but doesn't have the guts to suggest moving out of the friend zone: "I'm starting to realize that the nice guys don't always get the girl."  Well, duh!

But maybe in the zombie apocalypse, when choices are limited,he'll have a chance.  It worked for Elliott on The Walking Dead.

2. Bad boy Nick (Ben Wiggins), who swaggers and brags and tries tired come-on lines to every girl in sight, is worried about living up to the expectations of his macho military father.  And maybe hiding some same-sex desire of his own: he is the leader of a posse that welcomes the Apocalypse as an opportunity to kick zombie butt.

3.  Computer nerd Chris (Christopher Leveau), who spends a lot of time swallowing the tongue of his girlriend, drama club queen Lisa (Marli Siu).  His problem is, no matter how much tongue-swallowing he engages in, he'll never be able to please the libido-enhanced Lisa.

4. And what does Lisa, the walking embodiment of female desire as seen through the hetero male gaze, want with Chris, when she's busy choreographing a double-entendre laden version of "Santa Baby" with semi-nude hunks as backup dancers? 

5. Nonbinary gender activist and kick-ass lesbian Steph (Sarah Swire) is Anna's kindred spirit: dumped by her girlfriend and stuck in a small town for the holidays, in a bad mood, ready to lash out at the world.  The zombie apocalypse gives her that opportunity.

The two main adults are Tony (Mark Benton, left ), Anna's widowed father ("If your mum could see you now"), and Savage (Paul Kaye), one of those uptight, fun-hating, teenage-phobic principals that inhabit mass culture.  In some of the early scenes, I'd swear that they are hitting on each other.  Then Savage goes all-out bonkers, using zombies as a weapon to attack the teenagers he hates.

The zombie virus spreads very quickly, overnight, trapping Anna and the Goofball in a bowling alley, the Computer Nerd and the Kick-Ass Lesbian in a homeless shelter, the Bad Boy on the military base, and the others in the school.  Their main goal is to reunite with their loved ones and await rescue, and when the rescue team is zombified, to get the hell out of town. There are some fun gags, like a zombified Santa and candy canes as weapons, but way too many deaths.  When the smoke clears, the survivors are Anna, the Bad Boy, and the Kick-Ass Lesbian.

At least they're not Burying their Gays.

Gay Characters: Other than Steph, it's all subtext and innuendo.

Beefcake: Only in the erotic "Santa Baby" number.  I couldn't even find shirtless shots of the male cast members.

Heterosexism: Not really.  Hetero-romance is minimal. Even the common cliche of the Last Couple surviving the Apocalypse is disrupted by the presence of a third person in the escape car.

My grade: B.

Dec 6, 2019

John Hamill: The First Nude Physique Model

Born in 1947, the boyish, good-natured John Hamill began his career as a physique model, one of the first to pose fully nude.  Sometimes he even had a partner, in explicitly homoerotic scenes aimed at the increasingly visible gay male audience.  He also appeared in both gay and heterosexual "blue movies."

But he aspired to become a serious actor, so he studied at the Webber Douglas Academy of Dramatic Arts and began appearing on stage, notably in the gay-themed Boys in the Band in 1969 (presumably as the hustler hired to become a "birthday present").

His film career began in 1970, with starring roles in the thrillers The Beast in the Cellar (not as the beast), Trog (not as the rampaging caveman), and No Blade of Grass.  He also had some guest spots on tv series such as Paul Temple, The Befrienders, and Crossroads.  

But, like many bodybuilders, especially those with a "gay reputation," John found himself stuck in minor roles as threatening bad guys or inarticulate hunks.  In Tower of Evil (1972), for example, his character is introduced, takes off his clothes, flexes his muscles and gets killed, all in about thirty seconds.

Anxious for work, he agreed to star in the sex comedy Girls Come First (1975), as an artist asked to paint nude models.  Released in both hardcore and softcore versions, it was popular enough to lead to two sequels, and parts in similar movies, like Hardcore (1977).

But nothing else.  After a two-parter on Space: 1999 in 1978, he retired from acting and became a furniture refinisher.

Being so open about sex, and so nonchalant about both male and female partners, limited John's career, but left him -- and his fans -- with many fond memories.

You can see the nude photos on Tales of West Hollywood.

Dec 5, 2019

"Dead Kids": Gay Friendly Outsider Kids Plan a Caper

No kid actually dies in Dead Kids (2019): it's a Filipino slang term for outsiders, aliens, the kids who sit by themselves in the cafeteria and never get invited to parties.  The central character is Mark Sta Maria (Kelvin Miranda), a senior at a private high school in Manila, a shy, sensitive drama major whose every attempt at acquiring prestige is co-opted by the arrogant rich kid Chuck Santos (Markus Patterson, below).

He wanted the lead in the school play, but Chuck got it.  

He has a crush on it-girl Janine (Sue Ramirez), but Chuck is railroading her.  (The two actors are dating in real life.)

Plus Chuck has 50,000 Instagram followers,  fancy clothes, and a car.  

