Get Hard is here, and it really is as homophobic as you’ve heard. But it’s still 2015, so the movie tries extra hard to have it both ways by being nominally nice to a minor gay character, while simultaneously having a complete meltdown over gay sex (which, by the way, it fully equates with rape).
But that level of concession to gay humanity is more than gay characters got back in the day. It was worse then. Way worse. Don’t believe it? Check out this crazy cinematic bullshit from yesteryear.
This is an educational short film from 1961, the kind they used to show half-asleep students in health and P.E. classes. And thanks to YouTube you can watch it, flabbergasted, in its 10-minute entirety. “One never knows when the homosexual is about,” warns the narrator. “He may appear normal. And it may be too late when you discover that he is mentally ill.” Be sure to stand over something soft while viewing it, so when your jaw hits the floor it won’t shatter.
There’s a certain kind of fandom that is nakedly, brazenly about sexual anxiety. In the “obsessed fan” trope, the admirer employs the famous object of his or her affection as a means to express unwanted desire in an acceptable way. In other words, 1981’s The Fan is about a gay dude who thinks he wants to have sex with Lauren Bacall and goes batshit crazy in the process. Because gay. His gaydom gets revealed slowly until the shocking reveal. As a film, it’s kind of hilariously creepy and gross and popcorn-watchable. So there’s that.
The Gay Deceivers
The gay man as a comedic target is a long tradition, one with old, worn-out tropes. The idea that all gay men have relentless, predatory sex drives and the desire to be a woman still appeals to lunkheaded heterosexual males for reasons that it’d take a team of psychiatrists to unpack.
Get Hard employs theses tropes sporadically, but this 1969 comedy about two young men pretending to be gay to avoid the Vietnam War, is a concentrated blast of insanity. Its saving grace is the late, gay actor Michael Greer (as “The Gay Landlord”) who invades the film and threatens to turn it into a star vehicle for himself. Watch it for his unapologetic queenliness.
I’m Going to Get You… Elliot Boy
Film history has shown that there can be an infinite supply of sexploitation films about prison and someone will want to make yet another. The trailer above promises “a film with the impact of a head-on collision.” What it really is, though, is boring-as-hell crammed into ugly, violent man-on-man prison rape.
I’m Gonna Get You… Elliot Boy is a serious-faced drama starring early-1970s Canadian unknowns who mostly stayed unknown — with the exception of very cool pro-wrestler Abdullah the Butcher, who has a small role as a dangerous inmate — this is the gnarly, garbage flip-side of the truly strange prison film, Fortune and Men’s Eyes (another one featuring the incredible Michael Greer as “the Baddest Bitch On Lockdown”).
During its initial release, I’m Gonna Get You… Elliot Boy was also known as Caged Men Plus One Woman, so that guys could go see it and have an excuse that didn’t involve wanting to watch men rape each other. Exploitation films of the era commonly came out with alternate titles to help give would-be watchers a respectable way out when asked what they were watching.
Norman, Is That You?
Redd Foxx and Pearl Bailey star in a movie that probably thought it was being progressive, since they both put in a minimal amount of effort towards “understanding” their gay son (Michael Warren). But you have to see this one to believe it, if only for head-scratching scenes where Foxx compares real men to tuba players and gays to flutists (he never explains the analogy), and where Foxx hires a female prostitute to “cure” his son.
Weird fact: Dennis Dugan, who plays, Warren’s “fabulous” boyfriend, is the guy who directs all those shitty Adam Sandler movies like I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry and Grown Ups.
You’ll notice, perhaps, that Cruising isn’t mentioned on this list. That’s because Cruising is a hard-boiled slice of late 70s grime, a daring and confusing film, necessary viewing for an entirely different set of reasons than the tacky movies mentioned here. But this one? Its purpose was to ask the question: “What if someone just remade Cruising as a comedy?”
Ryan O’Neal and John Hurt play cops on the trail of a killer. Except Ryan is all-man and Hurt is all-gay (translation: the worst police officer in history, can barely hold a gun in his limp-wristed half-grip). So naturally, the jokes are all at Hurt’s expense. They happily included the word “faggot” in the trailer, just so you know whose side it’s on, making it the most despicable feature of either actor’s career.
In this miserable 1968 drama, Master Sgt. Albert Callan (Rod Steiger) is a war hero and a tough-guy leader who reforms his military base. His secret? He’s deeply closeted and, worse, obsessed with soldier Tom Swanson (John Phillip Law).
Callan is calculating, and sabotages the young man’s relationship with a woman, ultimately forcing a violent kiss on the unwilling soldier (see clip above). You could say it doesn’t end well for him, but not because the world at that time was brutal and hostile to gay men. Nope, this was the era when gay men in films were “sick” merely for being gay.
Enlightened viewers may have felt sympathy for Callan’s predicament, but probably not much. The film, tragic though it is, doesn’t exactly court sympathy because it treats Callan as sick and pathetic rather than as a complicated human desperately needing of love and empathy.