Cruising


1h 46m 1980

Brief Synopsis

A police detective hunts a killer through the sleazy gay nightclub scene of 1970s New York City in William Friedkin's gritty and controversial crime drama "Cruising" (1980), starring Al Pacino. Detective Steve Burns goes deep undercover and learns the rituals and culture of hard-core S&M to catch a

Film Details

Also Known As
Lockbetet
MPAA Rating
Release Date
1980
Location
New York City, New York, USA

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 46m

Synopsis

A police detective hunts a killer through the sleazy gay nightclub scene of 1970s New York City in William Friedkin's gritty and controversial crime drama "Cruising" (1980), starring Al Pacino. Detective Steve Burns goes deep undercover and learns the rituals and culture of hard-core S&M to catch a brutal psycho terrorizing the gay men of the city. With Paul Soriano and Karen Allen.

Crew

Gene Anderson

Assistant Property Master

Donah Bassett

Negative Cutting

Barry Bedig

Property Master

Enrique Bravo

Camera Operator

Tom Brown

Song Performer

Charles L Campbell

Supervising Sound Editor

Lucille Cannon

Auditor

James A Contner

Dp/Cinematographer

James A Contner

Director Of Photography

George Davis

Production Secretary

Robert De Mora

Costume Designer

Michael Dennison

Wardrobe Supervisor

Louis Digiaimo

Casting Director

Robert Drumheller

Set Decorator

Louis L Edemann

Sound Editor

Gene Engels

Gaffer

Bill Evans

Music Engineer

Carmine Foresta

Location Manager

Rick Franklin

Assistant Sound Editor

William Friedkin

Screenplay

Sidney Gecker

Script Supervisor

Athan Gigiakos

Adr Mixer

Robert W Glass

Sound Re-Recordist

Stanley Graham

Scenic Artist

Robert Grimaldi

Hair Stylist

Sonny Grosso

Technical Advisor

Burtt Harris

Production Manager

Burtt Harris

Associate Producer

Alan Hopkins

Assistant Director

Jere Huggins

Assistant Editor

Ned Humphreys

Assistant Editor

Edward Iacobelli

Other

Dean Jackson

Wardrobe Supervisor

Chris Jenkins

Sound Re-Recordist

Randy Jurgensen

Technical Advisor

Robert Knudson

Sound Re-Recordist

Toni St Clair Lilly

Production Secretary

William A Miller

Key Grip

Gary Muller

Assistant Camera

Hank Muller

Assistant Camera

Jack Nitzsche

Music

Robert Norin

Special Makeup Effects

Jennifer Ogden

Production Coordinator

Kim Ornitz

Sound Mixer

David Pettijohn

Sound Editor

Barre Phillips

Song Performer

Edward Pisoni

Art Director

Carlos Quiles

Construction Coordinator

James Raitt

Property Master

Bruce Richardson

Sound Editor

Bruno Robotti

Scenic Artist

Larry Rovetti

Color Timer

Norman B Schwartz

Adr/Dialogue Editor

Bud Smith

Editor

Gerald Walker

Source Material (From Novel)

Robert E Warren

Assistant Director

Josh Weiner

Photography

Bruce Weintraub

Production Designer

Jerry Weintraub

Producer

Michael Weintraub

Production Assistant

Allen Weisinger

Makeup Artist

Film Details

Also Known As
Lockbetet
MPAA Rating
Release Date
1980
Location
New York City, New York, USA

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 46m

Articles

Cruising - Al Pacino in William Friedkin's Controversial 1981 Film - CRUSIING


William Friedkin's Cruising (1980) was the first Hollywood film to boldly throw a hardcore gay lifestyle in the face of mainstream America, including mainstream gays. It's also the last of a kind. The sexual abandon in its leather bar group gropes came to a screeching halt soon after the 1979 filming with the onslaught of the AIDS epidemic, concurrent with Reagan Era squelching of the boldness in American film of the '70s. Riding the kind of cred you earn in Hollywood after you've made The French Connection (1971) and The Exorcist (1973), Friedkin in several ways rode it into the ground here. Time capsule aspects notwithstanding, Cruising still has something to offend everyone, including gays who felt stigmatized by its lurid equating of homosexuality with murderous psychosis.

In one of the two featurettes accompanying its DVD release, Friedkin describes it as a murder mystery that just happened to have a gay leather bar as its background. Is he kidding? Or is the use he makes of the in-your-face gay subculture tied to some ongoing denial of a film that's homophobic, tabloid in its exploitation, muddled in its conception? To be fair, it's at least not boring. Friedkin cites his background as a documentary filmmaker, saying he photographed what he saw in the bondage, leather and s&m bars he visited – including, it must be said, smiles on the faces of a lot of the participants in the orgies. But Cruising, tied as it is to shock theater, seems no more insightful about gay life than Brian De Palma's Dressed to Kill was about rape.

