A Night At The Adonis - (1980)

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Description: Jack Wrangler stars as a store owner who has designs on his hunky employee Malo (a.k.a. Roger). From the balcony to a dark boiler room, director Jack Deveau does a fantastic job combining humor and hot humping as all types of customers (from younger to older, leather types to clean-cut) engage in torrid sexploits at the Adonis movie house in Times Square.
A Night at the Adonis is one of the best, and most interesting, of the 1970s gay porno features shot on film and shown in theatres. It is a remarkably self-reflexive work, not only designed to be shown in adult cinemas but also set by and large in one, a real one - the Adonis in Manhatten. The film follows, in an Altmanesque kind of way, the stories of a number of individual men who end up tonight at the Adonis and sample the hedonistic delights therein.

The audience's induction to the locale is mirrored on-screen by the induction of a new employee at the cinema; Joe is a go-getting ur-yuppie, attending gay business school and full of pre-Reaganite dreams of opening up his own gay sauna or cinema. He is shown around the Adonis by slutty fellow worker and with him, we see both the layout of the venue and are motioned towards some of the regular denizens.

Another main strand has a great big burly middle-aged clone (Malo) rejecting the advances of his fellow employee (the famous Jack Wrangler) at a shop and claiming that he is going to stay home and read that mighty just-published tome "Gay American History." Malo instead visits and is fucked by his hairdresser and, after missing a date with the hairdresser, going to the Adonis. The hairdresser happens to go there as well, and the two meet up at the end of the evening, each having managed not to bump into the other (and the hairdresser also having got off with Malo, who still refuses to the end to have sex with Wrangler). In this way, the film deals with both the very local, small-town "everyone knows everyone else" nature of the then queer community and the odd coincidences and synchronicities that can happen when cruising takes place.

There are a number of other stories followed, notably a kept boy who spends much of the time bickering on the phone with his older, wealthier lover and who, though he watches, doesn't join in any of the action (perhaps this part was played by a genuine actor who didn't want to do a porno scene?). The rest of them are a mixed selection of body types, ages, and races, most of whom end up in an orgy in the men's room towards the end of the film.

The film is most intriguing as both a record of and an embodiment of the way gay men's lifestyles, personas, and activities create and are created by the culture they inhabit. Tom of Finland posters line walls which are passed by men who look like they've styled themselves after Tom of Finland posters, and porn films play on screen as pornographic sexual activity plays out in the auditorium, and to make the whole thing a postmodern mind-trip, the "real" action is of course filmed action which will no doubt have been premièred at the Adonis itself. Malo's reading of an early part of "Gay American History" tells him tales of sodomites of fallen times who were persecuted, tortured, and murdered by the state; Malo's subsequent visit to the Adonis makes a new kind of American gay history, which is (from a 2008 perspective) itself a vanished, historical past now.

In sundry ways the film does manage to communicate the ways in which human beings locate themselves in history and space, therein creating themselves through a shared culture. The presence of the prototype Reaganite even makes the film a bit of a prophecy of the future, wherein gay normative self-images in the West will be shaped by business studies kids out to make bucks from the new gay communities. Yet there's also a sense of timeless continuation going on: the external trappings & attitudes towards and of the homosexuals might chop and change in history, but as one character says - "there's always the Adonis." The clip from Sex Magic showing on-screen references Ancient Egypt, and there's an extent to which the film posits that man-on-man hedonism has always, does always, will always happen, no matter what historical period the human race is in.
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