Director: Bruce Kessler
Dark Sky Films

From the mid-1960 to the late-1990s, Bruce Kessler was an established fixture in the television industry, having directed episodes of some of television's most memorable and endearing TV shows - "MacGyver", "The A-Team" and "Knight Rider" to name a few. With several episodes of "The Monkees" and a couple of feature films already under his belt, including KILLERS THREE a hicksploitation picture written by and staring Dick Clark, Bruce was approached by producer Joe Solomon to direct a script he had recently acquired. Although the script was admittedly weak, Bruce agreed to direct and with the help of writer Jerome Wish, punched up the story into one of cinema’s first films to have openly gay characters. Unfortunately, the film's adequate acting and sitcom cues feel more like a "Movie of the Week" than a theatrical motion picture.

Attempting to dodge the draft, Danny (Kevin Coughlin) and Elliot (Lawrence P. Casey) pretend to be a homosexual couple who insist on enlisting together. The two are convincing enough to be deemed unfit for active duty but wary Colonel Dixon (Jack Starrett) questions the boys' true intentions. He warns the duo that if at any point they are found to have misrepresented themselves, they would immediately be shipped to an eight-week training facility, with Vietnam as a final destination. The boys return to their respective lives satisfied that they have successfully pulled off the elaborate ruse, but any feeling of accomplishment quickly diminish into panic as Danny notices that the two are being spied on by the Colonel. In an attempt to keep up the gay charade, the two rent a one bedroom cottage in an apartment complex that is notorious for its unconventional tenants. However, keeping up the appearances of a gay couple quickly turns into more than Danny bargained for as it becomes increasingly difficult keeping his girlfriend Karen (Brooke Bundy) in the dark. Along with Elliot’s raging libido and frequent and unexpected visits from the apartment building manager Malcolm (Michael Greer), it seems only a matter of time before the boys’ hoax is exposed.

When THE GAY DECEIVERS was initially submitted for rating classification, it was immediately slapped with an X. As one of the first films to openly tackle the topic of homosexuality, the Motion Picture Film Board was concerned that the movie could awaken latent homosexual tendencies in members of the audience, leading them toward a deviant lifestyle. Equally concerned were gay groups who were wary of the film portraying homosexuals as flamboyant oversexed queens who were to be viewed as less than normal. William Friedkin's CRUISING later had a similar situation in that many felt the its graphic and upfront displays of homosexuality went to far, while others protested the idea that a homosexual could potentially be a serial killer. While THE GAY DECEIVERS does use several derogatory slurs toward gays, it never clearly takes a side on any issue and in today’s political climate it would be hard to view the film as anything but camp or farce. To achieve an R rating, several scenes of naked male statues and risqué art work where eventually edited out. The board however didn’t mind a little female nudity, allowing the producers to keep several scenes of T&A, in particular a brief flash of the ample talents of Jo Ann Harris (ACT OF VENGENACE aka THE RAPE SQUAD) who portrays Danny’s sister Leslie.

While it was shot for theatrical screenings, THE GAY DECEIVERS looks and feels like an extended episode of "Love, American Style", albeit a particularly racy one given the time period. Particularly off putting is the inclusion of loud, wacky musically cues, inserted to punctuate character reactions and punch lines. These unnecessary zingers and the fact the majority of the film takes place in and around one set (the boys apartment), never allow the production to elevate above anything more than a prime time sitcom. The acting is also merely passable with only Michael Greer’s colorful portrayal of landlord/lady Malcolm standing out as the only character to actually elicit a laugh. Jack Starrett, who plays suspicions Colonel Dixon, may be more familiar as a director, having given drive-ins such gold as RUN, ANGEL, RUN, CLEOPATRA JONES and a personal favorite, RACE WITH THE DEVIL.

Image Entertainment introduced THE GAY DECEIVERS to the DVD format in 2000 but that release has long been discontinued, leaving the door open for MPI Home Entertainment to release the film under its Dark Sky Films banner. Presented in anamorphic widescreen in a 1.85:1 aspect ratio, the print used has a minimal amount of grain and despite a momentary film ripple about 40 minutes in, is in adequate condition. The unique pastel colors of the late 1960s come through clean and flesh tones appear near perfect. The audio, presented in Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono, is clear although the unnecessary musical cues previously mentioned often thunder over the dialogue they are meant to enhance. Optional English subtitles, always a welcome addition, are also included.

Highlighting this release is "From Race Cars to Gay Bars"; a sit down interview with director Bruce Kessler found on the disc's extras. Mr. Kessler discusses how his beginnings in auto racing opened up the opportunity to act as a race car consultant for Hollywood pictures and eventually his first directing gig. While his wide-ranging work in TV is not discussed, he does recount the film's production and his fond memories of the cast. Also included is a still gallery that includes several sets of International and U.S. lobby cards as well as a radio spot that plays up the film's camp qualities. (Jason McElreath)