Together Brothers (1974)


Image Source: MovieGoods

Synopsis: Local policeman Mr. Kool (Ed Bernard) is everyone’s favorite neighborhood cop in a poor black community in Galveston, Texas. So it comes as a heartbreaking shock when he turns up shot to death in cold blood one night near the playground. The only witness was five-year-old Tommy (Anthony Wilson), who was so traumatized by the incident that he’s refusing to say a word. When the local police seem slow on the tail of the killer, Tommy’s big brother H.J. (Ahmad Nurradin) and his friends take it upon themselves to gather a list of suspects. Soon, the trail leads them to the mysterious Billy Most (Lincoln Kilpatrick), just out of prison on an arrest made by Mr. Kool himself.

Say, folks! If you’re interested in the topic of queer images in film, have I got an event for YOU! From June 18-22, Garbo Laughs (that’s me) and Pussy Goes Grrr will be hosting the Queer Film Blogathon. Check it out now to find out how you can contribute and even win prizes. The party simply won’t be the same without you!

Although I’ve mentioned several times on this blog that I’m not a real big fan of the cinema of the 1970s, I felt it was important for this particular series to go outside of my classic comfort zone and include a review of a film from the first post-Code decade. That’s because I simply do not feel right holding an LGBT blogathon and only covering decades in which the T (trans or transgender) portion of that acronym was essentially nonexistent on the silver screen. I mean sure, if you throw cross-dressing and drag under the trans umbrella, you’ve got material dating back to the very foundation of the medium of film. But the transgender identity doesn’t stop at gender performativity the way drag and cross-dressing do (if you’ll pardon me for the gross oversimplification); being transgender means that one’s internal gender identity differs from the gender one was assigned at birth, an assignment usually made based on one’s biological sex. To be as inclusive as possible, I wanted to seek out and highlight a depiction of a transgender individual fitting this definition. That was nigh on impossible to do if I limited myself to films made before 1970.

Unfortunately, though not surprisingly, transgender individuals have not been represented accurately or positively in film… well, ever, really. Yes, there are of course exceptions, but they are few and far between, and even the current norm is nowhere near exemplary. One of the first and still most pervasive utilizations of transgender characters in film has been the trope of the “transgender killer,” an antagonist whose “confused” gender identity/expression is typically used as a metaphor for a deeper, more dangerous psychological disturbance. Think Psycho, Homicidal, Dressed to Kill, Sleepaway Camp, and the most egregious offender, Silence of the Lambs. Needless to say, continually portraying transgender people as crazed serial murderers is neither accurate nor positive. Unfortunately, Together Brothers, directed for 20th Century Fox by William A. Graham, is yet another example of this trope in use.

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Victim (1961)


Image Source: MovieGoods

Synopsis: Barrister Melville Farr (Dirk Bogarde) is really going places. He’s seemingly happily married to the beautiful Laura (Sylvia Syms) and is on course to becoming a Queen’s Counsel. However, when his friend “Boy” Barrett (Peter McEnery) steals a large sum of money and then commits suicide, Farr finds himself increasingly involved in the investigation being led by Detective Inspector Harris (John Barrie). It seems Barrett was being blackmailed by someone threatening to turn him in to the police for being a homosexual — and he’s not the only victim. How far will Farr go to find Barrett’s killer — and how much is he willing to reveal about himself at the risk of destroying his career, his image, and his life?

Say, folks! If you’re interested in the topic of queer images in film, have I got an event for YOU! From June 18-22, Garbo Laughs (that’s me) and Pussy Goes Grrr will be hosting the Queer Film Blogathon. Check it out now to find out how you can contribute and even win prizes. The party simply won’t be the same without you!

Basil Dearden‘s Victim broke major ground when it was released in the United Kingdom in 1961. For one thing, it was the first English-language motion picture in which the word “homosexual” had ever been used. Secondly, in its fictionalization, it brought to light what was then a major problem in England: the issue of blackmailers using the long-outdated anti-sodomy laws as a way to extort money from gay (and straight) men. Basically, if you engaged in homosexual activities (or somebody just said you did) and an extortionist found out and said they would rat you out to the police if you didn’t give them a large sum of money, you either had to fork over the cash or let them squeal on you to the cops, which likely meant you’d face a fine or prison sentence, not to mention the complete annihilation of your career and public image.

