Cruising (1980)

R | 102 mins | Drama | 1980

Director:

William Friedkin

Producer:

Jerry Weintraub

Cinematographer:

James A. Contner

Editor:

Bud Smith

Production Designer:

Bruce Weintraub
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HISTORY


       A 21 May 1971 DV news brief announced that Phil D’Antoni and Robert Weiner planned to produce a film version of Gerald Walker’s novel, Cruising . Walker was set to adapt his own work, marking the writer’s first foray into screenwriting. A 20 Sep 1973 HR article reported that D’Antoni’s production company, D’Antoni-Weitz, later dropped the project because they could not dedicate adequate time to its development. The article noted that because of a recent “Supreme Court ruling on obscenity,” it was deemed wise that D’Antoni-Weitz backed out, given the film might be difficult to finance. An 18 Oct 1972 Var news item announced that Paul Morrissey would direct the film, with Weiner set to produce. They planned to begin shooting in New York City in the spring of 1973 and were considering actors Jeff Bridges and Timothy Bottoms for the leading role.
       Though Warner Bros. had a reported interest in the project, Lorimar eventually signed on to finance the film, with Jerry Weintraub producing and William Friedkin directing, according to a 20 Jun 1979 Var news item. Production was set to begin Jul 1979 in New York with Al Pacino in the lead. According to a 25 Jul 1979 Var news item, the budget was $11 million, and filming would take place over ten weeks in the Greenwich Village neighborhood of New York City. Around eighty locations were used, according to an 18 Sep 1979 NYT article.
       Friedkin stated in NYT that Weintraub approached him several times to direct the film, but he first needed to investigate the “gay underworld” on ... More Less


       A 21 May 1971 DV news brief announced that Phil D’Antoni and Robert Weiner planned to produce a film version of Gerald Walker’s novel, Cruising . Walker was set to adapt his own work, marking the writer’s first foray into screenwriting. A 20 Sep 1973 HR article reported that D’Antoni’s production company, D’Antoni-Weitz, later dropped the project because they could not dedicate adequate time to its development. The article noted that because of a recent “Supreme Court ruling on obscenity,” it was deemed wise that D’Antoni-Weitz backed out, given the film might be difficult to finance. An 18 Oct 1972 Var news item announced that Paul Morrissey would direct the film, with Weiner set to produce. They planned to begin shooting in New York City in the spring of 1973 and were considering actors Jeff Bridges and Timothy Bottoms for the leading role.
       Though Warner Bros. had a reported interest in the project, Lorimar eventually signed on to finance the film, with Jerry Weintraub producing and William Friedkin directing, according to a 20 Jun 1979 Var news item. Production was set to begin Jul 1979 in New York with Al Pacino in the lead. According to a 25 Jul 1979 Var news item, the budget was $11 million, and filming would take place over ten weeks in the Greenwich Village neighborhood of New York City. Around eighty locations were used, according to an 18 Sep 1979 NYT article.
       Friedkin stated in NYT that Weintraub approached him several times to direct the film, but he first needed to investigate the “gay underworld” on his own, to look for inspiration. The director soon became interested in the “total dedication to [a] fantasy world” and “obsession” he encountered within the gay sado-masochistic subculture, and, finding it hard to express his observations to another person, decided to write the screenplay himself. Cruising marked Friedkin’s first solo screenwriting effort.
       Gay activists protested the film throughout its production. Because Friedkin kept the script secret, even from cast members, the gay community made assumptions about how closely the story would adhere to Walker’s notorious novel and believed the film would encourage violence against homosexuals as well as perpetuate negative stereotypes, as stated in the 25 Jul 1979 Var article. Though Weintraub expressed to the gay community that Friedkin was not filming a direct adaptation of the book, only using selected characters and the title, protestors were unconvinced. An organizational meeting occurred on 23 Jul 1979 at Washington Square Methodist Church, during which activists were urged to go to the set in order to “mill within camera range, cause a barrage of noise via loud radios, block streets, [and] remove no parking signs.” According to a 31 Jan 1980 LAHExam news item, a 20 Aug 1980 protest led to violence after 800 homosexuals took part in a march against Cruising that interrupted the shoot. Homosexual New York residents were also encouraged to boycott “gay establishments” serving as locations in the film, and some businesses withdrew after initially signing location agreements. In San Francisco, CA, gay activists created the organization “Stop the Movie ‘Cruising’.” In defense of the film, John Devere, the executive editor of Mandate , a magazine aimed at a homosexual readership, stated, “This movie had every right to be made”; moreover, in reference to complaints that the filmmakers used actual gay bars as locations and homosexuals, including himself, as extras, he commented, “I don’t want to see fake Hollywood sets and 500 heterosexual actors posing as homosexuals.”
       Controversy also surrounded the MPAA (Motion Picture Association of America) rating of the film. According to a 16 Feb 1980 NYT article, three minutes were cut from the original edit, and the film was submitted “five or six times” before receiving an ‘R’ rating; however, several theater chains disagreed with the decision and thought Cruising should be rated ‘X.’ Richard Heffner, chairman of the MPAA board at the time, stood by the choice as a technical adherence to MPAA standards and stated, “we can’t give the movie an X rating because the audience thinks it sees something that isn’t there.”
       An article in the 31 Jan 1980 LAHExam announced that Cruising would not be shown at movie houses owned by General Cinema Corp., “the nation’s largest theater chain.” Though General Cinema initially contracted to screen the film in thirty theaters, the company cancelled its engagements after seeing Cruising and considering it an X-rated film. The 16 Feb 1980 NYT article reported that United Artists Corp. planned to sue General Cinema for “breach of contract.” As reported in 21 Feb 1980 DV , United Artists Theatres, no longer affiliated with the United Artists production company, posted signs conveying the opinion that Cruising should be rated X, and moviegoers under the age of eighteen would not be permitted to purchase tickets. The previous year, United Artists Theaters had posted similar notifications when they screened Hardcore (1979, see entry).
       As reported in the 20 Jun 1979 Var , $5-6 million was spent on advertising. The 21 Feb 1980 DV article stated that United Artists Corp. paid $1.25 million for television spots, and six advertisements aired during the Olympics.
       In its opening weekend, 180 theaters reported that the film took in over $1.6 million in box-office receipts. The figure was incomplete, however, as the film showed at an additional 370 theaters that had not yet reported, according to a 19 Feb 1980 DV news item. Groups of 200 protestors demonstrated outside theaters in both San Francisco and New York, and smaller groups picketed the film in other U.S. cities, according to an 18 Feb 1980 LAT article. In Orange, CT, eleven protestors were arrested for “disorderly conduct.” A United Artists Corp. executive commented that the film would not have performed as well at the box office if it were not for the demonstrations. A 16 Mar 1980 LAT brief stated that the film had earned nearly $14 million in box-office receipts to the time.
       According to a 19 Feb 1980 HR brief, Cruising was invited to the Berlin Film Festival, with a 22 Feb 1980 screening scheduled.
       Critical reception was largely negative, and much of the backlash was focused on Friedkin’s muddled plot. In a 10 Feb 1980 LAT review, Charles Champlin stated that the narrative was “fuller of red herring than a Copenhagen fish market.” The 15 Feb 1980 NYT review accused Friedkin of presenting a “distorted view” of the gay community and failing to successfully comprehend the film’s subject matter.

