Movie Review By Erik Petersen
"The Boys In The Band" is one of the films to be re-released as part of a recent William Friedkin retrospective. Originally issued in 1970, it stars the stage cast of the hit off-Broadway play written by Matt Crowley.
As the first film from Hollywood to focus exclusively on gay men and their issues it doesn't hesitate to serve up frank and often time's graphic conversation. Groundbreaking at the time of it's original release almost thirty years ago, it still packs a punch.
Adhering to its theatrical roots, nearly the entire movie was shot on one set, lending a feeling of intimacy to the film. That along with the skilled use of a hand held camera by cinematographer Arthur Ornitz makes us feel as though we're eavesdropping on a cocktail party where the venom flows as freely as the liquor.
The action takes place in an upscale apartment in Manhattan belonging to the seemingly benevolent Michael. Michael played by Kenneth Nelson acts as ringmaster for a group of old friends who have gathered to celebrate the birthday of their pal Harold, played with an air of cool detachment by Leonard Frey.
What starts off as a night of good-natured teasing and bitching becomes by gradual turns a brutal coming out for each guest's inner demons.
As the formerly sober Michael takes a swan dive off the wagon and begins tossing back glasses of Vodka like they were soon to be last year's fashion, he prods his guests to take part in a revealing game of truth.
With everyone good and soused Michael really cuts loose, using his finely honed wit to carve his guests up one by one. Ultimately of course it's Nelson's Michael who reveals the most and ends up delivering the film's poignant message about self-hatred.
Although at times "The Boys In The Band" can be dated and melodramatic it offers a talented group of actors delivering the first realistic and intimate portraits of the gay lifestyle on the big screen. With recent gay theme films like "In and Out" or "The Birdcage" taking a comic approach it's interesting to see a serious film about gay men before the acronym AIDS existed. Sadly, several stars of the film, Leonard Frey, Keith Prentice and Robert La Tourneaux ended up dying premature deaths due to AIDS.
© 1999 - Erik Petersen - Air Date: 1/13/99
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