“STRIP JACK NAKED” and “NIGHTHAWKS”–the resurrection of two gay classics


The Resurrection of Two Gay Classics

Amos Lassen

I am obliged to thank Water Bearer Films for finally issuing the two classic early gay films  “Nighthawks” and “Strip Jack

Naked” on DVD. When I lost everything to Katrina, I figured I would never see these movies again. They had been part of my video library that was “gone with the wind.” During my recent correspondence with

Mike  of Water Bearer, I was sent a catalog and there they were. I wrote to him and asked him to send me screeners and 2 days later I received them and sat down to an evening with old friends.

The movies can be taken together or watched separately—each  has its own storyline and each packs its own wallop. Taken together they are twice as memorable and twice as wonderful. “Time Out” Magazine calls “Nighthawks” Britain’s “first committed gay feature film” but it is so much more than that. Released in 1978, it was one of the first documentaries to tell the story of British gay life as it really was. Watching it almost thirty years later, it is surprising to see how influential and important it still is.

“Nighthawks” is the story of Jim, an average teacher in an average school. He is somewhat, as we say, “closeted”. During the day he deals with kids and during the evenings, he leaves his coat and tie at home and ventures out into the homosexual clubs of merry old England.

He is never really at peace. With each new person he meets, he relives the tension and fear of being found out. He questions whether his life will be a series of one night stands or will his forays into the nightlife bring him true love. The inevitable eventually happens when he is confronted by one of his students, Instead of hiding under the British term at that time for gay, “bent” he forces himself out and teaches his students a lesson in tolerance. What he had to say to his male protégés is still factual and true in society today and as he liberates himself. he also helps to free another generation of youngsters who learn to accept. Rob Peck and Paul Haflam do an admirable job of directing this heart warming tale of acceptance and understanding.

“Strip Jack Naked” or “Nighthawks II” looks even more deeply into Britain’s gay lifestyle over a period of the following thirty years. Autobiographical in nature it gives a more private look at the happenings of the times. It deals with the problems that were met during the making of the first film and at the same time it looks into the life of director Ron Peck. It is an explanation piece to the first film and at the same time is a very personal look into his life. Both films are graphic and nothing is left unsaid or unheard. Emotions are bared, walls are torn down ands we are given a look at the true gay British scene. Both films are entertaining but more than that, they are educational. I found them thought provoking and illuminating. Even though they have been digitally transferred, there is a certain graininess to the print. This does not deter from them but actually enhances them both and reminds of how things were once. How they were is not that far from where we are today and herein lies the importance of the two. I feel the same way about them today as I did years ago. They are honest—sometimes brutally so—but that honestly is necessary to remind us that as far as we have come and that we are still looking at a long way to go.

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