Saturday Night at the Baths

"OK"

Saturday Night at the Baths Review


While today's "queer cinema" may be vibrant and thriving, it's easy to imagine how hard it must have been to make a "gay movie" back in the day. While the gay community experienced all sorts of new freedoms in the post-Stonewall era of the early '70s, there isn't much of a cinematic record of that time other than the unpleasant The Boys in the Band.

But now from the time capsule emerges Saturday Night at the Baths, a roughly edited no-budget record of gay New York life circa 1975, when the scene revolved not around circuit parties but rather in cave-like steam rooms and baths, where the wild entertainment included everything from floor shows and interpretive dance to anonymous bareback sex with anyone and everyone.

The movie takes place at the real-life Continental Baths, where straight-from-Montana (and straight) Michael (Robert Aberdeen) shows up to answer a want ad for a piano player. His mind is totally blown by the people he meets (most of the patrons have elaborate feathered haircuts and Paul Lynde accents) and the things he sees (wild jock strap go-go dancing, for example). It ain't like this back in Butte.

Still, he needs the gig, and Scotti the manager (Don Scotti) takes an immediate liking to him and hires him on the spot. Michael rushes home to his expansive SoHo apartment (which would go for well over a million dollars in today's market) to tell his giggly, easygoing girlfriend Tracy (Ellen Sheppard) the good news.

That night they attend a gallery opening at Scotti's invitation. Historians will immediately note that the homoerotic bodybuilding photos on display are the work of young Bruce Weber. The threesome return to the apartment, and Scotti makes a move, squeezing Tracy's knee as he describes the orgiastic pleasures of his most memorable three-way. But they don't take the bait, and all agree to just be friends.

The rest of the film is mainly a record of, well, a Saturday night at the baths. There is a singer (Jane Olivor), a dance number featuring four guys in tightie-whities, a Diana Ross drag queen singing "Ain't No Mountain High Enough," and more go-go dancers. The only remaining dramatic tension revolves around whether the persistent Scotti will ever be able to drag Michael out of the closet. And if so, what will Tracy say?

This is homebrew filmmaking with no production values and flat acting, but has real importance as history and deserves to be seen, especially by younger gay people who have no memory of gay life before the AIDS epidemic. In fact, it's troubling to watch this film and wonder how many of the young people who appear in it were dead less than ten years after it was made.



Saturday Night at the Baths

Facts and Figures

Run time: 86 mins

In Theaters: Friday 14th February 1975

Production compaines: B.T.O. Films

Reviews

Contactmusic.com: 2.5 / 5

IMDB: 6.3 / 10

Cast & Crew

Director: David Buckley

Producer: David Buckey, Steve Ostrow

Starring: Robert Aberdeen as Michael, Ellen Sheppard as Tracy, Don Scotti as Scotti, Steve Ostrow as Steve, Phillip Owens as Queen, Jane Olivor as Performer, R. Douglas Brautingham as Bagman, Paul Ott as Hustler, Paul Vanase as Towel Queen, Josh Palace as Counterman, Keith Kermizian as Cyclist

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