Eugenio Ercolani and Marcus Stiglegger

Print publication date: 2021

ISBN: 9781800348363

Publisher: Liverpool University Press


When William Friedkin’s psycho thriller Cruising was shown at the Berlin International Film Festival and hit cinemas worldwide in 1980 it was mainly misunderstood: the upcoming gay scene dismissed it as an offence to their efforts to open up to society and a distorted image of homosexuality, prompting the distributors to add a disclaimer that preceded the picture: Genre audiences were confused about the idea of a sexualized cop thriller with procedural drama that frequently turns into a horror film with the identity of the killer changing with each murder. Seen from today’s perspective, Friedkin’s film turned out to be an enduring cult classic documenting the gay leather scene of the late 1970s as well as providing a stunning image of identity crisis and an examination of male sexuality in general. In the fading years of the New Hollywood era (1967–1976), William Friedkin—the ‘New Hollywood Wunderkind’, with an Academy Award for his cop drama, The French Connection (1971), and following the tremendous success of his horror film, The Exorcist (1973)—proves once more the strength of his unique approach in combining genre and auteur cinema to create a fascinating film that turns 40 in 2020. This book dives into the phenomenon that is Cruising: it examines its creative context and its protagonists, as well as explaining its ongoing popularity.