My Experience With Friedkin

William friedkin

I was especially eager to see the movie version of The Boys in the Band when it was released in 1970, because I hadn’t been able to attend a performance of the off-Broadway play. 

So when The Boys in the Band movie came to State College, I was ready to see it.

I called Mike Carr, and he was interested in seeing it as well, so we went together. The movie used the same cast that had appeared in NYC and, save for a few trimmed lines and some exterior scenes sans dialog at the beginning, it was largely a replica of the off-Broadway production. The director was some unknown fellow named William Friedkin.

I’ve always considered Boys to be a comedy as it has plenty of hilarious one-liners, but it does take a pretty serious turn in the second half.

My next encounter with director Friedkin was when Steve Crosby suggested we see the cop thriller, The French Connection, which had been released in late 1971. I assume that movie needs no introduction, and I’ve seen it a few more times fairly recently, and it holds up quite well.

Though I will say a word about the famous car chase sequence. Yes, it is thrilling, especially the first time you see it when you have no idea what to expect, and it’s clearly a directorial triumph. But it’s also totally unnecessary as it doesn’t advance the story one iota. Take it out of the movie and you haven’t lost anything.

And then there’s The Exorcist

I read the book The Exorcist in one night. I didn’t find it scary, but I thought it was a page turner. Then I saw the movie (in State College with Gene Coover, so I saw all three Friedkins in State College for whatever that’s worth)—anyway, I saw the movie version which brought everything to vivid life, alas, and I thought it was ridiculous. I couldn’t imagine how anyone could take that nonsense seriously, and I’m still amazed when I hear people call it the scariest movie they ever saw. It was hilarious. Oh, right, I guess you have to believe in that junk to take it seriously, but those special effects where the girl’s head twirls around 360° are just idiotic. Perhaps I wouldn’t have reacted quite so negatively to it had I seen it in a relatively empty theater, but the place was packed and the audience was clearly terrified and screaming their asses off but I just had to laugh—or at least I wanted to.

Unlike the previous two films, I’ve never had the least desire to view The Exorcist again.

And I have to say that I’m not entirely sure I was fully aware at the time that those three movies had been directed by the same guy.

Next up was Cruising.

In 1980 I was living in Harrisburg, shortly before moving to Philadelphia, so I broke my Friedkin/State College streak. This one I saw with Tom Cathell. I seem to recall that it was a bit more explicit in the blood and gore department than I would have liked, and of course, it suffered from having one of the worst ham actors in screen history as its star (yes, I simply can’t stand Al Pacino, so sue me), but other than that I recall liking it. I’ve just ordered a copy of the Blu-ray, which should get here next week and I’ll see if the movie still holds up.

Oh, yes, some parts of the gay community, you know, the activist parts, threw a hissy fit because the movie portrayed a segment of the gay world (the S&M and leather bar scene) that they would have preferred to keep under covers.

And I think that sums up all the Friedkin movies that I’ve seen.

Sadly, Mike Carr, Steve Crosby, and Gene Coover have all died within the last decade or so. I don’t know about Tom Cathell as I haven’t been able to track him down.

Since Friedkin’s death, I’ve heard some good things about Sorcerer, so I tried to order the Blu-ray, but it was sold out. At least the American version was, but I found the British version is available and it has some extra features that the American version doesn’t have. It’s cheaper too, even with the extra shipping charges.

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