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“Melania’s defense of the man who wrote ‘The Art of the Deal’ is he got outmaneuvered by a guy who has been deemed by the Today show to be unqualified to watch someone else make a festive fall frittata.” –Stephen Colbert
Reminder: Is there any other kind of “locker room talk” worth exploring?
In-depth review I downloaded Joe Gage’s latest in his Sex Files videos, “Show Hard,” yesterday; and by the end of what will surely become part of Mr. Gage’s enduring legacy, I had downloaded downloaded downloaded. And that was just in recollection of my own “actual events” that at least partly “inspired” this black and white, period dated film, set in a New York State park public restroom.
You see, “Show Hard” is something of homage for men of a certain age, and our shared history of sexual endeavor and encounter. This set piece sexual roundelay virtually documents the locations, and the lengths, men were required to go to for male sex. In a way, this could become the fourth in Mr. Gage’s landmark “Trilogy” that brought up a generation of gay men, and that cemented his place in pornography as a leader and icon, early in his long career. (Long careers in pornography are not easy to find.) This could even be viewed in the context of Mr. Gage’s “Men’s Room” series of films; indeed there are direct lines from those to “Show Hard.”
The set-up is as simple as the activity is layered and dense: a concrete block building, divided in half — MEN/WOMEN — with high textured glass windows, a single entrance and exit (it seems), a metal trough urinal along one wall, a sink and mirror (it seems) over it, and two stalls with no doors. Designed, as they were in the mid-50s, the time of the film, to be utilitarian, in-and-out. Except for …
Officers Logan and O’Farrell, from their — what exactly to call it: outlook post, perhaps? To monitor the goings-on, you know — just behind the sink wall, with two metal folding chairs, a disguised entrance into the toilet, and, in one of the best and most-used props in porn, the restroom mirror is, in fact, a two-way mirror (like in police stations) so the good officers can get eyes, and crotches, full of the patrons.
They get one great eye-popping looker right off the bat, in one Eliot Pace, an aerospace engineer and “Suburban Dad” for the DILFs among us. What starts out as a solo jack for Mr. Pace, who clearly needs the release … Here is one of the many things that absolutely fascinate with “Show Hard:” most of the characters are fully rendered, so feelings, notions, needs, approaches, and actions are portrayed, mostly, in believable, I’ve-known-that-kind-of-guy way. Pace never reveals more than his cock, through his khakis, and a bit of chest through a couple of unbuttoned shirt buttons, but he likes where he is, and what he looks like, as he veers in front of the mirror to watch himself masturbate, edge, show off, if merely to himself. But our good officers are taking in his every move from behind the two-way mirror and the wall. Officer Logan, the younger, beefier, of the two, is overcome; he hauls his cock out of his dress blues and begins; O’Farrell finally joins in, and the opening scene, of four, ends with an on-base triple, shooting across the isolated air, onto the cement floor.
Along the way of the next two scenes, we are introduced to barber, Marvin Folger — handsome, but the least fully-realized character of the film; stock boy Jerry Boone; I think he’d be what we call a “slacker” today, but a slacker with a great schlong and an understated, but seething sexual aggression; Midshipman Milligan, a regular to the “park,” and ready to be used every time he visits, and the terrific Kent Callahan of the Parks Department, with his one-piece coverall, and his understanding to lock the door. High school social studies teacher Bellamy, a lean, stoic sexual presence, and television account manager Knapp, a beefy man who surprises with his need-to-seed several times, take advantage — well, let him do what he needs to do — of the midshipman. The scenes are often spot-on exemplars of the actual proceedings in public restrooms: ambient sounds from outside, the occasional “jump back” when the outside door opens, and the virtually silent way in which these men go about satisfying their needs. The soundtrack is rarely more than a guttural moan, or a “Great, man.” And even then, words are breathy, low punctuations, rather than dialogue.
If I had a quibble with “Show Hard,” it is that the “actual proceedings” documentation that I love about the film, feels tacked on, rather than as the reality it is. The toilet is isolated; I get that. But there has to be a parking lot close by; the sound of cars pulling up and car doors opening and closing usually sends men into something of a facile, “I’m just taking a piss” stance, even if just for seconds. Here is why I perseverate on it: for me anyway, one of the very delights in this kind of sexual encounter is the popper-like rush of potential danger. (Given that I have chosen to characterize this is as much documentary as pornography, I would have also loved if the terrific cinematography had been higher contrast — darker darks, more middle tones — and even grainy.)
The final scene does bring public restroom potential danger into play; it is exhilarating to behold. We knew from the beginning that DILF Pace would be back, this time examining under the stalls before he began what he surely imagined as he left his suburban home, as he drove to the park, as he put his station wagon in park, and as he walked in, again, would simply be another solo round, with his mind reeling in fantasy. At just about that moment, the good officers, led by O’Farrell and then Logan, emerge from their observation stance, and take the law to scruffy-handsome Mr. Pace, one cock, one ass at a time. Again, it is the wordless approach, but the inferred law-breaking action that Pace is engaged in, with a mere look, a nod, a motion, that makes the scene scintillating! The silence of the previous scenes is blasted with increasingly intentional groans, no-more-than-five-word sentences … and the entrance of the final character, college freshman Steven Beauchamp, who gives the three other men reason to linger, malinger, and bring the film to its multiple, gooey ejaculating climax.
But stay, if your hand will allow, for the coda: the only genuine dialogue, and terrific denouement of the film is between the officers, standing alone in their public/private sex den, urging even more men — a sequel, perhaps? — to “Show Hard.”
This is vintage, visceral Joe Gage. Oh, and for millennials: before you brush aside a man of a certain age, take a look-see; they —we — offer more than you’ve likely ever imagined.