Inspired – if that's the word – by Gerald Walker's novel about an undercover NYC cop assigned to smoke out a serial killer of gays, it's informed as well by real cop Randy Jurgensen, who went undercover to get the goods on shakedown specialists victimizing gays. Al Pacino plays the cop sent in by a mournful-looking superior (Paul Sorvino) because Pacino's Steve Burns resembles the physical type of the victims. Certainly he throws himself into his work, insinuating himself into the gay world until he finds himself smack in the middle of a sexual identity crisis. As his plunge into the world of the gay clubs continues, he keeps running back to his girlfriend (Karen Allen) for sex, not so much out of lust, but to reassure himself about what he has always believed is his heterosexuality.

If his confusion deepens as the case proceeds, so does ours. The one thing you insist on in a film that its maker calls a murder mystery is learning the identity of the murderer. We don't mind waiting until the end, but we do want to know who did it. This Friedkin denies us. When, during one of the two featurette interviews as DVD extras, Friedkin speaks of deliberately blurring the identity of the killer, that the killer in one scene is the victim in another and so on in a deranged daisy chain, then adds that we can't be sure if Pacino's conflicted cop is the one who butchered his gay next door neighbor because he was terrified that he might have been falling for the guy, we don't know whether to throw something at the screen, or regard Cruising as a laughable anticipatory metaphor for AIDS, in which contact with what may be your gay side infects you with sexual psychosis.

The stereotyping deepens with the introduction of Richard Cox's Columbia grad student, laboring through a thesis on American musical theater, twisted out of shape by daddy issues. It's a waste of a compelling performance, just as Don Scardino is wasted as the cop's chatty, sunny-dispositioned neighbor. Ditto for Gene Davis' leather-clad streetwalking transvestite in flowing blond wig, balancing toughness and style. Most of the rest you just feel sorry for – especially Allen, whose expression of nonstop bewilderment is entirely understandable and Leland Starnes, who manages to avoid embarrassment during his park bench scene as the musical theater student's dead father, whose unmet expectations, we are asked to believe, unhinge his grown son. Real cops Jurgensen and Sonny Grosso blend in expertly as screen cops.

If Friedkin's sensationalizing excesses, lurid color baths and repeated hammerings of the penetration metaphor make the film seem like Halloween, the staging of it in cold light in – where else? – the Meat Packing District, is the final nail in the coffin of its credibility (Fatal Instinct shamelessly borrowed the same ambience to great success years later). Cruising remains more millstone than milestone of gay cinema – much of which merely reflects hysterical mainstream attitudes toward homosexuality. Ironically, it's another reminder that when it became acceptable for mainstream films to drag homosexuality out of the closet, it mostly was in ways that, if not okaying the murder of gays, reinforced negative perceptions. About the only thing Cruising got right was to find itself on the right side of a free speech issue.

When it was being filmed in 1979, gay protests flared up around it. Not just the usual march, either. There were demands that NYC withdraw its support of the film. Some activists went as far as disrupting the sound on the shoot by blasting stereos and whistles nearby. Others stood on rooftops with reflecting mirrors, disrupting the lighting. Friedkin and Warner Bros. tried to take the sting out of the charges of homophobia with a statement saying, "This film is not intended as an indictment of the homosexual world." In the spirit, one assumes, of feebly tacking the meaningless "Shame of a Nation" title addition to Scarface (1932) to disarm criticism of that film. In today's era of Brokeback Mountain and Larry Craig, Cruising remains more bomb than bombshell. But its Dionysian moments are as potent as its guignol is hokey, and you can understand what all the fuss was about.

For more information about Cruising, visit Warner Video. To order Cruising, go to TCM Shopping.

by Jay Carr
Cruising - Al Pacino In William Friedkin's Controversial 1981 Film - Crusiing

