Judge Brett Cullum just needs a posing strap and a harness under his robe to make it through the day.
When missionary just won't do…
Kink Crusaders is a documentary about the 30th anniversary year competition of International Mister Leather in Chicago. It's an assembly of gay men in big leather sashes hoping to win a coveted title that is the equivalent of Miss America for the leather community. The title holder gets to be a spokesperson for people who like to wear black harnesses all around the world. The participants take it all very seriously, and the documentary captures the unique world they live in quite well. At times it does stretch to try and emphasize the diversity of the contest and festival surrounding it, but discerning viewers will take note that there is most definitely a cut and mold to the leather community no matter what gender or preference they take on. Most of them are white men over thirty who are looking for something a little more exciting than the same old gay scene. This is all a far cry from Queer as Folk or Will and Grace.
At the center of everything we get to meet IML founder and spiritual leader Chuck Renslow who started this whole affair in a small gay bar in Chicago back in the late '50s. It's always fascinating to hear his "talking head" segments because he has much to say about his storied life as leather's ambassador for decades. From there, the film interviews quite a few of the contestants as they compete in the 2008 pageant. There are also quick glimpses at the infamous convention show where leather merchants and sex toy distributors launch a lewd market for the depraved and curious. We even get to see grown men behave like puppies in a playpen. The documentary drifts from vintage footage to talking head interviews and then to the actual contest footage. Oddly enough, the film shows a lot of the posing and strutting on stage, but it rarely shows any of the sex going on all around the event. It makes IML look quite serious and sober, a black leather fraternity seeking brotherhood through the sound of whips whizzing through the air. The documentary ignores the open cruising in the host hotels and the often flagrant acts of fellatio in public at the event. It successfully keeps the debauchery from entering the picture.
DVD Verdict was sent a press screener of this film, and so our copy came only with the feature and no extras. Picture and sound were okay, and only suffered in quality the way most documentaries do with the footage and shooting conditions determining how good things look or sound. I imagine there won't need to be much in the way of extras, considering the feature explains itself well enough. The consumer DVD simply features a longer look at the jockstrap competition as well as a short documentary on the leather lifestyle.
Kink Crusaders takes its subject seriously, and shows the International Mister Leather contest in a sober light. It is determined to prove the event is inclusive even when any viewer can see it attracts a very narrow group of men, for the most part. It's a very enlightening portrayal of founder Chuck Renslow who comes off well, and a fun look at the various contestants who do manage to show some diversity and sense of a community. It will be a film largely of interest to those who know about the leather world and admire its trappings. Anyone new to the concept may walk out as baffled as when they came in, wondering why the filmmakers want to insist that there is a Kink Crusader inside all of us. Like all good documentaries it is satisfied not to give the audience the answer, but rather just afford them a lingering look into a world they may or may not understand.
Guilty of posing in a leather jock, the film is a nice look at a raunchy
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Scales of Justice
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