Tuesday, April 10, 2012


To avoid the draft, Kevin Coughlin and Larry Casey, two red-blooded All-American lads, decide to play gay so the Army won't take them. Simply acting like they're gay in front of the draft board colonel (Jack Starrett) is one thing, but when Starrett tells them there may be an investigation, the two move in together. At first, living in a small gay apartment enclave isn't too bad (despite the single pink bedroom with the heart-shaped bed), and even the friendly effeminate landlord (Michael Greer) isn't too much to put up with. But things get uncomfortable when family members visit and, not knowing about the draft evasion plan, start to suspect that they really are lovers. Because of the snooping Starrett, swinging playboy Casey can’t have his usual parade of women come by, and though Coughlin tries to explain things to his steady girl friend (Brooke Bundy), she is understandably confused. When rumors start to fly, Casey loses his lifeguard job (can't have a gay man around the kids) and Bundy breaks off her engagement with Coughlin. They begin thinking that going to Vietnam might not be so bad after all, and the ending, though hardly tragic, is surprisingly downbeat, as anti-gay discrimination alters their lives forever.

I'd heard about this comedy for years, but assumed, arriving as it did at the very dawn of the "gay liberation" era—released just a month after the Stonewall riots in New York—it would be a distressingly dated and stereotyped piece of silliness, so I'd avoided it. Now out of DVD, I gave it a shot and found it’s not bad. It's definitely low-budget, and the script should be more clever and knowing by half. I was surprised how not-campy the movie is. Coughlin and Casey never indulge in flaming-gay stereotype behavior, even in their initial visit to the draft board, during which they take the route of dropping relatively subtle hints rather than shrieking and lisping. Greer's performance, which is campy and stereotyped, is what has made this film a lasting cult item; I'm of two minds about him here. On the one hand, he is playing the "queeny" stereotype complete with some prancing and make-up, and in this day and age, it gets a little irritating; on the other hand, he only goes halfway there. If the character had to be portrayed like this, I sort of wish Greer (pictured above) had been directed to go all the way. I suspect a subtle screaming queen is no one's idea of fun. His best scene is one without dialogue in which he makes breakfast for the boys while skittering around the kitchen humming an aria. I like that Greer catches on to the boys' subterfuge and does nothing to either give them away or give them a hard time; he seems to be a real "live and let live" personality. As far as gay eye candy, we get several shots of the hunky blond Casey (pictured above right) with his shirt off (and look closely for the seemingly well-endowed loincloth guy in the party scene near the end), but ultimately this movie isn't about sex, but about discrimination, and somewhat sadly, its message is still one that is relevant today. [DVD]

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