Rock Hudson’s Home Movies
Sound: D Extras: C- Film: B-
How can a filmmaker with limited means come up with a way
to be innovate and challenge notions about sexuality and our lives? Mark Rappaport found a way, beginning with
short films and behind-the-scenes work, before he came up with a breakthrough
idea. He would tell the untold story of
secretly Gay film icon Rock Hudson by having another actor (Eric Farr) appear
on camera as Rock, speaking of his life (more or less in the afterlife) to a
large number of clips from his films.
It was well known that Hudson was Gay among the Hollywood
elite, and he would screen his films for friends who knew better than the
ticket-buying public. That is what
makes the title of Rappaport’s film so ironic.
Rock Hudson’s Home Movies (1992) creates an informative collage
of clips from his career and imagines what he would say about them, addressing
the content and gay context of everything shown. This goes on for 63 minutes, but could have gone on longer if he
had delved more deeply into this if he had wanted.
We see his genre films, the Melodramas, Westerns, and
Romantic Comedies, as well as some of his great works. I was surprised his TV work on the likes of McMillan,
McMillan and Wife, and Dynasty was omitted, but the rest of it is
just fine. Rappaport slowly peels away
at myths and standards kept in place to perpetuate Homophobia, while giving
Hudson his due. One or two moments may
be pushing things a bit, but it is a fine piece of work. I do not think it qualifies as a documentary
like his later The Silver Screen – Color Me Lavender (see my review
elsewhere on this site), but it is an innovative work that is easy to label
“post-modern”. I would suggest it is
instead a “surrogate autobiography”, meaning it is not first person, but is
respectfully trying to approximate the real thing. This one does a decent job.
The full screen image is from the analog video it was made
in, with various color and monochrome clips throughout. Back in 1991, higher quality clips were not
as available as they are today, nor was better videotape. However, this is clever, despite how soft
the picture quality is throughout, so be expecting this to show its age. The Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono is a problem,
with its background hiss from the original source and low volume to begin
with. There is not any way of knowing
what the condition of the original audio was or how it was made, but be VERY
CAREFUL when turning the volume up, the REMEMBER to turn it down when you are
done so you do not damage your speakers.
The extras include the faux T-Shirts made for the Silver
Screen DVD, the trailers for that film and his Jean Seberg project,
and a 15-minutes-long short called Blue Streak. It is a sometimes abstract film in monochrome
(the nudes with words at the bottom of the screen), and color footage (the
outdoors as heterosexual fantasies are read by the “wrong” gender to subvert
them. The source looks like an old
analog tape, but it is interesting just the same, and the audio is better than
My only complaint about the work is the way it takes on
John Frankenheimer’s Seconds (1966), Rock’s best film (give or take Giant
from ten years before). It uses the
“desks room” sequence for an example of a Gay moment when the film has a darker
and more subversive point. Then it uses
the finale of the film as a parallel with his tragic death from AIDS. It does not note that he got it from a “sick
young kid”, but one of the potentially greatest points is lost.
Rappaport suggest Hollywood may have been using Hudson all
the way, starting with his own infatuation with a bare-chested male star of the
past, then comes his end.
Frankenheimer’s masterwork is about a corporation who gives its lead
(Hudson) a second chance with a new body and identity. Without Hollywood doing the same for Hudson,
no matter how high the price may have been, his life and all those films would
have never happened. The lingering
question is how and if both “leads” ruined this chance. That would have made this feature length and
is something Rappaport ought to examine in the future.
- Nicholas Sheffo