Bounty Films // 1992 // 63 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Paul Pritchard // July 9th, 2011
"It's all up there."
Rock Hudson's Home Movies (Region 2) sees writer/director Mark Rappaport present a retrospective of Hudson -- focusing on his homosexuality and how this shaped his career -- but does so by taking the unusual step of having actor Eric Farr take on the role of Hudson in narration and analyze his life as if from beyond the grave.
Rappaport uses a collection of clips from Hudson's filmography to make his argument that Hudson was giving us clues to his sexuality all along. This is a flawed argument however, as -- no matter how often it is repeated -- the use of clips that see Hudson's characters squirm at the suggestion of marriage, or pull away from a romantic clinch, fail to prove anything. This is down to two simple facts. Firstly, these clips are taken out of their intended context, and thus cannot be seen to be any proof of Rappaport's claim. Secondly, as Hudson is simply reading the role he was given, the lines of dialogue Rappaport singles out are not relaying Hudson's own thoughts or feelings; suggestions that the screenwriters were toying with outing Hudson seem tenuous at best. It's a shame Rappaport is so defiant and unrelenting in his attempt to prove himself right, as he takes the focus off his subject and puts it on himself. There's an almost arrogant, and one could argue angry side, to Rappaport that comes through. Neither of these are necessarily bad traits for a filmmaker to have, but when discussing someone else's life and work, a more considered approach should have been taken.
The result of this is that before long the documentary becomes repetitive, as Farr's narrative treads the same ground over and over, while his dialogue ("We pretend to cruise girls together," "Who was he envious of, me or her?") is just as rotten as it interrupts the classic clips.
Rappaport clearly had an interesting idea here, and Rock Hudson's Home Movies makes for a novel biography of the actor. Still, let's be honest...putting words into the mouth of a dead man is crass and unsympathetic. At times it's like having an annoying friend offering aloud "witty" replies to the onscreen dialogue. At one point, Farr even resorts to a sarcastic interpretation of "Do You Think I'm Sexy." What makes this worse is that there is an important story to tell here, of how a man's homosexuality -- or rather his forced concealment of it -- affected his career, home life, and the public's perception of him. However, Rappaport's own agenda gets in the way of this, much to the detriment of the film.
The DVD is presented in a full-frame transfer, with a stereo soundtrack. The visuals are, to be frank, an absolute mess. The quality of the clips is awful, and appears to be taken from the worst source available. The audio is even worse, with the volume differing vastly from one clip to the next. At times the dialogue is barely audible, yet Farr's narration remains at the same volume throughout, meaning the viewer is forced to constantly alter the volume if they are to hear everything. The DVD also includes the rarely seen short film, "Blue Streak," which is not to be confused with the Martin Lawrence/Luke Wilson comedy. This odd piece sees black-and-white footage of naked men and women interrupted by words such as "cock" and "fart," which appear onscreen in an orderly fashion; these sequences are sporadically interrupted by scenes of trees, which offer the background to an off-screen narrator recounting a sexual experience. I'm sure there's a point to this piece, but I found little of worth in it; perhaps there's a good reason it has rarely been seen.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Bounty Films
* Full Frame
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
Running Time: 63 Minutes
Release Year: 1992
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* Short Film