Aug 13, 2013
Long before homocore pioneer Bruce LaBruce made films about queer punk hairdressers swooning over skinheads in No Skin Off My Ass (1993) and young twink neo-nazis jerking off onto old school editions of Mein Kampf in Skin Flick / Skin Gang (1999), militant sadomasochistic sodomite auteur Fred Halsted (The Sex Garage, Sextool) was making hardcore arthouse blue movies featuring leather-punks being anally and orally punked with punk rock/new wave soundtracks. Described by some as Halsted’s crowning achievement as an aesthetically and genetically endowed pornographer, A Night at Halsted's (1982) sticks out from virtually every other porn flick ever made in that it features a soundtrack including songs by Devo, The Sex Pistols, The Circle Jerks, The Dead Kennedys, David Bowie, X, and The Adolescents, among various others, set to footage of leather-fags pumping each other full of twinkie cream in a Querelle-esque cocksucker club. As Halsted’s biographer William E. Jones wrote in Halsted Plays Himself (2011), “Fred Halsted continued to direct during the 1980s, but the terms of his involvement in the porn industry had changed, and most of his feature films and videos from that period have little to recommend beyond the obvious attractions. The best of the lot is A Night at Halsted’s (1981), shot at the sex club Fred owned…” Starring hardcore homo Halsted—a self-described proponent of “gay supremacism” who once proudly stated in an interview that “Gay supremacy is fascistic! What's the difference between gay supremacy and Nazism?”—during his more ‘mature’ years as a pernicious pleasure-seeking predator on the prowl who is looking to penetrate passive young men and force them to literally lick his boot in the same manner as he depicted a decade earlier in his first feature-length film LA Plays Itself (1972), A Night at Halsted's is eroticized self-worship at its most superlatively sleazy, cum-covered, preposterously punk rock, and ludicrously leather-bound. Unfortunately, like most porn flicks (excluding Halsted’s early films), A Night at Halsted's can be rather redundant for those not looking to get off to cocks get blown through gloryholes as man-on-man manhole action is clearly the main attraction, yet the film still manages to transcend the typical 1980s skin flick with its almost unintentionally surreal combination of cock-chomping visuals and penetrating powerchord sounds. Needless to say, seeing Fred Halsted in full leather-fag apparel stalking young men at his cum-covered club to Gary Numan’s “I Die: You Die” makes for an innately idiosyncratic and iconic scenario as if the viewer is witness some sort of seedy spiritual rites of some secret society of synthesizer Sodom.
Opening with Fred Halsted entering his club like a highly decorated general making his way onto the battlefield, A Night at Halsted's lets the viewer know immediately that one is about to witness the warped and recklessly wanton real-life fantasies of its star/director. Before stealing some tricks from some young twinks, Halsted talks to the cashier of the club, who is played by the director’s real-life long-term boyfriend Joey Vale. About a half a decade after A Night at Halsted's was released, Vale died of AIDS and Halsted decided to follow his loverboy by committing suicide in 1989, writing in his suicide note, “I had a good life...I've had looks, a body, money, success and artistic triumphs. I've had the love of my life. I see no reason to go on.” The reality of both Halsted and Vale’s deaths make A Night at Halsted's an all the more interesting watch as a charismatically crude celluloid work depicting sexual, cultural, and aesthetic nihilism, where each gushing cumshot reflects a closer step to an early death. Made during the pre-condom days when gay cancer had yet to scare ultra-masculine homos from abandoning their lurid leather uniforms, A Night at Halsted's is a deranged dream before it blew up into a real-life nightmare. A Night at Halsted's concludes where it begins with Mr. Halsted discussing the finer points of S&M fetishism with his tragic lover Joey Vale, who also worked as the fluffer on the film, thus making the film a sort of fucked family affair. Advertised in newspapers as “A Private Men's Club” featuring LEVI-LEATHER-PUNK, such an advertisement certainly fails to express the sensual sadism of Halsted's, a pervert's palace where young bucks can have the distinguished honor of licking an old arthouse pornographer's legendary boots.
Filmed at what Fred Halsted himself dubbed as his own “stand up fuck club,” A Night at Halsted's is a debauched documentary more than anything, albeit a highly subjective one clearly used as an outlet for the star/director to showcase his personal ‘pride and joy’ one more time. Featuring the trailer of an eighteen-wheeler that was designed as a reconstruction of the trucks of New York’s Meatpacking district, a translucent Plexiglas wall with a rather large gloryhole, metal bunk beds without mattresses meant to deliver maximum discomfort for the sadomasochistically inclined, and seemingly endless dark hallways meant for running into a potential victim/victimizer, Halsted’s club only lasted a year after it opened because, as William E. Jones wrote, “Fred himself admitted that Los Angeles did not have enough perverts to support the sort of business he envisioned.” On top of being a sickeningly visceral appearance akin to spiritual syphilis with a strangely complimentary punk soundtrack that makes the whole experience easier to swallow, A Night at Halsted's is a highly humorous piece of leather lunacy, not least of all because the film’s ‘other star’ J.W. King looks like a pseudo-fascistic, fecal felon retard in his captain cocksucker police hat and his symbolic need to fiercely fuck clones as a nihilistic narcissist who probably feels that downing the dick of his doppelganger is the next best thing to screwing himself. Seeing Halsted take on a twink-in-training, Greg Dale, a fellow that dons a dog collar and ebony jockstrap, also makes for an unintentionally satirical piece of frolicsome fetishism, as if the director was trying to reinvent S&M leather-faggery, but ultimately just ended up intentionally parodying it. Of course, it is not until Mr. Halsted—a man who made a name for himself in LA Plays Itself by having his lover lick his leather skull-crushing boots—has Vale ‘cleanup’ his faithful boots that he can go on his merry way and say his salacious goodbyes, thus concluding A Night at Halsted's. While lacking the Scorpio Rising-esque aberrant arthouse essence of The Sex Garage (1972) and LA Plays Itself (1972) and the esoteric and eccentric 35mm eroticism of Sextool (1975), A Night at Halsted's was still a rather decent way for an unhappy unhinged pornographer to conclude his then-already-stagnating pornography career. For those that think that diseased cocks and gigantic gloryholes cannot be funny, A Night at Halsted's is a reminder why semen-covered pleather has more slapstick value than a dozen Friedberg and Seltzer flicks. Of course, what else can one expect from a film with the would-be-titillating tagline, “How Long Can You Stay Up?”
Posted by Soiled Sinema at 9:45 PM
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