Outrageous (1977) B+
A sleeper from Canada, “Outrageous,” a liberal and progressive serio comedy about gay life, was both enjoyable and significant when it came out of nowhere in 1977.
Craig Russell plays Robin, a feminine hairdresser with a penchant for drag. Like other protags, Rob considers his day job just a way to play the bills, but he really comes to life at night, when he performs in front of a live audience.
The owner of the beauty shop owner is a gay man who looks down on “effeminate” types like Rob, demanding a more “straight” image for his business.
For the most part, however, “Outrageous” unfolds as a showbiz musical comedy and a sensitive tale of friendship between Robin and Liza Connors (Hollis McLaren), his best friend and roommate, who’s schizophrenic.
The feature’s other characters include a homophobic psychiatrist, a feminist who hates gay men, and a mother who drives her troubled daughter crazy.
Liza’s irresponsible boyfriend leaves her when she gets pregnant, and the baby is born dead. Deeply depressed, Liza loses all hopes for a normal family life. Mrs. Connors (Helen Hughes) blames the death on Robin, claiming, “It’s somebody’s fault!”
When Robin gets fired from his day job, he becomes a female impersonator. His repertoire includes all the “usual suspects,” gay icons (both dramatic and musical) such as Judy Garland, Mae West, Bette Davis, Tallulah Bankhead, Barbra Streisand, and Peggy Lee.
In due process, he moves from a small Toronto club to Manhattan’s Jack Rabbit, then to an uptown straight club, for which he tones down the act.
Robin then rents an apartment for himself and Liza in a gay-friendly neighborhood and the saga ends with Robin’s professional success, though there is no man in his life (and no sex either).
Most viewers recall vividly the film’s touching last scene, in which Robin tells the depressed Liza: “You’re not dead inside, Honey. You’re alive and sick and living in New York, like eight other million people. You’re never gonna be normal, but you’re special, and you can have a hell of a lot of fun in this world.”
Partly funded by the Canadian Film Consortium, “Outrageous” was made on a very low budget of $160,000. It became a cult movie among gay and straight spectators, with many repeated viewing. The film premiered on the Upper East Side, at Manhattan’s Cinema II, where it played for months (this was way before the VCR Revolution).
Tragically, both Russell and writer director Richard Benner died of AIDS in 1990.
The sequel, “Too Outrageous,” made in 1987, was both a critical and commercial flop. It was too sentimental and repetitive, with nothing much new to say. The novelty has simply worn off.
Leave a Reply
- Jimmy P. (Psychotherapy of Plains Indian)
- Fast & Furious 6: Thrilling Joyride
- Angelina Jolie Double Mastectomy–Talk of Cannes Film Fest
- Bling Ring, The
- Before Midnight: Hawke and Delpie at Mid-Age
- Stories We Tell
- Great Gatsby: Luhrmann’s Jazzy Spectacle
- Star Trek into Darkness: Solid Sequel
- Love Is All You Need: From Denmark Via Italy
- Kiss of the Damned: Oversexed Vampires
- Murphy’s Romance (1986): James Garner’s Only Oscar Nomination