Jack Gold (director)
Network on Air (studio)
05 June 2017 (released)
11 June 2017
This classic piece of bold British drama tells the story of writer/raconteur and, according to his own description, 'effeminate homosexual' Quentin Crisp. It won the late John Hurt, who portrays Crisp, a BAFTA award in 1976.
This TV-production caused a considerable stir when it was first aired and it made Mr. Crisp a household name. A lesser actor may have fallen into the trap of being 'totally identified’ with the part but Hurt, who was 35 at the time, went from being a reasonably well known actor to virtual mega status and deservedly so! He also successfully garnered praise and approval from the discerning Crisp, some achievement that was! The film is based on the 1968 autobiography (which was quickly republished) of the same name and was adapted by respected screen TV-writer Philip Mackie. It gives us chosen highlights from Crisp's life starting from his teenage rent boy years to his then present status of 'stately homo of England'. It would seem that the maxim “If there was wasn't a Quentin Crisp it would have been necessary to invent him” is only too appropriate in this instance…was there ever anyone quite like him? It would appear that at the time even hardened (no pun intended) heteros had to admit to a grudging respect for this outrageous and courageous man. Ultimately though it did very little for the gay cause but a great deal for Mr. Crisp - and that would have pleased him mightily. Like another undeservedly lesser known wit and wag 'Irish' actor Michael Macliammoir, Crisp was no campaigner for gay rights and probably would have thought same sex marriage absurd.
Then very fashionable director Jack Gold’s timeless film is choc full of hilarious scenes (Crisp is never depressive despite the absurd prejudices and ignorance he is forced to tolerate) like the one where he first encounters 'his own' and is thrilled to bits. Actor Shane Bryant never looked lovelier as the introducing 'street worker' and soon our Quen is off to the Black Cat Cafe in Old Compton Street with its apparently gay friendly proprietor. Perhaps the film’s highlights are Crisp being refused admission into the army as he is diagnosed as 'suffering from sexual perversion' while another highlight is the courtroom scene where he has wrongly been accused of soliciting in the street. Here he acquits himself magnificently in his own defense and one can’t help wondering whether he really was that eloquent in the box… almost on a par with Oscar Wilde until that great man tripped himself up. Sexual perversion yes, but suffering…no. Simply hilarious! In the second half of the film Crisp finally finds his vocation almost by default posing as an artists’ model (hence the naked civil servant) for thirty odd years before near superstar status finally arrives.
Quentin Crisp may well have been more popular with straights than with the gay community and ran into trouble with a number of his comments; the Aids comment was a little tactless but the man was an individual and a member of no group. The only person he represented was himself and for that alone he should be applauded. He thought nothing of parading himself strutting like a peacock along the Kings Road in broad daylight when homosexuality was still against the law. That said, Quentin did look more like British painter Maggi Hambling than John Hurt. Incidentally, Hurt reprised his role as Quentin Crisp in the 2009 movie An Englishman in New York.
To some it all up: anyone who fails to be entranced by this captivating biographical film deserves to be... oh, you think of a suitable punishment! How about tied to a chair with their eyes clasped open and forced to watch John Inman’s ‘Mr. Humphries’ in Are You Being Served? for an entire week….
This Blu-ray release furthermore offers some bonus material including an interview with the man himself.