       End credits include a song credit for "Three-Day Moon" by Barre Phillips; however, "Three-Day Moon" was an album, not an individual song.


The summary and note for this entry were completed with participation from the AFI Academic Network. Summary and note were written by participant Desiree Gorham, a student at Oregon State University, with Jon Lewis as academic advisor.
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GEOGRAPHIC LOCATIONS
SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Daily Variety
21 May 1971.
---
Daily Variety
19 Feb 1980.
---
Daily Variety
21 Feb 1980.
---
Hollywood Reporter
20 Sep 1973
p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter
6 Jul 1979.
---
Hollywood Reporter
12 Feb 1980
p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter
19 Feb 1980.
---
LAHExam
31 Jan 1980.
---
Los Angeles Times
24 Oct 1971.
---
Los Angeles Times
4 Feb 1980
Section G, p. 1, 8.
Los Angeles Times
10 Feb 1980
p. 1.
Los Angeles Times
10 Feb 1980
Section M, p. 1, 47-50.
Los Angeles Times
18 Feb 1980
Section E, p. 1.
Los Angeles Times
16 Mar 1980
Section N, p. 36.
New York Times
18 Sep 1979
Section C, p. 12.
New York Times
15 Feb 1980
p. 6.
New York Times
16 Feb 1980.
---
Rolling Stone
6 Sep 1975.
---
Variety
18 Oct 1972.
---
Variety
20 Jun 1979.
---
Variety
25 Jul 1979
p. 34.
Variety
13 Feb 1980
p. 16.
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION TEXTS
A Jerry Weintraub Production
Made in assoc with CIP-Europaische Treuhand AG, Germany
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Prod mgr
1st asst dir
2d asst dir
PRODUCERS
Assoc prod
WRITER
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
Cam op
Asst cam
Asst cam
Gaffer
Key grip
Still photog
ART DIRECTORS
Prod des
Art dir
FILM EDITORS
Film ed
Asst film ed
Asst film ed
Negative cutter
SET DECORATORS
Prop master
Prop master
Asst prop master
Const coord
Scenic artist
Scenic artist
COSTUMES
Cost des
Ward supv
Ward supv
MUSIC
Mus performed by
Mus performed by
Mus performed by
Mus performed by
Courtesy of MCA Records
Mus performed by
Courtesy of CBS Records
Mus performed by
Mus performed by
Mus performed by
Mus eng
SOUND
Sound rerec
Sound rerec
Sound rerec
Supv sd ed
Asst sd ed
Dial ed
Sd mixer
ADR mixer
The Sound Shop, New York City
MAKEUP
Make-up artist
Spec make-up eff
Hairstylist
PRODUCTION MISC
Prod exec
Tech adv
Tech adv
Casting dir
Loc mgr
Scr supv
Prod office coord
Auditor
Teamster capt
Prod asst
Secy to the prod
Secy to the dir
COLOR PERSONNEL
Col timer
SOURCES
LITERARY
Based on the novel Cruising by Gerald Walker (New York, 1970).
AUTHOR
MUSIC
"Three-Day Moon" performed by Barre Phillips
"Herbal Scent," written by Tom Browne, performed by Tom Browne, courtesy Arista/GRP.
COMPOSER
DETAILS
Alternate Title:
William Friedkin's Cruising
Release Date:
1980
Premiere Information:
Los Angeles and New York openings: 15 February 1980
Production Date:
began July 1979
Copyright Claimant:
Lorimar Film- und Fernsehproduktion, G.m.b.H.
Copyright Date:
21 July 1980
Copyright Number:
PA74332
Physical Properties:
Sound
Color
Color by Technicolor®
Lenses
Lenses and Panaflex camera by Panavision®
Duration(in mins):
102
MPAA Rating:
R
Countries:
Germany, United States
Language:
English
PCA No:
25871
Passed by NBR:
No
SYNOPSIS

