Mar 28, 2020

The 5 Gay Connections of "Night of the Living Dead"

Take a good look at this physique. The chest, the biceps, the interplay of muscles when he moves, the butt-and-baket close-ups.

Unless you contact his children and ask for family photos, this is the only time you will see Keith Wayne, aka Ronnie Hartmann, the Teen Hunk in Night of the Living Dead (1968).  His only movie role;  he was a Pittsburgh-area singer cast for his muscles rather than his acting ability.  Afterwards he continued his musical career, and then became a chiropractor.

Gay Connetion #1: the intimate attention to Keith's physique (although he seems to have been straight in real life).

The story of Living Dead is well known: After a few years of filming tv commercials,  26-year old George Romero wanted to try his hand at fiction.  So he gathered some Pittsburgh-area friends, started a production company, and wrote a script designed to meet the 1960's "taste for the bizarre."  He drew his inspiration from vampire movies, Richard Matheson's I am Legend, and The Tales of Hoffman, but not from the slow, lumbering zombies of Haitian folklore.

Everybody has heard of the movie, but few people have actually seen it.  Last night I did.  When I wasn't gawking over Keith Wayne's gorgeosity,  I noticed many differences from the contemporary zombie mythos:

We begin in an isolated rural cemetery, where "within-it" 1960s post-teens Johnny and Barbra (Russell Streiner, Judith O'Dea) have driven three hours from Pitsburgh to put flowers on someone's grave.

Gay Connection #2: Why are they brother and sister, and not boyfriend/girlfriend, like every other couple in every other horror and science fiction movie of the 1950s and 1960s?  It allows for a gay reading of one or both.

They clown around a bit, and then a man approaches.  He doesn't speak; he just stares and attacks.  Johnny falls to the ground, injured or dead, and Barbra runs to an abandoned farmhouse.  She spends the rest of the movie utterly useless, either catatonic or hysterical.

Ben (Duane Jones) appears, explaining that he has encountered many other silent, murderous people on the road.  Some approach the house, so they barracade themselves in (well, Ben does all the work, while Barbra whimpers).

Only through radio and tv reports do they discover that, due to some scientific balderdash, the newly deceased in funeral homes and morgues in several U.S. cities have risen and are trying to eat the living.  The government is taking action; refugee centers are opening.

Eventually other occupants of the house emerge from hiding in the basement: Teen Hunk, his Girlfriend, Imperious Guy, his Wife, and his Infected Daughter.

Gay Connection #2: Duane Jones (Ben),  who later became a professor of theater at SUNY Old Westbury, was gay in ral life.

Gay Connection #3: Ben never displays the slightest romantic interest in Barbra.Of course, they're in a stressful situation, and a black-white romance would have been problematic in 1968, just a year after the Supreme Court invalidated the miscegenation laws.  But still, there's a hetero-romance in every other post-Apocalyptic, zombie, horror, and science fiction movie of the era. We can easily read him as gay.

Surprising Racial Dynamics:  A black guy becomes the leader of a houseful of white people, and no one objects (well, Imperious Guy does, but not because of Ben's race). Romero claims that he hadn't planned specifically to cast a black actor, but he made some script changes in response, like making Ben intelligent and well-spoken rather than the dim-witted truck driver in early scripts.

The other refugees are killed one by one, leaving Ben alone.

Surprising Trust in the Government:  This is no Apocalypse.  By morning, the government has things under control (less than 12 hours after the first reports!).  Every city has FEMA centers set up. The national guard and local police are scouring the countryside, killing the remaining undead and finding survivors.

The Lynching:  In the shocking last scene, some good old boys with dogs and guns approach the house, see Ben inside, and shoot him.  But if they were looking for survivors, wouldn't they check to see if he is undead before shooting?  Unless.."Look!  A Zombie!" was just an excuse to lynch a black man. Strange fruit hanging from a Southern tree.

Gay Connection #4: Could you do a reading with Ben as gay rather than black?  Queer the text?