Sound familiar? Why yes, Victim covers essentially the exact same territory as 1919’s Different from the Others, only in a different time and place and with a different outcome. While Different from the Others fell on fairly deaf ears, Victim was relevant enough to contemporary audiences to start a real public debate on the British law against homosexuality, eventually leading to the Sexual Offences Act of 1967, which decriminalized homosexual acts in private between men over the age of 21. Mind you, the age of consent at the time for heterosexual acts was 16; the age of consent was not equalized for both hetero- and homosexual acts until the Sexual Offences (Amendment) Act of 2000.

Bogarde’s Melville Farr is a victim no longer.

Rising to prominence as a matinee idol, Victim‘s star, Dirk Bogarde, was one of the most popular British actors of the 1950s, starring in the 1954 hit comedy Doctor in the House and the 1958 screen adaptation of A Tale of Two Cities. A consummate bachelor and rumored homosexual, it was a risk for Bogarde to take on Victim, yet one he reportedly embraced without the slightest hesitation. Not only that, but he claimed to have a direct hand in making the film as revolutionary as it was. “It was the first film in which a man said ‘I love you’ to another man,” Bogarde would later recall. “I wrote that scene in. I said, ‘There’s no point in half-measures. We either make a film about queers or we don’t.'” Although met with overt hostility from members of the film’s crew and production staff, Bogarde was proud of the ground Victim had broken. “I believe that the film made a lot of difference to a lot of people’s lives.”

Although Britain may have been ready for a film which so frankly tackled homosexuality, America – or at least its motion picture censors – was not. The Motion Picture Association of America found Victim unacceptable because of its “candid and clinical discussion of homosexuality and its overtly expressed plea for social acceptance of the homosexual to the extent that [he] be made tolerable.” Although not much could be done about the latter problem, given that it was the basis for the entire film, credit should go to director Basil Dearden for refusing to cut the forbidden words “homosexual” and “homosexuality” from the soundtrack. Victim was released in the United States without an official seal of approval from the MPAA – similar to a film today being released as “unrated” – dooming it to commercial failure. Critics, many with their own ingrained biases, refused to comment on Victim other than to note with distaste its earnest pro-homosexual message, and it achieved only mild success in the art house circuit while being overwhelmingly shunned by the general movie-going public.

Without question a historically important film and earth-shaking at the time of its release, watching it today Victim does wind up feeling sadly dated. Yet, at the same time, it’s almost too modern for me. Don’t get me wrong; I don’t have anything against the frank discussion and depiction of homosexuality in film. (I mean, I do host this blogathon.) But I think I’ve been spoiled by queer theory and using my own powers of deduction to find coded allusions in older films. It’s fun for me. Victim is kind of like receiving a puzzle that’s already been put together for you. The acting is stellar and the black-and-white cinematography is truly gorgeous, but I found myself a little bored by Victim. Still, if you’re interested in the history of queer images in cinema or even in the history of modern cultural attitudes toward homosexuality, this film is invaluable.


Victim (1961) – 3.5/5 stars

Cat on a Hot Tin Roof (1958)


Image Source: MovieGoods

Synopsis: Alcoholic ex-football player Brick Pollitt (Paul Newman) and his sexually-frustrated wife Maggie (Elizabeth Taylor) are in Mississippi to celebrate the 65th birthday of Brick’s father Big Daddy (Burl Ives), who’s dying of cancer. With Brick’s brother Gooper (Jack Carson) and mean-spirited sister-in-law Mae (Madeleine Sherwood) sucking up to Big Daddy and Big Momma (Judith Anderson) in order to inherit the wealthy cotton tycoon’s land, Maggie is desperate for Brick to do something to convince his father he’s worthy of taking over the family estate. However, Brick has more on his mind than his father’s will — mainly the recent suicide of his best friend, Skipper.

