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CRUISING (DEVIL’S ADVOCATES) ****

Written by Eugenio Ercolani and Marcus Stiglegger.
RRP: £19.99 96pp

 

Out now from Auteur Publishing.

 

In another thoroughly researched and informative read from the DEVIL’S ADVOCATES series that explores and celebrates the classics and cult favourites of horror cinema, Eugenio Ercolani and Marcus Stiglegger look at William Friedkin’s controversial 1980’s thriller CRUISING. Their stated intent; to “dive deep into the phenomenon that is CRUISING; […] examine its creative context and its protagonists, as well as explaining its ongoing popularity”.

 

You may question whether CRUISING is horror, but don’t worry because there’s a persuasive chapter included here that convincingly argues that it indeed is, and another exploring how it functions as a “global giallo”.

 

CRUISING is arguably a perfect subject for this series as, with its troubled production and release, shifting critical reputation and ambiguous plot and ending, there is much to discuss and the two authors do a fine job navigating this sometimes wilfully oblique film, leaving us with plenty to ponder.

 

Ercolani and Stiglegger start by describing CRUISING’s reception upon its release in 1980 when it was “mainly misunderstood”, rejected by genre audiences and facing protests from the gay community who saw it as projecting “a distorted image of homosexuality”. However, it subsequently has become an “enduring cult classic documenting the gay leather scene of the late 1970s as well as providing a stunning image of identity crisis and an examination of male sexuality in general”. Throughout the book the authors help to highlight why these opinions of the film have changed so drastically.

 

There’s an excellent section that places CRUISING in the context of William Friedkin’s overall filmography with lengthy comparisons to his other movies, with special attention paid to the two other films in what has been dubbed his “infernal trilogy” (TO LIVE AND DIE IN L.A and JADE).

 

There’s also a particularly interesting chapter covering the “birth” of the movie, which unearths some fascinating trivia including the connection between the real-life murders that inspired the film and an extra from Friedkin’s THE EXORCIST. This chapter describes how many of the events were based on the memories of a real undercover cop, Randy Jurgensen, who worked on a similar operation to Pacino’s character. I was most entertained to discover that one of the film’s most bizarre moments, when Pacino is slapped off his chair by a huge, naked cop in a cowboy hat and a jockstrap who appears out of nowhere in the middle of an interrogation, was actually based on something that happened to Jurgensen!

 

Although definitely still readable, this book feels a little more academic than some of the others that I’ve read in the DEVIL’S ADVOCATES line, with the writing occasionally getting unnecessarily florid. It’s definitely a must read for anyone writing an essay on this film, or Friedkin’s career as a whole, but it’s more a tentative recommendation for those with a more casual interest, as you could perhaps find it a little harder to get into. However, there’s no denying that these authors know their stuff and mount a passionate defence of a once unfairly maligned film.

 

John Upton.

 

 

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