The recent Olive Films Blu-ray release of the gay-themed dramedy "Partners" is a great example of the '80slicious titles that comprise a significant percentage of the Olive DVD and Blu-ray catalogs. The brat pack classics "Class" and "Making the Grade" are two of scads of bodacious examples of these films.
The following YouTube clip of the "Partners" theatrical trailer nicely showcases the early '80s style of the film, the good performances, and the era-appropriate humor.
"Partners" takes a nice twist on the odd couple theme by pairing hunky homophobe cop Benson pair with closeted desk jockey officer Kerwin for an undercover mission in West Hollywood to investigate the murders of young gay men. Dreamy funny Ryan O'Neal and very talented John Hurt play Benson and Kerwin respectively.
Veteran gruff character actor character actor Kenneth McMillian, who perhaps is best known as rough but kind costume shop owner Jack Doyle on the '70s sitcom "Rhoda," shines as the stereotypical commanding officer of the pair. His threatening to put police detective Benson back in uniform and on the beat in the worst part of the city and his aggressively pushing a very insecure Kerwin out of the closet to get the men to work together are highlights.
The comedy cred. of "Partners" relates to James Burrows, who is behind "Rhoda" and too many other to mention classic sophisticated '70s and '80s sitcoms, directing the film. The street cred. comes from having Francis Veber, whose gaycom credits extend well beyond "La Cage Aux Folles" and the "Folles" American cousin "The Birdcage," scribe the film.
The early scenes in "Partners" have Benson and Kerwin set up housekeeping in a West Hollywood apartment building. Benson stereotypically hurls slurs at Kerwin and is otherwise brutal. The submissive manner in which Kerwin reacts both reflects the less accepting '80s regarding alternate sexual orientations and is a perfect analogy for the verbal abuse that many black people passively accepted for years before expressing their own well-deserved pride.
Other outdated prejudice comes in the form of both Benson and the commanding officer of the team discount theories of Kerwin simply because he is gay, Anyone who has been in the position of knowing that he or she is right but cannot get people to listen can relate to this.
Benson getting his eyes opened on finding himself on the other end of sadistic gay bashing by the police is another positive message in an era in which even seeming to be gay can have serious negative consequences.
An unduly brief cameo by Jay Robinson as the old queen landlord of the boys is a real treat for fans of the Sid and Marty Krofft '70s Saturday morning show "Dr. Shrinker" in which Robinson plays the titular madman with an evil mind who is as crazy as you'll ever find. Being able to joke "so that's what happened to Igor" in response to the landlord sharing the tale of the end of a 20-year relationship is some compensation for his very limited screen time.
Much of the humor predictably comes from the assignment requiring that a devastatingly humiliated Benson wears revealing and/or fetish clothes and subjects himself to equally unwelcome groping by gay men. A particularly embarrassing bow-and-arrow "outfit" of an oiled-up Benson is a personal favorite.
Seeing Kerwin and Benson grow as a professional and a personal team is very sweet; one especially endearing scene has Benson express great delight in having Kerwin surprise him with a homemade gourmet feast to celebrate their one-week anniversary.
The supporting actors and the extras who play the members of the West Hollywood community representing a wide spectrum of the population is another awesome aspect of "Partners." A blond haired blued eye preppy who is attracted to Kerwin is one of the more likable secondary characters; others in the group are disco queens, leathermen, and just ordinary blokes.
On a larger level, "Partners" is very far from being a documentary on the Stonewall riots or other significant moments in gay history but does provide an entertaining history lesson on the attitudes toward gay people in the early days of the pride movement. The strong probability that many gay men did not see the film in the theater out of fear of being labelled as homosexual is an aspect of this. Olive allowing the men to buy the Blu-ray and throw a fabulous fondue party to watch it is a good thing.
Anyone with questions or comments regarding "Partners" is strongly encouraged to email me; you can also connect on Twitter via @tvdvdguy.