Say, folks! If you’re interested in the topic of queer images in film, have I got an event for YOU! From June 18-22, Garbo Laughs (that’s me) and Pussy Goes Grrr will be hosting the Queer Film Blogathon. Check it out now to find out how you can contribute and even win prizes. The party simply won’t be the same without you!

Directed by Richard Brooks for MGM in 1958, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof was adapted from the 1955 Tennessee Williams play of the same name. Despite the film’s enormous commercial success and six Academy Award nominations, both Williams and its star Paul Newman expressed dissatisfaction with the play’s translation to the big screen. In fact, Williams actively encouraged people waiting in line for the film not to see the movie, because he was so personally offended at the film’s bowdlerized bastardization of his work.

Broadway has always given more leeway to “controversial” works and writers than Hollywood has, which is exactly the case with Cat on a Hot Tin Roof. Williams intended Cat to be his personal treatise on the destructive effects of internalized homophobia on the human psyche; but with such a taboo subject at the heart of the story, the Hays Office would only allow homosexuality to be subtextually hinted at in the screen version. Therefore, with its core principles remaining unspoken, the film does not have the same impact as the play, and the message is watered down. Brick is only allowed to hint at what the play frankly proclaims and discusses, mainly the possibility of a homosexual romance between Brick and his dead friend Skipper.

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My Favorite Wife (1940)


Image Source: Doctor Macro

Synopsis: After having himself legally declared a widower so that he can marry the uptight Bianca (Gail Patrick), the last person Nick Arden (Cary Grant) expects to turn up on his honeymoon is his first wife Ellen (Irene Dunne), who was lost at sea seven years ago and presumed dead. Turns out, she was just stranded on a deserted island with hunky Steven Burkett (Randolph Scott). Realizing that he still loves Ellen and wanting to keep her out of the brawny arms of Steven, Nick attempts to have his second marriage annulled. He just has to break the news to Bianca first — only Nick can’t quite get up the nerve to do it.

Say, folks! If you’re interested in the topic of queer images in film, have I got an event for YOU! From June 18-22, Garbo Laughs (that’s me) and Pussy Goes Grrr will be hosting the Queer Film Blogathon. Check it out now to find out how you can contribute and even win prizes. The party simply won’t be the same without you!

I’ve already said my piece (albeit very ambiguously and diplomatically) about the relationship between Cary Grant and Randolph Scott. Some of you probably wish that that was all I had to say on the matter, but unfortunately for you, it’s not. In fact, the Cary/Randy dynamic is one of my favorite topics in the whole wide world to harp on endlessly. Although it may seem like an obvious choice, I can no longer resist my unrelenting urge to analyze the 1940 Leo McCarey-produced, Garson Kanin-directed screwball comedy My Favorite Wife. It was one of the first classic films I saw and has been a favorite ever since. And although the queerness in it is so obvious even the most oblivious homophobe could pick up on it, my gosh, it’s so delicious I just can’t resist. There’s one scene in particular that really pushes the envelope insofar as “coded” depictions of homosexuality go in classic film, and seems to do so simply for the fun of riling people up.

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Dracula’s Daughter (1936)


Image Source: Wrong Side of the Art

Synopsis: While giving solace to his old mentor Professor Van Helsing (Edward Van Sloan), psychiatrist Dr. Jeffrey Garth (Otto Kruger) makes the acquaintance of the mysterious Countess Marya Zaleska (Gloria Holden) at a party. The Countess asks for Dr. Garth’s aid in curing her from an unspecified but apparently deadly “obsession.” However, Dr. Garth is too distracted by his nosy secretary Janet (Marguerite Churchill) to pay Zaleska much mind. Zaleska then lets Dr. Garth know that she requires no less than his full attention — by kidnapping Janet and imprisoning her in her Transylvanian estate.

