Revisiting the “golden age” of gay adult cinema

"Ask Any Buddy" movie
“Ask Any Buddy” depicts scenes at the piers and in bathrooms, bathhouses, and porno theaters.
Elizabeth Purchell and the American Genre Film Archive

Anthology Film Archives is showcasing a program of vintage all-male adult films October 20-25. The series is anchored by “Ask Any Buddy,” (nightly October 20-24 at 7:00 pm), a dazzling compendium of clips from more than 125 adult films made between 1968 and 1986. The documentary, directed by Elizabeth Purchell, is almost like spying through a glory hole and getting an eyeful as images of nude men, often in sexual scenarios, wash over the screen.

“Ask Any Buddy” features snippets from films by adult film auteurs Wakefield Poole, Joe Gage, and Arch Brown, among many others, that range from amusing to erotic. Scenes depict trysts at the piers and in bathrooms, bathhouses, and porno theaters, as well as cruising on the streets and subways, and footage from Pride parades.

There is no narrative nor are there credits (save an alphabetical list of titles at the end that identify the clips). But scenes portray gay life as it was recorded at the time, from men kissing and being affectionate in public, to having moments of ecstasy. The images feature all kinds of “action” from blowjobs and bondage, to fisting, fucking, masturbation, and water sports. There is nude dancing — and an arrest for that same activity — as well as a drag performance and more, so there something for everyone. Bring your buddy.

Seven other all-male adult films from the “golden age” will screen during the run of “Ask Any Buddy.”

One highlight is a 2K restoration of “That Boy” by Peter Berlin (October 20 at 9:15 and October 25 at 7:00). A Tom of Finland image made flesh, Helmut (Berlin), with his “huge organ of pleasure,” is an enigmatic guy who teases almost everyone he meets — and not just because he dresses in a way that leaves little to the imagination. A photographer poses Helmut and lusts after him, especially as he strips off layers and layers and layers(!) of clothing. Another young man ogles the muscular Helmut at the gym before having sex in the showers. But Helmut is only really interested in a blind boy (Arron Black) with whom he feels he can share a deep friendship. “That Boy” will certainly satisfy folks keen to gawk at the eye-popping Berlin; the film opens with a scene of Helmut in a field, admiring himself in a mirror and then masturbating.

“Head Trip” (October 21 at 9:15 pm) is the sole French entry in the series. Director François About’s erotic film has Philippe (Philippe Veschi) fantasizing about his ex, Doug, doing poppers and imagining a sex-drenched excursion through New York City. The film features hot guys having copious and continuous hot sex as Philippe achieves five orgasms.

“The Night Before” (October 22 at 4:45 pm) is a really charming film about Hank (Coke Hennessy), a young man who meets Paul (Michael Kade), a photographer, in the park and ends up spending the day and night with him. Their budding relationship is sweet, but Hank also sees a handful of other attractive guys in the city — a messenger (Jamal Jones), a cyclist (Alexis Knight), among others — and has encounters with them. Things culminate in a party where a naked Hank waits on all the men he has met. “The Night Before” is more sensual than raunchy, but it does include a very memorable moment during the climatic orgy sequence.

“Turned On!” (October 22 at 9:15 pm) has Al Parker turned on by Sky Dawson in a bar. When he hopes to connect with this handsome stranger in the men’s room, Parker is too busy having sex in a stall to realize Dawson is being pleasured on the other side of the door. Heading home, Parker falls asleep dreaming of Dawson, and imaging erotic encounters at Mac’s Bath House, his only clue to this mysterious man’s possible whereabouts. Directed by Steve Scott, the sex scenes are extensive and plentiful, with arguably the highlight being a performance featuring a man who not only can fellate himself, but also stuff his genitals in his own ass. A fugue sequence involving a sailor, a cowboy, and a construction worker is also a highlight. “Turned On!” features plenty of slow-motion “money shots,” and it ends with a clever punchline.

The hourlong “10:30 P.M. Monday” (October 23 at 9:15 p.m.) has Bob (Jeff Sattler) receiving an anonymous letter indicating the title day and time. As a Rolls picks him up and takes him to a house, which is a kind of S&M club, Bob wanders nude from the bar to the toilet to the bath to an orgy room and eventually a “beach.” Each hypnotic episode features various men having — or offering — sex. (There are several fisting scenes). “10:30 P.M. Monday” is a stylishly filmed fantasia.

In “Forbidden Letters,” (October 24 at 9:15 pm) Larry (Robert Adams) is a young man in San Francisco whose older lover, Richard (Richard Locke), is serving jail time for assault and robbery. As Larry awaits Richard’s release, he reflects on their relationship. Director Arthur J. Bressan, Jr. films the explicit scenes in “Forbidden Letters” artfully — one arresting sequence has Larry and Richard naked and masturbating on opposite sides of a jail cell wall. But he also includes tender, romantic moments, as when Larry recalls seeing Richard at a Halloween party or being in Richard’s arms at San Francisco’s Lands End.

“American Cream” (October 25 at 9:15 pm) is a satiric tryptic. The first and best segment, “Office” has an executive (Robert Rikas) and an employee (Doug Romain) going at it with gusto and some not-so-subtle commentaries on politics and power. One admirable sequence has the employee pulling on the executive’s tie to force him to deep throat him. A sight gag uses the Washington Monument as a phallus. There is even an amusing end to the segment. “Country Lads” comes next with a handful of guys frolicking naked in the snow(!) before having sex in the hay. The last, and perhaps weakest vignette, “Roles,” features a jazzy score as two guys in New York (Tom Peterson and Romain again) couple up and also switch roles.

The series is worthwhile for showcasting these films that may seem quaint today, but are still plenty sexy.

“Ask Any Buddy” and the Golden Age of All-Male Adult Cinema | various directors | October 20-25 at Anthology Film Archives