Meat Rack and Manpower

Friday, February 17th, 2012 | Film, Gay, The Dating Game


Tonight the Major and I saw a vintage soft-core porn film at YBCA, The Meat Rack, a sort of cinéma-vérité style homage to, believe it or not, Who Killed Teddy Bear, but minus an Elaine Stritch or Sal Mineo. I don’t even think the actors were listed in the credits. Aside from some great location shooting in San Francisco, it was exactly the kind of movie that I expected someone to make in 1968, and disappointing for precisely that. All of the gay characters are retched people: a chubby cross-dresser moaning about having to pay for sex; renegade drag queens shooting porn at knifepoint…

The depictions of that underbelly of society have always annoyed me, primarily because there’s no balance, so few positive portraits. And this was by the underbelly! I’m reading a book now, Full Service, by Scotty Bowers, about his experiences as a hustler in post-WWII Los Angeles. He has sex with, arranges for his friends to have sex with, or claims to have had sex with all the usual cast of Hollywood characters (and Walter Pidgeon, which was a surprise for me). I got read the Riot Act this morning from a friend who said he was sick of these kinds of tell-all books and invasions into private life, but I disagree. I love hearing about gay people enjoying their sex lives during a time that we associate with so much repression, finding ways to express themselves within the restrictive structure of the studio system and the public condemnation of homosexuality. I think it exposes the hypocrisy of the time and normalizes gay experience.

I watched Manpower last night, starring George Raft, Edward G. Robinson, Marlene Dietrich, Eve Arden, and Alan Hale, directed by Raoul Walsh. Yes, I bet you’re thinking the same thing I thought, What a cast!, but man, what a stinker. It was interesting to see a drama centered around the men of the electric company, (“Power and Light”) which I’d never seen before—maybe this is the only one of this particular genre—but Marlene Dietrich just can’t act and Walsh unfortunately is no Von Sternberg, he gave her actual things to say, and without fuzzy closeups and smoke billowing out of her half-opened mouth. All the guys were drunks, all the dames stoic and motherly. I guess that heterosexuals, too, occasionally suffered the indignity of unsavory representation.

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