Eight gay men gather in the Greenwich Village apartment of Michael (Kenneth Nelson), for a birthday party for his old friend Harold (Leonard Frey).
Among the guests are mincing Emory (Cliff Gorman) and stoic Hank (Laurence Luckinbill) whose wildly different styles of self-presentation are pivotal to the story: Emory flaunts his identity in order to hide his insecurity while Hank lives a double life, splitting his time between his boyfriend and a wife.
Alan (Peter White), a heterosexual visitor from Michael’s past turns up, only to add more game-playing therapy sessions and vicious bitchiness to the awkward proceedings. Interpersonal fireworks explode the minute he arrives, especially when Michael becomes a mean drunk and Harold reveals himself as a vengeful monster.
This stagey version of Mart Crowley’s off-Broadway hit was the first and most famous Hollywood film on the subject of male homosexuality.
Director William Friedkin captures early glimmers of gay liberation while dealing with the self-hating, straight-acting and overly camp stereotypes of the era.
It’s all very dated and gives the impression that all gay men are miserable, tragic, venomous queens, but some of the lines are still hilarious, and Leonard Frey’s performance as the Jewish birthday boy is a kitsch classic. “I’m a 32-year-old, ugly, pockmarked Jew fairy,” he moans at one point.
Robert La Tourneaux