Bil’s rating (out of 5): BB.5. United Kingdom/USA, 1976. Courtyard Films, Warner Bros.. Screenplay by Terrence McNally, based on his play. Cinematography by Paul Wilson. Produced by Denis O’Dell. Music by Ken Thorne. Production Design by Philip Harrison. Costume Design by Evangeline Harrison. Film Editing by John Bloom. Golden Globe Awards 1976. Podcast: Bad Gay Movies.
An old Italian patriarch dies and, on his deathbed, begs his son (Jerry Stiller) to kill his son-in-law (Jack Weston), which Stiller is only happy to do in order to keep the targeted man from inheriting the family’s profitable garbage business. On the run in disguise and in need of a the least likely place his vengeful in-law will find him, Weston stops in at a gay bathhouse, rents a room and endures hours of campy, silly fun while hiding out. A chubby chaser is after him, a hot young Treat Williams is a private investigator (with a falsetto voice, one of the film’s many jokes that fall flat) is looking for him but keeps getting the wrong guy and, most colourful, a temperamental singer (Rita Moreno) is hoping her Bathhouse Betty routine will get noticed by a big time producer she is expecting to attend. Based on the hit Broadway play by Terence McNally, this is a film whose provocative themes are watered down to keep audiences from being too shocked, the emphasis on sassy humour and wink-wink sex jokes that make the sight of extras in tiny towels populating the background easier to take. It has moments of fun but it has no heart, its jokes never particularly clever or witty, with a weak plot whose mechanics are not properly worked out before too much exposition is saved for its conclusion. It does have some standout moments, most of them involving Williams in very little clothing, a delightful but underused Kaye Ballard as Weston’s wife, and a young F. Murray Abraham as a fellow bathhouse attendee.