The Gay Deceivers Bruce Kessler

I’m not quite sure how to take this 1969 cult item nearly four decades and one cultural sea change later. It’s the story of a model citizen (Kevin Coughlin) and a ladies’ man (Larry Casey) who dodge the draft by pretending they’re gay - and suddenly find they have to move into the gay part of town in order to convince a suspicious colonel (Jack Starrett) of their alleged proclivities. As a rare full-on treatment of gay and straight society intersecting, it’s open to all manner of misreading both as a strangely progressive movie that deals with issues that Hollywood even now can’t properly address, and as a transparent excuse to traffic in flaming-queen stereotypes at the expense of actors Michael Greer and Sebastian Crook. To be sure, this movie looks fantastic next to the recent I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry: at its most caricatured, it still hammers home the fact that being gay is a minefield of genuine hatred and very real danger. Alas, most of this is experienced by the increasingly bewildered leads, while the stalwart Greer winds up seeming angst-less and unthreatening; just like Chuck and Larry, it’s all for the greater glory of the breeders, which limits its subversive potential. And there’s no denying that most of the jokes depend on societal limits that no longer look the same, meaning it’s not exactly funny any more. Moliere this ain’t, and the TV roots of director Bruce Kessler are all too apparent in his pedestrian mise-en-scene, but the movie is more honest (largely by accident) than Adam Sandler’s folly and a fascinating time capsule by anyone’s standards. The only extra is an interview with Kessler, who gives an interesting indication of how much he got the politics - sometimes yes, sometimes no. (Dark Sky)