So now we come to the third and presumably last in a series of film releases by reasonably aesthetic adult film auteur Wakefield Poole. This time around, you get a full package (ahem) inclusive of famed early effort Boys in the Sand and a few shorts that preceded or were contemporaneous to it. Hey, if you’re into this sort of thing…
In another of what’s become his standard filmed introductions, Poole talks about how he was inspired by a bad experience viewing a particularly sleazy gay porn film to make one that was more artistic: one that, in his words, “you could be proud of”. And whatever else you can say about Poole’s works, he certainly achieved his early aim, producing some rather haute cinema inspired, visually sumptuous efforts that fortunately or unfortunately (depending on your orientation and tolerance for this sort of thing being so in your face) cross the border from a more standard homoerotic effort ala Jarman, Anger or even the great Jean Cocteau to straight up grindhouse style gay porn.
Neither as surreal and comedic as Bible! or as comparatively seedy as Bijou, Boys in the Sand bears the distinction of apparently being the first “mainstream” gay hardcore film, with full size ads taken out in the New York Times and positive critical reviews. It also bears a measure of “star power.”
Even speaking as a straight man with no interest in this sort of thing, the name Casey Donovan rings a bell, both as one of the few “name” gay porn stars of note (Zombie 4’s Jeff Stryker being another) and having later starred in such fare as Radley (“Henry Paris”) Metzger’s classic Opening of Misty Beethoven, as well as non-adult fare such as Metger’s Score and the first Cheri Caffaro Ginger film. He’s also a decent looking, regular joe sort of guy, falling vaguely somewhere between Robert Redford and Nick Nolte visually (which can’t exactly have hurt his career, particularly as their respective heydays were almost directly contemporaneous).
As with Poole’s other films, there’s not a hell of a lot going on narratively speaking, and even less dialogue – nearly everything the man appears to have done is filmed silent. That said, Boys in the Sand bears even more of a prounouncedly dreamy, ambiguously languid feel than either Bible! or Bijou, and in that respect comes off slightly more appealing. But realize that what I’m referring to here probably amounts to less than 15 or 20 minutes of running time throughout the course of an entire feature film.
With a trippy psychedelic rock soundtrack (particularly in the “poolside” sequence) and a whole lot of guys walking around aimlessly, this is practically a head film for the homoerotic circuit. Wholly absent of the cattiness of an Andy Milligan picture (or for that matter your average Paul Lynde appearance), this is the sort of film you could picture bearded hippie types toking up or tripping out to, midnight movie style…at least until the hardcore bits kick in.
Think of this as a gay-oriented Jesus Franco film, in a way: sleepy, oneiric, strangely aesthetic…but instead of long and loving views of the female anatomy, it’s an all-male revue version, with the same sort of time and energy spent on erect and semi-erect male privates (before going straight off the rails into ridiculously lengthy oral sequences and so forth). I could picture gay friends putting this on as “revenge” after you make them sit through 90 minutes of soft focus zooms on the ladybits of Soledad Miranda, Lina Romay or Alice Arno…see how you like it, then!
And on that note, be warned: while Bible! retained some measure of ambiguity, like Bijou, this is (comparatively) raunchy and in your face all-male hardcore. If you’re not predisposed to this sort of thing, it really derails any of the more languid, cinematic pretensions the films aspire to, particularly when the dreamy atmosphere gives way to “swordfighting” and guy on guy action.
Hey, if that’s your bag, enjoy, but it’s just kinda weird from my personal perspective. And before anyone gets hot under the collar (and seriously, have you read anything on this site, or heard any of the radio shows, and still don’t get it?), this is hardly a judgment or condemnation of any of this, just an opt out. Live as you will, and with my blessings – all us ‘outsiders’ need to stick together, after all. But speaking for me? Sorry, dudes just ain’t my thing.
So what you get: Boys in the Sand is another silent Poole effort, broken into three segments. In the first, two guys (one of whom is the aforementioned Donovan) wander the beach nude, and get it on. In the second, a guy (Donovan again) wanders around his beachfront property a lot before eventually finding another guy in his pool, and they get it on. In the final part, yet another guy (aaaand it’s Donovan once again!) flits around the house until an electrical repairman drops by, and they get it on. Like I said, there’s not a lot going on here, narratively, but it is a lot more slow moving and sleepy (if not dreamlike) than that might seem to imply.
There’s an early “proof of concept” short that essentially comprises the first sequence of the film, but with a different actor. Apparently there was a bit of a financial holdup, which resulted in the more famed Donovan being recruited for the lead, which very likely only helped the film in the long run.
Next up, you get “Andy”, which is a cleverly-edited and treated experimental filming of the Warhol exhibit at the Whitney, circa 1971. There’s another experimental film called “Head Film”, done very much Kenneth Anger style, which revolves around a fella making dinner to a cut up soundtrack of Julia Child cooking show dialogue. It ends on more experimental footage of a Warhol print of Marilyn Monroe.
The third experimental film is “Vittorio”, which features Monty Pythonesque 2D art cutups moving around through various paintings while Japanese Noh music plays. It’s quirky as hell, and reminds a bit of the interstitials from the Sonny & Cher Comedy Hour or the Electric Company more than anything else.
Then there’s “A Gift”, where a friend of the director…or more often, his feet wander(s) around the same property as the middle segment of Boys in the Sand. There’s some sort of symbolism involving a snail shell, which gets carried around and winds up in frame more often than not. Supposedly it was intended to show this fellow’s boyfriend how much he loved him…though I can’t for the life of me imagine how that was supposed to come across from what’s on film.
Then we get a few extras, one where Poole revisits the original Fire Island locations of the film and chats with a few nice guys who currently own the properties in question. Next up, Linda Williams returns to talk the film up and compare it to its immediate contemporaries of early porno chic. Finally, there’s yet another vintage interview between Poole and public access show Emerald City, this time with Casey Donovan in tow (here referred to under his real name of Calvin Culver). This one is particularly amusing as you get a number of gay themed commercials of the era, very much in the same vein as Blue Underground’s Midnight Blue DVD releases a few years back. One of them even uses Al DiMeola-era Return to Forever as backing music!
If you’re into this sort of thing, or Poole in particular, forget the other two releases, this is the one you want to get. Between the Franco-like lead film, the several experimental shorts and the extras, you’re getting a bigger package than usual (pun actually unintended…) for your dollar. That said, be aware that this is hardcore, and quite a bit of it.
Presumably if you’ve sat through this review (and the two earlier ones for the other two Poole films released by Vinegar Syndrome), you’re at least interested in exploring this sort of material, so I’m likely wasting my breath in saying such. The bottom line is, it’s your call – I imagine you could certainly do worse than the reasonably aesthetic, artistically and cinematically oriented Poole in this particular arena.