This is generally considered to be the first widely available gay pornographic movie. It was also the first porn film to include on-screen credits for its cast and crew, though many were assumed names. It was the first porn film to parody the title of a mainstream movie (The Boys in the Band (1970)), and is the only X-rated porn film to be reviewed by The New York Times. See more »
Broadway choreographer Wakefield Poole wrote homo hardcore history when he shot and released BOYS IN THE SAND in late 1971 in an effort to add some of Pat Rocco's (staunchly soft-core) lyricism to the generally grimy approach to all male porno. Allegedly the first film of its ilk to receive extensive coverage in the pages of Variety along with the more "specialized" press, it actually beat DEEP THROAT to the punch. It is rarely accorded this honor even in historical accounts to this very day, presumably because it's exclusively gay. This immediately situates it in some sort of ghetto within an industry that ironically was far less judgmental three and a half decades ago than it appears today. While there was a certain amount of cross-over in terms of directors (Chuck Vincent, Michael Zen, Wallace Potts), performers (Jack Wrangler, George Payne, Wade Nichols) and even subject matter (not just bisexual movies but the inclusion of the odd man on man sex scene in otherwise straight fare such as Gerard Damiano's STORY OF JOANNA or Gail Palmer's EROTIC ADVENTURES OF CANDY), most of this ceased with the initial AIDS scare of the early '80s and somehow the balance has never been fully redressed.
Poole had been touring his substantial circle of friends with a short explicit home movie he had shot with his then lover Peter Fisk and a similarly hirsute hunk by the name of Dino since 1969, receiving much praise for his artistic hand-held cinematography of their sweltering beach-side frolic. He had plans to extend this material into a full length feature, prospects hampered by Dino's refusal to sign the all important model release form that would allow public screenings for financial gain. Enter struggling Broadway actor Calvin Culver, who had starred the previous year in an attempt to make ends meet in Donald Crane's poorly made but popular all male skin-flick CASEY ! So popular in fact, that it drove Cal to adopt the porn pseudonym of the lead character he had played in it, generating the birth of "Casey Donovan". A blonde California golden boy with Robert Redford good looks and a healthy appetite for the pleasures of the flesh, Donovan was obvious superstar material right from the start. Fisk's little beach number (the basis for the film's funding after all) was redone almost shot for shot with Casey, who provides an exciting contrast to Peter's macho mystique, making for the first of a trio of shorts that would ultimately make up Wake's erotic debut.
Shot in and around friends' houses on Fire Island, BOYS nowadays mostly serves as a reminder of how crucial this environment was to the wide array of affluent gay men who took up (often secondary) residence there throughout the 1970s, catching their breath from rallying for their rights in the far less friendly streets of New York. Movies like the late Nigel Finch's vastly underrated STONEWALL or TV's brilliant TALES OF THE CITY may give present day viewers some idea about its status as a "safe haven" for homosexuals at the time, but this is as close to a first-hand experience you can possibly get. The idyllic "Beachside", set to the strains of Debussy and Ravel, is followed by "Poolside" with Donovan and beautiful Bobby Di Cioccio, a local carpenter and occasional Colt model, in an athletic encounter partially obscured by shadows cast by the luxurious foliage of the trees surrounding the swimming pool. This may create an intermittently interesting visual effect but it also seriously detracts from the sexual heat, reducing the segment to most people's least favorite part of the movie. There are several wonderful bits surrounding the actual sex scene however, with Casey wandering around Fire Island, giving a fair idea of the look and feel of the place. The most erotically adventurous sequence ("Inside") is saved for last. Donovan spies on gorgeous black phone repair guy Tommy Moore from his ornate holiday home, employing a humongous black dildo in setting up a fantasy that skirts the extreme (some brief fist insertion) but performed with such palpable passion mixed in with Poole's increasing mastery of his art as to produce the carnal fireworks the whole picture has been building up to.
Conceived as an almost abstract visual poem, BOYS was intended by its maker to reflect the various aspects of the "universal gay experience", moving from discovery and experimentation to first love and the acceptance of life shared with a "significant other", ultimately resulting in self-knowledge and sexual bliss. Like most "counter-culture" artifacts, the movie must be placed within its time-frame to be properly appreciated as several aspects may otherwise appear dated to current viewers. One must bear in mind that back in 1971 there was very little of value to compare it to. The aesthetically pleasing cast (just four guys but every single one of them suitable for framing) and attention paid to things like photography, musical scoring and editing indeed made this a groundbreaking work that has held up remarkably well over the years as to quote my mentor, the late great Jim Holliday unlike fashion or attitudes, truly erotic sex never goes out of style.
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