Two Previously Unavailable Gay Erotic Cinema Classics Are Being Restored and Re-Released
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Queer people under a certain age are likely unfamiliar with Arthur J. Bressan Jr., a New York City native who in the late ’60s moved to San Francisco and became a pioneering, prolific indie gay filmmaker. But recently there’s been a demand for his films — some of which were largely unavailable to modern audiences — to be remastered and re-released, including two best classified as “gay adult films,” Passing Strangers and Forbidden Letters, the first of which is officially available to stream today.
Bressan’s indie cinema work has spanned several genres, from shorts to features, documentaries to gay adult films. Highlights include the 1969 Super 8 short Boys (1969), an Eisenstein-styled, black-and-white film that looked at two boys, one who cruises public parks and bathrooms, the other who camps out in libraries, as they eventually meet and connect sexually; Gay USA (1977), a documentary about country-wide LGBT Pride celebrations during the hey-day of notorious homophobe Anita Bryant; and Buddies (1985), the first feature film about AIDS, for which he’s best known.
(The remastered Buddies premiered at San Francisco’s Frameline in 2018 and is available to purchase or stream, while Gay USA is currently available to watch via Vimeo On Demand.)
Next up as part the ongoing project to restore and re-release the work of Bressan are two gay adult films:
Passing Strangers (1974)
This was Bressan’s first feature film, and it was initially released at the Bleecker Street Cinema in New York City before heading to X-rated theaters San Francisco, Los Angeles, D.C. and Boston, plus smaller porno theaters across the country.
In the film, 18-year-old Robert (played by Robert Adams) replies to the personal ad of 28-year-old Tom (played by Robert Carnagey). Tom’s a fan of cruising the baths, the bars and San Francisco’s Polk Street, but now finds himself falling for Robert. In the film, Tom takes the still-closeted Robert on a whirlwind tour of ’70s San Francisco — including a day spent marching in the actual Gay Freedom Day parade of 1974 — which acts as an unparalleled look at gay life on the West Coast not long after the Stonewall Uprising. It’s all a real treat for 2020 viewers.
As with most of Bressan’s work, the film’s pornographic scenes are mixed with earnest stories of gay love and romance.
Passing Strangers scored Bressan a Best Director Award at the 1974 San Francisco Erotic Film Festival. It’s available to stream on-demand as of today at PinkLabel.TV, either as a two-day rental for $10 or permanently for $14.
Forbidden Letters (1979)
This film opened to mixed reviews in the gay press, but Bressan has said about it, “Forbidden Letters is my most honest film. Apart from money problems, it comes pretty close to what I wanted to say about love and time and memory.”
The film stars two leads, Richard Locke (a “quintessential daddy” of ’70s gay porn, considered a legendary actor of gay adult films at the time, as well as an AIDS activist) and Robert Adams (who also starred in Passing Strangers).
In the film, a 20-something Adams longs for his older lover, Locke, who is about to be released from prison. Dubbed “an unusual gay love story,” the film was inspired by Bressan’s own experience with a gay prison penpal.
Forbidden Letters has been unavailable to audiences since its release nearly 40 years ago, but it will also be available to stream on PinkLabel.TV this August.