Last month I finished reading William Friedkin's autobiography, "The Friedkin Connection", documenting in his own words, the making of some of the seventies greatest films like "The Exorcist" and "The French Connection".
It made me want to dig into some of his other films in the 70's and 80's that I had missed, starting with 1980's CRUISING.
Very controversial at the time, hated by the gay community and shunned by moviegoers, the film is a real mess.
Filmed in real locations in the late 70's in Manhattan, Cruising depicts an NYC that all of us who love the highline district today will find very hard to recognize.
A serial killer is targeting gays in a series of brutal murders, so Captain Edelson (Paul Sorvino) sends young new detective Steve Burns undercover as a single gay man to frequent clubs and look for the killer.
Burns is played by Al Pacino in a mostly reserved performance that is played so close to the vest 90% of the time it's hard to figure out exactly what is happening in the movie.
In his autobiography, Friedkin says that he was more interested in creating a look at a lifestyle that no one in America had seen in 1980 than in making an entertaining film. The gay community was rightly disturbed and angry that this is how Friedkin would chose to introduce the culture.
Friedkin seems determined to show the most lurid, impersonal, vile, violent and sexually promiscuous depiction of gay life in the city. It would be impossible to call this movie entertainment on any level.
Pacino was furious when he saw the final version because it's so ambiguous that (Spolier alert) you actually are left thinking he may be a serial killer at the end of the film.
No one would produce the movie until Lorimar, the producers of "The Waltons" stepped in to finance the film. John Boy would not approve.
Foul, nasty, poorly written, very graphic, uber violent and ugly, this is an offensive film and a huge misfire from Friedkin that gets a rare F grade.