Say, folks! If you’re interested in the topic of queer images in film, have I got an event for YOU! From June 18-22, Garbo Laughs (that’s me) and Pussy Goes Grrr will be hosting the Queer Film Blogathon. Check it out now to find out how you can contribute and even win prizes. The party simply won’t be the same without you!

Directed for Universal in 1936 by Lambert Hillyer, Dracula’s Daughter was the first direct sequel to the massive 1931 hit Dracula. Relevant to our theme here this week, it is also credited as the first big-screen usage of the “lesbian vampire” motif, a trope which dates all the way back to Joseph Sheridan le Fanu’s 1872 Gothic novella Carmilla. The exploration of sapphic themes in fantasy fiction was relished as a way of including titillatingly-taboo scenes and imagery in a genre that was considered safe from censorship due to its disconnection from reality. Furthermore, the notion that the lesbian vampire uses mind control to seduce straight women or girls into becoming their love slaves is yet another way for straight men to construe lesbians as predatory whilst enjoying the erotic outcomes of their efforts.

Of course, being produced in 1936, Dracula’s Daughter fell under the oppressive censorship guidelines of the Hays Code, and therefore had to be a little more crafty about its erotic lesbian undertones. As it was, the original script, penned in 1935 by Invisible Man screenwriter R.C. Sheriff, was revised and rejected four times before being entirely abandoned and rewritten by Dracula screenwriter Garrett Fort. Even up to the time of filming, scenes were being submitted to Production Code Administration head Joseph Breen for final approval. Of the most infamous scene, in which Countess Zaleska lures the young Lili into her spiderweb by asking her to model, Breen said of the sequence as it was originally scripted:

The present suggestion that… Lili poses in the nude will be changed. She will be posing her neck and shoulders, and there will be no suggestion that she undresses, and there will be no exposure of her person. It was also stated that the present incomplete sequence will be followed by a scene in which Lili is taken to a hospital and there it will be definitely established that she has been attacked by a vampire. The whole sequence will be treated in such a way as to avoid any suggestion of perverse sexual desire on the part of Marya or of an attempted sexual attack by her upon Lili.

Even shooting the scene to Breen’s puritanical specifications, the underlying message was still delivered and the scene still gives you that “weird feeling” mentioned in the film’s promotional poster.


(Incidentally, I should mention that Lili is played by Nan Grey of Three Smart Girls.)

What I find more interesting than Countess Zaleska’s implied lesbianism is her forced attraction for Dr. Jeffrey Garth. As soon as Garth begins spouting his scientific theories about releasing his patients of their harmful mental obsessions, the Countess is desperate for him to cure her of her impulsive vampirism, to the point where she kidnaps and threatens to do bodily harm to his secretary Janet if Garth does not stay with her in Transylvania to work on her own “release.” To me this harkens back very much to the classification of homosexuality as a mental disorder; Zaleska does not want to be a vampire/lesbian and she looks to the psychiatrist Dr. Garth to cure her of her obsession with bloodsucking/women. But there’s more to it than that. When Countess Zaleska invites Dr. Garth over to her apartment to ask for his assistance, she specifically states that she desires his help “as a man of strength and courage.” More than a psychiatrist, what Zeleska believes she needs to “cure” her is a strong man, thus her desire to force Garth into running away with her. Her confession to her creepy manservant Sandor about sharing her “eternal life” with Garth can be interpreted as her expressing her intentions to have heterosexual sex with the doctor. She can’t share eternal life with Sandor because he already knows what she is and accepts and encourages it, which isn’t what Zaleska wants for herself. She does not believe an ineffectual man who will let her control him is the cure for her “obsession.”

Overall Dracula’s Daughter is a spooky little gem that goes heavy on the atmosphere. Though the cinematography and acting are both above par, I still think it’s more entertaining as a historical curiosity than as a horror film. There are definitely a lot of interesting subtextual implications to be read into the film, but if you’re not willing to put that much brain power into it, it’s kind of a slow creeper at best. Interesting in the context of queer theory; not so much as a standalone picture.


Dracula’s Daughter (1936) – 3/5 stars

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