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.

Tuesday, 4 July 2017

'Gross Indecency' at the BFI ...

July 2017 marks the 50th anniversary of a landmark in LGBT rights - the partial decriminalisation of homosexuality in England and Wales (not Scotland?). Though the Sexual Offences Act 1967 hardly put a stop to persecution, it was a step forward in a climate of fear and ignorance, where any on-screen depiction of gay life assumed enormous currency. British cinema boasts a long history of carefully coded queers, but taboo-busting gathered steam in the late 1950s. This BFI (British Film Institute) season spans two decades, bracketed by the 1957 Wolfenden Report and the onset of AIDS in the early 80s. 
So says the introduction to the two-month BFI season, but as a young gay at the time - 18 in 1964 and new in London - there didn't seem to be any restrictions on our lives. There were a few bars and clubs one could go to, but the gay boom of the 1980s and 90s was a long way away. I remember those pioneering BBC "Man Alive" documentaries, and VICTIM (getting an extended run at the BFI) was an early success.
Image result for bfi gross indecencyThe season highlights several rare items I have reviewed over the past few years (gay interest/British labels) like SERIOUS CHARGE, THE LEATHER BOYS, THE WORLD TEN TIMES OVER, TWO GENTLEMEN SHARING, and they have dug up those two rather exploitative items THE KILLING OF SISTER GEORGE and the terrible STAIRCASE, as well as GIRL STROKE BOY and the transgender drama I WANT WHAT I WANT, as well as NIGHTHAWKS, and an extended run for PRICK UP YOUR EARS. There is also a rare 1960 TV production on the trial of Oscar Wilde with Micheal MacLiammoir's celebrated portrayal of Oscar (below) - but not the two Oscar Wilde films of that era. Or indeed the 1970 DORIAN GRAY or GOODBYE GEMINI with their looks at early London drag pubs like the Vauxhall Tavern - or those 60s British films DARLING and THE PLEASURE GIRLS with their uncomplicated happy homosexual friends of the heroines. Murray Head does a Q&A after a screening of SUNDAY BLOODY SUNDAY - one still remembers the audience gasp at kiss, when seeing the film a second time, at a suburban cinema ...
Television is also currently getting in on the act, with a raft of programmes on Channel 4 and maybe on BBC, as well as on MTV where sassy drag queens with attitude, led by Rupaul,  are playing appropriate pop videos, from the likes of Madonna, Kylie & Co. Rupert Everett did a nice programme last night 50 SHADES OF GAY, so it was back to Heaven, The Colherne and other gay London locations of the last 50 years; Stephen Fry, Simon Callow and others explored BRITAIN'S GREAT GAY BUILDINGS (more Heaven, The Vauxhall Tavern, Old Bailey, etc), and POP PRIDE & PREJUDICE covered the gay pop scene, with lots of Bowie, Boy George, George Michael, Jimmy Sommerville, Marc Almond, etc. 

BBC's Radio3 are even doing a 90 minute programme on the making of VICTIM, with actors playing Dirk and his partner, director Dearden, co-star Sylvia Syms etc. Presumably based on Dirk's version of its making, as in his "Snakes and Ladders" book. I don't think I need listen to that. Sylvia is still here of course, but presmably too old to play her younger self ...

Coming up is a new dramatisation of that inflential 1954 court case involving Peter Wildeblood and Lord Montagu of Beaulieu, with Mark Gatiss, AGAINST THE LAW, which BBC2 will screen this autumn - I also reviewed the previous 2007 one in 2013. A VERY BRITISH SCANDAL:

London Pride is this Saturday 8th, so the city will be thronged as will Brighton for Pride in August, with the Pet Shop Boys doing a full concert.  


  1. Despite your castigation (nothing gay is good to you) I did find this a very interesting article and am recording (yes, and watching) most of the programmes on tv at the moment. A very nice Irish LGBT film I can recommend is HANDSOME DEVIL which I saw on Netflix last night. It's a sweet, feel-good movie and one of the best teen gay films since BEAUTIFUL THING. Do seek it out.

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