Gay Connection #5: This is the last photo you will ever see of Keith Wayne, just like the Grindr hookup who you can neve find again.

Mar 26, 2020

"Nancy Drew": Riverdale Rip-Off without the Underwear Shots

Nancy Drew, the girl detective who sleuths out The Secret of the Old Clock, The Message in the Hollow Oak, The Clue in the Crumbling Wall, and so on, has been in print constantly since 1930, and on tv twice, most notably when she shared the spotlight with the Hardy Boys (1977-79).  Until now, she has been an old-fashioned "good girl," solving mysteries that require brain power, not fisticuffs. No bloodshed, no deaths, and certainly no sex.

But then Archie comics used to be about "who should I invite to the big dance?"

The new Nancy Drew series goes all Riverdale on the girl detective, casting actors with Greek-god physiques, getting them out of their clothes a lot. and spinning a complex, ludricrous plotline in which everybody has a hidden agenda, secrets abound, and the adults are always evil.

Prologue: a montage of a teenage girl being pushed or jumping off a cliff, four teenagers playing in the cemetery, a young Nancy Drew watching her parents bury a body, and Nancy tanking on her college apps.

She hears about her mother's terminal illness.  True to the Riverdale practice of casting former teen idols as the adults, Dad is played by Party of Five alumnus Scott Wolf (top photo).  Mom's grave.

Scene 1: Nancy wakes up in the bed of her boyfriend, Nick Nickerso (Tunji Kasim, the bottom), who is already up, working at the auto shop..  He was a college football star in the books -- apparently dreams fade quickly in Horseshoe Bay, Maine, and he's doing the whole Goodbye, Columbus bit

Scene 2: Nancy runs across a crowded exterior shot -- lighthouse, boats, teens photographing each other -- to The Claw, the diner where she works as a waitress (what, not the Crusty Crab?).  Her boss, a pigtailed Asian girl named George (Leah Lewis), bitches at her.  She starts dishing uot the chowder (wait -- isn't it early in the morning? Shouldn't that order be Adam and Eve on a raft?).

Her other coworkers are the "Zen and the Art of Dishwashing" Ace  (Alex Saxon, left) and the rich ditz Bess (Maddison Raijani).

Why is a rich girl working in a diner?  Why did Blair on The Facts of Life work in the school cafeteria?

Scene 3: Closing time. The parade and fireworks are going on outside.  George decides to stay open for the demanding, imperious "affluent socialite" Ryan Hudson and his cronies, who want to have a sinister "private conversation."

Ryan is played by Riley Smith, former teen idol and underwear model.

His wife, Tiffany, is waiting in the car.  Nancy brings her some food.  And then has a glass of wine!That's like Archie having sex with...oh, right, Riverdale.

Scene 4: Even more closing time.  Suddenly the power goes out to the whole marina.  Nancy investigates, and finds Tiffany dead beside her car!

Scene 5: Sheriff McGinnis (former teen idol Adam Beach) interrogates the crew.  He dislikes all of them.  Nancy discovers that her boyfriend Nick is an ex-con.

"You never told me that!" Nancy exclaims.
"One of many things you never asked me about."
Who asks about criminal records on the first date?

The Sheriff wants to pin the murder on Nancy, so she has to act fast so solve it.

Dad arives.  Nancy yells at him for being neglectful.  Apparently they're estranged.  What adult-child isn't on, I mean Nancy Drew?

Scene  6: Out on the street, Nancy is horrified by the sight of a dress in a shop window.  I don't understand why.  She goes home and looks at photos of her dying mother.

Scene 7: The next day, at the diner.  Nancy believes that Tiffany was murdered by the ghost of Lucy Sable, the girl who jumped or was pushed off the cliff in the year 2000.  I don't understand her deduction.

I know it's 2020, but I was still shocked to hear "the year 2000" expressed as long-ago history.  For most of my life it was a far future science-fiction date:  "We'll have flying cars and colonies on the moon in the year....2000!"

