By Dennis Hartley
(Originally posted on Digby’s Hullabaloo on December 13, 2008)
The Boys in the Band – Paramount DVD
William Friedkin’s groundbreaking 1970 film adaptation of Mart Crowley’s off-Broadway play centers on a group of gay friends who have gathered to celebrate a birthday, and as the booze starts to flow, the fur begins to fly. It may not seem as “bold” or “daring” as perceived over 50 years ago (and many contemporary viewers will undoubtedly find certain stereotypes of the time to be problematic), but what the narrative reveals about human nature is universal and timeless.
It’s one of the best American dramas of the 1970s; a wicked verbal jousting match delivered by a crackerjack acting ensemble so finely tuned that you could set a metronome to the performances (Crowley adapted the screenplay). The production is also unique for enlisting the entire original stage cast to recreate their roles onscreen.
The DVD features an enlightening commentary track from the always-chatty Friedkin, plus three featurettes including interviews with two surviving cast members (sadly, we learn all principal actors save for three have since passed away). Warning: Burt Bacharach’s “The Look of Love” will be playing in your head for days on end.