Selma and Her Boys 1971
54min | Adult | 1971 (USA)
One of the most interesting things about the early days of publicly exhibited pornography is that it gave birth to strange creations like this, a lurching, half-formed pseudo-doc/sex film that’s probably more interesting as a time capsule than it was to skin fans back in the day.
Film ostensibly serves as an introduction to Selma Avenue in Hollywood (and more specifically the intersection of Selma & Las Palmas, right behind the historic Egyptian Theatre!), which the film states is one of the most heavily trafficked male sex districts west of the Mississippi. These opening minutes offer some interesting peeks at locations like Selma Avenue, Hollywood Boulevard, and the Griffith Park Observatory at the dawn of post- Stonewall gay liberation, and it’s interesting to get some contemporaneous perspective. Segueing into telephoto shots (supposedly filmed surreptitiously) of guys plying their trade around Selma & Las Palmas, the film insists that it contains no actors, only 10 rent boys paid for their time, and who believe this footage is merely being taken for “a private collection.” (This is not the least of the film’s ethical compromises, though its status as documentary is highly suspect to begin with.)
The film also kinda punts on the “10 guys” claim, only featuring about 5 or so really being interviewed (maybe it’s also counting some johns at Griffith Park?). Much like Tom de Simone’s superior BLUE MOVIE AUDITIONS (better known under Something Weird Video’s made-up title HOW TO MAKE A HOMO MOVIE), the film interrogates these guys on a number of questions, like how much they regularly charge, what’s the most they’ve ever made for a trick, and what’s their strangest experience has been. After a few minutes of disjointed, go-nowhere responses, one of the interviewees, a prissy guy with pimples and a half-formed pageboy haircut, launches into the story of his “weirdest sexual encounter,” which is recreated in the film’s first sex scene.
In typical ’70s fashion, “unusual sexual encounter” somehow equates to “raped by a closet case threatening me with a beer bottle,” a profoundly strange turn of events that would be shocking if it weren’t so incompetently handled. The scene is a complete non-starter, with no visible penetration and the victimized guy unable to muster enough energy to even pretend to look threatened. He drags himself through the whole sequence like he’s been heavily narcotized, and effectively undercuts any interest the encounter might have generated, except for the car-crash fascination of its undercurrent of internalized self-loathing.
Further adventures include interviewing a couple johns at Griffith Park (vaguely interesting, though largely off-base given the topic of Selma Avenue) and continued talking-heads observations from the hustlers, with more sex footage haphazardly spliced in. The second scene purports to show a straight guy with a client, and is again almost entirely softcore, with oral action of the patented Harry Novak hold-the-whole-limp-thing-in-my-hand variety and anal awkwardly obscured due to poor lighting and crummy camera angles. Only some mutual masturbation (with requisite cumshots, also missing from the first scene) mark this as porn and kick it (barely) over the line into hardcore.
A third sequence finds a few of the boys sleeping together naked and doesn’t even qualify as a sexual encounter. The fourth is a solo job from a hustler identified as Thor, who the filmmakers state they paid to perform for them (again, their interest in ethical documentary portraiture seems laser- focused). The final scene, featuring that same uptight guy from the first one along with a heartbreakingly gorgeous blond, has the only real potential to be barn-burner, though again the film squanders it by being so steadfastly bizarre that it’s impossible to tell what was going through anyone’s head at the time of filming. Asked about his “weirdest sexual experience” (the film cycles through the same questions sporadically and in a completely disorganized fashion), the guy proffers a bizarre tale about a voyeur who would pay for two guys and hide in his closet to observe. The twist is that only one of the guys actually gets naked and does anything – the other just sits there reading! Flipping for it, the uptight guy wins (or loses) and ends up being the one to pleasure himself while the blond dude lays there thumbing through a magazine and swatting off his advances. The voyeur character is kept completely off-camera, though both guys keep referring to him and whether they’re meeting his demands. Playing like some kind of bizarre performance art anti-erotica, it’s unclear why *anyone* thought this segment would be sexy, and best-scene honors end up going to Thor, who can at least reliably and quickly deliver.
Strange kicker finds the film returning one last time to interviewee Bobby (the blond-haired guy). The filmmakers ask him to specify his sexual orientation, and he gives the bizarre non-answer, “Well, I have heterosexual tendencies, but I define myself as homosexual.” The film cuts to black, and a narrator informs us that four days later, Bobby was picked up on charges of prostitution and is currently serving a 6-month sentence in Chino. It’s a bizarre and punitive note to end the film on, though strangely appropriate given the agonized, closet-case nature of most of its sex scenes. Not that I have any confidence in the film as documentary, but given that cute young Bobby would turn up in the vastly superior YOUNG SWITCHERS a few years later, one can’t help but feel even more dubious about this strange and conflicted film’s documentary claims.
Star: Ronnie Croft
Release Date: 1971 (USA)
Filming Locations: Selma Avenue, Hollywood, Los Angeles, California, USA