21 April 2013
Movie Review: Saturday Night at the Baths
I never saw this movie. It was produced in 1975. But I think the reason why I didn't see it was because it was likely beyond the rating range of what I could procure on VHS during the 1990s and well, for some reason, I didn't see it. And from what I understand, no did either. From all the ideas and images I have about the bathhouses of urban America in the 1970s, this movie seems to be a documentary. From what I was able to find out after watching the movie, this movie was part documentary since a number of people played themselves, perhaps making this the first gay-positive docu-drama.
The story is about Michael, a piano player from the Midwest, who has arrived at New York and lives with a girlfriend. He lands a job at the Continental Baths. The club manager, Don Scotti (a real person played by himself who was still alive in 2005), has the hots for Michael. Michael becomes drawn to Scotti as Michael's girlfriend constantly pushes him in response to his almost fanatical homophobia. Michael, though, has a little crisis and then he enters the post-Stonewalls, pre-AIDS New York gay community.
The movie filled in images and ideas about a 1970s described in histories of the AIDS crisis and urban histories like The Gay Metropolis. I definitely would include this in the canon of gay cinema and would likely include it in the syllabus of queer film class.