An arm is found floating in the Hudson River, and Detective Lefransky from the New York Police Deparment orders forensic scientist, Dr. Rifkin, to match the arm to a torso found earlier. In a predominantly gay neighborhood in Manhattan, patrolman DiSimone and his partner, Desher, order two transvestite prostitutes into their police car and sexually harass them. Nearby, a man wearing sunglasses and a leather jacket enters a nightclub filled with homosexual men dancing, kissing, and publicly performing acts of sadomasochism. Loren Lukas approaches the man in sunglasses and propositions him for sex; soon after, they leave the nightclub and get a room at the St. James Hotel, where the man in sunglasses ties Lukas’s hands and feet together, sings the words, “I’m here, you’re here, we’re here,” and stabs him to death. At the forensics lab, Rifkin examines Lukas’s body and informs Captain Edelson that the killer’s DNA cannot be determined from ejaculate found inside the body because the semen contains no sperm. Later, Edelson questions DaVinci, one of the transvestite prostitutes stopped by DiSimone and Desher, and shows him mug shots of potential suspects. DaVinci provides information, then tells Edelson that patrolman DiSimone forced him to perform oral sex the other night, but Edelson refuses to believe him. That day, Steve Burns, a young policeman, reports to Edelson’s office where he is briefed on Lukas’s killing as well as the murder of Paul Vincent, a gay college professor. Edelson believes the same killer committed each crime, and asks Burns to investigate the case undercover, posing as a homosexual, because he looks like the two victims. In bed with his girlfriend, Nancy, Burns tells her that he must ... +


