Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Another Cruising mystery

I have better things to do today. Like, I could tell you how much we enjoyed the Royal Shakespeare Company production of King Lear, which is playing at BAM (in tandem with a sturdy staging of The Seagull), last night. Ian McKellen, wonderful in the part. And no need for envy that I had the foresight to buy the tickets for the sold-out duo last November; I read that the production will be recorded for broadcast, presumably when its national tour ends.

But, no, I'm obliged to say a few more words about 1980's Cruising, which follows me around like the curse in The Ring, without killing me (yet). I raised a few eyebrows when I commented on the hardcore footage on the Home Theater Forum last spring. The film, set in and among actual New York City gay bars, has now appeared on DVD, in what I gather is a somewhat altered version. The color has definitely been boosted; then again, the sickly tape was almost drained of hue, so even the slightest shift is bound to register as a change.

Leaving these matters aside, New York Times DVD writer Dave Kehr has drawn me into a new mystery, a movie urban legend regarding the late character actor Bruno Kirby's alleged "fisting" cameo in the film. Scroll down his site for a read and response. And, of course, the photographic evidence.

Make that "evidence." I wrote to him, "It's a lot of rumor and conjecture on the web, based on an IMDb factoid that (if it ever existed) seems to have disappeared from his bio and from the film entry. I have the disc, and Friedkin and the 42-minute documentary are silent on the matter.

Friedkin mentions that the club sequences were cast with actual scene participants, though familiar faces (like the late Leo Burmester, as "Water Sport") are in there, too. It's true--when "Kirby" shows up, there is a shock of recognition. But looking at the scene more times now than I ever really wanted or needed to, I'm unconvinced. It's amusing to speculate about, but so far as I can tell there's no fact to the matter.

Seeing is believing...but Cruising is all about role-playing, identity crises, and deception, and I think this extends to this tangential issue."

Kehr said in response that the part may have been bigger--the film was extensively cut before release--and that Kirby declined to take credit for what amounts to a couple of shots. He is unaware that this was ever an issue...and, indeed, that is a plausible explanation. But I'm curious to know more about this vexing appearance, by Kirby or "Kirby," in an ever-vexing film that won't shake me off.


Anonymous said...

IMDB DID delete that credit. It is Bruno S. Kirby according to the VHS credits. The family had that deleted off of IMDB after he died.
I actually saw it there, and later it had disappeared..

Anonymous said...

I just came across your blog. we watched Cruising last night. I've seen it before a few times.

About this, the version I saw on OnDemand has a lot more Kirby footage in it than I'd seen before. I actually saw the before and after deletion from IMDB hours after he'd died. It was done the same day his death was announced, i didn't know the family had requested it though. But unless Friedkin was having some sort of joke with the credits, that's him. A VHS copy will confirm the credits. BTW, I'm no fan of fisting but he looks pretty hot in the scene.