The Roundabouts 1972
1h 28min | Adult | 1972
Gay adult vintage movie
Generally lauded as one of the better producers of early gay hardcore, Jaguar Productions largely whiffs it with THE ROUNDABOUTS, a limpid if well shot melodrama that never really goes anywhere, and does it very slowly.
The dimestore paperback plot, gender-swapped for the lavender set, centers around Mark and Glenn, a loving couple in their 20s. Glenn is supposedly a doctor at a nearby military base, though nothing about his demeanor suggests a medical professional – he mostly lounges around the house in nothing but a pair of cutoffs – while Mark works as an attendant at a filling station along the Pacific Coast Highway. Receiving a letter from an old school friend, Glenn flashes back to their youthful dalliance, remembering they promised to meet ten years after graduation. Now, former lover Darryl has come calling.
The film makes an endless game of cat-and-mouse out of this, with Darryl first – quite coincidentally – pulling into Mark’s filling station and asking if he knows the way to the young doctor’s house. Mark demurs, getting jealous and huffy when Glenn comes to pick him up. Later, after the two make love, Mark decides to crash, leaving Glenn to go to a nearby gay bar unattended. Darryl’s already there, getting cruised by handsome Roy Clark, though showing no interest. Instead, he immediately locks in on Glenn, who apparently doesn’t recognize him, and the two go for a walk on the beach, leading to sex. It’s only after that that Darryl admits who he is, and Glenn suddenly turns prudish, insisting he’s faithful to his boyfriend and can’t pursue a relationship. Apparently fidelity excludes one-night stands.
Darryl salves his wounds by hooking up with Roy, then picks up Mark and takes him to the beach to even out him and his partner’s bedpost notches. Having sworn off Darryl romantically, Glenn nevertheless decides to hang out with him again (in front of his jealous boyfriend, no less!), leaving Mark to find the letter. Who ends up with whom in this erotic roundelay? The real question is, who cares?
Like a lot of attempts at adult prestige productions, THE ROUNDABOUTS makes the mistake of assuming that a slightly more complex plot equates with a good one. The basic story isn’t anything beyond that of a more competent one-day wonder – the film just stretches it to a few more settings and attempts to buttress it with location photography, longer (though largely pointless) dialogue scenes, and a lugubrious, dirge-like pace that tries to suggest emotional insight but really just adds a needless half-hour to the runtime. At its heart, this is still a four-actor show, with one of the characters extraneous at that. For all the extra dialogue and flashbacks, we never learn much about Mark, Glenn, or Darryl – what supposedly attracts them to each other (aside from the obvious), what makes one feel like a better fit, and so forth. With absolutely zero weight to the supposed romance, the film just turns into one more torpid sex flick, going through the motions without any real passion.
That’s not to say it’s all bad. The location photography helps the story breathe, and it’s nice to see a gay love story (particularly from this era) that doesn’t end in tragedy or lapse into self-loathing. As a historical milestone, the film is relevant, and as a technical one, it’s certainly trying. The problem is that without a romantic core, all it has is sex, and none of that is much to write home about. Perhaps aiming for more romance, the film features pretty dull lovemaking – certainly better executed than lower-tier porn productions, but nothing to get excited about, either. The cast, while uniformly handsome, varies wildly in terms of technical proficiency, with Glenn giving by far the most engaging performance, while Mark, surely the prettiest of the bunch, acts so dreadfully he becomes a total turn-off. I’m seriously not sure I can think of a more wooden performance captured on celluloid, and that includes comedies where characters are trying to intentionally act badly. Within seconds of Mark opening his mouth, I was more concerned with whether he could dress himself in the morning than if he planned to take his clothes off, and when your objective is eroticism, that’s a pretty damning flaw. I give THE ROUNDABOUTS credit for trying to do something different, but, like its dim-bulb protagonist, it’s in desperate need of some better direction.
Director: Dick Martin
Writer: Art Gamble(story)
Stars: Mark RichardsGlenn BrockDarryl Hughes
Country of origin: United States
Format : Matroska
Format version : Version 4
File size : 842 MiB
Duration : 1 h 28 min
Overall bit rate : 1 330 kb/s