An arm is found floating in the Hudson River, and Detective Lefransky from the New York Police Deparment orders forensic scientist, Dr. Rifkin, to match the arm to a torso found earlier. In a predominantly gay neighborhood in Manhattan, patrolman DiSimone and his partner, Desher, order two transvestite prostitutes into their police car and sexually harass them. Nearby, a man wearing sunglasses and a leather jacket enters a nightclub filled with homosexual men dancing, kissing, and publicly performing acts of sadomasochism. Loren Lukas approaches the man in sunglasses and propositions him for sex; soon after, they leave the nightclub and get a room at the St. James Hotel, where the man in sunglasses ties Lukas’s hands and feet together, sings the words, “I’m here, you’re here, we’re here,” and stabs him to death. At the forensics lab, Rifkin examines Lukas’s body and informs Captain Edelson that the killer’s DNA cannot be determined from ejaculate found inside the body because the semen contains no sperm. Later, Edelson questions DaVinci, one of the transvestite prostitutes stopped by DiSimone and Desher, and shows him mug shots of potential suspects. DaVinci provides information, then tells Edelson that patrolman DiSimone forced him to perform oral sex the other night, but Edelson refuses to believe him. That day, Steve Burns, a young policeman, reports to Edelson’s office where he is briefed on Lukas’s killing as well as the murder of Paul Vincent, a gay college professor. Edelson believes the same killer committed each crime, and asks Burns to investigate the case undercover, posing as a homosexual, because he looks like the two victims. In bed with his girlfriend, Nancy, Burns tells her that he must go away for a while and cannot talk about his assignment. Though the job is potentially dangerous, it will allow him to skip patrol duties and become a detective. In a predominantly gay area of the West Village, Burns moves into an apartment and meets his neighbor, a homosexual named Ted Bailey. Burns introduces himself as “John Forbes,” and joins Ted at a café, where they eat lunch and discuss the recent killings in the neighborhood. At night, Burns visits gay bars and observes the crowds. Slowly acclimating to the scene, he lifts weights at home and applies makeup before going out. One night, the killer meets Eric Rossman in a park, and they head to the woods to have sex; however, they become separated, and the killer taunts Rossman with the same song he sang before Lukas’s murder. The killer then sneaks up on Rossman and stabs him to death. Emotionally disturbed by the investigation, Burns sleeps with Nancy at her apartment and tells her he does not want to lose her. Later, Burns attends a “Precinct Night” at a gay club, where patrons dress up as policemen, but he is kicked out for not wearing the proper costume. Outside the club, a young man named Skip Lee propositions Burns for sex, but Burns rejects him. When he returns to Nancy’s apartment and makes love to her, Burns continues to hear sounds from the gay nightclub in his mind. Sometime later, fashion designer Martino Perry visits an adult bookstore and follows the killer into a peep show booth. As they watch an adult film together, Perry lowers to his knees, and the killer grabs a knife and stabs Perry in the back. At the station, the Chief of Detectives orders Edelson to solve the murders before the upcoming Democratic National Convention. At a nightclub, Burns asks a bartender about Skip Lee, the young man who recently propositioned him, and learns that Lee has a bad reputation for being violent. Detective Lefransky finds DaVinci, the transvestite, on the street, and DaVinci tells him that Lee works at The Iron Horse, a steakhouse. There, Lefransky and Detective Schrieber obtain a steak knife used by patrons. Examining the knife, Rifkin determines that it might match the killer’s weapon. Soon after, Burns finds Lee at a club, takes him to a motel room, and asks Lee to tie him up, while policemen listen to the interaction on a surveillance device. Shortly after, police burst into the motel room and arrest Burns and Lee. Though Lee appears to be innocent, they force him to provide a semen sample; however, it contains sperm and therefore does not match the killer’s. At her apartment, Nancy asks Burns why he no longer seems attracted to her, and he blames the undercover work. At Nancy’s suggestion, they agree to break up for a while. Burns meets Edelson and tells him he can no longer handle the job, but Edelson insists he needs Burns to continue the investigation and gives him a yearbook from Columbia University. In the yearbook, Edelson has marked the names of Paul Vincent’s former students, believing one of them might be the killer. Burns recognizes one of the students, Stuart Richards, and finds his address. Burns then follows Richards and breaks into his apartment one day when he is out. Inside, he finds a box of letters Richards has written to his father, Jack, but never mailed. In the letters, Richards describes his dark thoughts. When he returns home, Richards realizes someone has broken in and spots Burns outside his window. Richards then walks to the nearby park and imagines he sees his father sitting on a bench. Recalling the murders he has committed, Richards apologizes to his father, who seems to disapprove of his son. Before leaving, Richards hears his father say, “You know what you have to do.” Burns returns to his apartment building and knocks on Ted’s door, but Ted’s roommate, Gregory Milanese, answers. Assuming Ted and Burns were having an affair, Gregory threatens him with a knife after they have a physical altercation. Burns later waits outside Richards’s apartment until Richards emerges and heads to the park. They meet at a bench and Burns invites Richards back to his apartment, but Richards suggests they go to the nearby tunnel instead. Burns agrees, and inside the tunnel, takes his pants off. Ordering Richards to do the same, Burns watches as Richards slips a knife from his boot. Wielding his own knife, Burns stabs Richards in the gut. At the hospital, Edelson tells Richards that the police matched his fingerprint to a quarter used at the peep show at the time of Perry’s killing, and promises to reduce his sentence if he confesses to all of the murders. As Burns leaves, Edelson welcomes him to the detective division. Meanwhile, detectives collect evidence from Richards’s apartment and learn that his father died ten years ago. Later, patrolman DiSimone briefs Edelson inside Ted Bailey’s apartment, where Ted’s body has been found, stabbed to death, and Edelson realizes that Burns lived next door while working under cover. Nancy finds Burns at her apartment, and he tells her he is moving back. While she waits for him to shave, Nancy finds a leather jacket, police hat, and a pair of sunglasses left behind by Burns and tries them on. Unbeknownst to her, it’s the same outfit Richards wore when he committed the murders.
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