Boys In The Band On DVD... Finally!

Dennis Dermody

Boys In The Band (CBS/Paramount) is finally out on DVD. Director William Friedkin's excellent 1970 film version, which was based on the groundbreaking, controversial-at-the-time play by Mart Crowley, is about a group of Manhattan gay friends celebrating a birthday party. Kenneth Nelson plays Michael, the host, who gets a tearful call from a college friend (Peter White) -- an unexpected arrival that sets into motion a drunken game of truth or dare.

There are three great DVD featurettes on the play and movie's origins, and two of the surviving actors (Laurence Luckinbill and Peter White) discuss how their agents considered their doing this play career suicide. It also goes into what a family the cast became. Many of the actors died of AIDS, and a story about Robert LaTourneaux (who played the cowboy hustler) being cared for by Cliff Gorman (who played the flamboyantly effeminate Emory) and his wife during the later stages of his illness are really touching. It's hard to watch the film (the tears, the self-hating gays) without some twinges. But a lot of it is brilliantly acted and very, very, funny -- especially the lines delivered by the pockmarked, afro-haired, birthday boy Harold (played with acid-tongued delivery by Leonard Frye: "Give me librium or give me meth."). I've always had a guilty affection for this movie, but revisiting it made me realize how well Friedkin transformed the rather stage-bound material into something nicely cinematic.

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