Dir. Gordon Douglas, 1968
Starring: Frank Sinatra, Lee Remick
Detecting the gays: Sinatra is on the case!
The Detective was first released on 28 May 1968, exactly a month before the riots in the Stonewall Inn marked the beginning of the modern gay rights movement. You can see in this film that something was on the brink of changing, or, to put it another way, that change had already creeped in and it was ready to topple things over.
The most surprising thing about this film is the absolute gusto with which Frank Sinatra plays detective Joe Leland, the unlikely champion of the persecuted gay criminals, psychos, and lost souls he encounters in his watch. We think of Sinatra as a right-wing Reaganite with little time for progressive causes and strong mafia connections, but up to the late 1960s he had been an active campaigner for the American Democrat Party, was a tireless supporter of the civil rights movement, seems to have assisted some communist organisations, and was vocal on issues such as women’s rights. Here’s a gay-friendly Sinatra to add to the picture.
The Detective is, unexpectedly, a political film disguised as a who-dun-it. It is a plea for tolerance and understanding for those poor homosexuals, who have enough to contend with without having to deal too with the savagery of prejudice. Yes, a few of them are crazy, but isn’t it because society has pushed them to the limit? In the detective novel that is our life, aren’t we all clueless? How much of what we do and what we are is really our choice? Each time a crime is committed, or a person is hurt, aren’t we all responsible?
Detective Leland may be experienced, sharp, and eagle-eyed, but he does not even know what he is detecting. He thinks he is filing a murder case, but there is a whole lot more going on. There are the criss-crossing lines of the gay underground network in New York City. There’s the back-stabbing in the Police Department. There are the trickster pychoanalists who claim there is only one truth to each of us. And there is the love of Joe Leland’s life, Karen, a messed up woman with a ‘sexually perverse’ side (played by the great Lee Remick). She is the one to teach the detective that, straight or gay, we are all in the gutter, and the only faint light anyone can hope to see, can only ever come from a place deep within ourselves.
About EVIL SEASON “MAD, BAD, AND DANGEROUS TO KNOW”
screenings @ 3:00 pm
doors open @ 2:30 pm
come early and join us in the foyer for free tea & coffee
Our schedule is subject to change due to availability of films from Film Distributors.
Our next season will offer you another exclusive selection of fantastic LGBTQ films which are either little known, or completely forgotten, or which have failed to get the attention they deserve. We are calling this season the “Evil Season: ‘Mad, Bad, and Dangerous to Know'”.
After our roller-coaster Season Two, “Around the World in the 80s”, we are traveling back in time to the 1940s, 50s and 60s (we will be stopping in 1968, the year Stonewall changed gay history). In Season Three, we are going to take a look at some gloriously gay films from Hollywood, made under heavy censorship but managing to tell amazing queer stories in exciting new ways. By contrast, we will also look at the freedom of European films of the period, talking about homosexuality with a mater-of-factness which is often shocking.
Our next ten screenings are “mad, bad, and dangerous to know”. That’s how Lord Byron was described by an ex-lover, and we are borrowing the tag for Season Three! The poet Byron, leading light of the Romantic movement in England and a hero of the Greek war of independence, was also famous for his sexual conquests, which did not discriminate between women and men. The writer Caroline Lamb —who after some resistance, succumbed to his charms — said of Byron that he was “mad, bad, and dangerous to know”. Of course, the aura of danger and lawlessness, and the rumours of depravity, made Lord Byron all the more alluring. His ‘wicked’ side was officially disapproved of, but it turned him into a sex symbol…
All our films for Season Three have one thing in common: they deal with evil — evil gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgendered, and queer people, yes, but also with the curse of internalised homophobia, and with the horrors of a society that cant cope with black sheep. Some of our films have great gay baddies, other films pretend to condemn us so they can publicize gay culture, and others are about people who are dying for an opportunity to be “bad”.
In short, in Season Three we will see some of the lesser known but most intelligent portraits of gay people ever created, we will laugh at society’s boring obsession with normalcy, and we will also celebrate evil. That’s right, we will embrace the “intrinsic evilness” that Mr Ratzinger finds so scary, and we will celebrate it. Because, lets face it, it has been a blessing for many of us — enriching our lives with excitement, fun, tenderness, friendship… not to mention some truly fantastic films!
Evil Season. It’ll be a thrill.
Cast and Creatives
Vincent A. O’Reilly