Moving in a queer Direction

Wrestlemania: Monte Hanson and Tony Gallo

          Jenni Olson’s The Queer Movie Poster Book is one of my favorite film books, and a major reason is its focus on “old school” queer cinema, much of it negative or politically incorrect, but all of it fascinating.  “Although the early ‘60s saw the end of Production Code censorship of ‘sex perversion,’ the immediate resulting portrayals were a far cry from the multidimensional, ‘positive’ depictions of LGBT characters we see today,” she writes.  “In this decade leading up to the Stonewall Riots of June 1969, homosexuality was generally employed in cinema as a novelty element, a shocking plot twist, a deviant sexual sickness.”

            The Film Society of Lincoln Center’s buzzy series An Early Guide to the New Direction: Queer Cinema Before Stonewall focuses squarely on this oft-overlooked era of film and has already showcased such films as Glen or Glenda?, schlockmeister Ed Wood’s transvestite saga; Blood and Roses, an Italian lesbian vampire odyssey; and Rope, Hitchcock’s stylish, fictionalized version of the Leopold and Loeb murders featuring such loaded dialogue as “Pity we couldn’t have done it with the curtains open, in bright sunlight.”  These final four days of the series are packed with intriguing offerings, including a personal favorite of mine.

Teddy Bear 411: Sal Mineo            

          On Saturday, April 30, a 5:30pm group screening features four shorts including the sure to be hysterical Boys Beware, an “educational film about the dangers of predatory gay men” and Passion in a Seaside Slum, which stars Warhol Factory stalwart and legendary New York performer-artist Taylor Mead.  I urge you to check out Who Killed Teddy Bear? (7:30pm), a fabulously entertaining slice of pulp featuring Rebel without a Cause’s Sal Mineo as a hunky stalker obsessed with nightclub coworker Juliet Prowse.  It’s got Elaine Stritch as an acerbic lesbian manager, a hilariously frenetic dance sequence, and an exploration of the seedy side of pre-Giuliani Times Square.  And Mineo is so very, very sexy: when we first see him, he’s in a pair of tight briefs; later, he appears in a form fitting speedo and Prowse says what we’re all thinking: “You have a very nice body.”

Girl crush: Therese and Isabelle

            On Sunday, Olson herself shares her collection of vintage lesbian pornography in No Help Needed, which is paired with Therese and Isabelle, the film the author calls a “gorgeous Cinemascope schoolgirl love story” (1pm).  Writer Hilton Als introduces his cult documentary Portrait of Jason, about a black hustler, at 3:30pm.  Legendary drag documentary The Queen screens as part of four films including beefcake romp Monte Hanson and Tony Gallo, from physique photographer Bob Mizer (5:45pm).  And the tawdry lives and loves of a soap opera actress, her girlfriend, and her girlfriend’s lover are thoroughly explored in The Killing of Sister George (8pm).

Ladies' might: The Killing of Sister George

          For a complete listing of all the films and their screening locations this week, visit filmlinc.org/series/queer-cinema-before-stonewall

            The Queer Movie Poster Book is available on Amazon, and author/historian/filmmaker Jenni Olson blogs at mybutch.blogspot.com.

Follow me on Twitter: @HeyLockwood

on April 28, 2016