Too often casually dismissed as a poor man's Bill Higgins, Mark Reynolds proves to be a more than adequate filmmaker in his own right not to mention another key figure in homo hardcore history, sharing the great man's love of young male flesh but with a considerably more romantic slant. While Higgins ruled the roost at his upscale Laguna Pacific studios, Reynolds was slaving away at the far lower rent TCX, cranking out flicks like THE SUMMER OF SCOTT NOLL, FANTASIZE and BUSTER : THE BEST YEARS that have managed to find their way into true fans' hearts despite their lack of means or "classic status". Next to his to this day still unjustly forgotten gem ALL American BOYS with scrumptious French strumpet Jacques Chalon and stalwart Lee Ryder, BEST FRIENDS and its sequel and near-equal represent Reynolds' labor of love, in more ways than one.
Employing an elegant dramatic structure, this feature focuses on two sets of "special friends", one of them out and proud, the other quite the opposite. Thom Littlewolf, who played the basketball-playing boy next door with Brian Maxon in John Travis' and Matt Sterling's really fine TWO HANDFULLS, is the ever horny little devil urging one time only performer Mike Carlson to, er, open up in the film's first and silliest encounter that has Thom or rather his badly overdubbed voice querying "You want it, dontcha ?" like ten times before actually putting it in. Just grin and bear it, as quality improves on every level after that.
Star of the piece Mark Jennings (and you'll have to look hard to recognize the performer who started out as a massively endowed, bleached blonde bottom named "Danny Parks" for, you guessed it, William Higgins in FRAT HOUSE MEMORIES and ROUTE 69) woodenly plays the terminally straight roommate of secretly gay Jeff Cameron who sets up hetero threesomes with female passers-by like very '80s blonde Athena Starr just to get a look at his mate's meat. Starr is a personal fave footnote starlet who was in Roberta Findlay's GLITTER and PRIVATE SCHOOL GIRLS. Too bad this trio's handled with the usual lack of interest gay porn directors tend to bestow on straight sex scenarios. Far more erotic is Cameron's self-pleasuring as he's spying on his spent friend sleeping.
Catching his buddy in flagrante with a delivery boy (no cliché left unturned), Mark moves out but not before allowing Jeff to orally service him, giving him "what he has wanted all along", leaving the boy filled with regret and self-loathing. Meanwhile, Littlewolf's getting it on with a couple of fellow college students, witnessed by Carlson who calls off their friendship as a result. This sends Thom the way of all disillusioned drama queens (before you protest to that description, hey, I'm one of you !), namely to the nearest public lavatory where he seduces and is promptly mauled by Jennings. With these scalding back to back boffs, Littlewolf pretty much pockets the picture. Their deliciously dirty toilet tryst opens Mark's eyes to the possibilities of a "deeper" friendship and finds him scurrying back to Jeff's loving arms for the heart-warming closer with Heather Conway and Garth Evans crooning the priceless ballad "Just One Touch" for disarmingly schmaltzy emphasis on the soundtrack.
In addition to all the hot sex and the "love conquers all" storyline, fans get the chance to glimpse some fly by night performers as only Jennings had any longevity in this genre. Strikingly handsome Cameron only seems to have appeared in a loop that wound up as part of BULLET PAC 8. As this is a mid-'80s shot on video feature (actually made in 1985, it got caught up in limbo for several years), production values might seem a touch archaic nowadays, especially the glacial color schemes further drained of warmth by security camera photography. Yet it's details such as these that determine whether you're a genuine genre fan who appreciates the good intentions of the filmmaker and the elusive casting or merely a shallow "tourist" who favors surface gloss over heart and heat.
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