Cruising is a 1980 crime thriller film loosely based on the novel of the same name by New York Times reporter Gerald Walker about a serial killer targeting gay men, particularly those men associated with the leather scene in the late 1970s.
Rest In Peace Wild Bill.
In the early months of 1980, William Friedkin’s incendiary crime thriller CRUISING opened across the country to almost unanimously negative reviews. Friedkin’s film centered around the activities of a straight New York cop assigned to go undercover as a gay man in the city’s underground S&M club scene in order to snare a serial killer operating in that world, now responsible for a growing list of brutal, grisly murders. The press took the film severely to task at the time, excoriating it for sensationalizing the homophobic violence erupting in gay communities at the dawn of the AIDS epidemic and crowds stayed away in droves, especially in San Francisco where protestors formed human barricades to prevent patrons from entering theaters showing the film. CRUISING, in 1980, died an inglorious and premature death.
Fifteen years later, the Roxie in San Francisco challenged the odds and re-opened CRUISING for a full week in May 1995. A remarkable turnaround occurred when the San Francisco Chronicle, a paper that originally gave the film its lowest possible rating, reversed that judgment with a rhapsodic rave review from Mick LaSalle. Similarly, Bob Stephens in the San Francisco Examiner delivered another powerful reassessment of the film. Even the San Francisco Sentinel, one of the City’s then two gay newspapers, gave the film a whole-hearted positive review. The attendance that week at the Roxie was tremendous, largely a leather-clad crowd, eager to finally experience this film in a theater. CRUISING is now where it is today, a genuine cult classic, free from the burdensome cloud of guilt-infliction that sabotaged this savagely brilliant film literally upon its inception. -Elliot Lavine
Directed by William Friedkin. Screenplay by Friedking and Gerald Walker, from Mr. Walker’s novel. Starring Al Pacino, Karen Allen, Paul Sorvino, Richard Cox, Don Scardino, Joe Spinell and Powers Boothe. Pulse-pounding score by Jack Nitzsche, with songs by The Germs.