Dedications: My four late friends Rory, Stan, Bryan, Jeff - shine on you crazy diamonds, they would have blogged too. Then theres Garry from Brisbane, Franco in Milan, Mike now in S.F. / my '60s-'80s gang: Ned & Joseph in Ireland; in England: Frank, Des, Guy, Clive, Joe & Joe, Ian, Ivan, Nick, David, Les, Stewart, the 3 Michaels / Catriona, Sally, Monica, Jean, Ella, Anne, Candie / and now: Daryl in N.Y., Jerry, John, Colin, Martin and Donal.

Saturday, 23 August 2014

An '80s comedy frightmare: Partners

Another 'We see them so you don't have to" social service report:
PARTNERS, 1982. Sergeant Benson is the biggest ladies man on the force. Kerwin is a closeted gay man, works a desk job and keeps quiet about his personal life. When a double murder lands on Benson's desk he is forced to go undercover into the gay community in order to bring the killer to justice. Its a tough job for a macho cop - but fortunately he has got a partner. Benson and Kerwin team up to solve the crimes and find themselves doing things that were never included in their job description. Written by Francis Verber (LA CAGE AUX FOLLES), this hilarious fish-out-of-water comedy delivers equal parts thrills and laughs ..
as the blurb hopefully suggests. 

I had totally forgotten this 1982  so-called comedy ever existed, nobody - gay or straight - bothered with it at the time, and it quickly sank without trace; when I saw it was on dvd, I just had to check it out for myself. John Hurt later said he had no recollection of making it at all, which does not seem surprising, as he goes through it blankly on autopilot as the mousey gay Kerwin, maybe the dreariest gay who ever gayed. On a roll after defining roles in THE NAKED CIVIL SERVANT, I CLAUDIUS, ALIEN, THE ELEPHANT MAN etc surely he, one of the busiest actors going, even now, could have declined this one - after capturing Quentin Crisp and that campy Caligula playing gay should not be a problem for him - perhaps he was shell-shocked at being in such piffle after all that high-quality stuff which was not making fun of gays, but he and Ryan O'Neal go through this like they are both suffering from extreme constipation - O'Neal does not just act being uncomfortable among the swishy gays, he seems very uncomfortable. He was fine for Bogdanovich (and is quite amusing in WHAT'S UP DOC? a decade earlier in 1971) and ideal for what Kubrick wanted in BARRY LYNDON, and I love Walter Hill's THE DRIVER, but he is a pill (and frankly seems past his prime) here - in fact they both seem too old for their roles.
Maybe it was intended as a comic version of CRUISING two years earlier, where Al Pacino also had to dress up in leathers and infiltrate "the gay community" who are treated like a race of aliens here .... of course they are all called "faggots" and made fun of - like the caftan wearing landlord (THE ROBE's screaming queen Jay Robinson - a very different Caligula from Hurt's), and the villain turns out to be Rick Jason! who is killing those male models on the magazine covers, as Ryan of course has to get his butt out and pose for the camera too, and Kenneth McMillan is their superior who puts them on the case. There is no real mystery in the plot, just how they thought this farrago was amusing or funny in the first place. The situation is milked for laughs as the two cops settle down in the boystown "gay community" with Kerwin happily cooking, wearing pink tracksuits and ironing Benson's underwear - and did I mention their cute pink little car? while Benson, looking for clues, has to date madly camp bar attendants, one of whom throws himself naked on him after a dip in the ocean ... how the audience (if there was one) must have screamed.
Do they wince now at how they refer to all the faggots and wonder at how gay life is different today? with its out and proud equality, which must have seemed unimaginable back in 1982 - just as Aids was starting to make inroads .... A tragic farce then, the Lower Trash with a vengance (up - or down - there with THE OSCAR, HARLOW, THE LOVE MACHINE, etc - as per Trash label reviews). I just had to see for myself how awful standards were then. THE BIRDCAGE for instance is genuinely funny about the gays, and I did not find it offensive at all, even if based on the same writer, Verber's LA CAGE AUX FOLLES ... Thankfully, PARTNERS limps to an end at 90 minutes, the ending though seems re-written as if hastily changed, we do not even see the injured Kerwin, who imagines he and Benson are going to set up home together ... what a laugh! 

Soon: back to the '70s and the very funny THE RITZ, a Richard Lester spectacular featuring the wonderful Googie Gomez, with Rita Moreno and Treat Williams.
Also Soon: Lauren Bacall, James Garner & Maureen Stapleton in the 1981 slasher thriller THE FAN - another 80s Trash Classic? 

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