mike@projection-booth.com mike@projection-booth.com

January 21, 2014

Episode 150: Cruising (1980)

Special Guests: Don Scardino, Randy Jurgensen, Travis Mathews

A highly controversial film, William Friedkin's Cruising was as confusing as it was confused. It's a slasher film, of sorts, set in the leather bar scene of the late '70s.

We're joined by Jeffrey Schwarz of I Am Divine, Wrangler: Anatomy of an Icon, Vito! and more.

Buy Cruising on DVD
Buy Gerald Walker's Cruising
Buy Randy Jurgensen's Circle of Six
Buy William Friedkin's The Friedkin Connection
Buy the Celluloid Closet movie
Buy the Celluloid Closet book
Buy Vito! on DVD
Visit the official Jeffrey Schwarz website
Visit the official Randy Jurgensen website
Visit the official Travis Mathews website
Follow Don Scardino on Twitter
Visit the official Interior. Leather Bar. website
Wear the right hanky for the right occasion
Visit Discreet Charms and Obscure Objects to see a poster gallery
Listen to our episode about I Am Divine
Listen to our episode about Sorcerer

Listen/Download Now:

"Cruising" - Airspace
"Walk the Night" - Skatt Brothers "You Make Me Feel (Mighty Real)" - Sylvester
"Gay Bar" - Electric Six
"Hell Bent for Leather" - Judas Priest
"When I Close My Eyes I See Blood" - Madelynn Von Ritz



  1. Another terrific episode. I took my girlfriend to see Cruising when it came out, as a Friedkin fanatic, and while we were both kind of fascinated by the milleu, I recall her turning to me at the end and asking if I could tell her whodunnit. I still can't, but the film hasn't ebbed as far as it's fascination factor for me it all the years since. I still think of it as kind of a Mondo film and it has a certain charm in that it's almost like a Gay S&M Skidoo. But that's come with the passage of time....initially, though, it did seem like we were spying on some sort of alien civilization and I think my girlfriend appreciated that aspect of the movie, but she was kind of one-in-a-million. There were very few other people I could have recommended Cruising to at the time.

    Thanks for the shows on obscure Friedkin...so I'm wondering...since you guys are on a roll, when will we get the show dissecting Rampage and the two distinct versions of that forgotten masterpiece? Probably WF's true lost film! Hope to hear your podcast on it sooner rather than later!

    Always a pleasure to walkabout with you guys rattling around in my head. Keep up the great work!

    Jeff Goodman

    1. Jeff,

      Thanks for the kind words on the show. I'm sure we'll get into more Friedkin before too long. He's one of those guys who has an interesting oeuvre - some masterpieces, some forgotten and some that didn't quite hit the mark. It was great chatting with him on our "Sorcerer" episode (did you get a chance to hear that one?).

      "Cruising" is one of those films that's so transgressive. I agree with Jeffrey on the episode about "who is this movie for?".

      Either way, keep listening. Keep commenting and letting us know what you think.


      Rob St. Mary
      co-host of "The Projection Booth"

    2. Re: Sorcerer...I direct you to the comments section on that show's page!

  2. Another amazing episode, you guys rock! It's always a joy to listen to your conversations.

  3. Only an hour into this episode and it's already terrific (your editing of interviews alone is laudable) - CRUISING is a fascinating look at a wild place/time/culture all around and, while I certainly understand the context of the criticism, it's not like the world portrayed was/is science fiction; I'm a gay man who lived in NYC for several years and those places still existed into the 2000's. And, not being a serious member of that leather scene, I'm positive I didn't even see the extremes. When you guys ask "Who is this movie for?" isn't it possible that it's for people into the leather scene? Or people attracted to BDSM/kink/fetish in general? I don't think you have to be turned on by murder and violence to find sections of this movie erotically effective and simply psychologically fascinating. Besides, is it absolutely essential to identify positively with a character in a movie for the movie to be valid? I understand that certainly helps and is traditionally how films work but I don't find I have to "like" anyone in a film to enjoy it. Movies are mirrors and the reflections are not always pretty. To that point, I'm not sure movies have a responsibility to provide fair and balanced portrayals of life - CRUSING is a film about a seedy and fringe part of gay life. Period. As a film-lover and a gay man I don't need it to balance the story it wants to tell by showing me "good" gays, too. Of course, I'm saying that from 2014 and lucky enough to live in a country where gay rights have exploded at such a rate that it's almost unbelievable. And I realize that one of the reasons I can say "I don't need to see good gays in movies" and honestly mean it is because people got up in arms about things like CRUISING back in the day (I was born in 1967). I guess that movie analysis, like life, is complicated...anyway, thanks for the podcast and all your hard work!

  4. This was the first episode I heard and my mind was blown by how exhaustive and entertaining your research and interviews are. Seriously guys, you make a great work.

  5. I've just discovered your Podcast. IT'S GREAT!!!!!!Greetings from Austria, B.

    1. Thank you! We've got over 200 more episodes for you to enjoy. Hope you continue to dig in and enjoy!

  6. Great, great episode guys. Will now be listening to all your other podcasts. One thing I have to ask if you happen to see this is (and maybe you discussed it and I missed it) In the Feb 13th 1980 issue of Variety they reviewed Cruising and listed its runtime as 106 minutes.
    The MPAA almost revoked the R rating in June 1980 and Friedkin apparently was asked to edit the picture, he did and possibly this is the 102 minute version we know. But I have found no mention of the 106 minute version that Variety reviewed and was in release for 4 months.

    The only thing I could find was very brief and said edits were made to the first murder scene and the darkening of three shots (not mentioned what they were) But is this 4 minutes of edits? Was 106 minutes incorrect? More mystery about this film.

    Apparently the MPAA was so untrusting of Friedkin actually doing what they asked that he had to produce a letter from the Senior VP from Technicolor stating the shots requested had been darkened.

  7. Friedkin gave your interview request the cold shoulder in 2014, but now he's promoting the hell out of the new Arrow Blu-ray on his Twitter. I remember in an EgoFest you said Friedkin did your SORCERER interview because your request overlapped with his publicity window for that blu-ray and his autobiography.

    Then he gave you the cold shoulder when you asked him about CRUISING in 2014.

    Well, I'd say the "PR Window" is open on CRUISING as of August 2019. Have you seen his Twitter? He's ridiculously eager to promote the new Arrow Blu-ray, retweeting reviews, posting weird contradictory shit:

    "Most of the versions of Cruising Are terrible and
    Unauthorized. The only version to buy or rent is
    The new (2019) Arrow Home video special edition.
    The rest are garbage." (twitter.com/WilliamFriedkin/status/1162140800962060290)

    "Do not buy the deluxe, anamorphic or wide
    Screen versions of CRUISING on Amazon or
    Anywhere else. Buy or rent ONLY the special
    Edition from Arrow. The others are recycled
    Fakes" (twitter.com/WilliamFriedkin/status/1163844852485746692)


  8. Funny story: My grandmother was in NYC one day with friends and she told us "When we were leaving the city , all the gays were all over the streets holding up signs that said 'Stop the movie Cruising' while film andcamera crews were all over the place". Of course we had no idea what she was talking about. Until a YEAR later when the movie cam out! My grandmother had some damn good luck in brushes with famous movie productions: in 1976 they filmed the opening sequence of "Saturday Night Fever" 2 blocks from her apartment ! She remembers watching them film and the talk of the neighborhood was that "John Travolta CUT his hair!". Way to go grandma!"