Scene 8: Looking for clues, Nancy breaks into the home of grieving socialite husband Ryan  She finds a secret drawer containing a locket, a note: "For your protection. H. G.", and an address.

She also hears a ghost voice -- the supernatural is real!  Better not tell Shaggy and Scooby!

Scene 9:  The address on Gallows Lane (how cheery!) is the home of a medium (Pamela Sue Anderson, the original tv Nancy Drew).  She conducts a seance, where the spirit of Tiffany says "Find the dress."  Wow, this is getting convoluted.

Scene 10:  Nancy discovers that Dad is dating Karen the Cop.  I don't know why she should care, but she's upset.

Scene 11:  Dad discovers that Nancy is dating Nick Nickerson (dumb name).  I don't know why he should care, but he's upset,and says "keep away from that kid."   He won't say why, so Nancy snoops around and discovers that he was Nick's lawyer during his trial for manslaughter, during which he was convicted due to the testimony of Tiffany the Dead Socialite.  Nick has a motive!

Scene 12: So does everybody else.  George is having an affair with Ryan the Husband.  A montage of scenes I don't understand: a lady leaves a trailer and puts on Dead Tiffany's ring.  Nick finds a brick or box in a car he's repairing.

The lights go out, so Nancy climbs into the attic, rips open the wallpaper, and finds a note: "Lucy Sable, be careful that the killer doesn't get you." And an old trunk containing the bloody dress that Lucy was apparently wearing that night.

So Dad killed Lucy 20 years ago?  And took off her dress? I'm lost.

Gay characters:  If you read ahead, you find that Bess is a lesbian, and starts dating someone.

Beefcake:  No.  Nick wears a muscle shirt in one scene.

Other Interesting Sights:  Not except for the establishing shot of Horseshoe Cove. It's all intereiors or dark streets.

Plot:  I got tired of people not telling each other things so they could  find out and be upset.  Too many secret, hidden connections. And it gets worse:if you read ahead, you find more ghosts, spirit possession, curses, a trip to the spirit world, secret identities, and "The Seawater Festival," in which a bucket of seawater is used to determine if somebody will die in the coming year.

What about clever Sherlock Holmes-style sleuthing?

And where are all the underwear scenes?

Will I keep watching? No.

Mar 24, 2020


Sonny Malone (Michael Beck), a thin, long-haired 1980s hippie who likes to roller skate everywhere, wants to be a great painter, but he's stymied by his job reproducing rock album covers.

Kira (Olivia Newton-John), who is really Terpsichore, the Muse of Dancing inspires him to pursue his dream.  She inspired Michelangelo, Shakespeare, and Beethoven, so she knows talent.

Wait -- why would the Muse of Dancing inspire painters, sculptors, playwrights, and composers?

 While wandering on the beach, Sonny hooks up with retired jazz musician Danny McGuire (dance legend Gene Kelly), who has also abandoned his dream of opening a jazz club (ok, well, he had one, inspired by Kira, in 1945).

 Danny openly, obviously courts Sonny, who obviously relishes the attention of a potential sugar daddy.  It becomes most blatant when Danny invites him home to his palatial mansion (apparently being a failed jazz musician pays very well), gives him "the tour," and looks just about to lead him into the bedroom, when Sonny inexplicably leaves.  With a look of consternation ("Darn! I thought for sure I was going to get laid!"), Danny sits down and fantasizes about Kira (apparently the next best thing).

 Sonny and Danny decide to pursue their dreams together.  But what sort of dream can be pursued by a painter and a jazz musician (played by a famous dancer)?

The answer is obvious: they open a roller disco!

Somebody didn't think this through.

Meanwhile Kira falls in love with Sonny -- chastely, with no sex, but still against Muse rules.  She has to return to Olympus, but the gods grant her one last night on Earth. She spends it singing.  But not to worry,  Sonny immediately latches onto a waitress at the club who looks like her. Or maybe she's a reincarnation.  Or maybe. . .

