LGBT Movies: Cops in Drag

Homosexuals are being murdered. A cop goes undercover to investigate. The cop begins to question his sexuality and panics. Offensive hi-jinks ensue. 1980’s Cruising, inspired protests before it even opened in cinemas. Much has been written about Director William Friedkin’s controversial work. Less remembered are the terrible comedies it inspired: Partners and Cop in DragThese films rely on lazy gay stereotypes but also attempt to empower the queer characters. It’s the straight cops who come off looking like oafs.

Here are some quick, spoiler filled, recaps.

Cruising (1980)

Al Pacino plays the only cop on this list who engages in gay sex.

DIRECTOR WILLIAM FRIEDKIN: Disclaimer. This film is not meant to represent the community. #hashtag not all gays. I say this because most of the gay men in this film are presented as depraved.
CHIEF: Someone’s killing gay men who go to a BDSM club. I need you to go undercover. Wink wink. Nudge nudge.
AL PACINO: I’ll go clubbing, fight with my girlfriend, accuse the wrong man and sample some of NY’s finest c**k.
KILLER: I did it because I’m a self-loathing gay man with daddy issues… Or did I? Maybe I’m not the killer at …
AL PACINO: I’ll shoot the killer in self-defense.
GAY FRIEND: But I’ll be murdered soon afterwards.
AL PACINO: And there’s clues that maybe I did it? I guess tasting some D has made me coo-coo-crazy!
DIRECTOR WILLIAM FRIEDKIN: Look… I directed The Boys in the Band. Cut me some slack.

Partners (1982)

Ryan O’Neal’s straight cop is objectified.

CHIEF: Someone’s killing gay models. I need you to go undercover. And put up with my homophobic remarks.
GAY COP: I’ll interview the local gays, cook dinners for the straight cop and endure the film’s non-stop nance jokes.
STRAIGHT COP: I’ll wear skimpy clothes, drive a pink car, have domestic arguments with the gay cop, and pose naked for a sketchy female photographer. Who ends up dead.
KILLER: I killed them because the photographer took photos of me having sex with the models. They were running a blackmail ring.
GAY COP: I’ll shoot the killer in self-defense but get shot myself.
STRAIGHT COP: Don’t leave me darling! Wake up! I can’t go on without our dinners.
GAY COP: (Wakes up.) Let’s move in together.
CHIEF: Ha! Gaaay!
DIRECTOR JAMES BURROWS: Look… I end up directing Will and Grace. Cut me some slack.

Cop in Drag (1984) (aka Delitto al Blue Gay)

Cop in Drag 2
The lead (on the right) never actually wears drag.

CHIEF: Someone murdered a drag queen backstage at the Blue Gay cabaret. His scientist father has gone missing. I need you to go undercover.
STRAIGHT COP: Thank goodness. My newborn baby won’t stop crying. I’ll leave it with the wife, hit on some drag queens and constantly slap my assistant.
DRAG QUEENS: We didn’t kill him! We’re just here to perform lazy musical numbers. (They do. They’re bad.)
GERMAN DIRECTOR: I didn’t kill him! I’m just in town to direct a music video.
(We watch a rehearsal for the music video. It’s long.)

WIFE: You’re having an affair with a drag queen? I want a divorce!
STRAIGHT COP: What a hilarious misunderstanding. There’s the killer!
GERMAN DIRECTOR: It was me after all! I kidnapped the scientist father to work for the German army! And killed the son to cover it up.
STRAIGHT COP: I’ll chase him in a horse and chariot. He’s getting away!
(This should be funny but it’s not. The comedy all falls flat.)
RANDOM FEMALE COP: You’re under arrest! Surprise! A woman did something proactive in this movie!
STRAIGHT COP: The killer’s been arrested. The scientist has been rescued. Sigh. I guess I have to spend time with my newborn baby now.
DIRECTOR BRUNO CORBUCCI: Look… This was the last in a 11 film series. Cut me some slack.

Watcha gonna do?

Delitto at Blue Gay
Tomas Milian played Inspector Nico in at least eleven films. By 1984 the scripts had gotten tired.

None of these movies are good. But they do have a place in LGBT film history. The gays are victims, killers and sidekicks but the glimpses into gay nightlife and straight prejudice serve as a time capsule of the era. If you’re looking for a better gay detective series check out the Joseph Hansen’s Det. Brandstetter novels, Richard Stevenson’s Det. Strachey novels or Chad Allen’s Det. Strachey films.

The terrible poster for Partners (1982)

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