May 6, 2023

Robinson Crusoe on Mars

Ask any male boomer when he realized that he was gay, and he’ll most likely say when he saw Robinson Crusoe on Mars (1964). I saw it in the spring of 1968, on the family’s brand new color tv set.

The plot is obviously a version of Robinson Crusoe: after crash landing on the frigid Red Planet, astronaut Kit Draper (Paul Mantee) builds a cave habitat so warm he can walk around shirtless or in a tight-black t-shirt, displaying an amazingly buff, hairy chest.

He has food, water, and a pet monkey, but he is intensely lonely. Then an alien mining company establishes a beachhead nearby, and he helps himself to one of their slaves. “I prayed for a companion,” Kit exclaims, “And I finally got one!” 

Somewhat Aztec in appearance, “Friday” (Victor Lundin) is so accustomed to the Martian cold that he can comfortably walk around in nothing but a kilt, displaying a massive, sculpted body, with golden skin, thick arms and shoulders, and a smooth, hard chest.

The two men are extremely physical in their interaction. Shortly after they meet, Kit takes Friday’s hand and places it on his own knee, an image that is intensely intimate and sensual. Kit is buried in a shower of space debris and nearly suffocates, and Friday rescues him. As they walk away, Kit wraps his arm around Friday’s waist.  At the end of the movie, they are rescued, and go back to Earth together, permanent partners.

Who would produce such a film, about two men who love each other and build a home together, in the dark homophobic days of 1964?

This was Paul Mantee’s first credited acting role; he went on to make dozens of two-fisted movies, sometimes with “man” in the title to emphasize the intended audience, such as A Man Called Dagger (1967) and That Man Bolt (1973), and he then settled down to write novels about heterosexual Italian-American adolescents.  And he obviously stayed in shape.

Victor Lundin played a series of Klingons, Indians, savages, and bad guys, and cut some country-western records. Today, on his website, he sells a cd with a song about how much he likes girl-watching.

Neither of the writers seem obvious gay allies, but when we look at the director, Byron Haskin, we find movie after movie set in steaming jungles, where men wear next to nothing and fall into each other’s arms a lot: Man Eater of Kumaon (1948), Tarzan’s Peril (1951), His Majesty O’Keefe (1953), Little Savage (1959). That explains the beefcake; what explains the bonding?

May 3, 2023

"Los Espookys": Who You Gonna Call?

I've been posting about a lot of disappointing tv series -- gay teases that don't follow through, gushing praise that masks endless boy-girl kissing.  It's high time we get to a series that it's actually good -- interesting, humorous, gay inclusive -- Los Espookys (well, that title could use a little work).

In an unspecified Latin American country, one of those magic-realism places where weird things happen so often that they're normal, Renaldo (Bernardo Velasco) creates a horror-themed quinceañera for his little sister.  It is so impressive that his Uncle Tico (Fred Armisen), the world's greatest car parker (he can even park two cars at the same time), suggests that he make a career out of creating horror-themed events.

Renaldo conscripts his best friend, the weird blue haired Andrés (Saturday Night Live writer and Great North boyfriend Julio Torres), into the business.

Andrés is the heir to a chocolate empire, immensely wealthy and powerful (what if they started making sugar-free chocolate? every dentist in the country would be unemployed).

His parents and his bulging swimsuit-clad trophy boyfriend (telenovela star José Pablo Minor, top photo) disapprove of his interest in horror, but he agrees to participate.   

By the way, it's not a subtext: they are a canonical gay couple.

Next they conscript their friend Úrsula (Cassandra Ciangherotti), a Goth dentist's assistant; and her delightfully obtuse sister Tati (Ana Fabrega), who has a variety of odd jobs, like running a hand-cranked fan or breaking in people's shoes. (Welcome to the new economy)

They expect to plan horror-themed parties, but for their first gig, Father Francesco (Luis Grieco), the priest at the local orphanage, complains that his new, hot, hip associate Padre Antonio (Cristobal Tapia Montt), is stealing all the glory...of running an orphanage?  He wants to conduct an exorcism to get back into the spotlight.  So Los Espookys create an exorcism for him.

Next up: a millionaire's dying wish is to give his fortune to whoever can spend the night in a haunted house.  Los Espokys are hired to create the house, and ensure that the millionaire's son does not win.

They have found their niche, creating fake paranormal events: a sea monster for a seaside town to use as a tourist attraction; an alien autopsy for a UFO researcher to show her bosses; a magic mirror for "the American ambassador"; a fake dream for an insomniac.

Along the way they have the usual daily hassles of magic-realism life.

1. Andrés is pressured by his family to marry his trophy boyfriend (so his cookie empire can be combined with their chocolate empire).

2. Renaldo is pressured by his mother to get a girlfriend or boyfriend, even though he has explained that he only wants friends.  He's openly asexual!

3. Ursula, who is a lesbian, has any number of hookups.

4. Tati keeps expecting the guys she meets on dating apps to look like their photo.  So the quirky, odd comic-relief is heterosexual.  

Only 6 episodes, but fortunately Season 2 is already in the works.

My grade: A+

May 1, 2023

"Reborn": Anime with a Mafioso Baby, A Chameleon Gun, A Gay-Subtext Boxer, and Poison Pizza

 Tsuna is a junior high failure (apparently "junior high" kids are a bit older in Japan).  His life is turned upside down when he's saddled with a baby, Reborn, who happens to be the reincarnation of a  Mafia hitman (not quite so unbelievable to a Buddhist, I assume).   Sounds fun, and there's a muscle hunk and no boobs on the promo, so I'm in.  But I'm 99% sure that the baby is going to help Tsuna win the Girl of His Dreams.  

