“Saturday Night at the Baths”
“Saturday Night at the Baths” (WaterBearer Films) is entertaining, sincere and uplifting in the spirit of the late 60’s and early 70’s when bathhouses were the vogue. It is not, by any means, a great movie, but it was, when it was made (1975) a step forward for American movies. I remember the Continental Baths of the 70’s and it was an amazing establishment. It was a pleasure palace with great lighting juice bar and coffee shop. An elevator, an indoor pool and sex, sex, sex. Bette Midler got her start there as did many young gay men. It was liberating and a place where sexuality could be expressed openly. The movie, however, does not capture the spirit of the bathhouse but it does catch the spirit of the time.
The plot of the film is thin but who needs a plot in a bathhouse? The ending, for the time it was made, is shocking. Two men, completely naked get into bed and kiss and this is something not seen in American cinema.
I have read several serious criticisms of this movie—that the editing is poor, that the acting and the script is bad. This is an independent film made at a time when Indies were few and far between. No major American studio would have made a movie on the subject of gay bathhouses back then so we should be glad we have this. It is an accurate look at gay life of the period and it is both gentle and hard. It shows the sordidness of the times and does so with wit and honesty. The realism of the characters shows a certain dignity. They were all looking for love wherever they could find it.
“Saturday Night” lets the audience know how we lived before AIDS decimated our numbers and this makes it important.
Now that bathhouses are barely existent, it is good that we have a record f them. They were once an integral part of gay life and cannot be ignored.