Cruising - Al Pacino in William Friedkin's Controversial 1981 Film - CRUSIING

William Friedkin's Cruising (1980) was the first Hollywood film to boldly throw a hardcore gay lifestyle in the face of mainstream America, including mainstream gays. It's also the last of a kind. The sexual abandon in its leather bar group gropes came to a screeching halt soon after the 1979 filming with the onslaught of the AIDS epidemic, concurrent with Reagan Era squelching of the boldness in American film of the '70s. Riding the kind of cred you earn in Hollywood after you've made The French Connection (1971) and The Exorcist (1973), Friedkin in several ways rode it into the ground here. Time capsule aspects notwithstanding, Cruising still has something to offend everyone, including gays who felt stigmatized by its lurid equating of homosexuality with murderous psychosis. In one of the two featurettes accompanying its DVD release, Friedkin describes it as a murder mystery that just happened to have a gay leather bar as its background. Is he kidding? Or is the use he makes of the in-your-face gay subculture tied to some ongoing denial of a film that's homophobic, tabloid in its exploitation, muddled in its conception? To be fair, it's at least not boring. Friedkin cites his background as a documentary filmmaker, saying he photographed what he saw in the bondage, leather and s&m bars he visited – including, it must be said, smiles on the faces of a lot of the participants in the orgies. But Cruising, tied as it is to shock theater, seems no more insightful about gay life than Brian De Palma's Dressed to Kill was about rape. Inspired – if that's the word – by Gerald Walker's novel about an undercover NYC cop assigned to smoke out a serial killer of gays, it's informed as well by real cop Randy Jurgensen, who went undercover to get the goods on shakedown specialists victimizing gays. Al Pacino plays the cop sent in by a mournful-looking superior (Paul Sorvino) because Pacino's Steve Burns resembles the physical type of the victims. Certainly he throws himself into his work, insinuating himself into the gay world until he finds himself smack in the middle of a sexual identity crisis. As his plunge into the world of the gay clubs continues, he keeps running back to his girlfriend (Karen Allen) for sex, not so much out of lust, but to reassure himself about what he has always believed is his heterosexuality. If his confusion deepens as the case proceeds, so does ours. The one thing you insist on in a film that its maker calls a murder mystery is learning the identity of the murderer. We don't mind waiting until the end, but we do want to know who did it. This Friedkin denies us. When, during one of the two featurette interviews as DVD extras, Friedkin speaks of deliberately blurring the identity of the killer, that the killer in one scene is the victim in another and so on in a deranged daisy chain, then adds that we can't be sure if Pacino's conflicted cop is the one who butchered his gay next door neighbor because he was terrified that he might have been falling for the guy, we don't know whether to throw something at the screen, or regard Cruising as a laughable anticipatory metaphor for AIDS, in which contact with what may be your gay side infects you with sexual psychosis. The stereotyping deepens with the introduction of Richard Cox's Columbia grad student, laboring through a thesis on American musical theater, twisted out of shape by daddy issues. It's a waste of a compelling performance, just as Don Scardino is wasted as the cop's chatty, sunny-dispositioned neighbor. Ditto for Gene Davis' leather-clad streetwalking transvestite in flowing blond wig, balancing toughness and style. Most of the rest you just feel sorry for – especially Allen, whose expression of nonstop bewilderment is entirely understandable and Leland Starnes, who manages to avoid embarrassment during his park bench scene as the musical theater student's dead father, whose unmet expectations, we are asked to believe, unhinge his grown son. Real cops Jurgensen and Sonny Grosso blend in expertly as screen cops. If Friedkin's sensationalizing excesses, lurid color baths and repeated hammerings of the penetration metaphor make the film seem like Halloween, the staging of it in cold light in – where else? – the Meat Packing District, is the final nail in the coffin of its credibility (Fatal Instinct shamelessly borrowed the same ambience to great success years later). Cruising remains more millstone than milestone of gay cinema – much of which merely reflects hysterical mainstream attitudes toward homosexuality. Ironically, it's another reminder that when it became acceptable for mainstream films to drag homosexuality out of the closet, it mostly was in ways that, if not okaying the murder of gays, reinforced negative perceptions. About the only thing Cruising got right was to find itself on the right side of a free speech issue. When it was being filmed in 1979, gay protests flared up around it. Not just the usual march, either. There were demands that NYC withdraw its support of the film. Some activists went as far as disrupting the sound on the shoot by blasting stereos and whistles nearby. Others stood on rooftops with reflecting mirrors, disrupting the lighting. Friedkin and Warner Bros. tried to take the sting out of the charges of homophobia with a statement saying, "This film is not intended as an indictment of the homosexual world." In the spirit, one assumes, of feebly tacking the meaningless "Shame of a Nation" title addition to Scarface (1932) to disarm criticism of that film. In today's era of Brokeback Mountain and Larry Craig, Cruising remains more bomb than bombshell. But its Dionysian moments are as potent as its guignol is hokey, and you can understand what all the fuss was about. For more information about Cruising, visit Warner Video. To order Cruising, go to TCM Shopping. by Jay Carr

Quotes

Trivia

Miscellaneous Notes

Released in United States February 1980

Released in United States Winter February 15, 1980

Re-released in United States September 7, 2007

Restored print re-released in USA September 7, 2007.

Released in United States February 1980

Released in United States Winter February 15, 1980

Re-released in United States September 7, 2007