While watching, one continually thinks, who wrote this?  Who thought it was a good idea to put Gene Kelly on roller skates?  Who didn't shoot a retake when Kira calls Sonny Danny?  

Nothing about this movie makes a bit of sense.  Maybe that's why it was popular with gay audiences.  It was one big raspberry at the conventions of heterosexual romance.

Mar 23, 2020

"Knives Out": Stylish Whodunit with a Gay Connection

I have seen Knives Out (2019), a classic whodunit, as a change of pace from the pandemic post-Apocalyptic movies we've been watching.

Ultra-famous, fabulously wealthy mystery writer Harlan Thromboy (Christopher Plummer) has just died.  By suicide -- he slit his own throat shortly after his 85 birthday party. 

The grieving relatives convene in his eccentric Addams Family-style mansion to be interviewed by police detectives Elliot and Wagner (Lakeith Stanfield, Noah Segan), and by private investigator Benoit Blanc (Daniel Craig with a ludicrous Southern accent), who has been hired anonymously.

Everyone lies about what happened last night.  Apparently Harlan was cleaning house:

1. His son-in-law Richard (Don Johnson),who has never worked, is having an affair.  If his wife Linda (Jamie Lee Curtis) finds out, she will cut him off.  Last night Harlan threatened "You tell her, or I will."

2. Harlan has been sending his widowed daughter-in-law Joni (Toni Collette) $100,000 every year to pay for his grandaughter's Ivy League tuition, but Joni has been double-dipping, getting the money sent directly to the school and to her personal account.  He cut her off.

3. Harlan's son Walt (Michael Shannon, left) has been running the publishing company.  Harlan fired him.

4. He had an unspecified shouting-match with his grandson Hugh (Chris Evans, top photo).

5. The only one who had a pleasant evening was Harlan's nurse, Maria (Ana de Armas).  After the party she took him upstairs, gave him his medication, played a game of backgammon, and went home.

They all have a motive for murder. But he committed suicide, right?  But then, why did someone hire a private detective?

At the reading of the will, Maria gets the entire fortune: book rights, house, assets, everything.  Then the knives come out.

Only Maria knows what really happened:  she accidentally switched the medicines, injecting him with a lethal overdose of morphine.  Since she was a close friend, Harlan decided to commit suicide so she wouldn't be implicated in his death.

Except -- someone switched the vials, so Maria actually injected him with the correct medication.  Harlan only thought that he was dying.

Someone planned the perfect murder,

Gay characters:  None specified.  I thought the fey grandson Jason (Jaeden Martell) would be gay (apparently he is in real life), but he's actually a straight alt-right perv.

Beefcake:  Everyone is fully clothed throughout.

Then what is the gay connection?

I figured from the beginning that Maria would fall in love with Hugh.  A male family member, unattached, about her age, and looking down with bemused detachment at his family's money-grubbing dementia.

When they started hanging out together, I was sure that they would solve the mystery, vanquish the evil family members, and set up housekeeping in the great Gothic mansion..  But no shipping occurred.  Not a speck of heterosexual romance between them, or between anyone else. That is extremely rare in American movies.

Freedom from the heterosexist "Girl of His Dreams" conclusion!  Who cares if there is any beefcake?

Mar 22, 2020

"London Irish": A Gay Hookup in the First Episode

Wow, did London Irish get bad reviews.
"The sick com that tried too hard to disgust"
"Two episodes in, and I can't take no more!"
"Why didn't this g** f**** w*** sh*** show get cancelled after one week?"
"Sick sitcom has provoked outrage!"
"I can't even finish this review!  It's too disgusting for words!"

Now I'm definitely watching out of curiosity -- what could be worse than the Cartman killing a boy's parents and serving them in a stew on South Park?  Or the Brian and Stewie bank vault scene on Family Guy?   Or almost any episode of It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia.