And he's an entitled, snobbish, bullying asshole.

Somebody has to take him down a few notches.

Enter three other dead kids:

1.Flamboyant schemer Blanco (Vance Larena)

Vance Larena starred in the gay film Bakwit Boys, and is apparently gay in real life.  According to the Filipino press, he has a boyfriend named Mark.

2-3. The bff gay-vague couple Paolo (Khalil Ramos, left) and Uy (Jan Silverio).  Khalil Ramos starred in the gay film 2 Cool 2 B Forgotten.  When asked about his "gender identity," he stated that he was "straight," but supported "gender equality."

Do they think gay is a gender in the Philippines?

Back to the story:  the four Dead Kids (along with Paolo's girlfriend sometimes) get the idea of kidnapping Chuck and holding him for ransom.  They'll make some money, and the arrogant asshole will get his comeuppance.  So they put on pig masks, burst into the brothel where Chuck is awaiting his 18th birthday blow job, put a bag over his head, tie him up, and sequester him in Mark's apartment.

You know what's going to happen next, right?  Complication, complication, dead guy (an adult), drug lord, arguments, harrowing something or other, the end.  We've seen it before 20,000 times.  Feel free to fast forward to the good parts.

Except there really aren't any good parts.  

Beefcake:  None.

Gay characters: Maybe Blanco, but he's underdeveloped.

Filipino culture:  No interesting shots of the Manila cityscape.  The characters speak mostly in English, with some Tagalog thrown in here and there.  I guess speaking English is cool for Pinoy youth.

Heterosexism:  Surprisingly little.  A couple of the boys have girlfriends, but there's no Girl of His Dreams rhetoric, no girl to be rescued, no fade-out boy-girl kiss.

Homophobia: None.  The characters have foul mouths, but never use homophobic slurs.  They all apparently support gay equality (or rather, gender equality).  Notice the LGBT hate-free zone sign on the wall behind them. 

My grade: D.  Watch some of the actors' gay movies instead.

Dec 4, 2019

The Explosive Generation: Billy Gray in Love

In spite of the beefcake on the posters and lobby cards, The Explosive Generation (1961) doesn't offer many swimsuit, underwear, or locker room scenes, though there are lots of clean-cut 1950s teens in tight pants.

It does offer some significant gay subtexts, as rich kid Bobby (Billy Gray of Father Knows Best, right) moons over basketball star Dan (the muscular Lee Kinsolving, left), and invites him to a wild party at his parents' beach house.

They dance, drink beer, and Bobby tries to talk Dan into having sex with his girlfriend Janet (Patty McCormack, center, best known as the murderous little girl in The Bad Seed). 

 Wait -- why does Bobby care so much about whether Dan has sex with a girl?  What kind of vicarious pleasure can he get from. . .oh, right, the subtext.

That's why this poster shows the two of them dragging her toward a three-way triangulation.

Janet is reluctant -- how far should a girl go to prove her love to a boy?

So she brings up the subject in class.  Fortunately, she has one of those hip, caring, hunky teachers who are always trying to make a difference: Peter Gifford (William Shatner), who is as horny as Captain Kirk meeting an alien princess, making every statement a double-entendre and putting his hands all over the bodies of both male and female students (not to mention dragging a boy out of a girl's arms so he can have him for himself).

Gifford decides to conduct a survey about students' attitudes toward sex.  Parents find out, and become apoplectic with outrage.  The principal starts screaming.  The cops get involved.   Gifford is asked to apologize (that's all?)

Bobby leads a student protest  -- but not one of those loud protests of the hippie generation.  They give the teachers the silent treatment.  And the principal backs down. Problem solved.

The Explosive Generation is not very explosive, but it provides an interesting view of how histrionic parents got -- and still get -- over the idea of their teenagers having sex.

Dec 2, 2019

"Mortel": Gay-Tease Teenagers Fight Voodoo Gods in Paris

When I searched online for Nemo Schiffman, this photo came up, with the byline "Melanie Thierry et Raphael, fin de partie."

I don't know who those people are, but obviously neither one is Nemo Schiffman, the 19 year old singer/actor who is starring in Mortel (Deadly), a French drama about two teenage boys fighting supernatural evil.

Here's a guy who goes to Gay Pride Parades, records songs without "girl! girl! girl!" lyrics, and is the bff of queer singer Bilal Hassani, "an icon to queer youth."  There must be a gay subtext!  Or maybe even a canonical gay couple!

It's worth a shot.

Episode 1:

Sofiane (Carl Malapa), a student at a run-down high school in a working-class arondissement of Paris, has been a wreck since his older brother Reba (Sami Outalbali) disappeared four months ago.  He even tries to commit suicide.  He starts getting visions of a supernatural being with dreadlocks and fiery glasses (Corentin Fila), who explains that he is Obé, the Voodoo god in charge of transporting murdered souls to the other world.  Reba is trapped in limbo, but Sofiane can release him by murdering someone else.

