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Category:    Home > Reviews > Documentary > Erotic > Gay > That Man: Peter Berlin (Documentary)

That Man: Peter Berlin (Documentary)


Picture: C+     Sound: C+     Extras: C+     Documentary: B



Some gay male icons have crossed over into and/or were always the focus of heterosexual attention, like John Holmes and Joe Dallesandro.   However, there are many purely restricted to the gay community that one would be lucky to see once let alone know by name.  Besides actively sexual hardcore XXX sex film stars, there is Peter Berlin.  With a toned, then-exceptionally muscularly light body with his clean-shaven appearance and “Dutchboy” haircut, a series of sexually charged self-taken photographs created an unusual icon in that he never made sexual contact with hardly anyone.  That Man: Peter Berlin (2005) is his story.


One signature in his look was wearing tight cotton pants that showed virtually everything and how he rarely took them off.  Tight in the back, more than “noticeable” in the front, he inspired a new look within the gay community that became a new permanent part of the visual fantasy vocabulary, with an outrageous look that now looks like the unexaggerated version of every bad Hip Hop and Bubblegum Music pseudo-sex look and dry-hump fest that is so mainstreamed today in entertainment and advertising.


Director Jim Tushinski did much research and even interviews Berlin himself extensively, who was more interested in the created star persona than the fast sex everyone else was.  He is outspoken, bold, comfortable with himself and is remarkably not as overly absorbed in himself as you might think for a man who was an internationally successful one-man act.  It also looks like his look was imitated by other male sex icons of the 1970s like Leif Garrett, John Travolta, Shawn Cassidy and Andy Gibb among others, adding to how gays in music and visual arts made heavier contributions to the mainstream pop culture than anyone wants to admit.


At 80 minutes, the program is loaded with facts, classic stills and classic archival footage.  However, the total influence is not examined, despite interviews with several in the know name gay men, including the especially insightful and funny John Waters.  The more existential questions of why Berlin would have this influence, appeal and be such a key center of gay male desire.  Instead, the camp angle and gay deconstruction are applied with its predictable conclusions.  That Berlin offers the most insight in his interviews partly answers why he was so successful and that begins with a remarkable honesty that made the 1970s at their best so great.  That alone is reason enough to see That Man: Peter Berlin, but now more than ever, it is also a vital history lesson for anyone (gay, straight or otherwise) about civil rights, freedom and how both can make a society thrive.


The 1.33 X 1 image originated on analog videotape, PAL and maybe NTSC, with some color and clarity, but whoever transferred all the old film footage used annoying digital video noise reduction (DVNR) causes ghosting and doers not do the older footage justice.  Some other older videotape also surfaces and fares as well.  The Dolby Digital 5.1 mix is a little better than the Dolby 2.0 with Pro Logic surrounds, but this is very dialogue based, so the use of surround is limited.  Extras include extra interview footage with all the principles, deleted scenes of interest, stills and director’s commentary that is not bad.  It still does not add the expected insight, but maybe we’ll get that from somewhere else.



-   Nicholas Sheffo


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