In fact, it sounds like Always Sunny: a group of friends who work in a bar get drunk and criticize everybody and everything, including each other.  In this case, it's Irish ex-patriots living in London (although they really hate the English), using a lot of Irish profanity that I don't understand.

Ready for the putative sh** show?

Opening: The four friends are drinking in a pub, discussing how the Irish are stereotyped as terrorists.

Scene 1:
Bronagh (Broh-nah), the Dee character, a blond woman in her 30s, wakes up after night of binging, and finds a toddler in her bed.  "We didn't do it, did we?"  she asks him horror.   Well, I can see how that might raise a few eyebrows

In the next bedroom, Packy, the Dennis character, wakes up iin his undewear (nice physique), tied to the bed, having just been sexually assaulted by a woman who thinks she's his girlfriend.

Packy is played by Peter Campion, who sparked controversy in a scene where he kisses his male cousin in a pub loo on Redwater.

Meanwhile, Niamh (Nee-uv), the Mac character, is on the toilet, laughing at a book about Anne Frank.  Ok, that's uncalled-for.  She wipes her hands on Conor (Charlie) (Kerr Logan),  who is asleep in the bathtub.

Scene 2: Bronaugh asks Niamh about the toddler in her bed.  She asks: "Is he gay?  I mean, not fairly blue gay, but in that direction?" Ok, that's homophobic.   He's Frankie, the boy she's babysitting after lying about her qualifications.

They have breakfast.  Was Packy raped?  Bronagh finds Conor "creepy."  "But he's your brother!"

Scene 3: They walk down the street (nice London exterior), discussing how much they hate Dylan, who is dating Packy's crush.  "He's very attractive, but he's a cock.  I shit the bastard, I really do."

Scene 4: At the pub.  They discover that Dylan is dead, and start saying nice things about him.  James, Bronagh's boyfriend, arrives (Josh O'Connor, who plays Prince Charles in The Crown). They all hate him because he's too English, saying thngs like "I had fun last night, literally."

Scene 5: Packy tries to seduce the dead guy's grieving life partner by inventing a dead sister.  Definitely something Dennis would do.

Scene 6: That night at the pub, Bronagh's boyfriend James tells Conor, "You have to tell Bronaugh."  Conor has no idea what he is talking about.  A mystery to spice things up.

Scene 7: At the wake, James re-iterates that Conor has to tell Bronaugh about their relationship.  Conor wasn't aware that they were in one; it was just a hookup, nothing serious.  So they're both gay or bi?  Interesting!

Meanwhile, Bronagh talks Niamh into kissing the corpse.  .

Scene 8: Conor confides in Packy:  Bronagh can't find out about their hookup!  She'll cut their balls off, literally.

 Packy responds: "Are you gay now? If you are, I totally respect that.  Of course, I couldn't be friends with you anymore."  Maybe he's joking.

Conor:  "I'm not gay, it was just sex.  But now James expects a relationship."
Packy: "You have to break up with him."
Conor:  "But he's such a nice fella...he gave me these flowers."

Scene 9: The other guests see Niamh kissing the corpse.

Scene 10: The toddler Frankie stumbles nto the bathroom, where James and Conor are kissing with their pants down.  Conor explains that he was planning to have sex with James to "thank him" for being cool about their breakup. But don't tell Bronagh!

As they are discussing who is going to "ride" whom, Frankie runs off, presumably to tell Bronagh. Conor follows, his pants still around his knees, into the parlour, where all the guests have gathered, saying "This will be our secret."  Implications of pedophilia are always funny.  But at least Conor isn't worried about people thinking that he's gay.  .

Closing Scene: In the pub, they discuss why England doesn't have many pedos, while Ireland has  a "very rich pedo culture."  But not many serial killers -- you can't have everything.

Will I keep watching?  Shite, yeah! London Irish is milder than half of American television, the guys are cute, and I want to see how the "not gay" Conor plotline is resolved.
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