This film is considered one of the pioneering films of queer cinema. Released on February 14th, 1975, Saturday Night At The Baths sees Michael, a musician from Montana, finding a gig as a pianist at the Continental Baths, in New York City. Tracy, his girlfriend, is happy about his journey into the city despite the fact that she foreshadows a change in her partner.
The film, which turns forty years in 2015, is mostly flat and does not really stand the test of time. However, the subject matter is mesmerizing considering the post-Stonewall, pre-AIDS social climate in The United States.
Gay liberation was very much alive, as was the cultural rise of underground performers (think Barry Manilow and Bette Midler, who were both rising stars out of The Continental Baths in NYC).
Saturday Night At The Baths is not as wild as one could think. Albeit the emancipation feeling of homosexuality in the seventies, the film is quite tame. There is mild frontal nudity, and even the homoeroticism is distant. Considering the fact that the story was built around a bathhouse, the man to man contact is limited, and not at all exploitative.
The story, a triangle of sorts, connects Michael and Tracy with openly gay Scotti.
Although one of the tags for a film poster archaically boasted ‘You might forgive him if he were with another woman’ before asking ‘could you go one step further?’, the characters are rarely argumentative, jealous or angry. In fact, Michael is only angry at himself for one scene before apologizing and sharing why he is petrified of male contact. Tracy may make jealous faces in some scenes, but her demeanor is more of a supportive partner advising her lover.
On the above poster the three actors are nude and holding each other in a seductive manner.
This was a gimmick which was not present in the film. Of course the story is about that fact. However, the script is both sweet and naive as it showcases a relationship that is both subtle and full of understanding.
Wanting to create drama between Michael and Tracy, played by Robert Aberdeen and Ellen Sheppard, is futile. The two, who have great chemistry, move their energy from erotic to an intimacy of almost sister and brother. Tracy seems more comfortable and knowing of Michael’s sexual fluidity, and it does not appear to bother her. In fact, It would not be surprising if this very character inspired the many glorified beards in queer cinema, decade after decade.
Scotti, Don Scotti, is also a sweet addition to the mixture which effortlessly moves the story from an unaware, repressed boy’s point of view, to that of a big city man.
Overall, watching this is an opportunity to witness a time which appears far fetched to most within the current generations and although not an Academy Award-worthy film, it is enjoyable for what it does bring: a mostly happy tale of men who love men.
The showcase shown in the film was attended by over 800 extras, who included some of New York’s it crowd. Everyone present was paid $1.00 for her or his part and had to sign releases before anyone was admitted. This included Dudley Moore and Peter Cook.
More GLBT content:
Matt Shepard is a Friend of Mine (documentary) : Out in The Night (documentary) : Kumu Hina (documentary) : Lilting : PRIDE : The Way He Looks : Southern Baptist Sissies, the movie : Ne Te Retourne Pas (short)
Other film Reviews: Halina (short) : EK (short) : Despite The Gods (documentary) : Materica (short) : Lawrence and Hollowman, the movie : No Strangers (documentary) : Meth Head, the movie : Echoes (short) : Titans of Newark (short) : A Cure (short) : Precious, the movie : This Is It (documentary)