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Warner, Friedkin Tout Controversial 'Cruising' on DVD

30 Aug, 2007 By: Billy Gil

Cruising - Deluxe Edition

Perhaps no film in William Friedkin's oeuvre is as misunderstood as Cruising. The 1980 film from the maestro of controversy stars Al Pacino as a cop sent undercover to find a killer in New York's leather and S&M gay bars. It was met with outrage, both from shocked audiences and an offended gay community.

Friedkin, also the director of The Exorcist, was on hand Aug. 29 at Grauman's Chinese Theatre in Hollywood, Calif., to answer questions prior to a screening of the film. Warner Home Video hosted the screening in advance of its Sept. 18 release of the film on DVD, for the first time.

Cruising – Deluxe Edition ($19.97) will include a commentary from Friedkin, a remastered soundtrack, and the featurettes “The History of Cruising” and “Exorcising Cruising.”

Friedkin thanked Warner's Jeff Baker, George Feltenstein and Ronnee Sass for helping to put the film out on DVD and in a theatrical run. Warner bought the rights to the film, among other films, from United Artists. When the studio asked fans which films among those it should put on DVD, Friedkin said, “Cruising was way at the top of the list.”

“This print is magnificent…no matter what you think of the subject matter,” Friedkin said.

Despite appearing quite confident about the film, both when it was released and how it holds up today, Friedkin admitted to rough patches while making the film. He initially “had no interest in [making the film] whatsoever,” and at one point, Steven Spielberg was in talks to direct the film, which is partially adapted from Gerald Walker's novel of the same name. Protests plagued the actual filmmaking as well as its release, putting star Pacino on edge.

“I understood the protest because it was the beginning of gay rights; the leaders of that community [may have thought the film] was not the best foot forward at the time,” Friedkin said. “I think it's more seen now as a film than a political statement, which it never was.”

He was especially surprised since the director said he went to great lengths to portray the New York scene accurately, spending six months visiting bars to get a feel for the milieu, a fact portrayed on the DVD's special features.

Also on those special features is testimony that Friedkin tried to keep his actors on their toes during his films through methods such as firing a gun on the set of The Exorcist right before filming a scene, according to Venice Magazine editor in chief Alex Simon, who held the Q&A with Friedkin.

“I don't remember that,” Friedkin said. “I should look at [the DVD].”

Friedkin, who on the day of the event was celebrating his 72nd birthday, was in especially enthusiastic about DVD in general, which he called “the true cinematheque.”

“Up until the invention of DVD, most [older] films were destroyed,” Friedkin said. “Now, studios realize old films … still have [value] to new audiences.

“The legacy of film is because of DVD.”

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