I'll be reviewing Episode 7, "To the Limit, Passionate Brother!", because the icon looks like Tsuna is getting a boyfriend.

Scene 1:
A poster of muscular boxers: "The Boxing Club awaits for strong man!"  At the gym, a muscle hunk has just been pulverized.  The other boxers cheer.  "Ok, who's next?" the man-mountain asks.  

"Me!"  Another muscle-hunk stands in the doorway, this one with white hair: Ryohai, the captain of the junior high boxing team.  They fight; Ryohai pulverizes him, then asks "Aren't there any stronger, extreme men?"  Nope, no extreme men in sight. 

Scene 2: Tsuna and his friends walk down the street, along with Lambo, a baby in a cow outfit, from the Bovino Family.  Reborn and his chameleon familiar appear, explaining that they were camouflaged.  He feeds the cow baby a piece of cake with a grenade in it, and blows him to bits (actually, into a tree.)

Uh-oh, Tsuna forgot his social science project with Kyoko, the Girl  of His Dreams.  Now he has no chance of spending his life gazing into her eyes.  "What do I do now?  I'll never make it, even if I run."  Reborn changes his chameleon into a gun and points it at Tsuna: "Race like your life depends on it!  It's Deathperation time!"  Wow, I wonder what the Japanese term is. 

Tsuna grows fire on his head and back, rips off his clothes, and leaps over the rooftops to the school.

"He's always so amazing when he strips down to his boxers," one of his male friends says.  Is that deliberately dirty-sounding?   Is he also amazing out of his boxers?

Scene 3:
The white-haired muscle hunk Ryohei from Scene 1 and his boyfriend see Tsuna running.   "Hey, wait up," Ryohei calls, but instead Tsuna grabs him by the hand and runs him to school.  

At school, Ryohei piles on the complements: "You've got great power, strength, stamina..." (And you look good in boxers?).  He grabs Tsuna's shoulders, but instead of asking him out on a date, he asks him to join the boxing club.

"How do you know my name?" Tsuna asks.  Ryohei remembers an important volleyball match where Tsuna "sacrificed a man's most valuable part" to block the ball."  So you're interested in Tsuna's parts? Tell me more.  He then draws Tsuna close enough to kiss and tells him that they're going to go to the stars. Why, do you want to spend your life gazing into his eyes?

Tsuna isn't interested in this overblown rhetoric, but then Kyoko, the Girl of His Dreams, appears.  "What are you doing with Tsuna, Big Brother?  Don't tell me you grabbed him and..." Started flirting with him, like you always do with the cute boys?  Ryohei protests that he's just inviting Tsuna to join his team.  

He grabs Tsuna and brings their faces close, as if he wants to kiss him: "I'll see you in the locker room after school."  Geez, at least buy him dinner first. 

After Ryohei leaves, his sister Kyoko is ecstatic.  "I haven't seen Ryohei so happy in a long time.  You really made an impression on him!"  Uh-oh, now Tsuna will have to date a boy he doesn't like to impress the Girl of His Dreams.

Meanwhile, the baby Reborn, spying on them from his hot-air balloon, says "Everything is going according to plan."  So he wants Tsuna and Ryohei to date?

Scene 4:  Tsuna appears at the Boxing Club door, nicely dressed, ready for his date.  Ryohei drags him in.  But he actually came to refuse.  "I can't do this -- I'm not really interested in you!"  But  Ryohei doesn't listen.  Besides, all of his friends and the Girl of His Dreams are there to cheer him on, so it's too late to back down.  

"I got you a good coach, a veteran Muay Thai fighter," Ryohei continues.  But it's really Reborn in an elephant costume!  "Now let's box!"  

Tsuna performs poorly until Reborn turns his chameleon into a gun again: "Fight like your life depends on it!"  A fire burns on his head, and he pulverizes Ryohei.  Now everyone is upset.  "No fair!  You really hurt him!"   So Reborn shoots Ryohei with the "Deathperation Gun," and he turns into a dynamo.  

But Tsuna now has the power to refuse the invitation: "Be my boyfriend!" "No!"  "Let's go out for coffee!" "No!"  "Let me carry your books home from school!" "No!"  But with every refusal, Ryohei says "This makes me like you more!"  No means no, Dude.  Leave him alone.

Scene 5:  Suddenly the Karate Club, a bevy of black-robed man-mountains, bursts in.  "We want your sister Kyoko, Ryohei!  Fight us!  If we win, you give her permission to become our manager!"  That's not at all what I thought they wanted.  

Ryohei, Tsuna, and his crew fight them off using their special skills: a dust storm, poison pizza, firecrackers in their pants, and for Tsuna, boxing.  After they scatter, Reborn suggests that Tsuna could use someone strong in "the family," so he asks Ryohei to join him.  Aww, they become friends.   The end.

Beefcake: Ryohei, Tsuna, and various hunks are shirtless throughout.  I took 12 screenshots, but Chrome won't let me save screenshots.

Gay Characters: I don't think so.  A google search on "Reborn," "anime," and "gay" revealed several lists of "The Top 10 Queer Anime Couples," but they are all mistaken: this series is actually not on any list.

Gay Subtexts:  Endless.  I'm not familiar with Japanese cultural conventions, but from an American point of view, the romantic tension was amazing. And the constant unintentional double-entendres. 

My Grade: I loved this. A .

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