Release him to the other world, or bring him back to life?  And why is he trapped?  Can't Obé just transport him over?

Sofiane chooses Victor (Nemo Schiffman), the outcast weird kid who's been in and out of mental hospitals.  He lures him onto a roof, and, with Obé egging him on, tries to strangle him.  But Sofiane can't do it.  Maybe Obé would accept his brother's murderer instead?

The god agrees.

Episode 2:

Sofiane receives the power of physically moving people (handy for getting bad guys to punch themselves), and Victor receives the power of reading minds, and they get to sleuthing.  They seek out the help of classmate Luisa (Manon Bresch), whose grandmother is a Voodoo priestess (I didn't know there was a large Afro-Caribbean community in France).  She suggests that it might not be a good idea to trust a being who claims to be a Voodoo god.

Uh-oh.  The Girl.  Will one of the two boys demolish the gay subtext by falling in love?

Victor invites Sofiane home for dinner: middle-class household, conniving little sister, stepfather who makes Pad Thai.

"When we met, it was friendship at first sight," Sofiane explains.

The family is delighted, and implicitly assumes that they are a gay couple.

But I'm concerned about The Girl, so before I commit to watching the whole series, I'd better skip to the last episode to see if the two walk off into the sunset together.

Episode 6:

Bad things went down last night, and Victor is incoherent, drawing monsters in his underwear and screaming at his family.  Sofiane sends them all away and grabs and hugs Victor as he cries.

So far so gay.

They decide to storm the building where Luisa is interviewing the Bad Guy.  Sofiane has to use his powers to fight off several armed guards.  It's difficult and very painful.  Victor hugs him.

Great, but what about the very last scene:

Victor and Sofiane sitting on a bench.  It's all over, so now they can get on with their lives, walking side by side into the future, right?  Victor says that he still has issues to work on, so he's going back to the mental hospital.  Sofiane starts to cry.

Wait -- they're breaking up?  But it's not permanent -- he'll be out in a few months.  And besides, mental hospitals allow visitors. Why....

And now Victor has to say goodbye to Luisa.

Uh-oh, they're hugging.  Luisa tells him how much she cares for him.

In a Platonic, brotherly way, right? 


Wrong.  Their foreheads press together.  Victor says "I want to show you the life we can have together."


That's two hours of my life that I'll never get back.

I should stick to tv series where the description specifically states "This character is gay. He likes men.  He doesn't fall in love with a woman."

Like Being 17, starring Corentin Fila (Obe) as a teenager who is gay and falls in love with his mother's houseguest, who is also gay.

Dec 1, 2019

Peter Barton's Powers

When I met Peter Barton, he was guest starring in some tv shows, doing live theater, and calling his agent every day, trying to transition to a macho 1980s leading man.  But just a few years before, he had been a soft, androgynous teen idol.

Born in 1956, the former medical student started his acting career in 1979, as the teenage son on the short-lived sitcom Shirley!  Only 13 episodes were filmed, but that was enough for the teen magazines to adulate Peter as the Next Big Thing.  He was handsome, muscular but not a bodybuilder, and just androgynous enough to meet the gender-bending expectations of the era of Culture Club and ABBA.

Dozens of shirtless, speedo, and semi-nude shots followed, plus a starring role in Hell Night (1981) with Vincent Van Patten, in Leadfoot with Philip Mckeon, and in a movie-of-the-week, The First Time (1982).  Peter also appeared in a tight swimsuit in an episode of Battle of the Network Stars.  Many gay boys found in him a kindred spirit, gazing at his movies or swimsuit spreads and thinking "He's one of us."

Then his big break came: The Powers of Matthew Star, one of the many kid-friendly sci-fi series in the 1982-83 season (others included  Voyagers!, The Greatest American Hero, and Knight Rider).  Strangely, it aired just before the drag queen-friendly Madame's Place.

The plot was similar to Shazam!, which aired on Saturday mornings a few years before: teenager with superpowers lives with an older man.  In this case, Matthew, or E'Hawke (Peter Barton) was a prince from a planet orbiting Tau Ceti, hiding out on Earth from enemies who wanted him dead.  He went to Crestridge High School and lived with his guardian, Walter, or D'hai (Louis Gossett Jr.), who was working undercover as a science teacher.

I watched occasionally, but it was a little too "Saturday morning tv" to draw a big audience.  Besides, Matthew had a girlfriend, there was no homoerotic buddy-bonding, and there was not enough beefcake.  Most gay kids quickly changed the channel to The Dukes of Hazzard on CBS.  Powers was cancelled after only 22 episodes.

Peter's teen idol fame ended shortly thereafter, as more muscular actors like Willie Aames and Scott Baio rose to the limelight.

In 1988, he got his big break, a starring role on The Young and the Restless.  Other soaps followed, plus the detective series Burke's Law.

Today Peter lives in upstate New York with his daughter.  He has never married.

See also: My Celebrity Dates, Hookups, and Sausage Sightings

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