19 January 2009

Al Pacino's Gay Cruise

In 1980 Al Pacino starred in a film he'd rather forget and is reluctant to talk about it even today. The movie was called "Cruising." Directed by William Freidkin of "Exorcist" fame and starring Paul Sorvino and Karen Allen who also refuses to discuss the film. "Cruising" has taken on mythic proportions and one particular sex scene is the stuff of an urban legend.

To say the gay community opposed the movie is an understatement. They saw it as an indictment of the gay community as a whole instead of what it was about; a manhunt for a killer with the background being the leather world. Even before the movie was released protesters interrupted filming, boycotts were called on theatres, and poor Freidkin even put a disclaimer in the beginning of the film to calm the storm to no avail. Critics, straight and gay, pointed out how ridiculous and unbelievable the premise was (straight cop recruited by the promise of making Detective if he goes undercover as a leather daddy to catch a gay serial killer). The scary part not known to many at the time, including critics, was that the movie was based on real events.

Murders, mostly of leather men, occurred in and around New York's west village (body parts also started popping up on the Jersey shore) going as far back as the early 60's and continued into the 70's. They were finally noticed by the public only after the murders of several prominent men made the news with their hidden SM/Leather life coming to light. The N.Y.P.D's response? Send a straight cop who matched the descriptions of most of the murder victims, rent him an apartment in the gay part of town, and tell him to learn the ways of a leather man, "hanky code" included, so he can hit the bars to "tease" the killer out. He was to tell no one of his assignment and to report only to his Captain (Paul Sorvino's character).

The plan was a complete dud unless you count the cheap thrills Randy Jurgensen (the name of the real life officer played by Pacino) had when his hidden mic was turned off (he admits to having a sexual identity crises during that time) and the whole thing probably would have been forgotten, like the murders, if it were not for this film. Did they ever catch the killer? Unlike in the movie, he was never caught and the murders/murderer really never caught the attention of the general public.

And Randy Jurgensen? the man who's real life experience was the bases for the movie? He went on to become a best selling author and technical adviser for several films including "The French Connection" and this one about himself (even has a bit part as Detective Lefronskyk).

Only recently have critics re-visited the film and come away with a new respect for it. The movie is a must see if you want to watch a dark, based-on-a-true-story thriller, or you want to see a time capsule of the leather scene in the 70's.

1 comment:

  1. I'm a huge Pacino fan but have never heard of this movie... will have to see if the local video shop has a copy, sounds like it'd be a good watch


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