Together Brothers (1974)

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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.


White Elephant Blogathon: The Return of Count Yorga (1971)

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Synopsis: The safety of the children and teachers of the Westwood Orphanage is put into jeopardy when deadly vampire Count Yorga (Robert Quarry) moves in next door. Taking a shine to the lovely Cynthia (Mariette Hartley), Yorga sends his bevy of undead brides to make her his next victim — by killing off her entire family and convincing her that she is recovering from a car accident and must stay in Yorga’s mansion while she gets well.

 This film was assigned to me by another sadistic participant in the White Elephant Blogathon, hosted by Silly Hats Only. Now in its sixth year, the WE seeks to showcase “cinema’s widows and orphans – notorious stinkers, cult favorites, so-bad-they’re-great classics, and movies that time almost forgot.” Check out Silly Hats for the contributions, including a review of the film I submitted, 1978’s movie musical adaptation of Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, starring Alice Cooper, Peter Frampton, and the Bee Gees.

What, you thought I could get actually get something done on a deadline? APRIL FOOLS! Haha, but seriously, I’m terrible.

I was actually quite pleased this year when I saw that my White Elephant assignment was from the 1970s. Even though I hate the ’70s, at least a film of this era is more fitting to my blog’s M.O. than last year’s atrocious faux-meaningful 2003 Chinese drama Feeding Boys (Aye Carumba!). So, after quickly skimming the film to make sure it didn’t have any horribly unnecessary sexual violence (which I find is sadly a common motif in 1970s horror and something I refuse to put myself through on principle), I dove head-first into The Return of Count Yorga, knowing nothing of the previous film to which I assume it is a sequel and with my hands at the ready in case of any really scary parts.

Well, suffice it to say, I didn’t have any problems, so far as scariness goes.

The legendary Bob Kelljan (what, you haven’t heard of him?!?), who helmed the original Count Yorga, Vampire (1970) and would later go on to direct such classics as Scream Blacula Scream (1973) and the delightfully-titled Rape Squad (1974) which I’m sure is like totally empowering and not at all exploitative and cringe-inducing, returns to the Count Yorga legend with the very-accurately-titled Return of Count Yorga. Also returning to Return is Robert Quarry (I never knew Christopher Lee and Liberace had a baby!) as the titular Count. Despite the movie’s totally bitchin’ poster, he’s just basically your standard dime-store vampire, and does not sport any awesome green monster hands with eyes or a single giant taloned raptor foot like that one owl Pokémon. False advertising indeed!

“This is me and my sisters before we started using Proactiv/Pantene Pro-V/Invisalign.”

The film is troubled right off the bat by its very premise, which is the inexplicable return of a character who was supposedly killed at the end of the first movie. But the movie doesn’t waste any time in explaining how Yorga got his groove back. In fact, this movie really doesn’t waste any time in explaining anything. It’s set in an orphanage and there are some people having a costume party in a gymnasium for some reason; I don’t know who they are or why they are there. So it’s really hard to care when some of them start getting killed off by Yorga’s excruciatingly-slow-moving vampire brides. Seriously, if you’ve ever been frustrated at films that show perfectly healthy, normal adults who cannot seem to escape lurching, mindless, snail-paced zombies, this one will make you tear your hair out.

The only ghoul who really makes an effort here is Count Yorga himself, whose main tactical offense is to pop out at the ends of hallways and run REALLY REALLY FAST at his victims with his arms outstretched, until he reaches them and – strangles them. Yes. In 500+ years of being a vampire, this is the best attack he can come up with. There’s a reason why you haven’t heard much about Count Yorga; he is the vampire family’s greatest embarrassment. They have family reunions and “forget” to send his invitation.

It’s like he’s rushing to get the last donut in the break room.

There’s also a little boy running around who’s somehow under Yorga’s control, and a mute housekeeper who’s the only one who knows what’s really going on but is being gaslighted by everyone around her. In the middle of it all is some lady who Yorga’s trying to get to be his bride, and somehow I’m supposed to not want that to happen even though he’s already got about a dozen other brides and I’m really given no reason to value this lady’s mortality over anyone else’s because WHO IS SHE AND WHY SHOULD I CARE?!?

It’s… not a very good film, is what I’m trying to say. The page on which I took notes for my review includes such gems as: “What’s happening and why?”; “What are we even investigating?”; “Not so much a movie as a collection of scenes”; “THIS SUCKS” in huge letters; and notes on what we planned to order for dinner that night at the bottom of the page.

I didn’t like it. Half a star, and that’s generous.

The Return of Count Yorga (1971) – 0.5/5 stars

The Christine Jorgensen Story (1970)

Image Source: MovieGoods

Synopsis: Even as a small child, George Jorgensen, Jr. (John Hansen) can tell he’s different from the other boys. His parents sense it, too, and their introverted son serves as a constant source of worry. After a stint in the Army, George finds new confidence in himself as he excels in his career as a fashion photographer. But something still feels wrong. Gradually, George comes to realize that he is in fact a she – a woman trapped in a man’s body. Without his parents’ knowledge, George travels to Denmark to undergo sex reassignment surgery. He stays with his kindly Aunt Thora (Joan Thompkins) who supports George in his efforts to become Christine. When handsome reporter Tom Crawford (Quinn K. Redeker) comes knocking wanting to write Christine’s story, Christine finds more than a confidante. But could it be love?

Here on Garbo Laughs, I’m dedicating the entire month of June to the topic of Queer Cinema (LGBTQs, and depictions thereof, in classic film). This includes reviewing one relevant film from each decade from the 1910s to the 1990s. This is all leading up to my Queer Film Blogathon on June 27th. Won’t you join me in celebrating LGBTQ Pride Month by contributing a post or two (or three)?

We should first get it out of the way that this Irving Rapper telling of the Christine Jorgensen “story” has little if anything to do with the real events of Christine Jorgensen‘s life. In actuality, Jorgensen was the first well-known person to have sex reassignment surgery, but not the first person period as the movie implies. She was indeed in the Army and later became a successful photographer as George Jorgensen, Jr. When she traveled abroad in search of doctors to perform her genital reconstruction surgery, she had already begun rehabilitative hormonal therapy on her own and was on her way to Sweden when she stopped off in Denmark to visit relatives and ended up under the care of the hilariously-named Dr. Christian Hamburger. He was the one to perform her initial surgeries – although she would not receive a full vaginoplasty until the surgery became available in the United States several years later – and it was after Dr. Hamburger that Christine named herself, not after some long-dead cousin as in the film. She was engaged twice in her life, but the reporter and love interest Tom Crawford was apparently an invention for the movie. The details – such as George’s near-assault at the hands of his homosexual boss and humiliating experience with a female sex worker while in the Army – are also cinematic fabrications, as far as we know. Just a reminder to take every “true-to-life” biopic with a grain of salt. (more…)

Burnt Offerings (1976)

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